A Drive in the Sky

We had a really nice mini-vacation. We mostly stayed home – we hung out and watched movies, spent time with friends, and generally just relaxed – but we also decided to head down to Charlottesville for a couple of days. Graham had picked out some cideries for us to try, and he booked a really cute inn for a night. And then, on Monday, we took Skyline Drive home.

What is Skyline Drive? Glad you (maybe) asked! It’s part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and of Shenandoah National Park. It snakes through some of Virginia’s beautiful mountain terrain, and it boasts some of the very best views in the state. Like this one:

And this one:

And this one, too:

We took it slow and just enjoyed driving and chatting. We don’t often get the privilege of uninterrupted, distraction-free time together.

And then, at the highest point on the route, we ran into some fog.

Some very dense fog.

But you know, it was fine. The fog actually made the fall colors pop, and it’s kind of magical, feeling like you’re up in the clouds.

All in all, Skyline Drive was a really lovely experience, and I think we’re planning to do it again in the spring. It’ll be fun to see how the vistas change with the seasons.

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Beach Edition

I confess, I’ve never been much of a beach person. I like cooler weather and don’t mind a rainy day.

But it sure is nice here. And I’m only a little sunburned.

The sunrises and sunsets have been particularly colorful and just really lovely.

We’ve got a few more days of sun and sand and saltwater, and I plan to enjoy them all. In between writing my July short story, of course. It’ll be posted on Friday. 😊

Eight Things I Learned as a New Traveler

Y’all, we have a beach trip coming up, and I can’t remember how to pack. And when we went to a wedding last weekend, we just straight up forgot to book a hotel until the last minute. It’s like we don’t remember how to travel. And that got me thinking.

I didn’t travel a lot growing up. I didn’t fly on an airplane until well into my 20s, I didn’t leave the country until I was almost 30. My parents and I went places – the beach in summer, to visit family, that kind of thing – but big, adventurous, week-long (or longer) trips just weren’t something we did. And when I married Graham and we started traveling, it took me a while to figure out how to do it. Like, I’d never packed a suitcase for more than five days. I’d never had to consider visas or passports. It was like a whole new world, and I had to make a lot of mistakes while I learned how to live in it.

Which brings me back to tonight. As I sit here, trying to remember what one normally brings on a beach trip, I’m remembering all of those lessons I learned as a new traveler.

The scariest thing about air travel is how boring and uncomfortable it is.

I didn’t take my first flight until my mid-twenties, and I was terrified. It’s not that I thought the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire, it’s just that I was pretty sure the plane would fall out of the sky in a big ball of fire. Looking back on it now, I laugh at how ridiculous, and wrong, that fear was. What is scary? Cramming your legs into the stupid tiny space you paid all that money for and then entertaining yourself for eight hours while you try to find a comfortable spot for your tingling right foot and a non-painful angle for your scrunched up left arm.

Pack carefully.

You know that relaxed fit striped t-shirt you never wear at home? Yeah, you’re not going to wear it when you travel, either. Just put it back in the closet and walk away. Pack what you need, and nothing more. Trust me on this. You’ll thank me when your suitcase isn’t too big and heavy to carry up the stairs at that cute little bed and breakfast in the Cotswolds. Also, packing cubes are a good investment. Trust me on that, too.

Make a plan.

I was 27 when I married Graham and we went to France for our honeymoon. It was my first international trip. We worked with a travel agency to put it together, and our only regret now is that we weren’t actively engaged in the planning. We both feel like we missed opportunities in France because we didn’t know they existed. If you’re going to spend money on a trip, be active in coordinating it. Look at it as an opportunity to learn. Do your research, build a roadmap of everything you want to accomplish, and then go out and make it happen.

But don’t be too strict with yourself. 

Plans are great (see above), but make sure you don’t get lost in the planning and miss the forest for the trees. Know that not everything works perfectly (because perfection doesn’t exist in this universe), and that there will likely be surprises along the way. Let them happen!

