This weekend I spirited Katie away on a surprise trip to Abingdon, Virginia. She has been working hard on her master’s thesis so deserves a little R&R – even if I have to impose it on her!
We stayed at the Martha Washington Inn, which began in the 19th century as a women’s boarding school but has since been converted to a hotel and spa. We found the Martha Washington to be a very nice facility with the right mix of older charm and modern amenities. It is a multi-level maze of guest rooms, sitting rooms, spa areas, parlors, dining rooms, staircases, and health club facilities. By the end of our stay we had probably only made it to about 40% of all the hallways.
It took about 3.5 hours to drive to Abingdon from Chapel Hill so we arrived Friday late evening. One of my good friends from high school, Matt, and his wife, Angie, drove down from Northern Virginia and met us for the weekend. Once they arrived, we set out and grabbed a light dinner at Bonafire Smokehouse, just down the street. They offered BBQ, craft beer, and live music – not a bad way to start our trip!
Saturday we began the day with a light jog along the Creeper Trail. It used to be a rail line but was converted in the 1970s into a 34-mile pedestrian and bike path. When the weather is nice you can take a shuttle all the way to the other end of the trail – the top of the nearby mountain – and leisurely bike back down, stopping to take in the scenic views. However, the weather was not nice on Saturday – cold and gray with a very biting wind – so we opted for a short run instead of 2-3 hours with the wind in our faces! The highlight of the run was a herd of horses in a nearby pasture that chose to race Katie and show off for Angie while they ran – apparently Matt and I weren’t very interesting, though.
A good, short run deserves a good, long meal so we struck out afterward for 128 Pecan, a fun little bistro, for lunch. We thought 128 Pecan was just great and we feel pretty qualified to judge . . . because, between us, we ordered more than half of all the items on the menu! Pimento cheese crab dip, hummus, sesame fried oyster tacos, black bean cakes, blackened salmon . . . I can’t even remember everything we ate but it was all delicious! What a great find in a tiny little town.
After walking around historic downtown Abingdon, we returned to the Martha Washington and spent the afternoon relaxing. Although we didn’t avail ourselves of the spa services per se, we did take a bottle of champagne out to the multi-level outdoor jacuzzi and let our stresses melt away as it started snowing. There was something so neat about being in a hot, steaming pool of water while the snow was coming down – I’m going to have to visit my Nordic friends some day and give cold weather sauna culture a try.
Saturday evening we met some friends of mine from Huntsville, Alabama, who recently retired to Abingdon, for dinner at Figaredo’s. Although we usually prefer to stay as far away from restaurants as possible on Valentine’s Day, this restaurant had a nice little prix fixe menu that wasn’t cheesy at all. Once again we were impressed by the quality of the cuisine in such a small town. While the snow accumulated outside, the six of us stayed warm with good wine, food, company, and laughter.
Sunday was much colder than Saturday but also much sunnier. We had a reprieve from the snow so, after a morning workout in the fitness center, we drove over to our friends’ house for a true country brunch. I had been to that house once before but it was really inspiring to see the renovations that they had recently made.
Well fed as we were, we returned to Abingdon for a matinee performance of Anything Goes at the Barter Theatre. By now we should have come to expect that everything in Abingdon punches above its weight but, once again, we had modest expectations. We were really blown away, though, by the quality of the performance: the singing, dancing, costumes – everything! I suppose that’s how this tiny theater has attracted such talents as Gregory Peck, Kevin Spacey, and Ernest Borgnine over the years.
As the weather became ever colder, we decided to stay in Sunday evening so we dined at the hotel’s Sisters restaurant. It was a very nice meal including fried chicken and waffles, fried quail, and fried cheese curds . . . notice a pattern?
After dinner we repaired to the library, cozied up to the fire, and took advantage of our favorite Martha Washington Inn tradition: complimentary port in the evenings! Another couple came in and we wound down the night talking politics, careers, and music.
Monday morning came way too early but we needed to be on the road before the next snow storm struck. We made it out OK and didn’t encounter any problems on the [heavily salted] highways back to Chapel Hill. Now there is a a layer of snow accumulating on our deck but we are safe and warm inside. We miss our friends already, but we will just have to return to Abingdon sometime soon – and perhaps during warmer weather so we can do all the things we wimped out on during this trip!