Long Weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia

Famous for its shopping and its history this cosmopolitan yet friendly city makes a great long weekend destination

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Monticello is one of the best documented and preserved plantations in North America, and the only Presidential home that has been designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. Thomas Jefferson was the nation's third President, serving from 1801 to 1809.

The day pass includes both the Slavery at Monticello Tour and the House Tour. We started with a short introductory film in the Rubenstein Visitor Center's Milstein Theater called Thomas Jefferson's World, then a shuttle bus took us to the mountain top.

The 45 minute Slavery Tour focused on the experiences of the 600 enslaved people who lived and labored on the plantation. The tour took place outside the recreated Hemmings cabin in the area then called Mulberry Row. A separate short audio visual exhibit focused on the life of Sally Hemmings (1773-1835). Sally Hemmings was the mother of six children fathered by Thomas Jefferson.

Our guide explained the paradox of Monticello which was a working plantation where slavery contrasted during the same time when Jefferson's ideals of liberty were expressed by him in the Declaration of Independence.

The 45 minute guided House Tour included the first floor of the house (i.e., the entry hall, the parlor, the dining room, the tea room, the study and bed chamber and the library). We learned that the house contains quite a few of the original objects (such as the Great Clock above the entry hall door and one item from the Lewis and Clark Exhibition) and many displays of items similar to what had been contained during Jefferson's life (including Native American objects, books, scientific instruments and maps of that period).

Jefferson designed every aspect of Monticello, constructing and modifing its buildings and landscape over a period of 40 years. He lived there when he was not serving in public offices from 1770 to until his death in 1835. We were surprised to learn that after Jefferson died, Monticello was sold at an auction to pay off Jefferson's debts.

Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia (UVA)

In his retirement, Thomas Jefferson designed the University of Virginia, founded in 1819. We visited the famous Rotunda, created to be the focal point of the academic village. There is no charge to tour the three levels of the Rotunda on your own. Construction was from 1822 to 1828. The Rotunda, constructed between 1822 and 1828, is modeled on Rome's Pantheon.

Displays explain the history of UVA. A life size marble sculpture of Jefferson by Alexander Galt is contained in the upper entrance hall and a domed library is on the top floor. Next to the Rotunda, the lovely academic village is composed of ten pavilions which surround the expansive lawn. Each pavilion contains a professor's home, class rooms, and student dorms. Visitor parking was plentiful at the Central Ground parking lot at Emmet Street and Ivy Road.

Charlottesville Monticello Wine Trail

There are more than 30 wineries that are part of Virginia's Viticultural Area within 30 miles of Charlottesville. Many of these wineries feature the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were particularly impressed with Mount Ida Reserve. The large tasting room and tap house is beautifully decorated much like a park lodge. In addition, there is outdoor seating with a view of the mountains. We started with their white flight which gave us samples of three excellent house wines, the 2018 Viognier, the 2018 Petit Manseng and the Stargazer's Rose. While sitting on a very comfortable sofa, we ordered tasty salads off of the food menu, which included small and large plates in an atmosphere that was one of the best for a winery on the East Coast

Halo Salt Spa

As a special treat my wife Fern and I tried out one of the Himalayan style salt spas. Salt therapy is an all-natural holistic therapy which recreates the natural salt cave microclimate. We enjoyed their 60- minute massage which wsd preceded by one hour in the salt room.

If You Go

Miller's Downtown has several floors of seating in one of the oldest buildings on Main Street. The extensive menu generally featured pub fare. We were intrigued to learn that the kitchen was built from the alley behind the building. For lunch, the Citizen Bowl Shop, on the pedestrian mall , offers healthy food options and a full bar. The Omni Charlottesville, adjacent to the Pedestrian Mall offers self-parking without a fee.

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Saul Schwartz lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his wife Fern. He loves to travel throughout the world and share his experiences through stories and pictures. Saul has published many articles, but most focus upon his passion to travel.

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