Kicking off my new 24 hours in... series with my forever home and the most magical place in the world - Charlottesville, VA. Home to the University of Virginia, dozens of wineries, and hundreds of restaurants, it's a hotbed of culture and delicious eats!
Growing up, I always thought I wanted to go to the University of Pennsylvania so I could complete my undergraduate business degree at their Wharton School. My parents, on the other hand, were not so crazy about footing the Ivy League tuition bill, and encouraged me to go to the University of Virginia (holla @ in-state tuition). I applied without having visited a single school, and - on one fateful day - my future was sealed.
Yes, on the same day my 12th-grade boyfriend broke up with me by telling me he was in love with someone else (HEART WRENCHING) (YOU'RE THE WORST GREG), I got a rejection letter from Penn. So I did what any sane 17-year-old would do - I baked oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies, cried, listened to Taylor Swift, and set up a tour at UVA.
That rejection ended up being the best thing to ever happen to me, because my four year in Charlottesville were the absolute best of my life! Between the incredible people, gorgeous scenery, top-notch education and art-filled culture, there was never a dull moment. And then, there was the food.
Charlottesville boasts the most restaurants per capita of any city in the US, and new ones are constantly bursting onto the scene. You can find every cuisine imaginable, restaurants that are farm-to-table, meals for every dietary restriction - you name it, they have it! So, when I decided to book 2 days of PTO for a trip down to Charlottesville, I knew I needed to explore as many places (old and new) as possible. Beginning with...
The drive to Charlottesville is about 2 hours, mostly on the scenic route 29. About an hour from DC, you'll pass through the small town of Remington, VA. Off to the right side of the road is Moo Thru Creamery, a shop selling homemade ice cream, shakes, sundaes and some savory snacks. I popped by for a single scoop of banana pudding ice cream, which I ate in their large picnic table area with several other families. The ice cream was incredible (as always), with real chunks of pie crust mixed in! I finished up and got back in my car for another hour, headed to...
King Family Vineyards
I originally had plans to meet up with my friend Katya for lunch, but unfortunately she got called into meetings. No matter! Rather than head straight to my hotel, I detoured off route 29 and made my first trip to King Family Vineyards for a wine tasting. For just $10, I got to taste the 6 wines listed above, and keep my wine glass! My sommelier was very sweet and knowledgeable, and she explained the different wines in a way that was very easy to understand. When I finished the tasting, I grabbed a bottle of Crosé for the road, a glass of the Viognier, and a baguette to enjoy while I sat on their patio and blogged. Once I was sufficiently sated, I headed to my hotel to drop my things off, then to an old favorite to get some more work done.
Ok, guys. I've probably waxed poetic about how much I love Paradox in another post. But no words can ever express how much Paradox and the things I learned there mean to me. I worked there for my entire senior year, sometimes skipping classes to take on extra shifts (still graduated!). As a small business, I was doing everything - baking, cooking, dishes, cleaning, receiving shipment, running out to grab lime juice from the local co-op when we ruined the lime curd - and I loved every minute of it. That's right, I enjoyed doing dishes. Sue me.
The best part of Paradox is the community, and it was no different returning after 2 years than it was when I was an employee. Right after I ordered my coffee and chatted up my old coworker, my friend Alex walked in the door and we started chatting. 5 minutes later my old boss/the owner/total rockstar Jenny walked in, freaked out, and then we all chatted for the better part of 2 hours about all things life. I may not have gotten much blogging in (and Alex, who had come in to study, didn't do much of that either), but it was well worth it to catch up with old friends. Eventually Alex headed to dinner, and I headed to my next stop - meeting up with my good friend Jacqui at...
Lampo is a relatively new restaurant to the Belmont neighborhood of Charlottesville, and has changed their pizza scene entirely. Not that I don't love a delicious slice of Mellow Mushroom pizza, or a late-night slice of veggie pizza from Christian's, but this Neapolitan style pizza is INCREDIBLE. Thin-crusted and served with pizza scissors (!!), you won't feel (too) bad ordering your own pie - so long as you manage to take some home with you!
