Hey all! I have not posted about solo traveling in a minute. Mainly because I haven’t been doing much of it. I tend to take at least one solo vacation yearly, but I hadn’t been on one since my Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica back in Jan of 2019.
It seemed like ages ago, and this year has been so nutty, that it didn’t cross my mind to want to go anywhere alone. I know I have my 6 month trip in 2021, but I wasn’t really craving any “me” time since the beginning of 2020.
That was until this past weekend. I have been experiencing more stress than usual the past few weeks, I was clenching my jaw at night, and found it harder to meditate. These things creep so slowly you don’t realize you need a break until you NEED A BREAK. This happened to me one evening last week.
I turned to Phil and said, “Hey, would you mind if I drove to Virginia tomorrow for a two night solo adventure this weekend?” Can I tell you how much I love my husband? SO MUCH. He was startled that the request was so abrupt, but then just said “Sure, be careful, and have fun!”
Phil has been used to my solo adventures, most of them overseas and some domestically, but this was my first ever road trip adventure by myself for longer than two hours. He has also gotten me into hiking this year, and going for a hike alone was something I never thought I would want in my life. Thinking about leaving though, I realized that is exactly what I needed and craved. Being outdoors alone.
I threw some stuff in a bag and headed out of my house around 7am in the morning. I knew roughly where I was headed (Phil and I took a trip to Charlottesville area recently and I fell in love with some wineries).
I will be doing another post about my top favorites wineries in Virginia (Seriously, they are so damn good!), but for now, I just wanted to post this little blog for anyone who is craving a mini me escape and tell you why Virginia (Specifically the Charlottesville area) should be at the top of your list! Allow me to plan your rough schedule for you and point you in the right direction. NOTE- Every decision I made on this trip I did spontaneously. I am a planner at heart, and doing the opposite (Like booking a place last minute an hour away from checking in) FELT AMAZING and so freeing.
If you are traveling alone on a road trip, some key things you need are- a full tank of gas, a charged phone, some pocket change, a map, and an audiobook.
Reasons to Visit Virginia on Your Mini Solo Vacation-
Virginia is FLUSH with hiking, biking, canoeing and more. The Shenandoah National Park alone is incredible and vast. You have to pay a small fee to enter the area, but once you do you are greeted with a really cool drive called Skyline Drive that twists and turns. Tons of overlooks and places to stop, pause and take in the many hills and valleys. It truly is a beautiful place to cruise.
Outside of this park, there are hiking trails and parks everywhere. I highly suggest downloading the app All Trails. This app is free and you can filter out or add in exactly what you are looking for in a hike. Easy, Moderate, hard. Waterfalls, views, length. It is all customized and takes all the work out of finding the perfect adventure for you!
For those who have never gone alone, pick a place that is in a public park. These are usually moderately trafficked and allow for a level of safety knowing that there are other people around in case you stumble or fall and need help. Also, if you feel nervous especially as a female being alone, I always carry a sharp rock in one hand while I hike, and tend to choose places where there are others nearby. I also don’t hike at night alone, that I am not comfortable with yet, and honestly don’t know if I will ever be.
I do not think I have ever passed by as many farms than in Virginia. They are doing wonderful and very clever farming that incorporates honey, lavender, alpacas, orchards……. you name it there was a farm for it. Most of these farms you are able to visit and pick for yourself.
Farms and wineries to stay on-
You have your choice of places to stay in Virginia, I personally love staying on a farm or winery while I am visiting. I highly suggest Penmeryle Horse Farm in Greenville VA, and Orchard House Bed and Breakfast in Lovingston, VA.
Orchard House is my top rated place to stay near Charlottesville. A solid five stars, and is actually owned by a family that was from Pittsburgh that decided to open their very own Bed and Breakfast. (A true dream of my own!) Their property has a salt water pool (omg), a patio, and their very own vineyard. They also host wine tours in the area and each stay is complete with own of their homemade breakfast. Tell them Marta from Pittsburgh sent you!
Wineries- Lets Get Down to Business!
This is where my trips to Virginia have really shined. I am completely impressed by the wine culture that is booming there. Phil and I love wine we have a great palate, we search it out, and are pretty knowledgable. I will admit the first time someone mentioned Virginian wine to me…. I probably scoffed. Humans, we think we know everything.
I was excited the first time we visited some wineries in the area, but didn’t expect much. I was wrong, so wrong. I am not going to tell you that there aren’t wineries that make sweeter meh wines. There are a good amount of these places, and that just means there is something for everyone. Phil and I enjoy dryer wines, not heavily oaked. If you know where to go in Virginia, you can get EXCEPTIONAL wines.
