Saturday, January 16, 2010
To celebrate our birthdays and anniversary (three events that fall on two consecutive days, and which is increasingly being called the “birthversary”), my husband and I had our traditional annual inn outing. This year, we decided to return to L’Auberge Provencale, an inn outside of Winchester that we visited more than a few years ago. Our plan was to stop at a couple of wineries on the way there on Sunday (the best part about retirement is the flexible scheduling), and visit Winchester on Monday, which we remembered had a charming and historic downtown, not unlike Fredericksburg, but with a pedestrian mall that made strolling all the more pleasant.
We chose to stop at two wineries in Delaplane, Barrel Oak and Three Fox. The beautiful countryside surrounding the wineries is barren this time of year, and still covered with dirty snow from our pre-Christmas snowstorm. But we enjoyed the wine tastings, and came home with a couple of bottles, plus 4 new souvenir wine glasses to help replenish our dwindling supply (I’ve lost quite a few to a simple knock against the kitchen faucet).
Barrel Oak Winery has only been open a year, but has a lovely rustic beamed tasting room, with comfy seating where you can enjoy a bottle of wine and a light meal.
But really, visiting wineries is just a way to kill time until check-in. L’Auberge Provencale is at the top of my list of favorite Virginia inns, and we loved every minute of our stay. On a dead-of-winter Sunday night, we were the only overnight guests, so were lucky to get an upgrade to one of the most expensive suites. But the real highlight of the inn is the amazing French restaurant, where we splurged (and it was a big splurge) on an incredible multi-course prix fixe meal, featuring an amuse bouche, first course, second course, intermezzo, third course and dessert. Definitely one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten, with each course an artful layering of components. Plus more shaved truffles in one meal than I’ve eaten in my entire life. Then in the morning, you wake up to another multi-course meal, enough food to last till dinnertime. We don’t take this kind of trip often, but it’s something we look forward to for months. And it’s a lovely way to cap off the craziness of the holiday season, with this one little getaway just for us.
Taking photos at dinner is a tad intrusive, so I only brought my camera to breakfast, where my husband and I were alone in the sunny dining room, and where these luscious baked pears were just the first course of our morning meal.
I'm a sucker for poofy linens.
We had a sitting room with an array of reading materials. Am I the only one who thinks "Garden & Gun" is an odd combination of hobbies?
On Monday, we left the inn and headed into Winchester for our downtown stroll. Where we discovered things were pretty quiet, mainly because 1. it’s the dead of winter (did I mention that already?), 2. Monday is the day many small shops are closed, and 3. downtown Winchester is experiencing an economic downturn (like everywhere else), with many empty storefronts. The town definitely shows better in warm weather. The 83rd Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, scheduled for April 23-May 2, might be the perfect time for another day trip.
Winchester's empty pedestrian mall on a cold Monday.
We were much too full from breakfast to enjoy a Snow White burger, but this is tops on my list for our next visit.
Winchester has many lovely old homes, like this architectural wonder.
An early military office of George Washington's is preserved as a museum in Winchester. Closed for the season. Of course.
And finally, I have to end with a couple of public restroom shots. I have a penchant for a well-designed public restroom, and am particularly fond of the new trend towards artful basins: the shallow ones, the square ones, the oddly angled ones (check out the women's room at the new Firebirds Grill at the Spotsy mall). Here's the faucet at Barrel Oak Winery, designed to look like an old fashioned pump:
And while the all-automatic, hands-off public restroom is becoming more common, this was the first time I've seen this hands-off door handle, seen in the first floor restroom of Winchester's City Hall: