Those of you who have stayed at Chester Bed & Breakfast know that we sit on arboretum land just outside of Charlottesville, where a wide range of flora and fauna live happily. But it’s not just our grounds that provide a haven. Twice a year, we are visited by endangered migrating chimney swifts, as they look for safe places to build their nests and lay their eggs in … you guessed it … chimneys!
Flocks of migrating chimney swifts are common sights in the summer and early fall as they head to warmer climates in South America. Their silhouette has been aptly described as a “flying cigar.” These delicate birds spend almost their entire lives airborne. Unable to perch when they land, they cling to vertical walls in hollow trees, caves, and chimneys while resting. The swift population has declined sharply as chimneys fall into disuse in North America. Not every chimney works well as a safe haven for swifts—only well-maintained ones will do. While we don’t provide down comforters or complimentary wine for our swifts, we do offer them a luxurious chimney during their brief stay!
Swifts build beautiful and strong nests, adhered to chimney walls by their glue-like saliva. Following the migration season, we save one or two of the most beautiful ones for our Christmas tree, which now boasts over 20 nests from around the world and a collection of over 200 birds (no real ones—we can’t get them to sit still for long enough!).
Rest assured that the swifts don’t come inside of the house … only down into the chimneys where you might hear a bit of chirping during the night. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them arriving just before dusk, as they circle the chimneys in a beautiful funnel pattern. We’re delighted to be a brief respite for them on their journey, and hope you enjoy their beauty as much as we do!
Date: October 7, 2014
Here at Chester, we are privileged to serve local, free-range eggs for breakfast from some wonderful chickens who live just down the road. Free-range means different things to chickens, farmers, and innkeepers–but all with the same end result: happy chickens = delicious eggs. Last week, an entirely new meaning emerged: one red-tailed hawk thought it meant she was getting a free lunch.
Our chicken farmers heard the commotion and ran for the chickens, chasing the hawk off. One of the wonderful hens was left feeling a bit wobbly and with a few less feathers on her head and neck. But after a week of recuperation in the chicken house, she’s back with the flock, scratching for bugs and fresh greens. The chicken is presumably delighted, as are her keepers. We as innkeepers are happy that she’s made a full recovery and that more of her wonderful, buttery brown eggs are headed for our breakfast tables!
Date: August 25, 2014
If you’ve been to visit over the last few months, you’ll notice that we have welcomed a new four-legged friend to our family. Actually, she’s a three-legged friend, but you’d never know it from the way she runs!
Trixie is a purebred Brussels Griffon, a breed originally developed to keep rats away on the wharves in Belgium. From what we’ve been able to learn, she was likely born with a deformed front leg, and was then hit by a car, losing the leg completely. She was surrendered by her first family to a high-kill shelter, and amazingly made her way through the shelter system to Green Dogs Unleashed (www.greendogsunleashed.com). This incredible organization specializes in rescuing special needs animals, and in many cases, training them to work with special needs humans! Trixie was lucky to get there, and we were lucky to find her.
We fell in love with her spirit and spunk, and picked the name Trixie for its fitting meaning: voyager through life and bringer of joy. She certainly has done much of both, despite the fact that she is only two or three.
Trixie is settling in here at Chester, and is taking her role as greeter very seriously. She has a love/hate relationship with our resident cat, Miss D, but we suspect they’ll work it out on their own, as most siblings do.
Once she settles a bit more, we think she’d like to give back to the people who helped her find a new life. We’ll both be going for therapy training so that we can work with children, war veterans, the elderly, and anyone who needs a bit of special love.
Come and see us soon–Trixie is waiting to welcome you!
Date: August 8, 2014
When it comes to getting married, fewer places are more beautiful for three seasons of the year than central Virginia. Whether you choose a historic home with wide Southern porches, a vineyard with mountain vistas, or a gorgeous field with a billowing white tent, your event is bound to be as unique and special as you are.
