We had been staying with family in Williamsburg for this entire trip, but had planned one uber romatic night away at an Inn outside of Charlottesville. We wound our way down country lanes, green fields filled with horses, and large old trees. I exclaimed every five minutes at how much it looked like the English countryside. But it really did.
We got lost for about 20 minutes. When directions say “Go EAST on Hwy 180” how are you supposed to know which way is east if you don’t have a COMPASS? Hello? I know there’s a compass app for the iPhone, but I am an anti-app girl, so I didn’t have the compass to guide us. And it was cloudy so we couldn’t use the sun as a guide or the stars for that matter and I didn’t have the SEXTANT app on my phone if that even exists, which I’m sure it does by now.
We finally turned into a long gravel driveway with a low, slightly crumbling stone wall on either side (just like ENGLAND!) and made our way up toward the warm, welcoming lights of the Clifton Inn, too late for tea (probably ENGLISH tea) due to our lack of a compass, but in time for a hot bath before dinner.
You have the option of staying either in the house, a large, old structure with creaky wooden floors and high ceilings, or in one of the outbuildings. We opted for one of the more private outbuilding rooms.
When we booked our room on-line, there was one room offered that looked as though the FLOWER FAIRY had thrown up in it. Seriously. Bedspread, curtains, chairs, rugs, shower curtain. How could anyone like that much chintz? Other than the fairy room, everything else looked quite nice. After much research, we had reserved a cozy room with a fireplace and stone floors.
A really nice person carried our bags to the room, down a little gravel path lined with boxwood hedges (just like… yeah, you know. ENGLAND). He opened the door to our room and we were immediately hit with the smell of damp. I think this room was the original stone storage cellar for the house, or something like that. And it was the size of a Hobbit Hole.
We went in and started to get settled, anyway, but then we realized the fireplace didn’t really work. And that was it. I’m not one to make a fuss, but my traveling companion is really good at speaking his mind. We were paying a pretty penny for this one night and we wanted it to be perfect. So he went and spoke his mind to the kind woman at the front desk, while I sat shivering on the bed and waited.
Then he was back! With the nice luggage carrying man! He carried our bags up and around a small rise to a large set of french doors, handed us a key and said, “Enjoy!”.
Well, let this be a lesson in speaking one’s mind. What we got was the original carriage house for the entire property for the same price as the Hobbit Hole. And it was awesome.
It was the size of a small house. Quaint and creaky, but with a super modern bathroom which was kind of cool. And in the living room – guess what was there?
A piano! AND a fireplace. That worked!
Upstairs, there was the most charming dormer window that looked out onto a garden.
You can imagine our delight at this major upgrade to the best room on the property. The piano was out of tune, but who cared.
After long hot showers, we went tot he multi-starred restaurant in the main house and proceeded to have a 2 hour dinner of the most delicious and creative food. In the kitchen was a large glass jar filled with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that the guests were encouraged to dip into at any hour of the day. This was just one of the features that made this Inn so special.
We slipped into a dream filled food coma and slept until the morning in the plush king sized bed made up with 4 billion thread count sheets.
Breakfast was sublime and my first taste of Virginia ham. I typically don’t like ham -it’s kind of slimy. But Virginia ham is a whole different kind of pig. It’s salty and dry and divine when put on a buttermilk biscuit.
Reluctantly, we packed up and left our Carriage House. When we checked out, we were handed a light blue box tied up with a white ribbon. Inside? Chocolate chip cookies. We drove to the airport in a light drizzle, as I nibbled on a cookie even though after breakfast I swore I would never eat again.
We reminisced about the lovely vacation we had experienced. I commented on the delightful politeness I had encountered with every Virginian. They really are very friendly people. Even the lady at the gas station convenience store smiled really big and called me “Hon” as she handed me the key to the restroom.
As we drove on toward the airport, I got a call saying our small home town was on fire and that my house was in an evacuation zone, currently being evacuated for me by friends and family. Sigh.
Below is a picture of what we were headed home to deal with.
The house survived this fire and a subsequent one a year or so later. But it was indeed a rude jolt from the moist fall of Virginia back to the harsh dryness of California. Very much NOT like England.
Virgina is indeed for lovers. It is a glorious part of the country and I can’t wait to go back and experience more.