I had an amazing time in and around Charlottesville, VA for my birthday. Charlottesville is my kind of town – great local restaurants, plenty of history, and throw a rock in any direction and you’re bound to hit a great outdoor activity.
It’s college town vibe reminded me a lot of Ithaca, NY with a few major differences – most notably, Charlottesville has mountains in all directions, rather than lakes.
We got to town on Friday night and did some exploring, including an excellent dinner at Mas – a hip Spanish tapas restaurant with a remarkable wine list. If you’re into great food or Spanish wine this place is a MUST stop. The sweetbreads, which were one of the highlights of the meal, are pictured here.
As often happens to Zay and I at tapas places we over ordered and so by the end of the meal, rather than walk around town as we planned, we rolled back to our hotel and called it a night.
The next morning we headed out to Monticello. Zay had been before, but this was a first for me. If you’ve never been before, the drive to visitors center starts to give you the feeling that you’re in for something remarkable, but it isn’t until you actually get up to the house that the magic of the place truly sets in. And let me just say – I’d kill for a garden like the one TJ had – it was immaculate.
Just in case we needed an extra reminder of the importance of Jefferson and Monticello to American history, famed American historian and author David McCullough was just hanging out in the gift shop (no joke). Meeting an author whose books (like Truman, John Adams, 1776, The Wright Brothers, etc…) you’ve spent considerable time reading is an odd feeling. Even more strange, is meeting that author while he picks up a basket full of assorted knick knacks, tchotchkes, and other useless trinkets from a museum gift shop. I couldn’t help but think… you write like you practically knew John Adams – what would he think of that $17 Jefferson pez dispenser you’re buying? I’ll give McCullough the benefit of the doubt – maybe he was shopping for gifts for people he didn’t like.
After Monticello the weather finally started to clear and we made our way out of town. In a matter of minutes the entire scenery shifts. Gone are the UVA college students, the salad & smoothie shops, and the microbrews and they’re all replaced by picturesque farmland, and mountains. Seriously, five minutes outside of town and it looks like this:
We made our way to Crabtree Falls and started hiking in. It had rained for about a week straight before we started so that meant two things: (1) the waterfall was RUSHING; (2) the trail was a muddy mess. The hike started out with a few grueling miles up hill, but once we got to the top of the falls the trail leveled off and we settled into a pretty good rhythm. It was our first time backpacking/sleeping in a tent with Lincoln and he did great. The temperature dropped a little at night but it wasn’t that bad and given that there were two of us plus an exhausted Mountain Cur in a pretty small tent we stayed plenty warm. Truly a perfect birthday all around.