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Valmontis

June 2001

Welcome to www.weloveourlife.com. This is our page dedicated to our experiences while staying at Valmontis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We have been informed that Valmontis has been sold and is no longer a Bed and Breakfast.


Accommodations Amenities Food Bar/Lounge Service Attractions Dining Nightlife Weather Tips

Accommodations

We stayed in the Presidential Suite, located on the first floor. Although it was just off the breakfast room, double doors assured privacy.

Our suite was beautifully decorated with antiques and was vibrant with color. The bedrom was painted a muted red and was very large, containing a huge king-size bed, wood-burning fireplace, dresser, and settee.
Our sitting room contained an armoire that houses two terry robes and the satellite television. There were two love seats and a marble-topped coffee table. Both the sitting room and bedroom had windows with views of the countryside. The bathroom was ample and included a large whirlpool big enough for the two of us with both back and side jets.

Inn Amenities

Valmontis' website stated that we would receive champagne and hor d'oeuvres upon arrival, and there was truth in the advertising. Our innkeeper Mark asked us if we would like something to drink and to eat. We declined the offer of food, with thoughts of the outdoor pool beckoning us. Mark took the time to show us around the inn, pointing out the icemaker and the guest refrigerator upstairs that contained complementary champagne, wine, beer, and soft drinks. There were also bagged snacks available. On both evenings, we indulged in a bottle of champagne. It was decent champagne - Seaview, a vintage from Australia, that was dry and to our liking. We found the self-service guest refrigerator to be a very welcome amenity and a great, relaxing way to end the day. We also helped ourselves to some of the cream liqueur available in the library (another thoughtful amenity). The inn's website also states that coolers are available to take outside to the pool.

We enjoyed the outdoor pool. This was central Virginia in early June, and the humidity was on the rise. The pool was located in a quiet meadow, and we spent time there both afternoons we stayed at the inn, and found it refreshing. The inn thoughtfully provides pool towels for guests.

Inn Food

Mark, the innkeeper, was also the chef. Each morning fresh fruit, cereal, and muffins were available on the buffet in the breakfast room. Our first morning at Valmontis we were served individual quiches with fresh herbs, very tasty smoked bacon, and asparagus. The home-made muffins were excellent. On our second morning, we had some very fine eggs benedict accompanied by a stuffed tomato with a baked filling of cheese and herbed bread. It was obvious Mark took great care in the meals he prepared, and we ate on fine china and drank out of crystal. Although we turned down Mark's offer on both days for a snack in the afternoon, he was most willing to whip up something if we wanted it. On our second day at the inn, his "snack" was to be scallops with a sauce! Based on our experience with his breakfasts, we are confident it would have been delicious.

Inn Bar/Lounge

Valmontis did not have a bar, but provided complementary beverages to guests.

Inn People/Service

We found Mark to be a most friendly and inviting soul. One of the first things he asked us was what we wanted to drink in the morning with breakfast (coffee, tea, etc.). We asked for iced tea, and he had a pitcher of iced tea freshly made for us each morning. We appreciate those special extra touches. The inn was clearly his venture. We also met his wife on two occasions and she took the time to talk to us. Mark showed us some menus in the library and suggested the mall in downtown Charlottesville as a way to check out some local restaurants and see what most interested us. He gave us a local map and showed us how to get downtown (about a 10-15 minute drive). He was clearly interested in seeing his guests were well taken care of and we found him to be very friendly.

Area/Attractions

Charlottesville's Downtown Mall
Charlottesville's Downtown Mall Web Site

Our first foray after arriving at Valmontis was to seek out a place for dinner, and at our innkeeper's suggestion, we headed to Charlottesville's Downtown Mall. We found a parking garage ($1 per hour) and strolled down the mall, which is closed to vehicle traffic and is covered with brick pavers. Charlottesville clearly put a lot of effort into revitalizing their downtown, and it shows. There are 120 shops and 30 restaurants in this area, and several restaurants had tables outside for alfresco dining. We walked down the several blocks, looking at the menus posted outside, trying to decide where to eat. The Downtown Amphitheater is located at one end of the mall and from late April through early October, plays host to "Fridays After 5." Live acts play free concerts each Friday evening in an attempt to keep people downtown. The week we were there, the band War was playing Friday evening (yes, the 70s band War known for "Low Rider" and "Why Can't We Be Friends"). Although we did not go to the concert, locals told us later that War brought out the largest crowd to date. We felt fairly safe walking around downtown Charlottesville, and noted that it was very clean.

Monticello - Charlottesville, VA 804-984-9822
Monticello Web Site
One of the main reasons we went to Charlottesville was to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. We were not disappointed; this was one of the high points of our trip. Jefferson was something of a Renaissance man who was knowledgeable in many areas, and this came through in his self-designed home. As the brochure states, Monticello is "the remarkable integration of Jefferson's love of classical architecture and passion for modern innovation."

