Monday, September 22, 2008

Country Roads Take Me Home

Well it's been over a month so it's about time I write about our 5 day get away to Virginia and West Virginia.

We headed out early Wednesday morning on the train to Charlottesville, Virginia. We arrived in the early afternoon and picked up our rental car. We don't have AAA any more, so we had to head to a gas station to get a map of the area. The rental car place handed us some kind of cartoon style map that wasn't going to get us across the street without getting lost! The weather was cool and rainy, but we didn't care - we were headed to West Virginia.

A few hours later we pulled in to the Lewisburg Super 8. We headed to the small downtown to find a place to eat. We had dinner at the Stardust Cafe, from the outside it looked like a typical diner - on the inside it was a very nice little bistro. It was lit with low lights and lots of candles. The menu was surprisingly sophisticated. Michael had this amazing Mediterranean salad that was served with rice.

Thursday morning (after biscuits and gravy at Bob Evans) we headed to the Greenbrier Resort. This is the home of the now decommissioned secret Congressional fallout shelter. (I think they are still doing secret stuff there, you can't take photos on the tour and the mysterious CSXIP company has blocked off many areas for private business, supposedly data storage - but that just sounds like a cover to me.)

The resort is very old and prestigious. The decor was over the top, and in some ways it reminded me of Hotel Del Coronado - just older elegance that isn't quite in fashion now, but you appreciate it's beauty and style regardless.

We started the day with the Bunker Tour. It was really fascinating to see how it was built and maintained. Parts of the bunker were actually used during conventions as exhibition space - so quite brilliantly some of the bunker was actually hidden in plain sight. It makes me wonder where the bunker is now, and what about the Presidential bunker - where is that hidden?

After the tour we explored the hotel. It was raining and pretty chilly, so we skipped walking the extensive grounds and just roamed the halls. Of course I had to check out a ladies room - the photos below are the 'sitting room' area.

And the best part, no paper hand towels - just nice thick cloth towels stacked neatly by the sink.

We left the Greenbrier and headed to Lexington, Virginia. Lexington set us up for a nice drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway Friday morning. We took our time driving to Lexington and drove on small back roads whenever possible. One of our favorite sights was an outhouse with the Confederate flag attached to one side. We didn't stop for a photo because I was afraid we might get shot - but it gave us a good laugh.

Downtown Lexington has that typical small town charm - cute store fronts that all close by 5pm. It would be a great place for a movie, since all of the businesses close so early you could film without disrupting business.

We found a pretty tasty spot for dinner, The Southern Inn. This time I won the meal lottery and my dinner was better than Michael's - a caprese sandwich with delicious fresh mozzarella cheese. After dinner we headed to Walmart and then the pool at the Sleep Inn. It was great - they had an indoor heated pool with spa that we had to ourselves all night.

In the morning we started our day with a hearty meal at Waffle House. I love Waffle House, we ate there several times when driving across country on the college graduation trip. The food is simple, good, and cheap - I had the fabulous pecan waffle, just as good as I remember. I could eat like that every morning (of course I would weigh 300 pounds, but I don't like to think about that side of Waffle House).

From Waffle House we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway - it's a two lane road that winds the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain range. The scenery was breath taking. The weather was clearing we had blue skies and views for miles.

Very often we were the only car on the road. We had a pretty loose time line, so we pulled over at just about every lookout or view point.

This spot was beautiful - it told the story of the old logging railroad that used to run through the area. Luckily they had lots of signage to let you know spots with great views or historical significance.

The tracks don't go anywhere now, but they make for some great photos.

Farther along the trail these stairs took you up to a small creek and waterfall. I was hiking around in my Prada flats, so I wasn't too adventurous (you can take me to the country but I'm still all city).

Of course Michael used his new camera with the super zoom to get some fantastic shots of the scenery.

We exited the Blue Ridge Parkway in the early afternoon.

And wandered through some of the vineyards (and tasting rooms) in Western Virginia.

We tasted some really good wines. Some of the tasting rooms were small and well established while some were brand new and obviously built to also hold events like parties and weddings. All of them had a nice variety of wines available for tasting and the staff was very knowledgeable about what they were pouring. We came home with a few new bottles for the wine rack.

Friday afternoon we took the late tour of Monticello - home of Thomas Jefferson.

His home was an architectural masterpiece and a well designed working farm. Thomas Jefferson was incredibly well read and educated, he spoke 5 languages and when the British burned down the Library of Congress in 1812 he donated his 7,000 volume private library to begin building the new Library of Congress. For anyone that thinks our president should be a 'common man' - look at our founding fathers, they were the smartest most well educated men at the time and I think they did a pretty good job establishing the framework for our nation. (OK, I'm off my soapbox for now....)

Monticello had beautiful grounds that not only had tons of beautiful flowering plants but acres of vegetable and fruit gardens.

Saturday morning we met up with Michael's friend Bill and went to USC's first game of the football season vs the University of Virginia.

While picture was takeon on the UVA campus, the background might look familiar. Thomas Jefferson designed the school, there was actually a spot at Monticello (about 5 miles away) where he could sit out and watch the dome in the background of the photo above being built.
The campus was beautiful and many of the girls were little Southern Belles dressed in cute sundresses and strappy sandals.

The game was an easy win for USC and therefore a blast to watch. What a way to start the season!

Sunday morning we took one more tour through wine country and visited the small town of Crozet. It will only sound familiar to those of you who read the Sneaky Pie Brown mystery books - of course I have read them all and loved seeing the small town that is the setting for the books. We ate lunch at a small and pretty tasty little Mexican restaurant - well done Crozet. Then it was time to get on the train and head back to NYC.

Michael might be ready to move to West Virginia. He loved the country roads and small towns. As for me as long as we are close to a major airport and living in (or near by) a college town I'm good to go! I'm guessing we wouldn't get too many visitors though.....