We've been home a week and I'm still pining over Charlottesville's mountain farms, its astounding ratio of independent bookstores/coffee shops to humans and its extensive arts scene. Do I see a moving truck in our future? Well, maybe somewhere in the hazy distance. But for now I'll just have to be satisfied by sharing some travel tips.
Let's start with the surroundings. One afternoon I knew the girls would refuse to nap at our rental house, so I loaded them into the car for a scenic drive, grabbed my camera and headed out of town on Route 20 towards Barboursville, which is about 30 minutes away. They fell asleep immediately as I enjoyed winding through ranches and vineyards, most of which looked a little something like the photo above. Not a bad nap-time view.
When I spotted the tiny roadside All Saints Episcopal Chapel along Route 20 in Stony Point, I couldn't help but pull over to admire it from the moss-covered front lawn. The chapel holds services twice a month.
You can't visit Charlottesville without walking around the historic "grounds" (apparently it's not called campus) of the University of Virginia. We were a couple weeks early to witness the full effect of spring in the school's gardens, but that didn't stop us from having lots of fun playing with a garden gate and finding a few early blooms. I'm looking forward to checking it out again in the summer or fall, along with Monticello's extensive gardens.
Before heading to campus—er, the grounds—we grabbed a bite to eat and some caffeine at two Charlottesville establishments: Bodo's Bagels and Para Coffee. Both sit across the street from the school in an era known as The Corner, which has plenty of food options.
The city's downtown walking mall is about a mile down the road. Welcome to the land of coffee shops (Java Java makes a mean mocha), bookstores (New Dominion Bookshop is the oldest independent bookseller in Virginia), restaurants (Jeff had a delicious business dinner at Commonwealth Restaurant and Skybar; I had my eye on Citizen Burger Bar but didn't make it there, so it's first on my list for our next visit) and boutiques with the cutest baby gifts known to man (O, Suzannah and Petit Bebe). I found a sweet handmade romper for Nora's birthday at the C'ville Arts Cooperative Gallery and could have easily bought an armload (or carload?) of other items. While I was exploring, Cricket had a blast with her cousins at the Virginia Discovery Museum.
Just a few blocks from the walking mall, we stumbled upon the Main Street Market a brilliant purple building packed with artisan shops. We hit up Feast! for cheese, fruit and Virginia wine (which was actually quite good); Albemarle Bread Company for baguettes (which could easily have passed as Parisian) and The Spice Diva for sea salt. One word: yum. Go to this market.
Some of our family is lucky enough to live outside of Charlottesville, and I couldn't resist including a few photos of the view from their house. Here's one from the golden hour before sunset.
And here's an Instagram from midday. Sometimes I convince myself that if I could just set up an office with a view like this one, my novel would write itself in a few weeks. But then I remember I'm a full-time mom to two tiny girls, so my office view has nothing to do with my lack of novel writing. The landscape would still be inspiring, though.
I'm Julia Soplop. I've spent my life documenting the world around me in writing and photography. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.