Dwight Peck's personal Web site

Scenes from the old country, summer 2018

More annual lakeside fun in the Northwoods



You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

A follow-up visit to Charlottesville and Staunton, Virginia

We've fetched up in Charlottesville, Virginia, at this comfortable Airbnb cottage attached to the host family's house on Rugby Road, 20 June 2018.

Comfortable and cute, and not far from either the Downtown Mall or the university campus. Charlottesville's had some bad press in recent times, from rallies and a murder by some of our President's less savory friends (in a snit about statues of some insurrectionary martyrs from a long-ago war), and our hostess passed on some sobering stories about that sad event.

But we've visited here before, five years ago, to visit daughter Alison and her husband Mark who were at the headquarters of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and finding the college town congenial, at that time we put down a bid on a little house in nearby Croset. Luckily, as some of our party were not yet ready to leave Switzerland after 40 years, that deal fell through.

There's one of the martyrological statues to the gallant losers from the long-ago war. In any case, we're back to have another look for a livable place, and this is virtually only nice place in the US I've seen in the past half century (except for the Wisconsin Northwoods -- very nice in the summer!). We don't really care about 'alt-right' nutters running around, we'll just bolt the doors and wait them out.

(Though, in summer 2018, Virginia's presently got a Senatorial candidate who's insisting that last year's violence was caused by liberals and other anarchists, a slack-jawed bubba who's dedicated to "dismantling Cultural Marxism". Ha ha ha. What a wanker.)

We're here in Court Square Park, in front of the gallant statue and the Albemarle County Circuit Court House, two blocks up from the famous Downtown Mall (i.e., West Main Street).

This is Charlottesville's beautiful 'Downtown Mall', a charming pedestrian promenade along Main Street; apparently it was set apart as early as 1976 and significantly renovated by January 2009.

At the eastern end of the Mall is the outdoor Sprint Pavilion, where . . .

. . . five years ago we attended a Willie Nelson concert here, great, of course.

Observing Willie Nelson with field glasses, September 2013

West Main Street has historical associations (like the Roman decumanus maximus elsewhere).

C'ville, as it's known, is a pleasant college town of nearly 50,000, founded in 1762 and named for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, queen consort to Britain's inadequate King George III.

The passeggiata

Under the blue umbrellas lies Millers Downtown restaurant, where because some of our party became devoted to their oyster platter we showed up for three nights in a row. (On the fourth night, we discovered another place serving oyster platters.)

That's apparently the Robert E. Lee statue that's chiefly at issue; it looks nothing like the typical Roman Triumphal Arch, parading shackled barbarian chiefs behind the boss's horse -- this gentleman has clearly given up the fight and would like to go home now please. Why not let him continue to surrender with dignity?

The University of Virginia -- now with 25,000 students, it was founded in 1819 by our pretty-much hero Jefferson and is UNESCO's first college on its World Heritage List (along with Monticello), apparently ranked 2nd amongst public universities by US News & World Report for 2017.

Nice. Very dignified.

Fraternity row, by the looks of it

A passive-aggressive squirrel

We're visiting the Fralin Museum at the university: one of the two exhibitions is 'Reflections: Native Art across the Generations', May 2018 to January 2019, very good.

Back to the house hunting -- this small condo in Tulip Tree Court, just 1.5km NW of the University Rotunda, is interesting, and coincidentally . . .

. . . it's just three doors down from where our Alison and Mark used to live when they were walking to work at the NRAO HQ. It's not for us, though, we're looking for a certain sense of a walkable community roundabout.

Now we've moved on to Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia, some 50km or 30mi west of Charlottesville. We visited here with Alison and Mark five years ago to see Troilus and Cressida at the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse, and quite liked the look of the town of a few more than 20,000 residents and its compact, attractive downtown high street. That's the somewhat overstated First Presbyterian Church on East Frederick St., across the way from the Mary Baldwin University.

Beverly Street is the east-west main drag, and 30m to the right of that reddish building at the far end, just below the green light, is the Blackfriars Playhouse -- the traveling forerunner of the American Shakespeare Center settled in Staunton in 1999, opening the recreated Blackfriars in 2001, which is a replica of the indoor theatre used by Burbage's King's Men company from 1608, in Shakespeare's last years, until the closing of the theatres in 1642. Troilus is by no means a favorite play, but the cast and production in 2013 were wonderful.

East Beverly Street

There appears to be no want of 'Italian restaurants' here in Staunton.

The Staunton tourist bus -- though it doesn't say so on it, it looks certainly like a Hometown Trolley brand, a family-owned company based in Crandon, Wisconsin.

Staunton ('STAN-ton') was founded as a town in 1747 and was for a while the informal capital of the 'Northwest Territory', and then briefly the state capital when in 1781 when lawmakers had to flee west from Richmond to dodge the irritated British soldiers. At one time (presumably not now), Staunton was quite happy with the practice of slavery, and in 1861 the town's vote to secede from the USA and join the Confederacy was 3,000 to 6. All that notwithstanding, it seems to be quite a civilized place now -- especially with a famous Shakespeare theatre just a few blocks down.

Staunton street scenes

We're roaming about the fairly pleasant downtown waiting for Annie the Realtor from Charlottesville, who has promised to help us visit some affordable possibilities out here in Staunton as well.

We're all agreed that this one doesn't suit us at all -- it's a renovated condo in what was formerly a 19th century mental institution, the Western State Asylum (1828), famous for its lobotomies, electroshock therapies, and eugenic sterilizations into the late 20th century. The rooms all lead off a dark mile-long corridor but don't interconnect.

There's said to be something more promising here on N. Augusta Street near the town centre.

That's the former YMCA building, built in 1900.

And that's flat 200 in the former YMCA building.

And that's the former 'cabaret theatre' in the former YMCA building, and the present kitchen occupying the former stage.
(Some photos are by the Greater Augusta Association of Realtors, GAAR).

And that, improbably enough, is the modern kitchen on the stage of the former theatre (GAAR).

And that is a mezzanine that runs round the walls on three sides (GAAR).

And that's Kristin and Mr Runkle checking out the closet space on the mezzanine.

And that's Annie Runkle and Mr Metz, the seller's agent, discussing real estate market trends.

And that's the kitchen seen from what is presently the TV room, but might make a suitable study (GAAR).

A study and bookroom might go well here; alternatively, the guest room area above the kitchen might be suitable as well (GAAR).

It all seems very nice. And so we said, "Okay".

Melvin has been anxious to get on to the lake in Wisconsin, and awaits us by the door of our Airbnb cottage.

A very nice stay in Charlottesville


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 20 August 2018.


Recent Events