There's nothing I love more than the mountains, but especially the mountains of my home state, Virginia. In the warmer months, the Blue Ridge Mountains are green and lush, with dark, cool, damp, hollows between the ridges and between the trees. Those spaces under the sunny, twinkling canopy and the laurel bushes below. . There are huge boulders, covered in lichens, perfect for climbing. Bear, deer, squirrels and snails are abundant. My favorite is when you can hear the call of a crow echoing on the ridges in the distance.
For a brief stretch, the road took me through Tennessee, which I didn't expect. What a fun little surprise! I had been driving through a valley, came around a turn and there was the sign! I actually thought perhaps the GPS had taken me the wrong way, but nope! I got to hit FOUR states on my little adventure!
This past weekend, I made it back to my beloved mountains in one of my favorite little corners of the state in southwest Virginia - Abingdon. The further south one gets on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the higher and steeper the mountains tend to get. That's how it is on the way to Abingdon from South Carolina. I love driving mountain roads, hugging the curves, in and out as I ascend and descend the ridges.
I stopped over in Boone/Blowing Rock, NC briefly to explore and stretch. I had never seen those towns and had always wanted to. From what I got to see, they are absolutely beautiful! It's like a mountain town off the Hallmark Channel.
Blowing Rock got it's name for an actual rock which is a small tourist spot for those wanting to see THE Blowing Rock. It's a pretty little spot with english inspired gardens, incredible views and buttery popcorn for a snack!
According to Google, Blowing Rock got it's name because it's, "...an immense cliff 4,000 feet above sea level, overhanging Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. The phenomenon is so called because the rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void."
Abingdon is adorable! It's small, quaint, with many historic homes, huge oak trees along narrow neighborhood streets, plenty of antique shops and delicious little restaurants.
Of course, my favorite place to stay is the charming, graceful, Martha Washington! The first time I visited was back in October of 2017. I'm a sucker for any place, especially hotels, that are historic, that maintain historic elements and are decorated beautifully. The Martha Washington definitely has all of that.
My favorite parts about the Martha Washington:
It's in the heart of the historic district.
It's walking distance from the best restaurants and shops in town
Right across from the Barter Theater
Gorgeous lawn and gardens with gazebos
Roomy southern front porch with couches and rocking chairs
Cutest putt-putt course
Outdoor hot tub
Heated indoor salt pool
Sisters American grill with to-die-for cuisine
Library and sitting area in the lobby
During my stay, I explored around town, taking pictures of some of the historic architecture, checked out some of my favorite antique stores and visited parts of the Virginia Creeper Trail (a "rail to recreation" trail).
(Above: a mini Martha Washington on the putt-putt course)
I took an afternoon to relax at a local winery (Abingdon Vineyards). They offer flights of their wines which is wonderful because you can try your favorites and any others you may be interested in. They also offer kayak rentals on the South Fork of the Holston River. For food options, they have meats, cheeses and crackers in the shop but for those who are more hungry, there's a food truck with THE BEST BBQ around!
For dinner, on my last night, I went to The Tavern. "The Tavern, the oldest of Abingdon's historic buildings and one of the oldest west of the Blue Ridge, was built in 1779. It was used from it's beginning as a tavern and overnight inn for stagecoach traveler's. The Tavern has had such guests as Henry Clay; Louis Philippe, King of France; President Andrew Jackson; and Pierre Charles L'Enfant, designer of Washington D.C." (from their website).
They have delicious southern fare including crab cakes!
My particular table had a "secret" drawer full of notes and love letters left by previous patrons. I love old ephemera and especially old notes and letters. Many of them talked about couples who were dining there for their anniversary or other special occasion. Some of them included drawings, mostly of the tavern itself.
But my most favorite letter I found was not at The Tavern. It was found back at the restaurant at the Martha Washington.
Whenever I go on vacation, I make little paper origami elephants to hand out as a little-something-special with tip. I was down in the restaurant and of course I had an elephant with me that I had set on the table to hand out at the end of my meal. My waitress asked if I had been there before and I told her yes, but it had been in October 2017. She said she recognized me, which I thought was skeptical since I had only been there briefly last time and it had been almost three years ago. A while later, she comes back with her phone and says, "I don't know if this is you but I thought I'd show you". She showed me a picture of an origami elephant and a note that said, "thank you for a fantastic dinner". I recognized the elephant and the paper it was made with, plus, it was my handwriting on the note! I had given her an elephant three years ago. She loved it so much, she had posted a picture of it to her Instagram and she still has the elephant on her dresser to this day. This is why I do things like this. I wasn't sure if people actually liked them or appreciated them, but here is proof they do!!! Get ready world, I'm going to be releasing a ton of elephants!
On my last morning, I sat out on the front porch, drawing a scene of my beloved mountains. It's always sad when I have to leave the Blue Ridge and go home, but I know they'll always be there.
Until next time Martha Washington! See you again soon Abingdon!