But picking out your perfect wedding spot doesn’t usually include accommodations for your guests—especially the important ones. You don’t want your parents to stay in a generic hotel room, or your wedding party to be separated on different floors or different buildings. You need a unique and special space to call home while you’re getting ready to celebrate. Where you have access to an entire house and its beautiful grounds. Where you can enjoy a cup of coffee on the porch, a glass of wine next to the pond, or a glass of champagne as you get your hair done. Where you can come back from a wonderful afternoon or evening to a freshly turned-down bed and the promise of a gourmet, home-cooked breakfast in the morning. A place where you can connect, relax, and renew. You deserve it. Especially on the most important day of your life!
Date: May 20, 2014
Charlottesville is a real treat in spring – the trees bloom, the grass turns emerald green, and the historic buildings seem to lose their age and become as fresh as they must have been their very first spring. There are so many activities to enjoy, too. Wine festivals, music festivals, art festivals, book festivals and more are starting all over the area, providing entertainment for everyone. The Charlottesville Dogwood Festival is an event that locals and visitors look forward to every year, providing live music and local culture, a carnival and of course the much anticipated Dogwood Parade. Outdoors is the place to be, with all the great scenery and mild weather, and there are so many places to enjoy al fresco dining while looking at the mountain or listening to live music. The Historic Downtown Mall is an amazing venue in spring, and brings both tourists and locals together to enjoy the live music of Fridays After Five while dining at world class restaurants. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello bursts into bloom with flowers originally planned and planted by its founder. You can learn about what types of things Jefferson grew in time to plant your own garden accordingly.
Take a look at our “Plan your Stay” page and find out about some the wonderful things Charlottesville has to offer in spring – then make your reservation at Chester, where you can enjoy them all in your own beautiful spring setting!
Date: April 23, 2014
We can finally see it here…despite the awful winter, central Virginia is turning green again. Spring is one of the most exciting seasons here at Chester, as our arboretum grounds are filling with budding branches, birds’ nests, and the promise of new beginnings.
Speaking of new beginnings, the grape growing season is upon us. While Virginia may not yet be the “Napa of the east,” our vineyards and wine trails are certainly worth a weekend of exploration and tasting—and a getaway to Charlottesville is definitely less expensive than a flight to California!
Thomas Jefferson himself gave wine production a try more than 200 years ago, but his attempts were thwarted by Virginia’s distinctive red clay soil. Today, however, thanks to some expertise and perseverance, Virginia is the 5th largest producer of wine in the country.
Gabriele Rausse is at the forefront of these pioneers, and Barboursville Vineyards, just 30 miles north of us, remains at the forefront of Virginia’s wine renaissance. There are over 230 vineyards in the Commonwealth today. Next weekend marks the Monticello Wine Trail Festival. Make Chester your home base and explore a wide range of wineries and varietals, all while enjoying a luxurious and relaxing getaway.
We are happy to make vineyard recommendations upon request, pack you a picnic lunch with advance notice, and provide assistance in making your wine tour a memorable one. If you can’t make the festival, never fear. All of our vineyards have wonderful tasting rooms, tour hours, and even Sunday afternoon polo matches in season!
Mention this blog while booking and we’ll provide you with a complimentary plate of cheese to accompany your local wine!
Date: April 6, 2014
Those of you who have visited Chester during the holiday season know that our Christmas tree is decorated mainly with birds. At our “taking-down-Christmas-census” today, we counted over 200 birds–from doves and wrens to the more flamboyant flamingos and peacocks! We’ve been collecting for some 45 years now, so as you can imagine, there’s quite a variety.
And what would a tree be without a few nests? As we head into the deep of winter, we thought we’d remind you that spring is just around the corner. Here at Chester, an arboretum and certified National Wildlife Federation habitat), we provide a home to many birds as they bring little ones into the world. We often have the privilege of finding their nests, which we gently place onto our Christmas tree each year. We do our best to identify them (some of our feathered friends are better builders than others) and thought you’d enjoy seeing some of them here.Below, you’ll find the nests of an African weaver bird, wren, cardinal, Carolina wren, chimney swift, mockingbird, and the red-eyed vireo.
Happy New Year from Chester!