You’ll see more if you walk.

My favorite thing to do when we travel is to get out and walk around. Walk down the local main street, walk to the museum, walk to the café. You’ll stumble across so much cool stuff you’d miss if you were in a car or on a bus. Will your feet get sore? Well, yeah, they will. Bring your most comfortable shoes. Is it worth it anyway? Well, yeah, it is. 100%. (I should note here, always be safe and careful. Stay aware of your surroundings, and make wise decisions about how you get around.)

Don’t be self-conscious.  

Part of traveling is learning, and you won’t learn if you’re afraid to go out and explore. If you don’t speak a language, just be patient and kind when you try to communicate with people. If you don’t know the customs, do some research before you leave. If you’re worried you’ll get lost, plan a route and take a map, and don’t be scared to ask for directions. If you have to wear ridiculous, bright orange waterproof overalls to paddle out to a glacier, just do it. (No one’s laughing at you, I promise.) Whatever you do, don’t let a little discomfort get in the way of having an amazing adventure.

Luxury is overrated.

I love a nice hotel. And I love, love, love a fancy meal. I like soft beds and silky sheets. My best friend in high school called me her “indoor girl.” I’m a fan of the finer things. But, priorities. When choosing where we stay, I’ve learned that the most important things are safety, cleanliness, accessibility and location, and price. Why spend major bucks on a hotel room? That’s not what you’ve traveled to see. And when it comes to food, I like to plan for a nice meal or two, and I always make a list of things I want to be certain to try, but otherwise, food is fuel. The easiest thing is just fine.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.   

Probably my best advice, in travel and in life, generally. As I’ve already noted, perfection doesn’t exist in this universe. It’s not worth worrying if you didn’t pick the right outfit for your pictures at the Eiffel Tower, or if you got tea when you wanted coffee. Those aren’t the things you’ll remember. Focus on the big picture, and on the good memories you’re making. You can’t control everything, and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try. Just be in the moment, and enjoy the ride.

I think those are the biggest lessons I’ve learned. It’s honestly sort of weird to think of them now, and to feel like I’m suddenly new at this travel thing all over again. But I’ve always been a fast learner. 😊

So, with that in mind: What are your thoughts? Do you have any good travel advice? Any lessons learned? I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, and everyone’s experiences are so different, so I’d love to hear from you!

A Foggy Morning Hike Through a Hidden Gem

*This post is a little shorter than I’d initially planned. I had my second COVID vaccination yesterday, and today I’m feeling a bit under the weather. (It was worth it. I’d do it again. I’m so grateful and relieved and happy and hopeful, and I can’t wait to hug my vaccinated friends and family. I’ve missed hugs.) Now, with that out of the way…*

I’d mentioned in a previous post that we want to do more hiking and get outside more this year, and I’ve featured one of our hikes already. Here’s another.

On Saturday, we pulled ourselves out of bed at 7:30 in the rainy, foggy morning, and made our way to a beautiful hidden gem.

I suppose there are lots of people in the area who’ve visited Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve before, but I honestly had no idea it existed. I’m so happy that’s changed!

It’s an amazing, quiet place with lots of native flora. I kept having to stop and take pictures. It was just so lovely.

It’s bluebell season here in Virginia, and I can’t get enough of it. They’re so vibrant – purple when they’re young, and then their signature color as they grow and bloom.

The hike itself was low-key and easy. The rolling hills weren’t difficult to manage at all, and the scenery was distracting enough that I probably wouldn’t have noticed anyway.

Next time, I think we’re going to try something a little more challenging, but for now, I’m so happy to know this place exists, and I absolutely plan to go back.

An Icy Battlefield Hike

One of my goals for 2021 is to get outside more and do some hiking. I used to really enjoy hiking, but in the last few years, I’ve become something of a cave creature. It’s time to change that. Movement is good. A dose of sunlight every now and then is healthy, so I’ve been told.

