If you are averse to airports and airplanes like myself but need to occasionally escape the frenetic life in the “big city” of Washington DC; I have the perfect getaway for you, Charlottesville, VA; known by locals as C’Ville. C’Ville is just 100 miles south of Washington DC and provides all of the history, beauty and culture that the Nation’s Capital offers. My mission for the visit was focused on wine and food, but there are many other things to do.
I have only driven to C’Ville on past trips and never considered alternate travel options to this area of the state. I decided to mix it up and try something new. I took the train to the city. Yes, you read this correctly; I took Amtrak from the Alexandria station, a stone’s throw from my house and in 2 hours was at Charlottesville’s (CVS) station. The trip was so relaxing, easy and cheap! I will never go back to driving to this part of the state again. Including historic Manassas, there are a few quick stops along the way plus the scenery is easy to observe. I packed a couple light snacks with a glass of rosé left over from a tasting the day before my trip. You could never do this on a plane.
When I arrived at the station in C’Ville I used my GPS to get directions to my hotel, the Omni Shoreham, which is situated right on the downtown Mall and very close to the train station. I was able to walk to the hotel, but if you have heavy luggage there is a trolley service that circulates around many of the attractions in the downtown area and passes by the train station. There are cabs at the station as well if that is your preference.
The Omni hotel (212 Ridge McIntire Rd.) was well-suited for my trip’s purposes. The service was very personal and ever present during my entire stay. There are several resorts, Inns, B&B’s or standard hotels in the area to suit anyone’s needs or budget.
I had reserved a rental car before traveling to the wineries and was especially delighted that the rental company picked me up at the hotel and delivered me to my awaiting car. A nice service and only 8 miles from my hotel.
If you stay close to the downtown Mall, there are plenty of excellent cafes and restaurants to explore within a very short walk of your hotel. I strolled along the Mall taking in the eclectic scene of students gathering in front of cafes and shops filled with one-of-a-kind goods. It was dinner time and after perusing many of the displayed menus in front of restaurants, I chose the Commonwealth Restaurant and Sky Bar, which mixes robust, bold elements of South American cooking with the fresh and seasonal offerings in Virginia and the Charlottesville region. I savored my grilled pork flat iron accompanied with brussels sprouts, peruvian potatoes and herb jus. A real treat with a glass of Virginia rosé.
Another memorable restaurant visit during my stay was at the Red Pump Kitchen located right on the downtown Mall. This establishment is owned by the couple that started Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards and the focus is authentic country Tuscan cuisine. It surely raises the bar for all of its competitors on the Mall. From the open front dining room, to the efficient and personal service and most importantly the exquisite food, I do wish this restaurant were closer to DC as it would be one of my regular places to dine. This restaurant was just opened for three weeks when I visited and the place was packed and it felt like they had been opened for years. Nice job Red Pump!
C’Ville is on the top of my list for a return visit. There are several more restaurants, outdoor ventures, and wineries to explore in Central Virginia; which is often overshadowed by Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. If you are interested in visiting C’Ville and surrounding area, a good place to start is with their visitor bureau which can be found at: www.visitcharlottesville.org.