This Rooms to Explore feature focuses upon places to stay throughout the country and the world that become part of a visit to a destination. These are hotels, inns and other accommodations that help to bring the local history, culture and lifestyle alive in a very meaningful way — where the sightseeing and travel experience begin in the lodging itself. When I’m lucky enough to come across such places, I take pleasure in sharing my fortunate encounter, and my observations, with others.
What do ice cream, golf and a spa massage have to do with Thomas Jefferson? It doesn’t take long for guests at the Boar’s Head in Charlottesville, Virginia, to find out.
Few destinations are more closely associated with a figure from the past than that inviting town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains is with the third president of the United States. A stay at this charming inn provides an intimate introduction to one of the most multi-talented men ever to reside in the White House.
Jefferson is remembered primarily as author of the Declaration of Independence, but his interests and accomplishments extended well beyond even that major achievement. Memories of those pursuits and pastimes live on at the Boar’s Head.
Take ice cream – and I do every opportunity I get. While the myth that Jefferson introduced that sweet treat into the United States is just that, he did much to popularize the diet-busting dessert when he had it served at the President’s House. He picked up a liking for licking ice cream during the years he spent in Paris while serving as the U.S. Minister to France. Attesting to the presidential sweet tooth is the fact that one of 10 recipes which survives in his handwriting is for ice cream.
Few golfers playing on the challenging Boar’s Head Birdwood course realize where that name came from. Fairways and greens are laid out over land that was part of a 1734 land grant. A modest inn named Terrell’s Ordinary once stood at the exact location of the present resort, providing overnight lodging for westward travelers. Years later, Jefferson helped the son of a friend purchase the land on which the Boar’s Head inn and golf course now stand, which was given the name Birdwood.
For golfers who crave a relaxing massage following their game, another connection with Jefferson awaits. In 1771, he began planting a variety of European grape vines close to his beloved home of Monticello, with the dream of producing wines equal to those of the Old World. However, a series of mishaps – insects, fungus and harsh winters – transformed the dream into a nightmare, and his efforts did not produce a single harvest or bottle of wine. However, his experiment in viticulture paved the way for oenological pioneers to revive winemaking in the area, and today they’re bottling vintages that compete with those from California and Europe.
Visitors to the Boar’s Head may enjoy locally grown wines both inside and outside their body. The imaginatively, if tongue-twistingly, named Vino-Therapy Antioxidant Manicure/Pedicure pays homage to Jefferson’s love of the grape with a treatment that uses a combination of wine and oranges, accompanied by a glass of local red vintage to sip.
The trip back in history begins when guests at the Boar’s Head first enter the inn. A gristmill that was built in 1834 along the banks of a nearby river was carefully dismantled and reconstructed to serve as a large part of the main building.
Pine planking from the mill which serves as the floor of the appropriately named Old Mill Room retains scars that were made by barrels as they were rolled across it some 180 years ago. Beams and wall paneling are made of lumber from the former grain bins. Fieldstones that were part of the mill’s foundation adorn a fireplace and an arched entrance into the inn.
Not surprisingly, the Boar’s Head also offers amenities one expects at an AAA Four-Diamond Resort. Its golf, tennis and squash facilities have earned a variety of top accolades. The fitness center conducts more than 50 weekly exercise classes, while the spa rejuvenates and refreshes in ultimate comfort. Other activities range from biking and hot air ballooning to rock climbing, lake fishing and pool swimming.
Those seeking an inviting resort that offers comfort, character and southern charm find it in abundance at the Boar’s Head. The opportunity to take a stroll through history with memories of Thomas Jefferson and relive other chapters of the past adds a unique and inviting touch to the experience. For more information about the resort, call (855) 574-5627 or log onto boarsheadinn.com.
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.