At any rate, this weekend we met up with our friends Liz and Anthony for a low-key hike at Manassas National Battlefield Park. I’m a little embarrassed to say I’d never visited the battlefield in Manassas before Sunday. It was Liz’s choice. She and Anthony can always be counted on to join outdoor adventures and find the best hiking spots.

Here we are, back in 2016 in Alaska, after rowing out to the Mendenhall Glacier.

It’s good to have outdoor friends, I think.

Since Graham and I are pretty out of shape, we opted for an easy hike on the First Manassas Trail. Or, it would have been easy. See, we didn’t anticipate that the trail would be an ice rink.

We didn’t bring our trekking poles or our ice cleats. But with some caution and some borrowed gear from our friends, we did pretty okay.

Over the course of the five-mile loop, there are lots of historic sites and markers.

It’s a pretty good combination of field and forest, with a river and some wetlands.

It’s a really lovely trail, honestly.

And there aren’t any super steep hills. Until the very end, anyway.

I confess that by the last mile, I was ready to be done. My hips were killing me and my knees were pretty sore, but I made it to the end. Fast forward to today, and I’m hobbling around the house and muttering “ow” every third word. But, I have no regrets.

And there are more hikes in my future.

Loudoun Local: Great Spots for Romance and Relaxing

Another new feature I’ve been planning for a while!  I’ve been living in Loudoun County for nine years now – first in its suburban east, and then (because I like land and history and the fantasy that I might someday own goats and maybe a horse) in its beautiful rural west.  Loudoun has a lot to offer, as do its neighbors like Fauquier and Clarke, and I’m excited to showcase some of my experiences and hopefully inspire readers to come and explore this lovely part of Virginia.

So, whether you have plans with your sweetheart for Valentine’s weekend, or you just want to hang out with your friends or take yourself on a fun date (because you deserve it!), here are a few of my favorite spots for romance and relaxing in Loudoun County.

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For a unique, small-town shopping trip: The Aldie Peddler – Aldie, VA

This little shop is one of my favorite places in the world.  Wally, the chatty and charming proprietor and proud, though unofficial, Mayor of Aldie will make sure you feel like an old friend, and you won’t leave empty-handed (trust me).  Great wines from all over the world, gourmet snacks, quality outdoor furniture, and fun kitsch, all in a sweet little shop in an old house,  in a Loudoun County village that dates back to 1810.

Wally

For brunch, or to spend a weekend: The Red Fox Inn and Tavern – Middleburg, VA

The Red Fox is one of the oldest taverns in the country, and it’s a beautiful spot to sit down and enjoy some delicious brunch favorites.  If you’re feeling a little more luxurious, book a room and stay for the weekend in Middleburg, the nation’s picturesque horse and hunt capital, full of good places to eat, fun shops, and friendly locals.

For dinner, and most especially for dessert: The Conche – Leesburg, VA

Upscale dining with a creative, cocoa-inspired menu, worth a visit for the chocolates and desserts alone.  Indulge your sweet tooth – you deserve it!

For an interesting stroll or a short, easy hike: The Village of Waterford – Waterford, VA

The entire Village of Waterford is a National Historic Landmark, and it shows.  The residents here take incredible care to maintain their properties to the highest historical standard, and when you walk through this little gem, you’ll truly feel like you’ve gone back in time.  You have a couple of walking options, depending on what you’re looking for.  There’s a walking tour through the Village itself:

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From the Village of Waterford’s website

Or a short hike that starts at the Village’s Old Mill:

Waterford Trail Map

From the Village of Waterford’s website

For a laid-back wine tasting: Zephaniah Farm Vineyard – Leesburg, VA

This vineyard sits on a family farm, and tastings are conducted in the family’s house, which dates back to 1819, or in their new timber-frame barn.

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At the house, you’ll be invited to choose a comfortable spot on the first floor, where you’ll sample lovely wines at a leisurely pace surrounded by unique decorations and a few family heirlooms.  You’ll feel relaxed, looked after, and right at home.