We recommend going early, as this is a very popular attraction. We arrived around 10:30 and purchased tickets. There is a shuttle available to take visitors up to the house, which sits on top of a mountain. There is a trail that can be taken on foot, but it is a pretty steep grade. Once we arrived at the top and disembarked the shuttle, we had about a 30-minute wait. Monticello is a smoothly run operation and has worked out the fine details of moving many people through the residence daily. The tour guide was very knowledgeable. Of special interest to us was the many clocks Jefferson had in a time when not very many people were obsessed with knowing what time it was. Several of Jefferson's own inventions were evident in the house: a 7-day clock, "automatic" doors, a wine dumb-waiter (to bring wine up from the basement), a rotating serving door, skylights with overlapping glass panes, and many more. After the tour through the house, visitors are on their own to explore the grounds. Do not miss Jefferson's "all-weather walkway" under the house, which was a long passageway that connected many rooms that contained operations vital to the running of the household. We were amazed that the old smokehouse room still smelled like smoke. Mulberry Row runs alongside the house and contains the remains of many of the estate's dependencies where slaves lived and worked. Restrooms and a gift shop are available at the top of the mountain as well. We chose to walk down to shuttle station, as we wanted to visit the graveyard where Jefferson and his descendants and friends are buried. The walk back down is 2/3 mile and is mostly covered by trees. We saw an amazing number of butterflies as we walked down the mountain. Monticello is a "don't miss" attraction if you are visiting the area.

We also stopped at several wineries in Virginia. Please visit our wine page for more information and links to these wineries.

Dining

Moondance Cafe - 201 E. Main Street Charlottesville, VA 804-984-3933
This is a gem of a restaurant that had an enticing menu. Although outside tables were available and it was a nice evening, we stuck our heads inside and decided on an indoor table. The restaurant was surprisingly large, and we ended up in a cozy booth in an elegant room (although we felt comfortable in our shorts; it is a casual area). Keith had an appetizer of fruit and cheese, which included honeydew, cantaloupe, bleu, brie, and goat cheese. Lori had crab wontons with sesame noodles and thai peanut sauce. For entrees, Keith chose the mahi mahi special, which included mashed potatoes and kale with red wine sauce. Lori had the shrimp with penne and basil in a cream sauce. We ordered an Oakencroft chardonnay (a local winery) to accompany our meal, and were grateful for the plentiful glasses of ice water with lemon. The food was creative and very tasty, and the service was excellent. We later adjourned to the bar and had a great time talking to Vance the bartender who took the time to make suggestions for our trip, writing up must-sees and even calling his mother to ask a question to help us out. He even gave us his cell phone number in case we needed directions - now that was true southern hospitality! There was live piano music (jazz) in one of the dining rooms.

St. Maarten Cafe - 1400 Wertland Street Charlottesville, VA 804-293-CAFE
St Maarten Cafe Home Page
Friday night we strolled into the St. Maarten Cafe around 6 p.m. There are no windows, which is unique, but it was brightly lit, with a tropical atmosphere. The humidity was on the rise and we appreciated the fact that the Cafe was very well air-conditioned. There is a square bar in the center surrounded by booths on 3 sides, some elevated. We started with chips and Dr. Siegel's secret salsa with fresh cilantro. Keith had the 7th Plane of Hell wings (there were 7 levels of heat, and he chose the hottest). Keith said he thinks these were the hottest wings he has ever had, and that's saying something, because he loves hot food! Lori ordered the buffalo popcorn as an appetizer and couldn't eat all of it because it was very spicy. For his entree, Keith had a chicken quesadilla roll-up. Lori happily chose the crab legs with hush puppies (Lori will happily choose crab legs anytime they are available).

The St. Maarten Cafe has been awarded a "best of ..." www.weloveourlife.com award.

Nightlife

Awful Arthur's - 333 West Main Street, Charlottesville, VA 804-296-0969
Awful Arthur's Home Page
Since we had a pretty packed agenda planned, we didn't stay out too late at night. But the NBA finals were going on while we visited Charlottesville, and our local basketball team, the 76ers, were playing, so we went to Awful Arthur's. Vance, our friendly bartender from the previous evening, had recommended Awful Arthur's to view the game, since it has a big-screen tv. Sure enough, they turned the basketball game on. We didn't eat anything since we had just finished dinner, but they had lots of great looking seafood that was making Lori's mouth water. We just wanted a place to hang, watch the game, and have a few drinks. This fit the bill.

Weather

We visited central Virginia in early June. The days were in the 80s and the evenings were in the high 60s/low 70s. It was comfortable but humid, as Virginia is prone to humidity.

Tips/Suggestions

There are several historic attractions in the Charlotesville region that attract many visitors. It is a good idea to visit these attractions as early in the day as possible (especially on weekends). Virginia roads are well-marked but make sure you have directions and maps readily available.