I’m talking wines that I have personally done blind wine tastings against varietals from California, and France. Virginia has beaten them in a blind tasting. It’s true! Finding out that there is this treasure trove of gorgeous properties, that are producing amazing wine blew my mind.
I thrusted myself into learned about and trying all I could to find the best of the best in this area. I will be putting my favorite wineries in a separate post, because there are A LOT, but I am only sending this list out to folks that subscribe to my email list, so head on over and do that! It takes a lot of searching, tasting and back breaking work to find the best of the best and we did the labor. LOL So hard sipping those wines…. so very hard.
That being said, driving alone and stopping at a winery along your journey, sitting outside and enjoying the views is the best feeling in the world!
Charlottesville’s food scene is LEGIT. It has an area they call the downtown mall. It is an open space that they blocked off cars, put dining tables in-between two sets of buildings, and is lined with every type of store you can think of.
Shout out to Pk and some of the best gelato I have had outside of Italy- Splendoras! This lady opened up her store even though she was closed and moving locations. Her flavors were AMAZINGGGGGGGG and so different than your average scoop. I am talking 5 Chinese Spice and some kind of leather and smoke creations. I miss it so much.
I digress…. Anyways the downtown mall stays open late and honestly reminds me of a very European feel. Maybe this is why I gravitated towards it. I found myself waking up early and walking the streets to enjoy my perfectly made matcha, or walking late at night with an ice cream cone in my hand listening to the live music that was happening and shopping for antiques. I also took myself out to dinner at two restaurants! I felt safe the entire time while being alone.
For dining out the first restaurant I went to was called Mas and specialized in tapas. Tapas are smaller plates, which was perfect to pick on and stretch out my dining experience. I actually wanted to go to the place called Tavola across the street, but they were booked. (Next time)
I sat alone at Mas, had delightful chats with neighboring tables and wait staff, listened to some tunes, and picked at foods over a glass of rose brut while watching the sun set. It was so relaxing and incredible. Also try their basil gimlet! It was SO GOOD.
~Always bring a notebook with you when you decide to dine alone. It is key!~
The second restaurant I treated myself to was a French place called Fleurie. The menu was Prix Fix with an optional wine pairing. Once again I sat outside and got to watch the world go by. I sat at this table for 3 hours by myself. 3 HOURS.
You see, this is one of the important reasons for traveling alone. Getting back in touch with the things you truly love to do. I love my hubby, and always enjoy meals with him, but he tends to eat very quickly, and then I find myself keeping up with his pace. Being alone allowed me to relax and relish in each bite I was taking, each sip of wine that paired perfectly with it, and to truly enjoy my own self.
I was taking myself out on a date, and hot damn, I am great company LOL.
Fleurie was an amazing time because the staff did not rush you. You booked a time slot and that time slot was yours for the rest of the evening. It felt truly like being overseas where meals take hours, and are experiences not to be rushed, but savored. Their wine list was also wonderful and the waitress was extremely knowledgeable about everything on it. She even offered half glasses when I was torn between two vintages.
Culture- Virginia has a very rich culture, and you will find on your drive many places you can stop to educate yourself about our American history, It’s good and bad.
Monticello is very near many of the wineries, and while I was unimpressed with their lack of audio for the tour( literally 50 seconds per room is nothing!), just seeing the home, reading the history and standing near the slave quarters hits hard. It is something everyone should experience. You can hike near the home as well to take it all in. You MUST reserve your time slot. Call ahead to book, they are only allowed a very limited number of people per hour.
Similarly James Monroe’s house is just a stone’s throw from Monticello to tour. You can get a little of everything while visiting this area. I missed out on quite a bit and plan to return to learn more.
A final Note About Traveling Alone During Covid
I wanted to note, there was not one point of the trip that I felt unsafe. Every place I visited took the utmost care in sanitation. Wineries have changed many of their polices and some (not all) require a reservation. They conduct most, if not all tastings outdoors, and have a set list of flights that you can purchase. Gone are the days of just rolling up to a winery and saying- “Can I try?” Truthfully, most wine makers are probably pretty excited about that. Almost every winery I went to you had to purchase a set flight. Usually a red flight or a white, but some had a variety option.
Restaurants were also at a 25% capacity, and even though I was still not comfortable sitting indoors, there were a ton of options to me to choose from. They were following all the safety protocols and everyone was wearing a mask and sanitizing their hands. Even on the hiking trails, everyone was respecting each other’s space, and most of the trails if you go in the mornings are empty.
Anyways! I hope this post encourages some folks to shake up their idea of a vacation. Go alone and discover a whole new you! Choose how long you want to stay someplace, make a new friend, or just get out in nature and heal yourself. I highly suggest Virginia for this! I am so happy I got some “Me” time!
-Their are affiliate links to some of the spots I stayed at in this post.
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