For a craft brew and a good view: Bear Chase Brewing Company – Bluemont, VA

There are lots of breweries in Loudoun County, and quite a few of them boast a pretty amazing view.  Bear Chase is one of the newer additions to this list, and they’ve done everything right.  Enjoy a beer and a pizza by their cozy fireplace, or on their covered porch, or on their extensive lawn.  Fair warning, though – they get busy.  I’ve always been able to find a spot to sit and relax, though, and there’s usually good music on the weekends.  And just look at that view:

Bear Chase View

Bear Chase also sits near the Raven Rocks Trailhead and Bear’s Den overlook, so it’s a perfect spot for a post-hike beer with your sweetheart (or your bestie, or yourself, because like I said, you deserve it).

For cider, spirits, and a dance with the Green Fairy: Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery – Middleburg, VA

If wine and beer aren’t your style, head to Mt. Defiance. Named for the battlefield that sits just west of Middleburg, Mt. Defiance has a rustic cider barn on the east side of town, and a steampunk-chic distillery on the west.  At the barn, grab a glass of their famous Cider Kir – a dark red mix of their Farmhouse cider and Cassis liqueur – and sit in a rocking chair in front of the fireplace or on the patio.

Cider Kir

At the distillery, you have lots of choices – cute mini-cocktail flights, seasonal specialty cocktails, and for those brave enough to try, Absinthe.  Now, I’m kidding about being brave, because Absinthe won’t make you hallucinate, but it is pretty strong, and it tastes kind of like licorice.  I happen to like licorice, and the process of preparing Absinthe to taste is interesting to watch; but, if it’s just not your thing, then try the chocolate pairing, which features chocolates from The Conche, and is just really delightful.

Chocolate pairing

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And there you have it.  I know there are places I’ve surely missed that deserve to be on this list, so feel free to drop a line in the comments if I’ve not mentioned any of your favorites, or if there are places in Loudoun you’ve always wanted to visit.  But regardless of that, I hope I’ve given you some good ideas for this weekend, or really any weekend, and I hope you enjoy whatever you do, because, like I said (several times, in fact), you deserve it!

A Virginia Writer Goes to the Land of Fire and Ice

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A view of the water on Highway 47 around Hvalfjörður.

Funny story: Graham and I went to Iceland in March, I blinked, and now it’s nearly September.

I really have struggled with what to say in this post.  There are blog posts and articles all over the Internet about what to do in Iceland, how to save money, what to bring, and what you should know before you go.  The market for advice is…well, just a little saturated.  Not unlike my hair, my clothes, and my hiking boots after walking behind Seljalandsfoss on a damp day.

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Seljalandsfoss in south Iceland.

Worth it? Oh, absolutely.

With the collapse of WOW air and the rising sentiment that Iceland has become too much of a magnet for Millennials seeking adventure in its windswept landscapes, several of my friends asked me, when Graham and I got back, if our trip was worth it.  Worth the cost, worth the time, worth fighting the hordes of other eager tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and bathe in crystal blue waters.

Again – oh, absolutely.

So, instead of doling out advice that you can find elsewhere, I’m just going to tell you why, even now that you can’t score super-cheap WOW air tickets (spoiler: we flew Icelandiar and it was great) and even now that Greenland is the new hotness, you should absolutely, 1000%, without any hesitation book your trip to Iceland.

The tourist spots are actually worth a stop.

We’ve all been there – trapped in a cramped elevator on the Eiffel Tower, stuck behind some wailing kid while you’re trying to snap a picture of the Grand Canyon, desperately huffing it up the hill at Edinburgh Castle just barely managing to keep up with the tour guide.  In these moments, many of us – yes, even avid adventurers – can succumb to our lesser instincts and wonder, is this worth the hassle?  Well, yeah, of course it is, and Iceland is no different.

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Kirkjufell, on the Snæfellsnesnes peninsula in the west.

You should absolutely see the geysers, pet the shaggy ponies, scale the craters, and walk along the black sand beaches.

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Strokkur, on the Golden Circle.

