The Great Fall Escape – It’s Time!
You’ve been clocking record hours at the office, you’ve definitely put in the face time with your computer screen, and you’ve been artfully dodging the orange and white barrels of the Beltway. Now it’s time to reward yourself for a job well done. Indeed it’s time to slip away – to relax and rejuvenate. Skip the airline reservations, endless lines, and jet lag. Just hop in your car, toss an overnight bag in the back seat, and go –
west! This time, venture past the charming and almost irresistible Middleburg and imagine yourself in another world just a few breezy hours away from Northern Virginia, but just a bit further out. Schedule your weekend getaway during the week if you can, and enjoy lower prices, and, yes, less traffic! You’ll be back before they even notice you’re gone, but your spirit will attest to the transformation. Time passes at its own quiet pace out here, in the countryside – of Virginia.
Instead of traveling 3,820 miles to la belle Provence this fall, you can travel just 60 miles west of DC as the crow flies to the perfect little French hideaway in the Shenandoah Valley – L’Auberge Provençale. Here you will experience the essence of Provence in the Virginia countryside. Start by shooting out 66 and then, if you wish, start to veer off onto the scenic byways (http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/maporder.asp) and really begin to enjoy the drive. After meandering past rolling plowed fields and the vibrant fall foliage of trees against the open sky, you’ll suddenly realize you’re already there– transported – to France.
Once you step into l’Auberge Provençale, you’ll want to cozy up to the warmth of the steady fire in the hearth of the sitting room of this revered historic inn. The rich ochres of the fabrics and faux-painted walls envelop you in Provençal style. After your welcome toast, venture out for a brisk fall walk in the crisp countryside air to heighten the anticipation of the exquisite five-course French dinner which awaits you back at the inn, complemented by meticulously selected fine wines, all orchestrated with attentive, gracious, and delightfully friendly service. This is an inn where expectations are quietly met. For Thanksgiving dinner (noon to 7 p.m.), you and yours may partake in a feast of local wild turkey with roasted chestnuts, quail, and venison.
For those who prefer to cozy up, hibernation-style, the In-room Repast delivered fireside is just the ticket. Enjoy a luxurious aromatherapy steam shower in certain rooms – like visiting the spa without having to step outside your door to let in the chill of the Mistral. And when you finally venture forth – for breakfast – a veritable gourmet feast will send you on your way in a state of complete contentedness, already dreaming of your next visit to our little corner – of France. And isn’t it nice to dream? Well, it’s even more fun to live that dream – at L’Auberge Provençale. So, bonne nuit et beaux rêves. Good night and sweet dreams, that is.
L’Auberge Provençale, French Country Inn & Fine Dining Restaurant
Villa La Campagnette, 1890
Meander just three miles from l’Auberge Provençale, past rolling fields edged by black rail fences with graceful grazing horses, on the country roads that lead to the ever-charming and more secluded sister, Villa La Campagnette. Enjoy the sound of gravel under your tires on the pine-lined drive up the shady lawn as you approach the villa. You may be greeted by the dogs, Bernadette, a Bernese Mountain dog, and Phoenix, a Basenji, who are just as friendly as their owners, and a plaque reading “On this site in 1897, nothing happened,” attesting to the whimsical nature of the place.
The original wood plank flooring reminds you of the true history of the place. In the parlor, each santon, each rooster, each objet d’art is lovingly and artistically placed. Here again you’ll find the rich Provençal ochre hues, from crimson to burnt orange to golden yellow. This sun-splashed villa is illuminated by sunlight – from the terrace by the pool to the skylights in the Provençal-tiled bathrooms.
With eighteen well-tended landscaped acres, horse barns in the back fields, and magnificent flower gardens in the summertime, including the more gently scented white lavender, here you really get to experience the countryside. The journey, of course, is quite nice, but sometimes life is a destination. You may need to frequently pinch yourself. I already know, as with Provence, that I will yearn to return here.
The old-growth maple shades the pool like an Old World tree. How restorative it is to wake up to morning mist over the fields out your window, and to walk and breathe among the old growth trees that have stood the test of time – that have seen history. Hawks fly overhead in poetic synchrony. And in the late afternoon, you might just hear the distant whistle of the train – on its own journey with its own story. Now it’s time to make your own.
So that dream you keep having – about taking that trip to France like you’ve always talked about. Well, now it’s just around the corner. So as for that dream – it’s time to live it.
