Tag Archives: Virginia

A trip to the Shenandoah Valley

This past weekend, Ewan was baptized (which is worth a whole separate blog post, given what a mess he was during the service) and my dear friend Karen was in town to serve as his godmother.

The baptism boy and his entourage.

The baptism boy and his entourage.

I don’t see Karen very often because she lives in California, so when I do see her, we try to make the most of our time together. This usually involves doing something active and then sitting around talking (and, duh, drinking wine). So, the day after Ewan’s baptism, we got in my trusty 2002 Camry and drove two hours southwest to Shenandoah National Park. I’m ashamed to say that in the almost-decade that I’ve lived in the DC area, I’d only gone to Shenandoah once before (and that was, like, three weeks ago). Boy, was I missing out. It is REALLY pretty, with tons of gorgeous views of soft green hills, forests, and rivers. 

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Karen and I chose the Whiteoak Canyon trail for our hike. It’s a 4.7 mile out-and-back loop, with the option to tack on an additional 2.7 (very challenging) miles at the bottom. We ended up hiking 5 miles — 2.5 miles downhill, passing a series of beautiful waterfalls, and then 2.5 miles back up. Obviously, the way back was a bit more challenging, but the thundering waterfalls kept things refreshing.

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After our hike, we drove through the park and stopped at a couple of overlook points, then stopped at one of the many wineries in the Shenandoah Valley, Gadino Cellars. I told Karen that wine-tasting in Virginia is not so much about the wine as much as about the views, which helps to set expectations. (Sonoma this ain’t.) But the wine at Gadino was pleasant, and we got to drink it while sitting outside and looking at lush, green hillsides dotted with vines.

After our tasting, we made our way to Sperryville, the cutest little hippie river town you ever did see. First, we stopped at Copper Fox Distillery. Neither of us are big whiskey people, but we sampled four of Copper Fox’s products and I actually liked them all. (Who knew?) Next, we wandered around the corner to Wild Roots Apothecary, which sells “herbal products, herbal pantry products and beautiful botanically based natural beauty products.” I ended up buying two oxymels, delicious, vinegary-tasting syrups that supposedly cure inflammation and a whole host of other health issues (sure), but mostly just tasted like yummy salad dressings. (I blame the whiskey for these purchases, by the way).

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Oxymels in hand, we headed for our Airbnb and got cleaned up before going to dinner at Tula’s Off Main in Washington (just up the street from the very famous Inn at Little Washington). Apart from the great quality time I got to spend with my friend of 15+ years, the best part of the evening was crawling into bed at 9:30 and getting ten hours of uninterrupted sleep. HEAVEN.

Can’t wait to get back to Shenandoah for some more hiking — and so glad I got to spend some precious time with my friend!

 

Recent DC visitors

Al and I have been lucky this summer to have lots of loved ones visit us here in DC. As a result, I’ve gotten REALLY good at giving tours of the National Mall, even if I don’t know the history of any of the monuments, buildings, or memorials and am completely ignorant about most important things about this city, other than where you can get good fro-yo. Hey, historical details are what iPhones are for.

First, my mom visited for one night at the end of May and we got some good museum visiting and pool lounging in! We made sure to hit the National Gallery and checked out the Andrew Wyeth windows exhibition, as well as the Cassatt/Degas exhibition. Very cool.

National Gallery tunnel

National Gallery tunnel

Me and my mom

Me and my mom

Then, for Fourth of July weekend, my cousin-friend Catie visited. It was her first trip to DC, so I felt it necessary to pull out all the ‘Murrica stops. First, we went to the National Mall and gazed at the monuments (at least, the ones that weren’t closed in advance of the fireworks) and watched various military service-members in their dress uniforms doing drills.

Catie and me at the Washington Monument

Catie and me at the Washington Monument

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Next, we checked out Georgetown and stuffed our faces at the excellent Good Stuff Eatery. I highly recommend the turkey burger and onion petals (drool). Catie and I decided that we are definitely going to buy a house in Georgetown, just as soon as we become multi-millionaires (any day now).

Cute houses in Georgetown

Cute houses in Georgetown

Patriotism, Georgetown

Patriotism, Georgetown (this guy was blasting Whitney Houston’s version of ‘America the Beautiful’)

That night, we went to the roof of our building and watched the fireworks over the Mall.

Fireworks

Fireworks

The next night, we went to see Counting Crows (a long-time Steph-Catie favorite band) at Wolf Trap, an amazing outdoor concert venue (and national park!) in Virginia where you’re allowed to bring in your own food and drink, including booze. We brought a picnic, sat on the grass, and aurally revisited the mid-1990s as we listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket warm up the crowd. Counting Crows, by the way, were awesome. This is the second time I’ve seen them this summer (I’m a super-fan) and they never fail to disappoint. Catie and I sang along to every single song (except for the stuff off their new album) and even Al got into it. SO FUN.

Picnicking at Wolf Trap

Picnicking at Wolf Trap

Counting Crows!

Counting Crows!

Adam Duritz!

Adam Duritz!

Mid-concert

Mid-concert

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend and I’m glad Catie finally got to see DC.

The next weekend, Al’s mom and step-dad, Carol and Gerald, visited. Neither of them had spent much time in DC, so we took them to the Mall and did a long walking tour of many of the monuments. It was approximately one billion degrees outside (Celcius) but we persevered and saw a lot of stuff, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, reflecting pool, World War II Memorial, a bit of the National Gallery, and the Natural History Museum. We ate lunch at the cafe within the National Gallery sculpture garden and admired the outdoor art.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

WWII Memorial

WWII Memorial

Sculpture garden

National Gallery sculpture garden

Gem display at the Natural History Museum

Gem display at the Natural History Museum

Carol, Al, and me at the Natural History Museum

Carol, Al, and me at the Natural History Museum

We also did some wine-tasting in Virginia (Loudoun County), which is always lovely. It’s so peaceful and beautiful there.

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All in all, it was another great DC visit with family.

THEN, the following week, my parents came back into town to look at houses in Virginia, since they’re moving back East next year. We checked out Winchester (which was just okay) and then made our way up to Leesburg (which was charming and adorable). We had a nice time walking around the historic district of Leesburg and eating lunch at the Wine Kitchen. The weather was hot but beautiful.

Leesburg

Leesburg

Parents in Leesburg

Parents in Leesburg

So, the last month has been a whirlwind of visitors, and it’s been great. But for the rest of the summer, we aren’t expecting any more guests. Therefore, I feel confident saying that Al and I won’t be stepping foot in a museum until the next round of visitors shows up, whenever that may be. Hey, we never claimed to be cultured.