The Lyles Tour the U.S.- Charlottesville, VA

As soon as John wrapped up his second interview in the Raleigh/Chapel Hill/Durham we trekked farther up the East coast to Charlottesville,VA. We had heard great things about the place from friends and they always would say "You guys would totally love that place." So, we were happy to be able to see it for ourselves.

The first night, we drove in a little sleepy and tired so we got a bite to eat at Milan Indian and took a stroll in the drizzling rain up and down the historic  pedestrian mall. The bricked streets are lined with boutiques, restaurants, and bars including Miller's bar-made famous by it's former bartender, Dave Matthews.

The next day, our first stop was the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum. The museum, which is owned and operated by the University of Virginia, is the only museum in the United States dedicated to the exhibition and study of Australian Aboriginal art. I had never seen anything like it and quickly fell in love with the colors and designs of the artwork. They were all so original and had so much symbolism and meaning.


After taking in the sights, we headed up the road to tour the University of Virginia grounds (they don't refer to their campus as such, but rather as the "grounds"). It was lovely and so historic, seeing as it was designed by Thomas Jefferson. We walked around for a little while taking in the fall foliage and stunning architecture before making our way inside the Rotunda for an official tour. Free tours are offered daily and are usually led by students of the University. The Rotunda was designed by Thomas Jefferson as the "architectural and academic heart" of the University of Virginia. The building initially served as a library, but now serves as a museum and meeting place.

This beautiful statue of Thomas Jefferson is almost as old as the building itself. Students somehow managed to save this large piece by picking it up and toting it downstairs to safety during the great fire of 1895. An impressive feat to say the least.

Once we wrapped up our tour, we took a stroll on the academic lawn that surrounds the Rotunda. The buildings originally served as classrooms and professors' living quarters. They are still in use today, but now serve as offices for faculty and living quarters for students. It was a beautiful sight to take in on a Fall day and something I highly suggest be on everyone's bucket list (especially if you're interested in American history).

Since we had done so much walking and sight seeing that morning, we had worked up quite an appetite. So, we were so happy to find Feast, a local grocery and cafe located a short walk from the grounds of UVA. The store is tucked away in a row of businesses off of West Main Street and greets customers with cases full of artisan cheese, hams and salamis, local wine, and jams and jellies. It's a bustling place to have such a tiny storefront. The cafe, open for lunch, forms a line quickly thanks to its out of this world menu that includes: daily soups (with original flavors such as acorn squash and carrot, corn chowder and the sort), freshly made bread and flavorful sandwiches and salads. It was so good, that I even broke my cardinal rule of not repeating places within a short amount of time, and went back the next day!

Once our bellies were full, we made the trek back to our car and drove to the outskirts of town to see Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. It had always been on my travel wish list and seeing it up close exceeded my expectations. The trees and mountains in the background (even though the leaves were a little past their prime) made for a beautiful backdrop. Before the guided tour began (it wasn't free, but worth the money spent), we walked around the property and found where the garden, orchard, and vineyard were. The interior and exterior of the home were stunning and the tour guide was so knowledgable about the home's structure as well as Jefferson and his family. It's a must see, for sure!

After our tour, we went up the road to see Dave Matthew's Blenheim Winery Vineyard. I absolutely love Dave, but regardless of my feelings- the wine was fabulous. Plus, for a $5 tasting, you get a free Blenheim Vineyards wine glass. We got to enjoy our final glass on the back porch of the tasting room and watch the sunset over the fields. It was breathtaking.

 That evening we went back to town to eat at Revolutionary Soup. Their soups aren't your usual and are all hearty and made fresh daily. I opted for the lamb curry (with potatoes, lentils, & spinach served over organic brown rice & garnished with yogurt, scallions and cilantro) and John chose the crab and corn chowder (slow roasted corn & crab meat in a seasoned chowder). It was a perfect meal for a chilly fall night. That finished up with crepes from The Flat: Take Away Crepery (nutella and strawberry for me, cinnamon and sugar for John) located just next door (there's no inside seating, but plenty of outdoor tables and benches)was quite the satisfying meal.

Needless to say, we had so much fun in the great city of Charlottesville. Thankfully it's only a hop, skip and a two hour car ride from D.C. which means that we can visit again! If you ever get the chance to explore this city, do because it is nothing short of wonderful.


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