This is the first post in a series where we interview prominent Southerners or Southern transplants about what they love so much about this area and why others should visit. If you are interested in being featured, leave a comment or send me an email.
Heather Rudd Palmer is the blogger behind There’s No Place Like Oz, as well as a college career counselor from Charlottesville, Virginia. She was one of the first people I met in Australia and we immediately bonded over the word “y’all.”
What do you love most about living in the South?
With the exception of one year, I’ve lived in the South my entire life. I was born in Virginia and have been in Charlottesville for 13 of the last 16 years. I also spent eight years of my childhood in North Carolina.
One of the things I love most about living in the South is the culture of Southern hospitality, politeness, and manners. As a child, my parents instilled both verbal and nonverbal manners from an early age and encouraged me and my sisters to use them always. I didn’t always appreciate it, but as I got older, I noticed how adults responded differently to me than other children and young adults whose parents hadn’t been so insistent.
Of course there are polite, well-mannered, and gracious people everywhere in the US and around the world! But as a 20 and now 30-something, I am beginning to develop a deeper appreciation of how central to the Southern culture these values can be. After attending two universities in Virginia and meeting peers from across the country, I started to understand how even small differences in where we were raised can impact how we operate in daily life. One fellow student in particular chastised me for my Southern politeness and not being direct or blunt enough in my communications. In many interactions/relationships, perhaps it’s only a matter of personality differences and not geographic/culture ones. However, I do believe that much of how I communicate, interact with others, and respond to the world around me is due to being born and raised in the South. And I kind of like it.
What are your favorite places in Charlottesville?
I adore Charlottesville and have had quite a few opportunities to introduce friends from the US or overseas to my hometown.
First, I love walking the Grounds of the University of Virginia. When visitors come I give them a personal tour before we have lunch on The Corner, a popular area among both students and locals, with dozens of dining options. We’ll also go to a University athletic event and cheer on the Hoos.
Thomas Jefferson founded UVA, and if visitors are interested in the President, I also take them to his home Monticello (pictured above). I also enjoy visiting the wineries and vineyards of the Monticello Wine Trail. Virginia is the 5th largest producer of wine in the US, and the majority of wineries in the state are found in my backyard. For those that prefer beer, the area also has several well-received breweries, a few of which I’ve visited.
As much as C’ville residents love the local beer and wine, we LOVE food and have a fondness for eating local and supporting small business. Of the handful of local cafes in the area, Atlas Coffee and Para Coffee are my favorites. If you want to enjoy some of the more high end restaurants at an affordable price, take advantage of Charlottesville Restaurant Week each January and July. A chocoholic? Stop by the Gearharts storefront near historic downtown and try to choose just one of their gorgeous chocolates to sample.
Many of the local restaurants source their ingredients locally, some within 100 miles of town. I could go on and on about the places to eat in Charlottesville, but maybe that’s another conversation for another time!
What is your favorite Southern meal? Where is the best place to get it?
As much as I love food, I’m not sure how much of what I eat would be classified as traditionally Southern. And unfortunately, gluten and dairy are no friends of mine, so many meals I used to enjoy aren’t the same as they are today.
As a child, one of my favorite breakfasts was chipped beef gravy on toast. I tried sausage gravy, and I tried the chipped beef on biscuits, but something about my mom’s chipped beef gravy on toast was magic.
While we only had it maybe once a year, mom’s chicken and dumplings were the ultimate comfort food – well, perhaps taking second place to her homemade macaroni and cheese.
When it came to the annual family reunion, everyone wanted my mom to make deviled eggs and banana pudding because no one could touch hers. To this day, I still think hers is the best (but don’t most of us?).
What are your favorite Southern traditions?
Not to sound cliché, but I’ve always said “y’all” and love doing so. As I’ve travelled around the US and world, it’s always fun to see people’s reactions to an unexpected “y’all”. A couple of years ago I lived in Australia for a year and when a “y’all” would slip without me thinking, people got a big grin on their faces and asked me if we really say that in the South.
Another favorite is one I enjoyed in college. After a friend introduced me to country music, we decided to try country line dancing at a local club who reserved one night a week just for line dancing. We quickly became regulars, and soon we were bringing dozens of college students to the club with us. I was a regular for two years and became known as one of the people to watch if you were new. Sadly the club closed down and no one has opened a place that offers line dancing since.