The Princess Sashays South

Old Jun 25th, 2010, 06:40 AM
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The Princess Sashays South

-OR- A Very Brief Journal of a Very Brief Journey

I traveled to Charlottesville, VA via Amtrak's Cardinal route, which was quite easy to do as Charlottesville is an intermediate stop between Chicago and Washington, D.C. The Amtrak station in Charlottesville is pretty much centrally located between the Historic Downtown District and the University of Virginia.

I stayed at the Dinsmore House, a B&B, built by Thomas Jefferson's master builder, James Dinsmore, in 1817. Wonderful stay and great breakfasts (egg strata, eggs benedict with thick cut bacon, and baked french toast with strawberry sauce - again with bacon - and all with fresh fruit cup).

The B&B was approximately 5 blocks from the Amtrak station. I had absolutely no problem walking that distance with my lighter wheeled satchel - although some others might have problems if they are unaccustomed to walking or taking (some) inclines. Dinsmore House is approximately 8 blocks from the Historic Downtown District and two blocks from the University of Virginia campus.

If only the weather had been more accommodating. No rain, except for a few (big) drops. The first day I arrived, it was 93 - and that was the coolest. Heat and humidity. And the final full day, after those few raindrops, it just got brutal. However, I was fortunate - I left before the hottest day of this week.

I did not use a rental car at all during this trip. Got around solely by using public transportation and walking. There is a free trolley which travels from various points in the UVa to the Historic Downtown District many times daily. The taxi fare from the B&B to Monticello was just slightly over $15 so, with tips, my total outlay for transportation (sans Amtrak) was a whopping $36. However, if a person were to stay longer, decide to visit the wineries, travel the scenic byway, a rental car would be a necessity.

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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 06:58 AM
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During this trip, I dined in the evening at these spots:

The Shebeen. This was the best meal I had. My original inclination towards the rack of lamb or steak option was extinguished due to the heat and size of portions. Instead, I had the Durban Spiced Chicken - with its very spicy voodoo sauce and marvelous mango chutney. Served with mealie pap. It was just right!

Revolutionary Soup. Not the one at the Corner, but the location on 2nd Street, in the Historic Downtown District. The crab and corn chowder - plain wonderful. Unfortunately, they were out of the free range rabbit (disappointed!) and I had to settle for the steak sandwich, which was just OK.

Maya. Went on Tuesday, so I was able to choose from the regular menu or the $12 entree w/2 sides dining options. I went cheap - but not so cheap that I didn't have my martini and the cornmeal-breaded fried oysters with remoulade appetizer. Have to say this: I forgot to squeeze the fresh lemon on the oysters before trying it first - and that lemon juice made all the difference - delightful. The entree I had was ribeye steak with blue cheese bacon butter. Very, very good. The sides were collard greens (which I usually find too acidic for my taste, but these were quite good) - and cornbread. Portions are large enough that I couldn't finish either the collars or cornbread - but loved that steak to the last mouthful!

Rather nondescript sandwich at the Cafe at Monticello. Too much bread and bread too dry for the contents.

Feast: Had the smoked salmon and chickpea chowder and the spicy roast beef melt (on toasted baguette) - cuppa soup and 1/2 sandwich. The soup was nice to good but the sandwich - yowza! Very nice, freshing limeade. Just the right portions for a hot day.
And for dessert, went to Ablemarle Baking Company (same building) and had me a chocolate croissant. Even ate the crumbs. Yum.

Bluegrass Grill (NOT the Bluelight Grill): I had their biscuit (1 biscuit) and gravy and blackberry cobbler with fresh whipped cream. Now, when this B&G came out, I reminded the waitress that the order was for only 1 biscuit - at which time, she assured me it was just that. This was one *huge* biscuit, folks - when cut in half, it looked like 2 big biscuits. I could only finish half of that order. But, believe me when I say, I finished that entire blackberry cobbler - quite happy about it, too! My total tab for this meal was $6 plus tip. Cash only.

