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Exploring Virgina's Charlottesville

1817 Historic Bed & Breakfast 1211 W. Main St.; 800/730-7443 or 804/979-7353, fax 804/979-7209; doubles $89-$159. Everything under the roof of the red-brick, Federal-style inn is for sale (note the price tags); whatever didn't fit can be bought at the adjacent antiques shop. The five rooms have theme decorations (French Empire, African safari). If natural light is a priority, request the room with a glass-enclosed sleeping porch.

Inn at Sugar Hollow Farm 6051 Sugar Hollow Rd. (Rte. 614); 804/823-7086, fax 804/823-2002; doubles from $95, including breakfast. A contemporary house with five guest rooms, Sugar Hollow may be too cute for some—stuffed animals, pictures of the grandkids—but those seeking solitude will be satisfied. Prop your head up on the pillows as you lie on the bed in the Woodlands Room. You'll get a better view through the bay window of the sun going down over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Inn at the Crossroads 5010 Plank Rd. (Rte. 692), North Garden; 804/979-6452; doubles from $80, including breakfast. The Crossroads is on the outskirts of town, but whereas U.S. Highway 29 just north of C-ville is overdeveloped, the stretch south of the city is still pure country. History buffs will love the small touches at the National Register of Historic Places building, constructed in 1820. Check out the back-to-back staircases, built so men wouldn't have to wait while women negotiated the steps in their hoopskirts.

200 South Street 200 South St.; 804/979-0200, fax 804/979-4403; doubles from $100, including breakfast. Built in 1856 (and restored 13 years ago),this inn is a neo-Georgian delight occupying two adjacent houses. The 20 rooms are full of soft yellows and bright crimsons. It's just two blocks from the Downtown Mall, so stay here if, instead of driving back and forth, you'd rather spend your time more wisely—by taking afternoon tea on the wraparound veranda, for starters.

the jeffersons'

Most visitors to Charlottesville come here with one destination in mind: Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. And now some who hadn't thought of visiting—those who knew Monticello only as the building on the tails side of the nickel—may have had their interest piqued by the new DNA evidence that Jefferson did in fact father a child with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

I went to Jefferson's house (it's "mon-ti-chel-lo," by the way—Italian for "little mountain") last spring, before the findings were revealed, and although the Hemings story was referred to in literature there, no one in my tour group broached the subject. Guides have since made the matter part of their presentations.

The building's entrance is on its tree-obscured, less photogenic east end; the five-cent view is actually of the back. You may consider yourself an avid reader, but in the library you'll hear how Jefferson suffered from what he described as "bibliomania." A friend once wrote to him asking if he knew of anything good to read; Jefferson recommended 488 books and suggested the best time of day to read each one. His bed was built into the wall between his study and the bedroom so he could get up on either side and work right away if he chose to.

Walk west down Mulberry Row, where most of the slave quarters were located (none of them remain), past the vegetable garden, to what is literally the final stop—the graveyard. Jefferson's grave is covered by an obelisk; the other stones are those of his descendants. Well, not all of them, apparently—it's still being determined whether the cemetery will admit the newly discovered leaves on Jefferson's family tree.

Monticello Thomas Jefferson Pkwy. (Rte. 53); 804/984-9822.

reel me in

Keep your tricornered hat on after a morning at Monticello and head to the Michie Tavern (683 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy.; 804/977-1234; lunch for two $20), a Colonial Revival landmark established in 1784 by Scotsman William Michie (pronounced like "Mickey"). It now provides a glimpse of daily life in the 18th century. Lunch is served on metal plates in the rustic Ordinary tavern; ordinary could also describe the traditional Southern selection—fried chicken, black-eyed peas—but, luckily, not the taste. Afterward, take a tour and learn the Virginia reel. The first tip I got from guide Bea Keaton: "Keep looking into my eyes." Since the dancing of that era wasn't exactly salacious (seen any of the recent Jane Austen films?), eye contact allowed partners to flirt while spinning across the floor. Three twirls, two promenades, and a do-si-do later—with a bow and curtsy to finish—I felt like Mr. Darcy to her Elizabeth Bennet.

where to eat

Clifton 1296 Clifton Inn Dr.; 804/971-1800; dinner for two $116. Once you've assembled with the other diners in the sitting room for cocktails, chef Rachel Greenberg will describe the prix fixe menu in a whirlwind of cooking terms: a reduction of this, a demiglace of that, caramelized something-or-other. She'll also lay down the ground rules: Always feel free to ask for seconds, and to visit her in the kitchen. No matter what she's cooked up—Chilean sea bass, roasted bison rib-eye, hazelnut cheesecake—you'll want to take her up on her offer for more.

Métropolitain 214 W. Water St.; 804/977-1043; dinner for two $70. The hippest scene in town, from the unassuming white-brick exterior, to the saffron-and-black interior, to the black-clad waiters. The ceviche martini appetizer is citrusy, the pheasant stuffed with boudin blanc a perfect mix of spicy and savory. Testifying to the quality of the cooking is regular John Grisham, who takes doggie bags home to his nearby ranch.

C&O Restaurant 515 E. Water St.; 804/971-7044; dinner for two $55. Don't let the Pepsi sign fool you—this onetime diner is far from a soda shop. Downstairs, a lively bar caters to a crowd of after-work revelers. On the rustic main level and the ultracivilized second floor, the setting changes altogether: low light, hushed tones, clinking wine glasses. Start with prosciutto, spinach, and chèvre baked in a phyllo crust, and follow it with pan-fried rainbow trout under shiitake mushrooms and pine nuts.


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