Greetings, everyone! Summer has flown by in its usual hurry to usher in fall, so here we are back again to the Adventures of Syl and Bill. To refresh your memory, my husband Bill and I treat each other to mystery trips for our birthdays, and this time Bill is surprising Syl to an excursion into the unknown. The hints this time? Casual wear and a love for the old and the new. OK. That sounds as tempting as it does vague, but after all these years of gallivanting, I trust Bill as the master planner, (and I can relax.)
On Day One I was presented with a birthday card announcing our first destination. Something old. So picture us driving along highways and byways, passing blossoming dogwoods and sunshine illuminating cornfields, to Staunton, one of Virginia’s best-kept secrets. I have to tell you: Staunton is among the most charming towns in the South, brimming with boutiques, quaint restaurants, a vibrant art community and the depth of hospitality for which the South is famous. We spent the day strolling through the Sunspot Studio, a glass-blowing venue (yes, I couldn’t resist), the Artisan’s Loft with its collection of dazzling pottery (again, couldn’t resist), the famous Staunton Olive Oil Company (blueberry vinegar in the shopping bag) and a marvelous little shop called the Hobby Outlet with the largest collection of jigsaw puzzles ever (and two jumped right into my hands). Just an absolutely fabulous day!
Onward to Day Two. Another card, this one announcing our adventure through Charlottesville to Front Royal. Have you ever noticed how beautiful our Commonwealth can be when you’re driving and not in a hurry?
The tension is mounting. On Day Three, Bill, with a sparkle in his eyes, announces that we’re going to Paris. Whoa. Paris? And all I have are jeans and t-shirts? Paris? The City of Light? And here we are in Front Royal? It took me a while to adjust to the fact that there is a Paris in Virginia, and what a charming, scenic, friendly town it is.
Paris, Virginia, boasts a population of 70; a world-class inn, The Ashby, which dates back to the Civil War; and an inherited legacy of historical notables such as George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and John Singleton Mosby who rocked on the original porch of the inn en route to the First Battle of Manassas in 1861. I’d say we were in good company.
The Inn itself was right out of House Beautiful magazine. We were guests in the “Fan Room,” with sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the room’s Palladian-style windows and a private balcony. It was a breathtaking panorama, and it was all ours.
Our stay included visits to the Paris Apothecary with its alluring potions and lotions; the Locke Store, an original country store built in 1836; local wineries and boutiques; even the state Arboretum of Virginia which showcased more than 5,000 living trees. And it was Paris!
So who needs the Eiffel Tower when we can have the majestic mountains? Who misses the sidewalk cafes in Montmarte when we can dine at the Hunters Head Tavern? And who laments haute couture when we can stroll around in t-shirts and tennis shoes? Paris, Virginia, may not be the “real” Paris we all acclaim, but take it from me that this little showplace, right here at home, wrapped us in all the charm, entertainment and illumination of the real thing.
When we returned, you can imagine how much fun I had answering inquiries about our trip by simply saying…“Paris.” That raised eyebrows and prompted questions that were teasingly fun to answer.
And between you and me, as the adventures of Syl and Bill continue, I keep thinking that perhaps this visit to Paris, Virginia, is just an appetizer. Know what I mean?