Popcorn with Wine: The Charlottesville Trip and the BIG Three-Oh!
I was hyper, surprise surprise! I chattered all the way down to Highway 81 and only stopped there because we stopped for supper at Cracker Barrel, per tradition, and I couldn't talk nonstop with my mouth full. Eating calmed me down, and I read Catch 22 (which I'm still loving) and stared out the window as we made our way through the deepening night toward Charlottesville.
Thus began our first adventure. Bobby had run directions to our hotel, and when we exited the highway, we found our first turn--Jefferson Park Drive--right away. Only the road was closed due to a bridge repair. Through much convolution, we found our way via backroads back to Jefferson Park Drive ... only the next turn we were supposed to make was nowhere to be found.
We drove around for about 15 minutes in increasing frustration before crying uncle and calling the hotel for help. The guy at the desk made it sound so simple!--only the turn he described that we'd have to make simply didn't exist. We found ourselves at a three-way intersection, none of which allowed us to remain on Jefferson Park Drive. (I say this with confidence, since we tried them all in turn.) The area we were relentlessly circling was a residential neighborhood, not a place where one would expect to find a hotel, much less the major university supposedly nearby. Finally, we pulled into some hapless person's driveway and called the hotel again. I spoke to the guy this time, since I have the best sense of direction and an uncannily good short-term memory and could remember best of all the names of the roads we'd tried and the sequence of turns we'd taken of our traveling party. Talking to the guy at the desk, it sounded like we were describing two different places. I could tell he was becoming frustrated; so was I. Then, the owners of the driveway we were parked in came home, and they gave us directions, so I told him we were going to try that, and I'd call him back again if we were unsuccessful.
By this time, my injured eye was really beginning to swell and feel a little sore. We finally made it to the hotel, and we sat in the cafe--me in sunglasses to hide my bruised, swollen eye--and I pored over a map of Charlottesville, wondering what had gone wrong. And I discovered the problem. There are two Jefferson Park Drives in Charlottesville. They are both off of Business-29. They are a few blocks apart. They are not related, or connected. Had we continued one light more than we did when trying to get back to the first Jefferson Park Drive, we would have found the correct Jefferson Park Drive. ._. Alas.
The next morning--my birthday--the big three-oh!--I woke up to find my eye so swollen that I could barely open it. Bleh. Luckily, it didn't hurt a bit, only itched occasionally. My family plopped me into the corner chair in the sitting room area and gave me gifts. From my parents was a card and a check. Bobby--who is truly skilled in choosing gifts for me--gave me an amazingly awesome surprise! First was a set of colored calligraphy inks I'd been eyeing at Michael's. Next was a songbook of songs by the Medieaval Baebes (!). But next and totally (!!!)-worthy: a Bamboo drawing tablet! Squeeee! I'd mentioned wanting a drawing tablet, perhaps for Christmas or the next time I saved up some pin money, and he ran with that idea. I can't wait to try it out!
Friday we kept free for sightseeing in the Charlottesville area. Last year, we went to Monticello, the home and grounds of Thomas Jefferson, where the festival would be held the next day. This year, we kept it more low-key. We toured Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of James Monroe, the fifth President of the USA and author of the Monroe Doctrines, which pretty much told the Europeans to keep their hands off the territories we'd claimed. Monroe was an apprentice of Jefferson as a young lawyer and close personal friend; like Jefferson, he had many connections in France. His home, however, was much more modest. (He also didn't have Jefferson's crippling debt, a reality that remains true today when comparing outward flash with personal debt.) The tour was interesting; the building and grounds beautiful.
A statue of James Monroe down a pretty path:
The slave quarters (which were eventually converted to guest quarters) alongside a row of lovely crepemyrtle:
Mom and me beside the garden:
And Bobby and me beside the garden:
After the tour, we were hungry, so we headed into Charlottesville proper for lunch at Chaps, a little dive that Bobby found while searching out homemade ice keem for my mom. They also sell delicious lunch sandwiches. I had a black bean burger and a cone of German Chocolate, as well as a pile of appetizers that the family shared. Yumyum. Charlottesville has an outdoor mall very reminiscent of a European city center where cars are banished and pedestrians can wander from shop to shop without worrying about being splattered like you do in most places in the U.S. Because Charlottesville is a university town, there were tons of used book shops, art galleries, and quirky little restaurants, as well as an amphitheater and an ice rink. Bobby and I were in slack-jawed heaven.
After wandering the mall a bit, we got back in the car and went to the Jefferson Vineyards for a wine-tasting. Throughout the trip, I justified my frequent wine drinking with the theory that it would help bring down the swelling. *nodnod* After trying ten different wines, Bobby and I both, uncharacteristically, favored the Pinot Gris. We typically prefer reds, but none of the reds jumped up and slapped my tongue and screamed, "Have me!" although I liked them all but the merlot (and I never like merlot; it is the one wine that I do not get along with at all).
