We have found that the importance of hotel location varies from city to city. In Washington, D.C., for instance, you want to be in the heart of the city, or close to the Metro. In Richmond, on the other hand, we chose a hotel on the outskirts of town, since we could drive easily in the city, and saved money over hotels downtown. In Charlottesville we did the same thing and it worked out just fine.
We checked in to the DoubleTree at dusk. If it wasn’t as opulent as the Willard, it was at least clean. It had the usual frills, like flowers in the lobby, but it also had an indoor pool right in the middle of the building. That was neat. Our room had two beds and a tidy bathroom. As was the case everywhere we went this trip, we barely stayed in our room five minutes–long enough to put our bags down and wash up–before heading back out to have fun.
Charlottesville is a university town, and it shares many of the traits common to university towns: a young population; a large, centrally-located campus; a small, charming downtown; abundant pizza restaurants; etc. We drove around just looking at stuff before parking the car and walking to the pedestrian-only Main Street. It was obviously once open to traffic, but now is an enchanting brick mall dotted with tables, benches, and planters, with shops and restaurants lining either side. We spotted two movie theaters, two ice cream shops, numerous bookstores and clothing shops. There was even a stationary store and a store for crazy cat ladies.
We ate dinner at Christian’s Pizza. The first bite tricked me, and I thought we’d made a bad choice. But my tastebuds had fooled me, and instead I found the pizza delicious, with surprisingly crispy crust. I drank Dr. Pepper for some reason.
We walked up and down the promenade, looked in an antique shop, stopped for ice cream, and in general had a fine time before setting off again to explore more of the town. We drove up and down random streets not looking for anything in particular. Away from Main Street the city was quiet.
The campus of the University of Virginia is handsome, complete with the requisite number of statues, athletic facilities, and brick buildings to make it identifiably collegiate. But unlike any other campus in America, the University of Virginia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was designed by Thomas Jefferson himself, and the older buildings and grounds are charming as can be. It was late in the evening, but we walked all around in spite of Miriam’s “tourist torture”-related foot injury. We came upon two lovers on the steps of the great rotunda. They dispersed when they perceived that I wanted to climb the stairs to see what was up there, and I thought they had run off to a dorm somewhere. But when we were walking back from the other side of the building–the side that faces the great lawn–we perceived that the lovers were, in fact, hiding down in a courtyard. We left them alone.
Our main interest in Charlottesville was, naturally, Monticello. The home of Thomas Jefferson, of course, is a popular tourist attraction that becomes very crowded in the summertime, and only a limited quantity of tickets are dispersed each day. Our initial hope was to see Monticello in the morning, and be on our way back home by the mid-afternoon, which would have us pulling into our driveway between one- and two o’clock in the morning. But we found that the earliest we could get tickets to see Monticello that day was after noon, so we had some time to kill.
We went first to breakfast at Cavalier Diner, which was a total mom and pop sort of place. I ate many biscuits. Then Miriam explored a stand-alone Anthropolgie store she had spied the night before. It was huge. We had checked out of our hotel already, so all that was left to do was drive up to Monticello.