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A thermal field along the Golden Circle, near Geysir.

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Kerið, a volcanic crater lake on the Golden Circle.

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A fluffy Icelandic horse I tried to make friends with on the Golden Circle.  He wasn’t interested.

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Reynisfjara Beach, facing Dyrhólaey, near Vík.

Go play in a glacier lagoon and spot diamonds on the shore.

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The Diamond Beach on Iceland’s south coast.

Will you have to deal with people?  Sure, but they’re just as excited to be there as you are.  Just give each other space and be patient.  It is worth the hassle.  I promise.

And if you go in the winter or early spring, there are ice caves.

And they’re really, really cool.

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An ice cave on Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.

And they don’t all look the same.

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A black ice cave on Vatnajökull glacier.

A tour takes half a day.  You have time to do another cool thing in the morning, and then play in the ice all afternoon.  It’s kind of comforting to know that not all caves are dark and creepy.

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Layers of ice and ash.

My parents thought Graham and I were crazy to go to Iceland just when it was starting to warm up in Virginia, but if we’d gone in the summer, we would have totally missed this opportunity.

There’s plenty of culture and history to explore.

Iceland was first settled in 874 AD.  The country has a rich history.  Its people were and are a brave, hardy, and resourceful bunch.  You’ll spot history from the car driving to your next hotel.

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A traditional turf structure, on the road in south Iceland.

You’ll see it lauded in towns and cities.

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Lief Erikson, in Reykjavík.

And yes, there are museums, too.

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A ship on display in the Skógar Regional Museum.

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Traditional turf houses, which have been moved to the Skógar Regional Museum.

Don’t miss out on actually learning the history of this little island.  It will surprise you, and you’ll be better for knowing about it.

You don’t have to spend a ton of money on food and lodging. 

This was the view from our totally reasonably-priced Reykjavík hotel room:

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The view from our hotel room in Reykjavík.

And while we certainly splurged on a few meals, it’s not hard to find a quick bite.  Hot dogs are an Icelandic favorite, and they’re not expensive, and they’re pretty damn tasty.

Iceland is not the least expensive place Graham and I have ever visited, and if you fancy a beer or a cocktail, do be prepared to drop some coin.  But if you do your research and plan ahead, and if you aren’t visiting in the height of summer, your trip to Iceland won’t empty your bank account.

Icelanders have a sense of humor.

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The Monument to the Unknown Bureaucrat, in Reykjavík.

They’re fun people, and they’ll appreciate your visit.

And they’re artistic, literary, and whimsical.

Did you know that Iceland is one of the most literate nations in the world?  Or that one in ten Icelanders will publish a book?  If you like reading or art, you’ll be happy in Iceland.

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Artwork on the side of a building in Reykjavík.

There’s also some stunning architecture.  This…

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Hallgrímskirkja, the cathedral in Reykjavík.

…was inspired by this:

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Basalt columns at Reynisfjara Beach.

You might even see a troll or two.

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A statue of Bárður Snæfellsás in Arnarstapi, a village on the Snaefellsnes peninsula.

Iceland is really just heartbreakingly beautiful.

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A view we happened upon when we made a wrong turn onto a dirt road, near Hvalfjörður.

Just look at it.

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Another view of Hvalfjörður.

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Þingvallavatn, the largest natural lake in Iceland.

You can see waterfalls, black sand beaches, glaciers, and mountains all in one day.

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Skaftafell National Park, near Öræfi in southeast Iceland.

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A pretty little waterfall we spotted from the road.

You can walk along a tectonic divide.

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Þingvellir National Park.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of the aurora (probably while you’re driving and your camera equipment is packed into the back of the car and you need to take pictures quickly with your cell phone or else you’ll miss it…do find a safe place to pull over).

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Blurry cell phone photo 1.

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Blurry cell phone photo 2, with extra blurry stars.

The landscape in Iceland is unlike any other place in the world. Go see it.

If I haven’t convinced you to buy a plane ticket by now, let me leave you with this.