When we got back to the hotel, they were making complimentary popcorn in the library. I had a bag! With wine! That sort of seems to embody what turning a new decade means to me.
It was quite coincidental of course that the Heritage Harvest Festival fell on my birthday weekend, and my only birthday-related request of my family for the weekend was that we have supper on my birthday at Crozet Pizza. National Geographic named Crozet's the best pizza in the world, and I agree! It's a humble little place in a humble little shopping center in a humble little town off of Highway 64:
But damn, their pizza is fabulous! Bobby and I shared a Greek salad and a pie with spinach, onions, fresh garlic, and hot-hot jalapenos.
Mom and me. My eye was still gruesomely swollen, so yes, I am still wearing my sunglasses. I did take them off to eat, after ascertaining that I wouldn't gross out anyone nearby.
And the whole fam, kindly taken by our server:
Bobby and I love to take evening walks when we're staying in areas where this is possible and safe, so we walked from the hotel down to the outdoor mall again that night. Then it was somewhat early to bed in order to be up for the festival the next morning.
The Heritage Harvest Festival was the next day. It was a day of workshops on sustainable living, as well as numerous vendors selling local products or other green-minded items. It occurs on the grounds of Monticello, so there could be no more beautiful backdrop ... or appropriate, considering that Jefferson was fascinated by botany and agriculture and practiced many of the same arts that we in the sustainability movement are trying to reclaim. Bobby and I took a workshop on growing unusual edibles--things like wasabi and yard-long beans and truffles--and a class on mushroom-growing. Mom and I went to a workshop on the Native American three sisters garden, while Dad and Bobby went to a workshop on how to cook and season vegetables. In the midst of all this was much shopping and eating of delicious local foods. The weather was overcast and a little chilly and damp but, otherwise, it was a great day!
For supper that night, we went to Maya, a restaurant that specializes in locally grown and organic food. It was amazing, save a party of little girls behind us that made the atmosphere more like being in a Pizza Hut. >:^( But the food was great: I ended up with a warm farro and chickpea salad, with white-cheddar grits and sauteed snow peas for my sides. Bobby and I shared pimento cheese fritters that were divine. Our server was funny. He said, "I just love food! I'm obsessed with food!" and Bobby and I replied, "We are too!"
We headed back to Chap's for one last homemade ice keem for Mom; she got a banana boat. Bobby took the expected picture, but it is on his phone, so I will have to add it later.
Today, we left, but we made a day of it, as we did last year. We had breakfast at Waffle House (I know--for shame, after eating a weekend of organic and local food! Waffle House is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine!) and headed back to Luray Caverns. We did this last year but all loved it so much that we decided to do it again. It was as spectacular as last year but, disappointingly, they no longer allowed self-guided tours, so we ended up crammed on a tour with about 20 other people, including a whiny little brat of a girl and her permissive parents, and a tour guide that was always trying to hurry us along. And emphasized the last words in sentences by making them higher in pitch and louder in volume. It was comical and annoying at once. "Here, we come to what is called the OVERLOOK. It is called this because it overlooks GIANT'S VALLEY. Next, we will pass what looks like two FRIED EGGS. These were STALAGMITES that were broken off by workers who were being CARELESS. Please stay on the PATH and use the HANDRAILS." Luray Caverns is amazingly inspirational. I have ideas for stories now. Unfortunately, I don't know when I will be able to indulge the muses.
We learned last year that photos inside the caverns don't do it justice, but I did take one of the Dream Lake, my favorite part of the tour and one that really inspires me:
Here are me and my shiner with Bobby:
And the Singing Tower outside the caverns:
Last year, we traveled the southern portion of Skyline Drive, so this year, we picked up where we left off and finished the northern portion.
One of the informative signs described the Blue Ridge as a "jumble of mountains," which I thought was very accurate:
Compared to Massanutten Mountain, which is much more orderly-looking:
Me and Bobby:
I loved this tree, which seemed to be pointing east over the mountains:
This was cool. Someone mowed a peace sign into the grass. It was barely visible from where we stood, but I managed to zoom from way on high to get a picture of it. *pats digital camera appreciatively*
Bobby took this one of wildflowers with the mountains in the background that I just love:
A panoramic of the view from the north-most visitor's center, where Bobby and I were tempted by myriad books:
Bobby and me at the visitor's center:
And Mom and Dad:
I took this one right before we left. It just seemed such a peaceful scene. I really like how it turned out.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!