The Jefferson is Richmond’s grand old hotel

Published in The Battle Creek Enquirer

Richmond, the capital city of Virginia, is a graceful place where more than 400 years of history live comfortably besides trendy restaurants and chic boutiques.

Our destination was the venerable Jefferson, an iconic five-diamond hotel. A weekend at the hotel met the items for an outstanding stay on the Indulgent Traveler checklist.

First opened in 1895, the hotel was the dream of Major Lewis Ginter, who commissioned a renowned architectural firm from New York to create a Beaux Arts-style palace. The centerpiece in the upper lobby was a life-sized statue of Thomas Jefferson.

In 1901, when a fire destroyed much of the hotel, the statue was unceremoniously carted away, losing its head in the process. Luckily, the sculptor was able to reattach the head and the marble statue still greeted us on a rainy morning.

Our deluxe king room, done in tasteful pale greens and beige, was filled with reproduction antiques and created a sense of stepping back in time. I could check off my list a restful room and a great bed.

The hotel was not always four-star property. A long period of decline in the 1970s brought the hotel to the brink of a wrecking ball. Reconstruction began in 1983 and ended three years and $34 million later. Glorious stained-glass windows shone again. Decorative carvings and gold leaf ornamentation graced the ceilings.

For breakfast, we choose T.J.’s Restaurant, which had an eclectic menu of southern comfort food. Red velvet pancakes were a favorite, along with shrimp and grits, an unusual breakfast dish including over-easy eggs, bacon, grits and gravy. A bottomless cup of great coffee with real cream earned another check on the list.

The people at the hotel, including the concierge, made some very good suggestions about a shopping and eating area a short distance from the hotel.

A short way from the hotel, we walked through the half-mile that comprised Carytown. Funky resale shops line the blocks, along with restaurants and specialty shops. A must-stop was Dixie Doughnuts, where the pumpkin spice delight was fresh and crunchy.

The Can Can Brasserie seemed like a good choice for lunch. Their thin and golden pomme frites (french fries) along with the Croque Monsieur, a classic ham and cheese sandwich, reminded me of Paris.

We decided to visit Church Hill to see St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech.

After our rigorous schedule, we had a drink at Lemaire, the award-winning restaurant off the Jefferson’s lobby. I choose one of their fancy drinks, the Gold Rush, which had bourbon, honey syrup and lemon juice. My husband selected an Old Fashioned, a classic cocktail.

We sat at the bar and nibbled on some Grafton cheddar and locally produced charcuterie, including craft sausage, olli salumeria and Edwards surryano ham (Virginia’s answer to Prosciutto and Serrano) with bread and butter pickles. Edwards is a wonderful Virginia ham, bacon and sausage producer.

Locally-sourced food was the thing at Lemaire, and every item had a story about how it was produced. Lemaire’s chef, Walter Bundy, is a Richmond native and, according to the bartender, has an urban garden on property where he grows some of the ingredients he uses in the menu. Now that’s local.

The last four items on the Indulgent Traveler checklist are about the room experience, and the Jefferson completed all of them successfully.

The bathroom included a lovely corner Jacuzzi tub with some thoughtfully provided bubble bath. Shampoo and conditioner were of a nice quality. Check, check. Tasty small chocolates were provided—the right bite of sweetness, just like our stay at Richmond’s grand old hotel.