With everything we own squirreled away in Philly, we set off on our “Welcome home. We’ll be back in August” tour. The first stop was to visit our eldest, Mike, and his wife, Emily in Charlottesville, Virginia. This feels like the biggest, small town in America. Seventy five vineyards, three president’s homes, and a major university augmented by festivals and pedestrian malls and trendy restaurants. It’s a city of 45,000 people, and every, single person is out and about – enjoying, like us, one of the first warm weekends of the year.
When you live without a home, all Christmas gifts must be perishable (Note: drinkable is especially welcome). Mike and Emily had given us gift cards from their favorite spots for a “fun weekend”. Friday evening, we used the first gift at Citizen Burger on the pedestrian mall while welcoming back the return of the outdoor concert season. Nothing spells home like a two fisted, juicy hamburger dribbling grease down my chin. Oh how I have missed this!
Nearby, the annual Tom Tom Festival kicked off, then moved through the city cycling between different hipster neighborhoods. The festival is named for Thomas Jefferson, a founding father and Charlottesville native with an apparent predilection for silly, pet names. We absorbed classic Americana at its best; brick, colonial buildings surrounding patches of greens, families picnicking, dogs and Frisbees, beer tents and face-paintings. A man sang and danced in a Mr. Bo Jangles style rendition of the classics. Kids painted the center of the road into a huge color by number mural.
The next morning, we walked the Virginia Institute of Autism 5K (which I later used to justify the ham and egg breakfast sandwich at the farmers market). We snaked through hilly neighborhood streets lined with flowering trees in full bloom amid a
backdrop of new, minty green leaves. Every few blocks, a volunteer yelled their support, “Looking good. You can DO this!” Walkers, runners, kids dressed like superman and spider man, babies in strollers. Everyone had a blast, and the money all went to a good cause (shout out to Em who dedicates her career helping children with autism and their families).
The remainder of the weekend was a whirl; the farmer’s market, a brewery followed by a cider mill, then onto a winery. There, at King Winery, we spent our second gift card on a bottle of one of the best reds ever and sat until the sun had nearly set. As we drove from one venue to the next, we passed dozens of similar places each filled with “booze cruisers”. Everywhere, the hills of Shenandoah National Park served as a gorgeous backdrop. A stream snaked through the valley, horses played in a distant field, and a family gathered for an outdoor wedding on one of those days they will talk about for years. And it was just that perfect.
Lastly, we walked through the University of Virginia campus which was designed by Thomas Jefferson (or, as his friends called him, “Tom Tom”). We peeked into open doors to admire the single rooms surrounding the quad reserved for the best senior students. Stacks of wood outside, a fireplace which takes up most of the side wall, hard wood floors, the rooms themselves tiny. If I could reinvent my life, I would go to school here and study my butt off in order to occupy one of these charming rooms (until I realized, of course, this meant I must walk to the shared bath – outside, just down the cobblestone path – snow optional).
So what did I take away from all this?
- Experiences outrank stuff every. single. time. (Thanks Mike and Em for a wonderful weekend!!)
- What our family time lacks in quantity it makes up in quality. We value every second together and waste nothing.
- Charlottesville is an awesome small town and the surrounding vineyards and breweries are unique.
- We are lucky. No, wait. We are way beyond lucky (where’s my Thesaurus… what’s a good word for that?).
Now, we are back in Philly finishing our prep and packing for Paris. Oh my gosh, Paris!
Categories: The United States