the best things about this town

with the exception of two temporary relocations when i was too young to remember, i have lived in or near charlottesville my entire life. i grew up just south of here, in a lush mountain town. but town isn’t the right word for north garden. it’s a quilt of curving, narrow, unmarked roads, with dairy farms at the intersections, and memories tucked into every crevice of the trees. here’s where our car went into the ditch in the blizzard of ’96, and we hitched a ride home in a truck, and dad and i took a sled back down with shovels the next morning. over there is where the neighbors clydesdales went on the lam and tore down the road with thunder in their hoofs. here is where i, um, had a meltdown over the first boy to call me, because he wasn’t The Boy I Wanted to Call. and down by the creek is where fairies lived, and the girls up the hill and i would spend hot summers tucked into the shade of brambles.

then charlottesville, just 20 minutes up the road, is where i went to middle school, high school, college, and graduate school. so i say i grew up there, because a big piece of my growing up happened in classrooms in this town. i’m about to leave, and that’s strange to me. a good-strange, but strange nonetheless. so, without further ado, here are some of the best things about this town.

in middle school, the downtown mall was a jewel just two blocks away, and we went for lunch when we were in eighth grade and thought we were everything. when you’re in high school here, the downtown mall is a red brick road to independence. what no one tells you is, when you grow up, the mall is still there, and fabulous for different reasons. and the teens you were not too long ago will drive you insane with the loudness (though really, we all grew up being obnoxious there). when you grow up, you go because of cheap fries at miller’s, pretentious coffee at mudhouse, old movies at the paramount, cold beer and music of questionable quality at friday’s after five. i compare every town’s downtown to this one, and have yet to find one that holds a candle to it.

lord, the food here is a wild thing. the restaurants per capita is one of the highest anywhere – not an exaggeration. my absolute favorite restaurant is bizou – it’s where we go for my birthday, and i get the meatloaf every. single. time. it is the best meatloaf i’ve ever had. blue moon diner is the perfect greasy spoon. go there for coffee so strong you’ll shake, and banging bacon. aqui es mexico (whose website says “explicit adult content”, so…i think they were hacked) is the best mexican in town (well. that i know of. there are other hole-in-the-wall places that are supposed to be great, too). limeleaf is in a strip mall and is an excellent choice for thai food (as is lemongrass). i could go on for days. just. trust me. come visit charlottesville, you’ll eat well.

there are vineyards and breweries here. throw a rock and you’ll hit one (but don’t, that’s mean). our wine country is steadily becoming a place you don’t joke about – virginia wines are damn delicious. and our vineyards are tucked into valleys and perched on mountains and the views from their patios and decks are stunning. i don’t think i’m one for a big wedding, but i would not turn down a wedding at a vineyard – my guests would drink the best, and the photos would be phenomenal. i’m moving to dc, which is a short train ride away, and you better believe i’ll be organizing trips with friends from dc to charlottesville to spend a weekend drinking wine and eating fancy cheese.

pointed out by friends on facebook: rent here is CHEAP. for what we’re going to pay for an apartment in dc, we could rent the five-bedroom house i’m living in right now. obscene. the apartment we had in college was in the building i attended preschool in, which is ridiculous. the building, i’m pretty sure, hadn’t been touched since i’d been in preschool. we had more pipe bursts than i can remember. my first apartment was near downtown, but i think of it as the disco ball, because it was near the EMT station, and every time there was an emergency in town, my apartment became a dance party. i learned the value of thick curtains in that apartment. then there’s the place i’ve been living for nearly four years. big box of a house, and i’m pretty sure we can play six degrees of roommate with everyone who has lived here since it was built. the yard is constantly overgrown (thanks, rain), the driveway is host to crazy people during football season, and there’s a defunct fireplace just hanging out at the edge of said driveway. the walls are really thin, sometimes the water pressure drops off a cliff, and i effing love it here. though, after last night’s disturbing fridge find, i’m not going to miss sharing a fridge with four people.

the people here. they’re like people anywhere, and i won’t speak to the people i don’t know (maybe you’re all terrible), but the people i know? my family and my friends? lord. i’m going to miss the hell out of y’all. i am sure i’ll write a much longer post waxing nostalgic about all of you, and in person we’ll hug and cry. and don’t worry. we’ll make a schedule of when i come to c’ville.

when i was in high school, we all wanted to get the hell out of here. we whined that this place was a rubberband town – that we all were born with a rubberband attaching us to charlottesville, and no matter how far we went, we’d get snapped back one day. guys, boomerang. that was the word we should have used.  and it turns out? yes. and i’m not sorry about it. when i think about buying a home and having a family and all the Grown-Up Things People Do, i visualize them in charlottesville. i love it here. i love dc, for different reasons, and i cannot wait to move there. but i will miss charlottesville. this town is in my blood, and i think one day, i’ll come back.

crowdsourcing reveals these other favorites: take it away, bodo’s, marco and luca’s, peaches from carter’s mountain, the saturday morning farmers’ market, and the main street arena