At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about this post. It is a reminder that our plans for this trip took a sharp turn soon after we arrived, but also a reminder of the great trip we made out of plans b, c, and d. Months ago, before any news of protests came out, we planned a weekend trip to Charlottesville and the surrounding areas. We asked our UVA friends for their recommendations and put together a list of things we wanted to do, see, and eat. The prices for hotels and Airbnbs in the downtown area were pricier than we were expecting, so we decided to stay in a small town a bit outside of Charlottesville. This ended up being the biggest blessing, as we couldn’t have predicted our drastic change in itinerary, or the necessity to stay out of the city during the crazy weekend of protests.
Our original plans for the weekend included a winery, a day exploring UVA and downtown Charlottesville, and maybe a tour of Monticello, if we had time. The winery was our first stop when we arrived on Friday afternoon, and where we learned that we should stay away from Charlottesville on Saturday because of the violence expected at the protests. At the time, our plans for Saturday revolved around spending the entire day in downtown Charlottesville. We quickly rearranged things and booked our Monticello tours for a day sooner than expected, hoping to still be able to pop into Charlottesville for dinner in the evening.
After the winery, we stopped for dinner in Charlottesville and had a short chance to walk around UVA, which neither of us had ever visited. The campus was beautiful in the dusk lighting, but all around town extra security guards in highlighter yellow vests were patrolling the streets, restaurants were closing early, and residents were clearing out. People were truly afraid of what was to come. As we headed back to our hotel outside of town, news stories started popping up about the rallies that had already begun by the Jefferson statue where we had just been standing alone, not even thirty minutes prior.
We got an early start on Saturday with 9:00 tour of Monticello, which turned out to be a great way to spend the morning. We stayed as long as possible, taking in all of the tours that were included in the admissions ticket, including the guided house and garden tours, and a self-guided tour of the cellars and graveyard. There were many other people who were in the same boat as we were – just trying to stay out of the city – so an early start allowed us to beat the crowds and soak in the cooler temperatures. The visitors’ center was a short walk from Jefferson’s house through the trails, and was flanked by a museum, a great gift shop, and a cute café. In hindsight, I’m glad we had so much time to spend at Monticello. There was so much you could learn about Jefferson and his prized home.
As we drove down the mountain from Monticello, we saw signs for a pick-your-own orchard. With nothing else to do, we followed the signs to rows and rows of apple trees, peach trees, and grape vines. A cute general store perched on the hill, welcoming us with apple cider doughnuts and cookies, hard apple cider, and peach soft serve ice cream. We grabbed a bag and walked up to the peach grove, where the peaches were ready for picking. From our spot on the top of the mountain, we could look down over Charlottesville in the valley below, a helicopter circling above the streets. The interactions we had at this farm were so genuine. Like at Monticello, most people at this pick-your-own place were trying to keep their families out of Charlottesville during the protests. We conversed with Hispanic families, Muslim families, and African American families, many who were camped out on the ground with umbrellas for shade with plans to stay on the mountaintop until things calmed down in the town below.
After seeing the news as the day and evening went on, our plans shifted even further and we decided that it would be best just to skip Charlottesville altogether. Instead, we used the extra time to stop in Richmond on our way home for a coffee date and some bakery hopping. Growing up, we only lived about 2 hours from Richmond, and drove through all the time on our way to visit friends and family, but we never stopped along our road trip or made a destination of it. As crazy as it is, this trip was my first time in Richmond!
We researched the best (read: cutest) coffee shops on our way through Virginia, and took recommendations from the baristas on the best bakeries in town. I find that sometimes you can do all of the research you want, but the local recommendations are the way to go. They didn’t disappoint. After a lavender latte we met up with my sister, who was in town for a wedding, at Sub Rosa, a wood-fired bakery. I’m convinced Sub Rosa is the best bakery in Richmond, which is totally biased since it is the only one we visited, but it was that good! They had more than five types of croissants and every single thing we tried was amazing. I think we need to make this a regular pit stop on our DC road trips. If you are in the Richmond area – try it! Pictured here are the salami and cheese croissant, the chocolate blueberry croissant, the fig and manchego croissant, and the raspberry and goat cheese croissant. We split an almond croissant between the three of us to take home as well and it was the most amazing almond croissant I have had outside of France.
We came home from our weekend saddened by the events in the city we planned to visit, but happy for the chance to focus on good company and the new places we would not have otherwise discovered. I hope to go back to Charlottesville soon to enjoy all the city has to offer.