In less than an hour, we drove from Richmond directly to Charlottesville's Historic Downtown Mall. It was super easy following Route 64 West from Richmond to arrive at the heart of Charlottesville. The minute one exits 64 you can sense the mellow, laid back vibe of this town. The entire area radiates good energy from the University of Virginia, established in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the third American President and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. The university weaves throughout the entire city. Whether you are on "campus" or not, one feels part of this incredible learning institution.
After we parked our car near the vehicle-free, pedestrian walkway, the "downtown mall" we wandered around, darting in and out of shops to get the lay of the land. We went spent some quality time the Old Dominion Bookstore (pic above) which is a beautiful sun filled space that felt more like a small library than a business establishment. Despite being called a "mall", this area does not feel overly commercialized and has a great mix of shops, several independent movie theaters, and an abundance of restaurants and cafes to suit every palate or mood. Interestingly, we did not notice any chain stores even though a university town must attract an abundance of such business interests. I made a mental note to check into the town's planing and zoning guidelines to better understand how they achieved their current pleasant atmosphere.
Rapture Restaurant and Nightclub, Charlottesville, Virginia
A rainbow flag in the window of Rapture Restaurant and Night Club captured our attention. We couldn't help going into Rapture, especially after seeing the sign that said "If Diversity Makes You Feel Uncomfortable, This Is Probably Not Where You Want To Be."
Generally, the food at Rapture, and throughout Charlottesville, was as close to farm to table as you can get. I ordered a salad with local greens, peanuts and couscous. No exaggeration, it was one of the best, freshest salads I have ever had. (see picture below)
Couscous salad at Rapture Restaurant in Charlottesville
Later in the afternoon we drove 20 minutes outside downtown Charlottesville to Bundoran Farm to stay at our friend George Abetti's Geobarn house. Bundoran Farm is a conservation development on 2,300 acres with homes built around a working farm. Located on the farm is Pippin Hill Vineyards which has stunning views. I highly recommended a visit if you go to Charlottesville. And, Pippin Hill is only 10 minutes from Monticello. You might want to go to Pippin Hill after touring Thomas Jefferson's house and exploring the the gardens at the estate. Monticello is a great place to learn about what crops settlers grew to sustain themselves in the early days of American History.
Event barn at Pippin Hill Vineyards built by Geobarns
After leaving Bundoran Farm, we drove back to Charlottesville and checked into the Boar's Head Inn and Resort. We knew upon arrival and walking just a bit of the grounds that we would not want to leave this park-like wonderland owned by the University of Virginia Foundation. You can easily become lost in this 573 acre resort, literally, as it has miles of trails to explore and is a self-contained nature sanctuary. That evening we sat on our private balcony (pictured below) overlooking one of several small lakes on the grounds, sipping a bottle of Church Creek steel fermented Chardonnay we got at Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We reminded ourselves how lucky we were. Later that evening we had dinner at Bistro 1834 which was a short walk from our room. The resort has a great wine list so we brought a bottle of sauvignon blanc back to our cozy, cottage-like room for a night cap.
View from room balcony at Boars Head Inn and Resort
We departed Charlottesville the next day to visit the Salatin family at Polyface Farms in Swoope, and afterward go to Staunton. Otherwise, we would have greatly enjoyed staying a few more days at Boar's Head Inn. We'll be telling you more about our wonderful time at Boars Head Inn and Resort in a follow up feature post. For now, we can state emphatically: we will be back!
Copyright Paul E McGinniss 2017