Virginia is beautiful! As we drove over the border from North Carolina, the countryside just got prettier and prettier. The houses – gracious, white clapperboard, green shutters – were wonderful. The hills were green, densely wooded and lush. It was gorgeous.
Our first stop was Blacksburg, a small university town in the far west of the state, near the border with West Virginia. We were there because my fellow Crazy Cat Lady, Jess, had moved there a few weeks ago and we were staying with her, her husband and her two lovely cats for a few nights. It was so flipping great to see Jess again, I haven’t seen her since October. We hung out on their lovely porch for the afternoon and then drove over to a brewery just outside the town. It was in an old farm – the sun was setting over the hills, kids were playing, the place was full of flowers and we sat in the warm evening sunshine and drank beer and kombucha. And as it got dark, the skies lit up with the flicker of fireflies.They were both the Dude’s and Big Brother’s first experience of fireflies and they honestly thought it was magical.
The next day, we did a fantastic hike along a section of the Appalachian Trail. We hiked four miles uphill to the well known rock formation McAfee’s Knob…cue plenty of knob jokes. Big Brother strode ahead, he’s a hiking machine these days. We arrived sweaty and hungry at the top and it was totally worthwhile. The views were amazing. Not only the iconic rock view, which was insane, but actually the more gentle view of the green wooded hills rolling away into the blue distance. It was so beautiful. 8 miles in total and a really great morning hiking!
The next day, before leaving, I ran with Jess. She’s been injured for a long time so is wisely getting back into running carefully so we walk/ran according to her plan. It’s always a joy, running with friends, so it was a perfect way to say goodbye.
One of the delights of Blacksburg was that the temperature was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. We relished the freshness of the air.
Our next stop was a bit special…we visited Mountain Lake Lodge. Assuming you’re a lady of around my age, you’ll probably know it better as Kellermans’. Yep…we visited the place we filmed Dirty Dancing and it was every bit as awesome as I hoped!
We followed that up with a fantastic short hike at Peaks of Otter, a part of the Blue Mountains State Park. We hiked 1.5 miles up a short but steep (and humid) trail to Sharp Top Mountain. At the top, the midges were out to get us so we didn’t linger, but the views were amazing.
The next day, we visited Shenandoah National Park. I planned this hike a little too casually and the maps and signage provided by the NP weren’t great. We had a very exciting moment when a black bear sauntered across the road as we drove along. It was less exciting when we heard crashing in the woods next to our trail as we hiked. Cue lots of shouting of ‘Hey bear’, lots of clapping and lots of shouting…and my tall husband watched as another black bear strolled away. Shook us up a little. We preferred the beautiful stag!
Our next Virginia destination was the small town of Tappahannock, about 2 hours south of Washington DC. We were there visiting my family – my mum’s cousins and their families. I haven’t been there for twenty years so this was pretty special. We got together a few times – dinner at one cousin’s house where I got to introduce my boys and to meet the wives, children and girlfriends of my generation of cousins.
The next night, we met up for ice-cream and then my hairdresser cousin did an incredible job on the Dude’s hair, giving him the haircut of his dreams.
The final cool thing we did in Virginia was a day-trip to Colonial Williamsburg, about an hour south of Tappahannock. It was a scorchingly hot day but we had a fantastic day out. Williamsburg is a ‘living museum’ – a town where people live but where a few streets are set apart and colonial life is recreated by people in costumes. It is a fantastic day – we learned so much about Colonial life and why the Americans didn’t fancy staying British (a tax on tea is unforgivable). One (very handsome) guy was portraying Thomas Jefferson. He was incredible – he knew Jefferson inside and out and he really brought Jefferson to life.
It was really wonderful to see this part of my family after so long. It made me grateful for the way Facebook helps us keep in touch, and grateful for the chance to see them.But on Thursday, we packed up the car and headed north. Virginia had been fantastic but Washington DC was calling!