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Gullfoss.

That mythical, dreamland Somewhere over the rainbow?  I found it.  It’s Iceland.

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I don’t remember where this is, but isn’t it gorgeous?

Have you booked your trip yet?

Heaven is Music Everywhere: Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion

I grew up in music.  It’s how my family communicates, celebrates, mourns, loves, and just passes the time.

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I spent my childhood in an area of the country famous for its country music history.  I’m as formed by music and mountains as I am by the cells that build my body.  Music is in my blood.  My soul was nurtured by the sounds of guitars and drum sets and fiddles and banjos.  What I’m getting at here is that the one thing that makes me who I am, more than anything else in my life, is music.  My roots run deep and firm and, well, musical, in the brushy, misty mountains of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

As they say, it’s Bristol, baby.  Or, more aptly for this post, it’s all about Bristol, baby.

You might have been to music festivals, but you’ve never been to a festival quite like Bristol’s Rhythm and Roots Reunion.  Bristol cemented its place in music history in 1927 with the Bristol Sessions, essentially the founding of modern country music.  Since then (and long before), Bristol and the surrounding area has been a gathering place for musicians and music lovers to come together, collaborate, and celebrate.  That’s what Rhythm and Roots is all about.

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Once a year, Bristol, a city that spans Virginia and Tennessee, closes State Street and its side streets for several blocks.  It sets up stages, brings in vendors for arts, crafts, and food, and invites musicians from all over the country to play for a three-day celebration of music and mountain culture.

There’s music everywhere.  There are stages and musicians tucked into every corner.  There’s a band in almost every bar and restaurant.  From Friday through Sunday, once a year, Bristol becomes a little piece of melodious, lyrical, pickin’ and strummin’ Heaven.  And it’s not just country music.  You’ll find Americana, folk, classic rock, rockabilly, alt rock, bluegrass, jazz and ragtime, and even some Celtic flare.  Music is a universal language, and Rhythm and Roots offers something for everyone.

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Ed Young of Ed Young and Friends, a three-person band featuring guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, and Ed’s bluesy, deep baritone.

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Randi Denton, lead singer of Indighost, a rock band with a sound reminiscent of 1960s psychedelia.

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Blair Crimmins, front man of Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, an energetic Dixieland, jazz, and ragtime band.

I love Rhythm and Roots because it captures the spark that makes music what it is.  Music is more than just sound waves.  Music is important.  Music is culture.  Music is identity.  Music is home, and as long as you never lose the music, you’ll always carry your home with you.

I’ve done cartwheels across State Street that carried me from Virginia to Tennessee, and I’ve stood many times in two places at once.  I’ve spent some of my most memorable days in the green room and on the stage of Bristol’s impeccably restored Paramount Theatre.

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I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for seven years.  I’ve done my time in fast-paced, competitive jobs.  I’ve commuted three hours each day.  I think I fit in well enough here, now.  But it’s not home.

Home is where the heart is, and my heart’s tucked safely away in the mountains where I grew up.  I might have left them, but they’ve never left me.  Every time I go to Rhythm and Roots, I’m grateful all over again that I grew up in the land of biscuits and gravy, Johnny Wood and fishing, flatfooting, porch sitting, moonshine, and music.

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*Some links, for anyone who’d like to learn more about the festival or the bands I’ve mentioned here: Bristol Rhythm and Roots ReunionIndighostBlair Crimmins and the Hookers

A Little Something Different (or, Our Visit to Otium Cellars)

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for something different.

Before I say more, I should note that I am a creature of habit, almost to a fault.  I eat the same salad every day for lunch.  I do the laundry on Mondays and Fridays.  I drink Irish Breakfast Tea at least once a day.  I read every night before I go to sleep.  When these things don’t happen, I get a little…anxious.  Graham would say hard to deal with, but I’m giving myself a break.

