I should have driven further but traffic was thick and it is raining, so I have stopped in Charlottesville. I started out in northern Maryland, driving to Washington, DC where I parked off the national mall and went to the Cézanne exhibit at the National Gallery, which is worthwhile. The gift shop at the National Gallery is endless and junky, and if you eat lunch you should go to the Garden Café since in the end, the poor cafeteria is almost as expensive as the sit-down place. I walked past the Capitol and drove by the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument on the way out of town; in Virginia I passed the sites of several famous battlegrounds including the Bull Run.
I cannot handle junky motels, nor face expensive hotels, so I am staying at the conference center of the University of Virginia Business School. It is a bit sterile, but very comfortable and it has a pub, that I would be in if it were less stuffy, and a laundry room that is free, and breakfast in the cafeteria will surely be interesting. I will visit Monticello tomorrow and am curious to see whether it will seem different from other plantations I have seen; having been there will make me more experienced as an American.
The University of Virginia is manicured and buttoned down, and many students are military. Charlottesville has one of those very Southern courthouse squares and seems on the whole to be a quintessence of squareness. I think all the students and faculty must be rich, as this place is very obviously upscale. I went to the pedestrian mall downtown where I had a slice of vegetarian pizza, quite good, for $4.14 and for another $4.14, an excellent capuccino at a place where you could sit and read for a long time. There was a great deal of overpriced shopping, uninteresting, mixed with overdone bistros, and several very interesting antiquarian bookstores where you could also sit and read for a long time. If I had been less tired I would have had dinner at Bizou, eating at the bar–this place looked cozy, unpretentious, and good, actual not faux European. Then I would have gone to a concert at the Front Porch, a roots music school.
There must be some sort of cool scene here but my overall impression is that it is not a cool town. Have you been to Charlottesville?