Villa la Campagnette
Alain & Celeste Borel
13630 Lord Fairfax Hwy, White Post, VA 22620
The Ashby Inn, circa 1829
Each season has its splendor – especially the fall in the valleys of Virginia. After the September hillsides strewn with hay bales or blanketed by goldenrod comes October’s regal brocade, ushering in the serenity of winter with its peace and its stillness. If you listen closely, you may hear the call of the raven.
This is the perfect time to really experience the quiet tranquility of the mountains. And the perfect little hideaway for your escape is the Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia, which sits on three scenic acres at the end of Federal Street near the crossroads of Routes 17 and 50, also known as John S. Mosby Highway. (The S. stands for Singleton. They might ask to see if you know!) At just 45 miles from Tysons Corner, you might be able to clock it in under an hour – but travel the scenic byways and enjoy every minute of the journey, and more importantly – the utter bliss that is the Ashby. Choose from among 10 meticulously appointed and distinctive rooms. In the Main House, the Fireplace Room hearkens back to the 19th century. The Fan Room is particularly inviting, with its petite porch on the back – the Contemplation Nook – where your best thoughts may come to you.
The Settle Room, on the first floor of the pale yellow School House, is a most wonderful find, with original wood-plank flooring and a window seat by the picture window with its flouncy window treatments and pillows, and a wrought iron king bed. Step up the screen door on your own private porch overlooking the surrounding hills and Paris Mountain, and enjoy a Port-style wine from Vint Hill Craft Winery or some Italian spring water from your Adirondack chair. It’s definitely time to unwind.
Make it a point to get away to this restful haven. You’re allowed – and even encouraged – to do nothing. How nice to be far enough away that you don’t have to answer to anybody. Sometimes sketchy cell reception is just what the doctor ordered. You might notice that your gait slows to the pace of yesteryear. Other notable visitors to stop by for a visit include General George Washington and Gen. Stonewall Jackson – and maybe even, well, you. Add your name to the guestbook. It’ll surely go down in history – as a great getaway, that is.
The Ashby Inn
692 Federal St., Paris, VA 20130
Time to Roam
Sneak out the back down Gap Run Road and you’ll arrive at the doorstep of Sky Meadows State Park, where you can hike trails that connect with the Appalachian Trail or sit on rocking chair overlooking the countryside. A dozen wineries are within striking distance. Situated at 1750 feet, Fox Meadow Winery in Linden commands a 50-mile view of Blue Mountain on clear days from its perch, but often experiences clouds passing through its unique microclimate, hence one of their wines, the aptly named Blue Mountain Mist. Sitting just above the snow line, they see snow when there is none below. Phillip Carter Winery, a beautiful country drive down Leeds Manor Road, in Hume, claims to have produced wines since 1762, even before Thomas Jefferson, in a lovely rolling hillside setting. And make sure to hit Hunter’s Head Tavern in the little hamlet of Upperville (9048 John S. Mosby Highway) for a cozy fireside pub meal or a succulent steak from nearby Ayrshire Farms.
On your way to the ever-scenic Skyline Drive, don’t miss the fifty to sixty million-year-old Skyline Caverns, with its very rare anthodite formations. During the earthquake, a group of third graders dubbed it the “coolest field trip ever.”
Pick-your-own-fruit orchards abound in these fertile hills. From apples and pumpkins in the fall to strawberries in mid-May, cherries in late June, blueberries and raspberries in July, and peaches in August, you have your basket full. Stribling Orchard is a sixth-generation orchard just around the bend from Route 66 (or the more picturesque Route 55) just over the train tracks. Just across the way you’ll find their cousins’ place, Hartland Orchard, with drive-in orchards that lead up to spectacular views overlooking the valley. And finally Hollins Farm offers what may be the most spectacular views of all. The air is so clear here, you can actually think better. “Are you sure this isn’t heaven?” I asked Martha, lucky enough to work here. “It’s close,” she responded.
Pencil in a visit to the world-class, truly state-of-the-art Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and its neighboring Glen Burnie, the stately home of the founder of Winchester, with its impressive house and gardens. Just a hop from the inn, literally five minutes, you’ll find the State Arboretum of Virginia with walking and driving tours. Venture out to the surrounding Virginia wine country, with gems such as Veramar with its breathtaking mountain vistas, just outside of Berryville, or possibly explore the nearby Shenandoah Caverns. Wherever you turn, you’ll find opportunities for cycling, antiquing, golfing, horseback riding, and even hot air ballooning over the beautiful Blue Ridge, if you’re so inclined. The Shenandoah Valley Wine and Music Festival each autumn at Historic Long Branch will give you an opportunity to discover many a scenic byway. With views like this, it’s all worth it. These rolling hillsides and mountain vistas of the Blue Ridge make one wonder why you’d ever leave Virginia…