The Blue Ridge Mountains

Last week, Michael had an interview in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since Virginia is high up on our list of places we could see ourselves living one day, we worked to schedule his interview at a time I could go. I wasn’t able to go to the dinner the night before his interview (a chance for me to get to know the residency program for myself), but I drove down to join him the night after, and we got to spend a day and a half exploring Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley together.

Charlottesville was smaller than I expected, but nice. UVA and the medical center take front stage in the little city; it’s very much a college town. The UVA campus was GORGEOUS. And this is coming from someone who went to the University of Kansas, a campus more beautiful than any I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a good few. Even with most of the leaves gone, the campus is shady, all brick and old pathways and tradition. I loved it.

The downtown area is thriving; there’s a pedestrian walkway with tons of restaurants and boutiques– it’s as long as Mass Street in Lawrence and Coventry here in Cleveland Heights, but all pedestrian, and with far fewer vacant buildings! Imagine that. It’s good to see a healthy city. We ate along this strip twice, a great experience both times.

We also went to see the home-opener UVA basketball game, an experience which I am happy to say moved no emotion in me whatsoever. ROCK CHALK FOREVER.

We also went to see the home-opener UVA basketball game, an experience which I am happy to say moved no emotion in me whatsoever. ROCK CHALK FOREVER.

It’s a quick ten minute drive from the heart of downtown to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson:

And apparently an important enough monument to be displayed on US currency--this domed view of the house is on the back of the nickel.

And apparently an important enough monument to be displayed on US currency–this domed view of the house is on the back of the nickel.

Jefferson is such an interesting historical figure, and he was the type of person whose being infiltrated every part of his life fully– especially his house. It really was a piece of him, from the architecture to the artifacts to the paint on the walls.

This compass was on the porch ceiling-- it's directly attached to the weathervane above, telling us the direction of the wind.

This compass was on the porch ceiling– it’s directly attached to the weathervane above, telling us the direction of the wind.

No photography was allowed inside, since some of the items indoors are parts of private collections. But we got to see several famous portraits, Jefferson’s own telescope and polygraph, lots of innovative architecture, clockwork, and pulleys (you can give yourself a virtual tour here). The outside was lovely, as you can see, and drenched in American history– both inspiring and sobering. Jefferson kept over 600 slaves in his lifetime, and their workspaces and quarters were on display, as well.

Jefferson's vineyards

Jefferson’s vineyards

It was a good reminder that our founding fathers were human, flawed, and sometimes deeply wrong.

My very favorite thing about Charlottesville is that there are no suburbs. Five minutes outside the city, you’re in the Blue Ridge Mountain range– this is the part of Virginia that calls to my heart.

We drove a little ways down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Humpback Rocks, a hike for which we were completely unprepared, but did anyway.

Worth it.

Worth it.

We even saw a black bear on our way back down!

We even saw a black bear on our way back down! It’s blurry because we kept our distance, of course.

We also discovered we were right on the Appalachian Trail.

We also discovered we were right on the Appalachian Trail.

Then, driving back north, the parkway turns into Skyline Drive– the main road through Shenandoah National Park.

We went to Acadia National Park on our honeymoon and talked about making it a marriage-long goal to visit every one of the national parks; I’m putting it down here that it’s an OFFICIAL goal, and we’ve now marked the second one off our list (and have the magnet to prove it!). We’ve been to more than two national parks separately, but we think we’ll only count the ones we’ve been to together.

Other things: Charlottesville is just three hours from a good beach, an easy weekend trip. The culture is definitely more Southern than I expected, but with more than a little Northeast thrown in. Overall, though, Virginia feels so much older than any other part of the south I’ve been to– making it kind of its own thing. It’s only two hours from DC, where we have family and where we could access the best museums in the country. The program is excellent; I suppose I’ll address all that stuff in a few months when we’re really getting down to ranking our options. Michael and I are trying not to process too much about his interviews until he’s done them all, so he can better compare and contrast when he has a better idea what’s important to him and to us. But I’m slowly realizing that as exciting as certain places might be to me, my life is pretty flexible– we’ve already narrowed down our choices to places I’d be willing (if reluctantly) to live. Michael’s medical training and opportunities far outweigh personal preference with regards to our family’s future, so that’s the mindset I try to adopt. Also, if the doctor ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. (Kidding, but only sort of.)

I’m going on one more interview trip with Michael, to Seattle in a couple of weeks! We are so excited to visit the city, and most of all, to visit the SHAWS! We’re coming your way, Coley! But before then, we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Wible side of the family– that totally snuck up on me this year, as we’re leaving in six days and I’ve barely even thought about the holidays. I have almost a week to kick into gear. Can’t wait to see you, family!

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