It’s 35 degrees Fahrenheit and we are in a convertible with the top down taking a drive in rural Virginia. Crazy? Maybe, it was cold but beautiful! My husband and I are here visiting his cousin Mitch and his wife, Barbara. Mitch isn’t really his cousin. Their relationship is something like his mother’s sister’s husband’s sister’s son and his wife.
Regardless, they grew up as cousins and we are on a short but sweet visit to their lovely country home nestled in Madison County right next to the Shenendoah National Park at the base of the Blue Ridged Mountains. The area is mostly agricultural and farmland, home to many beautiful horses and cows who, I think are quite lucky to live in such a gorgeous place.
Shenendoah National Park is best known for Skyline Drive, a 105 mile (169 km) road that runs the entire length of the park along the ridge of the mountains. The drive is particularly popular in the fall when the leaves are changing colors (which we just missed). 101 miles (162 km) of the famous Appalachian Trail are also in the park.
We left California early in the morning while it was still dark and landed in Washington DC in the evening, in the dark. While we were driving here, we couldn’t see anything except the road in front of us. It was the kind of dark you can only get in the countryside where there is no illumination from ‘citylife’, so it was nice to get up on a cold but sunny morning and see green fields, rolling hills and majestic mountains. We missed the glory of the changing of the leaves but still found some spots of color here and there.
…and the historic and picturesque Episcopalian Church
However, I am not forgetting that this is a food blog. I also woke up in the morning to these beautiful popovers, which Barbara had just taken out of the oven. They were delicious! I had mine with cold butter and orange marmalade along with my hot coffee. Heavenly! What a wonderful start to the day.
Barbara shared her recipe with me and I am sharing it with you. It is her grandmother’s grandmother’s recipe.
‘Cousins” Mitch and Barbara in their front yard.
We left Grave’s Mill and travelled on to Charlottesville to visit our friends, Kerri and Rick. Charlottesville is a beautiful city with big sprawling lawns and Jeffersonian Architecture, primarily an abundance of stately red brick buildings with white pillars and portico entries. It is the home of the University of Virginia and two former presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. Monticello, the historic plantation manor of Jefferson, maybe better known as the building on the back of the nickel, is available for tours as is Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland .
We only had a few hours to explore so we headed to historic downtown Charlottesville. We strolled through City Market, a large open air Farmer’s Market, which is open only on Saturdays from 7am to noon from April through December where you can buy a wide variety of fresh, local produce, baked goods and crafts.
Then we windowshopped our way through the Downtown Mall which is a pedestrian walkway filled with shops and restaurants.
We had lunch at Citizen Burger Bar where I enjoyed a house made quinoa, millet and beet burger
and crispy fried pickles with Sriracha mayo. I love fried pickles, which is a treat I only see on the East Coast.
We stayed at the Boar’s Head Inn Head Inn, a lovely 4 Star resort located on a 473 acre country estate in the Ivy district several minutes from downtown. The hotel boasts a spa, golf and tennis, a sports club and several restaurants.
While dining at Bistro 1834 in the hotel I tried one of their Southern specialties, Peanut Soup, definitely a first for me.
The slogan is ‘Virginia is for Lovers’. Well I love Virginia and will be back. Tomorrow we leave for warmer climates. More soon! – J