As a birthday present Valerie surprised me with a night at the lovely Ashby Inn in Paris, Virginia. Lovely and historic, I should say, since legend has it that Confederate Generals Johnston and Jackson napped on the porch of the inn on their way to glorious victory over the Yankee invader at First Manassas. Jackson must have gotten a good rest since it was at this battle that he earned his eternal nickname, “Stonewall”. But this was not the town’s first brush with history. It is said that the town was renamed to Paris by a local bigwig in the revolutionary era in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette. While this name change did not entice Lafayette to settle there (which had been part of the plan), it was still a positive change for the town, which had previously been known as Pumpkinville.
Anyway, as part of the adventure Valerie offered to go hiking with me at nearby Sky Meadows State Park. This was pretty historic in itself, for usually when I suggest any outdoorsy activity Valerie, well, stonewalls. Valerie had offered wine-tasting as an option as well, but neither of us is particularly into wine. We have enjoyed trips to vineyards in Virginia and California in the past, but I was more interested in shoving my hiking boot clad foot in the slightly opened door of an outdoor adventure.
On a crisp but quite pleasant November day we started out by hiking in the main part of Sky Meadows, which involves a steep vertical climb through a cow pasture to the Appalachian Trail. We navigated our way around the cow pies as far as the first overlook then decided that this was not the right trail for us (Ted and I have done extensive hiking in this park in the past - it's lovely, but it is very hilly). When we got back to the car Valerie was ready to quit but I, having the birthday thing going for me, wasn’t quite ready to let her off the hook. Instead we went over to the other side of the park (I had never been there before) and hiked a lovely and largely flat loop trail alongside a brook. The east side of the park was deserted and we had a very pleasant and peaceful walk before repairing to the inn to nap and change for dinner.
|At Sky Meadows State Park|
I’m not much of a meat eater, but special occasions call for flexitarian flexibility and so for dinner I ordered the venison – and Valerie did too. Having suffered a tick borne illness in the past I am no friend of deer and was much happier to see one on my plate than spreading its havoc in the woods. I guess I got the last laugh, didn’t I, Bambi?! The presentation of the meat was a little surprising – a large tenderloin of venison sparsely surrounded by the most miniscule of vegetables. Valerie had asked to substitute another vegetable for the brussels sprouts, but in fact the two baby carrots she got in place of the two pea-sized brussel sprouts that came on my plate didn’t make much of a difference. The food was quite tasty, but the presentation perhaps a little too nouvelle for me. Still, accompanied by a glass of red wine it was delicious. The company was good, the setting romantic – all and all a great birthday dinner.
In the morning, after a very nice breakfast at the inn, we headed to the car. In the parking lot we bumped into the restaurant’s head chef, who was very friendly and chatty. Young guy, previously on staff at The Inn at Little Washington. I told him how much I had enjoyed the venison, but chickened out about saying anything about the odd presentation.
We spent the day in Middleburg, browsing the quaint shops and mingling with the old money horsey set. I bought a wool cap and we bought some small kitchen items and our favorite Ahava moisturizer as well. Interestingly, even though Middleburg is an hour from home we always seem to bump into people we know there. This time it was my former colleague Tim.
Then it was time for the slog home on Rt. 50. It’s amazing how far out into western Loudon County the Washington suburbs extend these days and every time I’m out that way I feel happy that I live in “shabby chic” Arlington rather than McMansion exurbia.