Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's About Thyme

We had a wonderful overnight getaway to Culpeper. It really is a little jewel, at least to the casual visitor to the restored historic commercial center. Our first stop was the Visitor Center to pick up a map and guidebook, and then we headed off on a walking tour of the town’s architectural highlights, with a little side stroll to a charming park in the heart of downtown. We did some shopping, then bought a late lunch of cheese and bread at the gourmet food markets on Davis Street, which we enjoyed in our room at the Thyme Inn.

My husband and I have been to quite a few inns in Virginia, and this ranked among our nicest stays. The inn is just 3 rooms above the Thyme Market, and has a very European feel: lots of exposed brick and stucco, chandeliers and lamps that cast a golden glow, wrought iron balcony overlooking the street, a bathroom right out of a Kohler commercial. I am a sucker for all of the amenities that historic inns provide, and this place had them in spades: the gazillion thread count sheets and stack of pluffy bedpillows, the thick towels, robes & slippers, the fancy French toiletries, the jacuzzi tub, and most importantly, a fireplace. We usually visit inns in the cold weather, and almost always stay in rooms with working fireplaces. And we generally don’t stay at B&Bs, but prefer inns that have full service restaurants for the upscale gourmet dining experience. There’s nothing nicer than enjoying a wonderful, multi-course meal, and then having to travel no further than up the stairs to get “home.”

So of course we had dinner at the adjacent It’s About Thyme restaurant, which specializes in European country cuisine. We had been to lunch here before, and couldn’t wait to get back for dinner. We weren’t disappointed. The place is similar in atmosphere to Fredericksburg’s Bistro Bethem, where you get wonderful food, but wouldn’t feel out of place in jeans. The place was packed all night with a lively quiet, intimate corners here. The list of specials is almost as long as the regular menu, and the Cordon Bleu-trained chef offers a variety of innovative dishes that are as beautifully presented as they are delicious.

But as we walked around town, we found a couple of other restaurants that looked very promising as well (Foti's, Hazel River Inn Restaurant), so we certainly plan to return. And if you are looking for an easy day-trip from Fredericksburg, and haven’t been to Culpeper in a while, I think you’d be surprised at how nicely it has changed, even in just the last 5 years. Definitely worth the trip.

Clark's Hardware, the old-timey kind:

Vintage sign on the brick wall of a restaurant:

Cheese from the Frenchman's Corner:

Bread from the Thyme Market:

Shopping at the Cameleer for gifts and upscale hippie clothes:

Our room at the Thyme Inn:

The nighttime view from our balcony:

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