Date: December 31, 2013
It’s hard to believe another year has flown by, but here we are. With turkey leftovers in the fridge, it’s time to turn our attention to decorating Chester inside and out in a holiday style that befits this grand old house. Each year, the act of hanging wreaths and roping and adorning the entrances has such a feeling of tradition … and makes us think about past generations who were preparing Chester for the holidays in the mid-1800s.
We don’t normally adorn our gardening tools with wreaths, but they make a wonderful staging place for our preparations! As an arboretum property, we have lots of natural materials at our fingertips to create some beautiful things.
We just picked our bay laurel and wove gorgeous and fragrant wreaths that will last all winter long (and provide some wonderful seasoning for stews in this cold weather!). Chester is home to a majestic stand of English boxwood, which is sought after by the florist industry this time of year. You might not know that this greenery is rather rare; it only grows an inch or two a hear. A floral wholesaler comes each year and prunes the stands for us in exchange for the trimmings.
The nine-foot Frasier Fir is also staged in the garage, and will soon grace the living room. As a newly certified member of the National Wildlife Federation, we’re excited to send in a photo once our tree is decorated! With over 35 natural nests collected from as close as our backyard and as far as Africa, and 150 bird ornaments, we’re willing to bet you’ve never seen a Christmas tree like this one.
Chester is open, the fires are roaring, and we’re in the holiday spirit. Come and enjoy a toasty and warm stay with us!
Date: November 29, 2013
This is an exciting week in Virginia, because it’s Cider Week! That means lots of delicious local food, music, and of course – CIDER! Events and activities span across the state this week, allowing everyone to enjoy Virginia’s best in food and drink in the beauty of cool, green landscapes draped in the rich russet of lingering oak leaves. Entertainment and music follow, and Cider Week is further highlighted by activities that allow you to learn everything about cider – What are the best cider apples? How do you make your own cider? If you are serious about Cider, this is the week to be in Virginia!
It is absolutely delightful to follow a fun afternoon in the crisp air with a warming glass of wine by the fireplace at Chester! Our own old oak tree is stunning as it drops its last leaves, and the inn is a cozy home base while you explore the many offerings of the season. Find out more about Cider Week and all the activities you can be a part of right here in the Charlottesville area – click here.
Date: November 19, 2013
It’s not too early to book your room for Virginia Film Festival weekend! The festival runs November 7-10 at locations in and around Charlottesville!
The Virginia Film Festival is a four-day celebration of the magic of the movies featuring first-run features and timeless classics, high-profile industry insiders and up-and-coming stars, and filmmakers from throughout Virginia and beyond. Every autumn at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Virginia Film Festival has brought the best in contemporary and classic cinema to its audiences for nearly twenty-five years. An array of leading cultural experts lead fascinating lectures and discussions, providing unique insight into not only the world of film, but the world in which we live. A collection of special events throughout the weekend invites the entire community to dive into the art of film in exciting new ways.
Previous landmark screenings have included a 25th Anniversary tribute to In the Heat of the Night and Sidney Poitier; Distinguished Filmmaker presentations to Robert Altman, John Sayles, Emile de Antonio, and Arthur Penn; and Roger Ebert’s “shot by shot” workshops on classics such as Vertigo, Sunset Boulevard, and The Third Man. Memorable premiere events have included an advance screening of Mother & Child with actress Cherry Jones and director Rodrigo Garcia; and a live producer’s commentary of the show True Blood featuring its creator Alan Ball. Other guests have included Jimmy Stewart, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Gena Rowlands, Sigourney Weaver, William Styron, Ross McElwee, Matthew Broderick, and Cherry Jones.
Working closely with the Virginia Film Office, the Virginia Film Festival brings filmmakers from throughout the United States and abroad to Virginia to take advantage of its outstanding locations, communications, and talent. Filmmakers find the Virginia Film Festival a rare opportunity to screen and discuss their work with not only industry members and colleagues but also bright, appreciative audiences. The Festival also brings many visitors to Charlottesville, allowing them to discover the beauty of the area while learning about film.
Learn more at http://www.virginiafilmfestival.org/
Mention the festival when booking for the weekend and we’ll have a complimentary bottle of wine in your room when you arrive!
Date: October 10, 2013