I took my husband on a weekend trip to Charlottesville, VA for his birthday because it’s been a crazy year and he’s been super supportive and deserved a special celebration. We were in and out in a flash, only staying two days, but seeing as how the goal of this trip was just to relax and enjoy ourselves and we had nothing major planned and no grand expectations, two days was plenty of time to get a feel for the Cavaliers’ home town and I have a few quick reflections to share.
1. There is an area of Charlottesville that sits between the campus and the historic downtown. If you follow University Ave toward downtown, you pass through Starr Hill, otherwise known as my favorite part of the city. It’s this adorable little piece of Main St. (or still Univ. Ave, I’m not sure) that is sprinkled with restaurants and boutiques and all manner of eating and shopping venues that are housed in what are clearly converted auto repair shops. It is such a fantastic repurposing of existing structures and gives the neighborhood a wonderful charm.
2. So many bookstores. Having grown up in a college town where, for at least a while there, both large and small bookstores started disappearing, it warmed my heart to see a place where bookshops were practically around every corner. There were tiny places, well worn places with piles of used books, fancy little shops with vintage books, and my favorite, from the Starr Hill neighborhood, a fine example of the converted auto shop.
3. Speaking of Starr Hill, if you ever visit Charlottesville, definitely check out Starr Hill Brewery. It’s located just outside the city in Crozet and they have super good beer and the tasting was cheap and the staff was incredibly nice. We didn’t get to do a tour, but the tasting room area is right there in the middle of the brewery so you can see how it gets bottled and packaged and all that jazz while you sit an enjoy a pint.
4. And also check out South Street Brewery. Whereas Starr Hill is a straight up brewery, South Street is a brew pub. They also had some really impressive beers and hard cider. Sit at the bar in front of the wood burning fireplace. The food was good, the decor is all dark wood and soft lighting. Go. It was great.
5. They also apparently have wood burning fires in some of the student housing on UVA’s campus. We wandered around the main quad and all of the student rooms that surround the quad had piles of firewood stacked outside their doors and we saw one kid carrying a stack of wood into his room. This is both incredibly awesome and an absolutely terrible idea. I love it.
6. Just outside of the city limit in Charlottesville North where our hotel was, there is a shopping center that just opened. Like, this thing was apparently brand new at the start of November. Right now it has an operational 14-screen movie theater/IMAX, a Pier 1 and a Trader Joe’s. That’s it. Eventually it is going to be a massive complex with a ton of shops and restaurants, but right now, those are the only three things that are open to the public. I have never in my life seen a place as crowded as this was pretty much 24 hours a day. Every time we drove past this complex the parking lot was absolutely packed with cars. On Friday night, we went to the movie theater there to see Skyfall and it was almost impossible to find a parking space. There’s tons of parking and all of it was occupied. It was baffling how an area with so little stuff could attract so many people. Also, there were college students walking around marveling at how amazing the whole thing was. “This is going to be like Heaven,” we heard one girl say, and then we wept for our collective humanity.
7. So much khaki. And loafers. It’s like the official uniform of Charlottesville.
8. The further I move beyond my college years, the harder it gets for me to identify people’s ages. I’m pretty sure every student at UVA is actually 16. No one looks a day over 18 for sure and based solely on appearances, I have to assume that we were the only two people in the one campus bar that we went to who were actually of legal drinking age. I refuse to believe that at 5 and half years removed from college, I look that much older than all of the students. Why cruel world? Why?