And, on those hot evenings, I slipped into Chaps each evening for a nice homemade ice cream (in a sugar) cone fix. Started out with the Golden Nugget, but Chocolate Almond was the choice for 2 days.

All of these choices were very convenient to the B&B.
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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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Oh, the sights you'll see:

Monticello. Just marvelous. Spent the entire day there, which might be excessive for some. But definitely plan on at least 1/2-3/4 day. My only complaint: You have designated house tour times. You go into the house in groups of 25, which is sometimes rather crowded, considering the size of some of the rooms. My complaint really stems from the fact that since these groups occur so close together, you really don't have the opportunity to fully examine and *appreciate* one room before you are whisked away to another.

Note: If it is hot, sunny, steamy, the Gardens Tour doesn't afford a lot of shade, of course. So don't go at the hottest part of the day.

University of Virginia:

Rotunda Tour: Guide was knowledgable and it was a lovely tour.

I went at a time that 1) there weren't any guided tours of the Academic Village or Gardens (summer months); and 2) there was roof work being done on the Rotunda as well as workers in the rooms, repairing and refurbishing them. During the lunch hour, though, it was delightfully quiet so you could really enjoy the surroundings.

The UVa Art Museum. This was the funniest part of the whole trip (but maybe it wasn't so funny after all). I knew it was located 1 block north of the Rotunda but forgot to write down the actual street address before I left home. I asked a bus driver (of the free trolley), a postman and an ambulance driver where the Art Museum was located. None of them knew. I asked three UVa students. None of them knew. Finally, at the bus stop right in front of the Rotunda, I asked three locals if they knew. Two out of three didn't. Luckily that sole, helpful local did.

I thought that the museum was just lovely - very good balance of all genres of art represented. It's free, too! (But it's only fair - I gave a substantial donation, which was greatly appreciated by the staff - all extremely friendly and helpful.) It is a shame that more people didn't know about this wonderful place.

So, all in all, a great few days.

P.S. The reason I took Amtrak instead of flying was to see West Virginia - or at least that portion of it. Just beautiful in that area. So green, mountainous. The train tracks run parallel for a lengthy stretch to a river which has much white-water (with rafters and kayakers aplenty), fishmen enjoying the quieter spots and, at one point, waterfalls spanning the river.
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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 07:33 AM
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Sorry, that's Albemarle Baking Company.
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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 08:45 AM
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Thank you for sharing your trip with us. We're hoping to go in the near future and definitely will after reading your review. It sounds like your visit was delightful.
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Old Jun 25th, 2010, 10:42 AM
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Wonderful trip report, exiledprincess. The detail was marvelous.
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Old Jun 26th, 2010, 12:00 AM
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Thank you both. JAKCruiser, have a wonderful trip there.

I have a correction to make: The $12 entree at Maya was a flat iron steak, not a ribeye. Nevertheless, it was delightful. I also enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant very much. Nice people and nice, laid-back surroundings. Casual and comfortable.

A couple of locals who were taking a "get away from baby" break at the B&B recommended that I go to Bodo's Bagels if I needed breakfast (which was, of course, provided by the B&B). I did stop in and have a cool drink (tangerine seltzer) and perused their menu - which looked pretty nifty.

Another place at the Corner which I noticed was quite busy at lunchtime was Take It Away! LOTS of locals there.
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Old Jun 26th, 2010, 08:19 AM
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I'm glad your trip was a success! I totally agree with your description of the art museum (I left a big donation too)
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Old Jul 14th, 2010, 06:20 PM
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exiledprincess, I am so glad you added something new to the Short Get-Away to Cville thread b/c I missed your report when it was newly posted! (I was, shockingly enough, traveling!)

Sorry to hear that the heat was so oppressive during your visit. It has been a brutal summer with very little rain. Sounds as if you made the best of your trip despite the humidity.

I agree that the tour of the house Monticello can feel a bit rushed when the groups are maxed out. Weekdays in the winter will sometimes have smaller groups. The docents will linger a bit longer for questions or to let people take in what's there. As you said, there is a lot to see.

Thanks for sharing the details of your trip. You are a very engaging writer.
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