When I moved to this area, one of the things I was excited about was the fact that a number of my friends live nearby, two of whom I have not seen since December 2010, when I visited them at their site in Ukraine. After a number of back-and-forth e-mails, we decided on this past weekend as the weekend I would visit them in Charlottesville, which is about three hours from the DC area.
Of course, getting there required renting a car, and, strangely, I was looking forward to that too – to driving more so than to renting a car. So on Friday afternoon, I headed down to the airport, waited 1/2 hour in line to get my car, and headed out…into traffic and rain. The GPS on my phone was trying to direct me to a part of one of the highways that was HOV only (who thought THAT was a good idea?) and I ended up talking back at the device, telling her it was not going to happen, and I made my way South.
Luckily, she is smart enough to recalculate a new route based on where I was actually headed, so I circled back up and eventually got on the highway, made it through traffic, drove through some nice countryside, had to stop to buy a car charger adapter for my phone (I had no idea how much power the maps function drains from a phone), and made it to my destination – safely, if not a little late.
It was so nice to see my friends again, and we talked until 2 a.m. that first night. The next morning we headed to Monticello (for those who don’t know, Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s home). Not only does it have an interesting history, it is well maintained. It would be nice to see it at different times of the year: for example, right now, everything is starting to bloom. In a month or two, everything will be in full bloom, and the gardens will be flourishing. Come fall, a person will be able to see all of the colors of the trees in the hills surrounding the estate. Monticello is still undergoing restoration efforts, as well. It takes a lot longer than I anticipated to see it! By the time we left, we were getting a bit hungry.
Good thing we had plans to stop at a gourmet grocery (which was even mentioned in Southern Living magazine), pick up some food, and head to one of the many wineries in the area. We were going to visit a second (maybe third?) winery when we realized that most of them close for tastings around 5:00. However, Trump Winery does not, and we visited it. The tasting room itself is not as spectacular as the name Trump would imply, but the view from the back was breathtaking.
After we returned to their home, I was pretty exhausted (well, after some long hours at work, the drive, staying up chatting, and being outdoors all day), and fell asleep early. Sunday morning brought brunch and a tour of UVA.
It was nice to get away, to talk to people who understand the past few years of my life and what I am still going through to adjust back to life in the U.S. I’ve been back for three and a half months, and the days are going fast but there are still things I am noticing that are different – about me, about the U.S., about my perspective. Spending that time with my friends, relaxing, being me, felt good. I hope to be able to do it again soon.
Photos from Monticello can be found on Picasa.