Breaking up the long drive to and from North Carolina has become an essential part of this road trip we make a few times per year. We don’t always have the opportunity to plan such a fun stopover, but on our way back from Bald Head this weekend, we decided to revisit one of our top Southern towns – Charlottesville, Virginia.
We arrived at Clifton Inn – one of our very favorite dog-friendly inns on the East Coast – with an hour or so of daylight left, so we immediately took Orvis for a walk along the gorgeous, snow-covered property and around the icy lake. Seeing him romp around after a day in the car makes extending the trip home so worth it. Of course, staying at a lovely inn and enjoying a nice, relaxing meal sweetens the deal even more.
After settling in at Clifton (in the same room from our last visit nearly two years ago) we headed into town for dinner at The Alley Light. Fortunately, we have the Oscars and a home basketball game at UVA to thank for allowing us to snag a last-minute reservation at this recently announced James Beard Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. We enjoyed a couple of delicious drinks at the bar before our table was ready and then followed the helpful advice of our sweet waitress in ordering the carrots, butternut squash gratin, beef tenderloin, and seared scallops. Our meal was simply delicious… I think I might suggest to Michael that we break up every road trip with a James Beard nominated meal!
Before hitting the road the next morning, we took Orvis for another walk around the lake and had a cozy breakfast near the fire on the inn’s verandah. Our time in Charlottesville was all too short, but what a truly wonderful way it was to make the most out of a long journey on the road!
All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.
Ever since my quick visit to the Clifton Inn last summer on my way to North Carolina, I’ve been trying to coordinate a trip for Michael, Orvis, and I to spend some time in Charlottesville, Virginia together. Things happened to come together and we were able to spend two nights in the area en route to North Carolina earlier this month. It didn’t take us long to fall pretty hard for this charming town – UVA’s gorgeous colonial campus rivals that of Carolina’s (which is pretty huge for two UNC alums to admit and something I think Michael is still having a hard time coming to terms with) and there’s so much to see and experience throughout downtown and in the surrounding area. We could have spent an entire week in Charlottesville and just barely scratched the surface of the shops, restaurants, and scenery. In our short visit, we not only had time to hike, eat, and explore, but we also had the chance to catch up with some friends who live in the area. We had an amazing evening, conversation, and home-cooked meal with Abby and Guion, and their beautiful puppy Pyrrha even graciously extended her yard to Orvis.
We felt right at home browsing the goods at this darling shop downtown. Everything was so perfectly arranged, and it was hard to let Michael convince me that we didn’t have enough room in the car for everything I wanted to bring home.
Coincidentally sharing the name on another of our favorite shops, this must-visit store is right on the mall downtown, complete with our very favorites in paper goods and the cutest office accessories. While we were here, we found a delightful little “Welcome” sign to greet guests above the door in our mudroom.
Dinner at Mas Tapas after the long trip down from Maine was such a treat! It was our first al fresco meal of the season (oh, spring in the south!) and we stuffed ourselves with delicious small plates, including tasty papas bravas, lamb shanks, quesos, and bacon-wrapped dates.
Anne at Clifton recommended eating lunch on the mall at Petit Pois, and since they allowed Orvis to accompany us (clearly our favorite way to dine), we jumped at the opportunity! We devoured our meal of mussels, risotto, and beef bourguinon while people watching, laughing at Orvis, and dreaming about future trips to Charlottesville.
On our way out of town, we grabbed a delicious bite to eat and a couple of bottles of local vineyard wine (we’ll have to save vineyard tours for our next visit to Charlottesville) from Feast! in the Main Street Market. Aside from Feast! the market was packed with adorable shops, other restaurants, and patrons. It was a surprising plus to end our trip.
Driving in and out of Clifton, we kept passing by a darling ivy-clad little market at an intersection in the country. It immediately piqued our interest, and it wasn’t long before we stopped into the well-branded Salt to see what this market was all about. They had literally just opened the doors for business and we had the chance to talk to the owner quite a bit about her plans for the market’s future. Salt is a perfect place to grab a sandwich or salad to go, or pick up a cheese plate for a picnic on one of the many hiking trails. We look forward to visiting Salt again on our next trip to see how it’s evolved within the Charlottesville community.
I’m sure that there are plenty of places to stay in the Charlottesville area, but given the comfort, beauty, and charm of Clifton, I can’t imagine Michael or I going anywhere else. They’re dog-friendly to boot, and Orvis loves romping around the grounds and swimming in the lake (although he’s still a little hesitant around the property’s resident cats).
Thomas Jefferson’s home is obviously a plus for any American history buffs out there, but if you can make it to Monticello in the springtime, the cherry blossoms, tulip-lined paths, and expansive garden will easily win you over.
This trail system was recommended to us by Anne at Clifton. Running along the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, there are a number of different trails from which to choose (even a bridged path along the parkway to Monticello). We took Orvis for a hike on the Mountain Trail and quickly realized just how much the “menu” part of Map & Menu has been taking its toll on us.
On our trip to Charlottesville, Michael and I made sure to spend a morning at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in order to take in the beautiful spring gardens. It was drizzling slightly when we arrived but cleared up shortly thereafter (while Michael was getting his history geek on with a tour of the home), so I took the opportunity to escape from my spot under a big shade tree and take some photos. Cherry blossoms, early garden vegetables, and beautiful varieties of tulips were just a few of the things that caught my eye.
Michael & I had been planning a quick getaway with Orvis to Charlottesville, VA as a way to break up the drive from North Carolina to Maine this week. Unfortunately, Michael’s work schedule became a little hectic just before we were supposed to leave last week and I ended up making the trip down south alone. To avoid the traffic in cities like New York and Washington D.C., I decided to take the scenic, westerly route down to North Carolina, which takes you through the Shenandoah Valley, and after spending 13 hours on the road, I decided to treat myself to a stop in Charlottesville.
The original plan was for the three of us to stay at Clifton Inn, as they allow dogs on the property. Even though Michael & Orvis couldn’t join me, I decided to visit Clifton anyways. What better way to pamper myself after such a long journey? I called from the road in Maryland to make a reservation, and because of the last minute nature of my mid-week request, I even received an upgrade to one of the inn’s lovely and spacious suites!
Although my stay at Clifton was wonderful, the drive through the Shenandoah Valley just before sunset was certainly an added perk! Driving through such a breathtakingly beautiful area during my favorite time of day was something I’ll never forget. The rolling, bright green hills, the pastel sky, the charming little towns – I found myself planning our return trip before I’d even arrived in Charlottesville!
By the time I arrived at Clifton, the sun had set but I was still thrilled to be there. After I settled into my suite, I sent Michael snapshots of my room, knowing he’d be green with envy about my accommodations for the night! I can honestly say, I had one of the best nights of sleep I’ve had in awhile at Clifton – the bed was heavenly. In the morning I took a walk around the gorgeous property, and even spotted a deer on the lakeside trail. (Really, how idyllic does that sound?) I enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the verandah of the main house and continued exploring the grounds. Before I had to get on the road again, I took a moment to do a little reading on the porch, simply to postpone my inevitable departure.
I know I say this often when I travel without Michael, but I really do look forward to planning another (much longer!) trip to Clifton to share the inn with both Michael & Orvis. I’ve already inquired as to which of the rooms are dog-friendly, and I have a lengthy list of places we need to see and restaurants we need to try in Charlottesville! All we have to do now is find the time!