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Summer Road Trip – Stop #3 (Charlottesville, Virginia)

Last week, my family decided to hit the road in our Prius (my husband is way into hyper-miling) and see what fun stuff we could do within a half-day’s drive of our Philadelphia home.  If you’ve been following along, you know that we headed first to Hanover, Pennsylvania, then to historic Gettysburg.

On day three of our trip, we left Gettysburg to head down the road about three hours to Charlottesville, Monticello, and the historic and beautiful Clifton Inn.

The Clifton Inn

You probably know that Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia; you may not know that it’s considered one of the most beautiful college towns in America, with a popular pedestrian mall, beautiful hiking trails, and great shops and restaurants.

When I told a friend who lives in Charlottesville that we were staying at the Clifton Inn, she texted me, “Jealous!!!”  I smiled (this particular friend is a very glass-half-full type of person), but didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary.

Was I ever wrong.

Pulling up onto the gravel road leading to the inn (our GPS kept warning us, “Your destination is on an unpaved road!”), we figured out why my friend was so enthusiastic (and understood her envy).  The Clifton Inn is a rare combination of charming country inn and world-class luxury, a fine Relais & Châteaux property where Thomas Jefferson himself would’ve been right at home; in fact, its 100 acres of rolling Virginia countryside once belonged to Jefferson’s father, and, in turn, were deeded to his daughter Martha upon her marriage to Thomas Mann Randolph, a governor of the Commonwealth and a member of the House of Delegates and United States Congress.  Each room and suite is distinct and unique, some featuring airy lofts; others (like ours, the Blue Ridge suite) opening out onto private terraces within the gardens; all enjoying the modern luxuries of wi-fi, Bose sound systems, Mascioni linens, and Molton Brown amenities; but all having the kinds of comfy furniture where I won’t worry about my kids messing it up.  There’s even a walled-in croquet lawn – where else are you going to see that? – some horseshoe pits, and an evening s’mores tradition.  The whole place smells like lavender (thanks to the zillions of mature plantings around the property) and gives off the vibe of a spot where you’d just want to sit down and stay awhile.

Just one of the beautiful spots on the property of the Clifton Inn


When Niall, the Inn’s manager, showed us to our room, my husband groaned.  “I’m never going to get you to leave here,” he said.  After fifteen years of marriage, I think Steve knows me well.  Our room (well, really a two-room suite) had a tiny front porch that looked out over a small meadow and through the trees to the infinity pool’s waterfall; a sitting room with a blue and white striped couch and bamboo shades; a bedroom with a fireplace, toile bedding, and a very soft down comforter (which Abby tried to steal on several occasions); and a giant bathroom with a walk-in shower Steve and I would fight over for the whole 48 hours we were there.

The bedroom in our room, the Blue Ridge suite
The sitting room in our suite
Have you ever seen a prettier pool?

Steve and Abby couldn’t wait to try out the infinity pool, but that upholstered bed looked so comfortable it called out to me for a nap.  When I woke up two hours later, I wasn’t sure if it was 6:15 in the morning or at night – it was only when Abby and Steve showed up in their swimsuits (laughing about some pool game they’d been playing that involved zombies) that I realized it was almost dinner time.

I’ll admit it – I was tired.  We’d been traveling for a few days at this point, and, as any mom worth her salt knows, it can be hard to pack up the kids and the car and the cooler and hit the road.  I came this close to saying to Steve and Abby, “You guys go eat something good.  I’m going to lie here and watch a movie on my laptop and eat Cheez-its.”

The dining room and veranda at the Clifton Inn.

But then my Charlottesville friend texted me again.  “Have u eaten yet?  Drooling just thinking about it.”  OK.  Yes, she’s a glass-half-full type person, but she’s also got great taste, and she doesn’t mince words.  If she thinks the dinner’s worth getting up from a cozy nap, then get up and put on a dress I would (but I didn’t iron it).

Turned out my friend was right.   Be sure to read my next post – I’ll cover that dinner (my husband decided he wanted to stay forever, too, after he ate the halibut and the homemade bread) and the next morning’s breakfast.  You’ll be drooling . . . .

Many thanks to the Clifton Inn for hosting us and showing us a great time.

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