There is something decadent about getting together with your girlfriends for afternoon tea. I’m not sure if it’s the elegant finger food (I’m a sucker for anything mini), the exquisite bone china and sterling silver tea service, or the simple pleasure of finishing a cup of tea before it turns cold (which is quite an accomplishment when you have a toddler). Maybe it evokes a comforting, nostalgic feeling for the days of pretend tea parties and playing dress up when we were young. Whatever it is, I love it!
Keswick Hall is located just a few miles east of town, but you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe. The yellow stucco building, which resembles an Italian Villa, is surrounded by idyllic grounds and houses rich yet comfortable interiors: it is the perfect setting for an elegant tea. Last Sunday, a few of us ladies nestled into a beautiful corner table overlooking the infinity pool and unanimously decided to have the “Royal Tea”. Included were a heavenly assortment of fresh baked scones, tea breads, madeleine cookies, clotted cream, jam, marmalade, tea sandwiches and a wide variety of freshly brewed teas. What makes it a “royal” tea you ask? The glass of sparking wine and a chocolate truffle of course! Who could refuse? I, for one, can never say no to a glass of bubbly.
As we sipped, nibbled and chatted our way though the afternoon, I thought to myself: “why don’t we do this more often?” It suddenly occurred to me that the great about this is not so much being at a fancy hotel (which, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy), rather, it’s taking a few hours a week to slow down and unwind with family or friends. This shouldn’t have to be a treat, but rather a way of life. When I was in Paris last spring, I fell in love with the cafe lifestyle. Europeans seem to respect the balance between work and personal time, whether it be relaxing at café, enjoying afternoon tea or taking a fabulous siesta.
Something is wrong if we feel we don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee. I’m totally guilty of this: every morning I race to the car, luke warm mug in one hand and toddler in the other, and pray I don’t spill (which drives my husband CRAZY as I usually do spill just a tiny bit in the cup-holder). I must admit this ritual is more about consuming as much caffeine as I can before work than actually enjoying my coffee, but that doesn’t make it right. But sitting there, on a beautiful Sunday, I realized the importance of taking time out from our busy schedules to unwind and enjoy, whether it be a couple hours or just a few minutes.
So try lingering over a cup of coffee instead of grabbing your cup to go. Invite some friends over for an afternoon tea at your home or, park yourself at one of the many beautiful spots Charlottesville has to offer, like Keswick Hall. You’ll be glad you did!