Jacqui and I started with their olives and a cocktail each - the Midnight Stinger for her (buffalo trace, fernet branca, lemon, simple syrup, mint) and the Lampo Smash for me (bombay gin, green chartreuse, lemon, muddled mint). Both cocktails were very good, and we sipped them throughout the meal alongside our pizzas - prosciutto for Jacqui and Margherita for this vegetarian. We had an amazing time and made easy conversation over our pies, then practically needed to be rolled to our next stop...
The Alley Light
To Jacqui's surprise, this was my first visit to The Alley Light, a secret gem of downtown Charlottesville. Alex had told me earlier that it was his favorite bar in Cville, so I was excited to try it out! It is a speakeasy in every sense of the term - secret door, low lighting, soft music and incredible drink menu. My first drink was a seasonal strawberry-vodka creation, while Jacqui chose a gin-based beverage. When hers came out in a Star Wars-themed tiki mug, I immediately knew what I was having next!
We talked and joked with the bartenders, who were both incredibly passionate about their jobs. One had even broken up with his girlfriend just so he could devote most of his time to learning all he could about crafting cocktails and running a business. We were there for upwards of two hours, and I was pretttttty tipsy when I finally arrived back to my hotel room. I immediately crashed, and then was up and at 'em early the next morning for a visit to a new spot.
Iron Paffles & Coffee
While we were at dinner the night before, Jacqui had mentioned that I must try the new breakfast place downtown, Iron Paffles & Coffee. I was logging on for an hour that morning to do some work, so after confirming that they had wifi, I was sold! I headed over around 9 AM and sidled into the shop, which is next to my friend Hanna's barre studio, barre.[d].
The concept behind Iron Paffles is intriguing - they make waffles out of puff pastry. Is that not the best sentence you've ever heard in your life?! You can either order a paffle plain (why) or you can order one of their sweet or savory sandwiches. My inner 9-year-old desperately wanted something involving nutella, but I figured that was probably not the best way to fuel up for a day of wine tasting and a drive back to DC for my friend Kelsey's going away party. Instead, I opted for the Veggie-Iron (tofu 'scrambled eggs' with peppers, local kale and cilantro), their vegetarian breakfast option. It was INCREDIBLE and fueled me up (with the addition of two iced coffees) for a few hours exploring UVA grounds.
No words necessary. This place is my forever home. I strolled around for 2 hours, walking through the lawn, Rugby Road (aka frat row) and my old residences on 14th Street. Many snapchats were sent. Once I had seen it all, I headed back to my hotel in time to check out and get on the road.
The Juice Laundry
I had plans to hit up Blenheim Vineyards on my way back to DC, so I decided I needed something light to coat my stomach before my wine tasting. Enter - The Juice Laundry. A relatively new place on the scene in Charlottesville, they offer fresh juices, smoothies, smoothie bowls and other healthy treats. I ordered a small basil bomb (strawberry / basil / banana / dates / house almond milk) which was delicious and just what I needed for my drive to...
Everyone who's anyone in Charlottesville is a fan of the Dave Matthews Band (at Paradox, there's a treat called the "Better than DMB Brownie"). And, what better way to cement your place in Charlottesville culture than by opening a winery? Exactly. Blenheim Vineyards is the winery owned by Dave Matthews himself, and I spent many a weekend my senior year hitting up the trifecta - Blenheim, Trump, and Jefferson Vineyards - all conveniently located on the same road.
This tasting was unfortunately nowhere near as good as the tasting at King Family, mostly because my server was very awkward and would NOT make eye contact. No matter - I could sip my wine and play with my phone! I finished the tasting, grabbed my glass, and bid farewell to Charlottesville as I made the trip back up to DC.
There you have it - 24 hours in Charlottesville! There is SO MUCH more that I can't even begin to cover, but luckily only a 2 hour drive stands between me and the city I love the most. And I'll be making the trip next weekend to drive my grandlittle back to start her senior year! They grow up so fast!