You might have noticed I didn’t post anything, yesterday. I mentioned that I take some days off in the summer to be with family and that’s just what I did. Urban Woman, over the last few months, has taken to calling herself a “Blog Widow.” She’s really been incredibly patient with me staying out most evenings and up most nights. She deserved a little, “thank you,” and so we packed our bags and headed to Abingdon, Virginia.
It’s a great place to consider if you just want to get away for a day trip – it’s just over a hundred miles – or if you’d like to make it an overnight trip. It may not be your choice destination if you are wanting an action-packed couple of days, but it has a lot to recommend it, including more charm than any little town deserves.
Our first stop was Zazzy’z. We arrived at lunch and I thought I remembered they had light foods. Zazzy’z, like many of the businesses we visited during our trip, sits in an old house. It features amazing coffee roasted right out back, great food and books. What else do you need? It’s just off I-81 at exit 19 should you ever be by that way. It’s about a mile or so west of the Interstate and worth the detour.
We spent the afternoon browsing the numerous antique shops and art galleries. It really is some of the best antique shopping we’ve run into with many relatively rare and unique items. We spent a good bit of time in the Arts Depot. We commented as we entered that it reminded us of the Emporium with artists working in dedicated spaces and a common space displaying their work. They were actually closed when we got there, but the couple of artists present insisted we come in and look around. I really believe if you expect to meet nice people that’s what happens. The opposite is probably true, as well.
While there we learned that the artists in the Emporium displayed their work at the Depot – which is actually the freight depot for the train – in March. The completion of the exchange of art happens tomorrow night and runs for three weeks at the emporium when art from the Depot Artists Association opens on First Friday. I’d really encourage you to stop by the Emporium and see what they are up to. If you like photography, particularly be on the look-out for the work of Kaylynn Wilster – I really enjoyed what I saw of her photographs.
After shopping through the afternoon, we checked in that the Martha Washington Inn – or The Martha – as they seem to be re-branding themselves. Built in 1832 as a private residence, it really is a special place. We’d stayed there once before and had a magical time. I’d classify this round as “very good,” but I’m not sure the comparison is fair.
The front porch is massive and inviting and other porches at different levels offer comfortable rocking chairs for taking life easy. At $150 and up per night, it isn’t cheap, but it also isn’t your ordinary hotel. Down comforters, an excellent restaurant, antique furnishings in many of the rooms and a night-cap of port to all guests are just a few of the pleasures offered.
Another main-stay attraction of Abingdon is the Virginia Creeper Trail which is a bike trail that starts in Abingdon, runs along an old railroad bed to Damascus, VA and beyond, and is downhill virtually all the way. We’ve never taken it, but we know many people who have and who loved it. The other big attraction in Abingdon is the Barter Theatre the building dates to the 1830s and the 1870s (different parts) and the theatre began productions there in 1933. We’ve enjoyed it before, but skipped it this time around.
As you can see from the photographs in this post, one of the more interesting aspects of the small city is the incredible stock of historic buildings found there. Several date to the 1700’s and many date to the early 1800’s. In that respect it reminds me of a New England town. Some have plaques with the history of the building noted, others are simply obviously old – often resembling more what is found in Williamsburg than what is typically found in the deep south.
We ate dinner in the oldest building in the city. The Tavern is one of our favorite restaurants any where we’ve ever been. It features German food, plus a variety of American dishes and operates in a building constructed in 1779. At that time it was a stage coach stop, an Inn and a tavern. It also operated as the first post office ever established west of the Blue Ridge. All I can tell you beyond that is that it is an amazing place to eat. Reservations are suggested and you need to plan at least two hours to dine as everything is prepared after it is ordered.
It’s not cheap. A couple could probably be very careful and eat there for $75. We weren’t careful because we so rarely eat there and we love it so much. We had oysters Rockefeller (best we’ve ever had)for an appetizer, two New York Strip steaks (tender and perfect – hers well-done and mine medium-rare), two marvelous glasses of Francis Coppola Claret, one piece of cheese cake to share and two cups of coffee for $140 including tax and tip. It’s a once every-other-year indulgence for us to spend that much on a meal, but it was for Urban Woman – and I was willing to sacrifice.
The next morning we stopped in at Zazzy’s for one more cup of coffee for the road before driving to Asheville – which I’ll talk about in a later article. So, there’s your travel-guide for Abingdon. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you might give it a try. It’s not the kind of place we’d go all the time, but I know we’ll be back, eventually.