Pack Up & Go
July 30 – August 1, 2021
This was the first time in 18 months that I actually went on bonafide vacation since the pandemic, so I enlisted the services of the Pack Up & Go travel agency to get me back in the groove of traveling. Pack Up & Go specializes in creating surprise trips that combine your budget, the length of your trip and a survey you take that tells the agency your likes and dislikes. Based on my past experience that I had with them on a trip I took to Boston in 2018, I wanted to give this travel experience to my mom for her milestone birthday. Within the allotted budget that was stipulated, all the excursions, some meals and hotel expenses were covered and I rarely had to come out of my pocket.
I literally didn’t know where I was headed until the day of the trip. When we opened the envelope and realized it was Charlottesville, VA, I was excited to hit the road and explore this college town in the middle of the blue ridge mountains and see if it really lived up to their reputation of being recognized as America’s happiest city (2014). Let’s get ready to learn, see and do in C’ville!
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: The grand estate of the third president of the United States is a direct representation of a 19th century plantation. The grounds were well manicured with an abundance of crops neatly organized by vegetables and herbs. I appreciated the care and sensitivity that was given to the history of the enslaved people who worked and toiled the lands of Monticello. Mulberry Row is located directly behind the main house where all the enslaved people lived and worked. There is a representational slave cabin to provide context to how the people lived. Heavy emphasis was given to the Hemmings family due to the relationship between Sally Hemmings, Thomas Jefferson and their descendants. As you walk through the house you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship and grandeur of this residency. My mind immediately wondered who actually built those infamous four walls and how their names have been lost to history. The self guided tour pass cost $32. This allows you to walk thru the house, attend a guided slavery tour and view the grounds of the platation. You can even view the Jefferson family cemetery where the president is buried. These are just a few of the activities with the price of the ticket. So make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, because you will need them.
Munch Tip: It is well worth it, to allot a whole day to take in all the information and exhibits on the plantation. I was scheduled for an entry time of 4pm to which it only gave me 2.5 hours to see the whole plantation. I ended up buying another ticket for the next day to unpack all the undiscovered information I couldn’t soak in on the first go around. So learn from my mistakes and go early!
- University of Virginia’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers: On Descendant’s Day (April 9, 2021) a formal dedication ceremony was held to introduce the newly constructed memorial to the public. Enslaved laborers literally built, fed and took care of the students at the university throughout the 19th century. The memorial is easily accessible via University Avenue and can be spotted before actually setting foot on the university’s grounds. The circular architecture with the moving water symbolized how history is continually being written based on the foundations of the past. As you walk around the memorial you can see within the running stream the names and incidents that occurred throughout the University of Virginia’s history and how the enslaved were mistreated. The timeline started off with the founding of the university by Thomas Jefferson and how he used slave labor to clear the first 10 acres of the university’s foundation and continues all the way to 1889. This exhibit is free to the public and is continually open.Munch Tip: Make sure to walk around the school to get a sense of the magnitude of how big the University of Virginia really is. Once you work up an appetite grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants that are located on University Avenue.
- Bleinhem Vineyards: A small and quaint vineyard located in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia is owned by Dave Matthews, one of the founder’s of the Dave Matthews Band. There is a tasting room for large groups and a patio with a tent area to sit and enjoy the wine while admiring the mountain views. The wine tasting is slightly different from my prior experience in that you only receive a flight with 2 ounce pours of the On Line The White, Rose and the Painted Red that you take back to your reserved table to enjoy. This difference is associated with adhering to COVID protocols. The flight is reasonably priced at $10 per person. The wine selection is rather small and doesn’t offer any sweet or dessert wines (my favorites) on the menu. Overall, this vineyard is a great way to kick off your first stop on the Virginia wine trail.
Munch Tip: Bring your own snacks. The only food for purchase is crackers with hummus. Water is available for free if you are tired of drinking wine.
- James Monroe’s Highland: Who would have known that Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were neighbors? Following in the footsteps of his mentor Jefferson, he purchased the farm in 1799. According to the tour I took, Monroe lived on the property off & on and eventually sold his estate and the enslaved people because he was not making a profit from the small farm. Plus, mountain living was not for him and was way too far from the action that was occurring in Washington D.C. When you walk through the grounds you can see some reconstructed slave cabins and a staged kitchen where they worked and prepared the Monroe family’s meals. As part of your admission you can also view the first floor of the main house which dives a little deeper into Monroe’s history as president, ambassador and diplomat. The Welcome Back to Highlands Tour is priced at $10 per person and runs every half an hour.Munch Tip: To learn more about James Monroe’s life and career check out my travel guide for Fredericksburg, VA.
- Tavern & Grocery: What a gem! The menu was small but mighty and allowed for me to not be overwhelmed by the choices and focus on the meal at hand. My party ordered the french fries, hamburger, sea scallops, and the summer risotto. The restaurant sources all of their ingredients from local vendors and is a proponent for cooking with foods that are in season. The highlight of the experience for me was the history behind the restaurant. Upon leaving the establishment, we struck up a conversation with the owner regarding where the grocery store was located and he informed us that this was a prominent black owned grocery store that was built in 1890. In addition it also was an African American boarding house that Booker T. Washington once stayed at. He then took us to see the historical placard that signifies the importance of Charlottesville’s African American history in the city.
Munch Tip: When making a reservation, make sure to ask for seating outside. It’s a great way to take in the city atmosphere.
- Hamiltons at First & Main: This restaurant is located right in the middle of all the action on the pedestrian walkway area of the city. Hamilton at First & Main is priced potentially well with creative and forward thinking ingredients, like pickled cherries! What does that taste like you ask? It has a slightly sweet and tarty taste that has your taste buds pleasantly surprised. My party ordered a little bit of everything to get an idea of what the personality of this restaurant was about. I came to the conclusion that it had a high influence of southern cuisine with notes of international flair. One dish in particular that fits this description was the halloumi fries with a mayonnaise dipping sauce. On my next trip to C’ville, I will absolutely be making this one of the restaurants I visit again.Munch Tip: Definitely make reservations. During my dinner, I saw several walk-ins asking for a table and being turned away because the restaurant was fully booked and it’s unassuming popularity.
The Munch Travelogue Quick Sheet
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Address: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hours of Operation: Monday to Sunday = 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM & Saturday = 8:30 AM to 6:30 PM
- University of Virginia’s Memorial to Enslaved Laborers
Address: 400 Emmet Street South Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours of Operation: Open 24 hours
- Blenheim Vineyards
Address: 31 Blenheim Farm Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hours of Operation: Thursday to Sunday = 11:30 AM to 5:30 PM
- James Monroe’s Highland
Address: 2050 James Monroe Pkwy Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday = 10 AM to 5 PM
- Tavern & Grocery
Address: 333 W Main St Charlottesville, VA 22903
Hours of Operation: Wednesday-Thursday = 5 PM to 9:30 PM & Friday – Saturday = 5 PM to 10:30 PM & Sunday = 10 AM to 2 PM
- Hamiltons at First & Main
Address: 101 W Main St Charlottesville, VA 22902
Hours of Operation: Tuesday-Saturday = 11:30 AM to 8PM & Sunday = 11:30 AM to 3 PM