I’m not quite so particular about wine.  I like trying different varietals from different places, and I don’t really have a wine-drinking schedule (does anyone?).  But I do have a level of comfort with the grapes that are commonly used at Virginia vineyards and wineries.  I’m all about a peppery Virginia Cabernet Franc.  I love the way smoky Virginia soil brings out the minerality in a Viognier.

But sometimes, like I said, you’re just in the mood for something different.  Which is why Graham and I found ourselves at Otium Cellars last weekend.

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This place is picturesque.  Otium is a Latin word for leisure, peace, rest, and tranquility, and it fits the setting.  Rolling hills, silos, mature trees, and even horses, because, you know, Loudoun County.  It’s conveniently located right outside of the town of Purcellville, and for a fun side trip on the way, take a quick drive through the historic village of Lincoln, a little gem in the Loudoun County countryside.

We wanted to try Otium Cellars because of their reputation for German varietals, and particularly German reds.  Uncommon in Virginia, and executed very, very well at Otium.  Their tasting is well worth the cost, as it’s pretty extensive and the tasting room is a comfortable spot to relax on a weekend afternoon.  There wasn’t a single wine on the menu we wouldn’t have bought.  We ended up bringing home bottles of 2014 Blaufränkisch, 2014 Dornfelder (both reds), and 2015 Grüner Veltliner (a white).

We opened the Grüner Veltliner tonight.  We figured this would be one of the last 90 degrees days of the year (please, oh please!), and so a cold white wine seemed like the most logical choice.

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I’d never tried this varietal before.  This grape is grown primarily in Austria, and the grapes for this particular bottle were grown in Washington State.  It’s robust for such a crisp wine – a light, bright nose of citrus, with hints of apples and stone fruits (and I think just a touch of honey), light acidity and a bit of spiciness on the palette, and a delicate finish of white pepper.  Lovely, and absolutely perfect for a hot day like today.

I’ll feature the two reds that we bought a little later in the year.  I’m excited to pair them with some classic fall flavors (sage, cinnamon, cloves…how long until Thanksgiving?).  For now, I’ll enjoy my cold white wine, dream of cooler days and changing leaves, and heartily recommend a visit to Otium Cellars.

Cheers!

 

*If you’d like to check out Otium Cellars, here’s their website:  Otium Cellars

From the Bluegrass State to the Beach

We’ve successfully made it to Figure Eight Island in North Carolina!  We’re all settled in to our beach house, and recovering from our whirlwind stop in Asheville.

We didn’t leave Louisville, though, before trying a Hot Brown.

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Conclusively, the best sandwich ever, if not really a sandwich.

We also tried authentic, official, trademarked Derby Pie.

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And we enjoyed spending a little downtime at the Brown Hotel, and wandering around downtown Louisville and the riverfront.

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Our friends had a beautiful wedding, and overall, we enjoyed our time in Kentucky, even if the heat was a little intense.

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Asheville was, in a word, amazing.  I’d only ever been to the Biltmore Estate, and I was really looking forward to seeing the actual city in all of its artsy, mountain-urban glory. I was not disappointed.  I’m only sorry I didn’t take pictures.  A few of the interesting sites we ecplored:  the Thomas Wolfe House, the Asheville Community Theatre (once co-directed by Charlton Heston and his wife), lots of interesting shops and restaurants, and lots of…interesting…people (including an urban hippie meditating in the middle of a city park.  I’m not going to lie, I was jealous of the guy’s focus).

We had dinner at Rhubarb on Sunday night, and if you’re ever in Asheville, I would recommend you do the same.  The chef puts together a Sunday Supper every week, and the price for such a large meal was surprisingly affordable.  Here’s the website, if you’d like to learn more: Rhubard Asheville.

Yesterday, we loaded up the car again, and headed for our final stop.  On the way, we stopped at the best fast food place in the world (though Bojangles is a close second):

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I’m so happy we get to spend time with Graham’s family on this wonderful little island every summer.  Nothing makes this Virginia girl happier than combining travel and family tradition.  Except maybe travel, tradition, and a little wine on the beach.

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