Apple Blossom Festival for Out-of-Towners

Apple Blossom Festival Parade

Part 2:  Weekend 2:  The Parades

Last week’s blog post explored the highlights of the April 24 through 26 weekend of the 2015 Apple Blossom Festival.  Most people will tell you that the highlights of the second weekend, May 1 through 3, are the parades.  For more details about the parades and other events, see the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival’s official site at www.thebloom.com.


To give a little perspective, the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival was created in 1924 as a way to promote the Shenandoah Valley in general and the apple industry in particular. The early festivals included elaborate pageants on the steps of Winchester’s Handley High School involving hundreds of school children. Post-World War II began a golden age of celebrity Grand Marshalls for the parade including Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ed Sullivan and Lucille Ball. But always, there has been a parade.

Firefighters Parade (Friday)

Apple Blossom Festival Firefighters Parade

The Firefighters Parade, the largest and oldest of its kind in the world, starts at 5:30 on Friday evening. For the kid inside all of us, what’s more exciting than a gleaming fire truck with an occasional blast of the horn?

For those really into the history of firefighting, a parade of antique firetrucks, many over 100 years old, takes place earlier in the day at 2:00 p.m.

Firefighters ParadeAnd if you really want a closer look, come to the Fire Truck Rodeo and Display of New and Antique Firefighting Equipment Friday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at the Millbrook High School.  The rodeo features drivers maneuvering their vehicles through tight spots, forward and back.

Grand Feature Parade (Saturday)

The Grand Feature Parade is still the highlight of the Apple Blossom Festival. It kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday with 170 floats, bands, official cars, clowns, princesses, and more that wind their way around Winchester. The parade takes about three hours to pass by. The Grand Marshall this year will be singer/actor/pop idol Kevin Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame.

Bluegrass Festival (Sunday)

Years of persistence by organizers of the Apple Blossom Festival have paid off — Ricky Scaggs will be the headliner for the Sunday Bluegrass Festival.  Held on the grounds of the Winchester Medical Center on Sunday from 10:00 am. to 4:00 p.m., the Bluegrass Festival is a great way to finish your festival weekend.  As of this writing, the reserved seating is sold out; general admission seating is still available but likely to sell out in advance.


Winchester map at Apple Blossom timeSome street closures in Winchester will begin as early as 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 30 with the set-up of the Midway on Piccadilly St. On Friday, additional road closures begin as early as noon in preparation for the Firefighters Parade that evening. Saturday’s road closures and detour route will begin in the morning and last most of the day.

For the complete listing of road closures and parking restrictions, visit www.winchesterva.gov/apple-blossom.

General advice is, be prepared to walk a good way to get to a viewing spot along the parade route. Parking is at a premium.  One strategy is to purchase a ticket at least a day in advance for parking in one of three municipal garages. The $15 tickets must be purchased in person at the Winchester Parking Authority in the garage at the George Washington Hotel.

The other strategy is to trust to serendipity and wear your walking shoes. The advice from the festival coordinators is:

“Follow the directions of the police, get as close as you can, and park somewhere legal.  One ‘insider’ recommends taking Interstate 81 to Route 37, then exit at the Sunnyside Exit [route 522 south towards Winchester].  From there, proceed towards downtown on Fairmont Avenue where you’ll see many parking lots selling spots for minimal fees. The walk from there to the Parade Route and the Midway is not very long and the view is great.”

Apple Blossom Mobile AppA final recommendation is to download the Apple Blossom App from the app store.  There’s tons of information, including a feature that will help you find your car when it’s all over.  Have fun at The Bloom!

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Apple Blossom Festival for Out of Towners

Bloomin' Wine FestPart 1:  Weekend 1:  Wine, Beer, Cider and Blooms

Although the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival draws tens of thousands of out-of-town visitors to Winchester, in some ways it is, at heart, a local home-town festival.  It can be a bit of a challenge for someone unfamiliar with Winchester to navigate the town and sort through all the activities which have evolved through the past 88 festivals.  Clearly, the Ladies Horticultural Luncheon may not be for you, but are there not-to-be-missed activities?  Here’s the first in our two-part effort to help you sort it all out.

The Bloomin’ Wine Fest

Apple Blossom Wine FestivalFirst off, if you want to fit in and get with the spirit, you need to wear pink and green — even the most conservative bankers do.  And, you should know that the locals affectionately refer to the festival as “The Bloom”.  The official website is even thebloom.com.

The Apple Blossom Festival now contains 10 days of activities with over 40 events, kicking off April 24 with the two-day Bloomin’ Wine Fest.  Virginia now has over 300 wineries in the state and the proliferation of wine festivals has correspondingly exploded.  Some of our favorites (that we have never attended) are a festival dedicated to blacksmithing and wine tasting, one that features muskrat racing, and the Wine & Trotter Festival which features harness racing (not pigs’ feet I was disappointed to learn).  So, in this context, where does the Winchester festival fit?

Live Music at the Apple Blossom Wine Festival

Live Music at the Apple Blossom Wine Festival

To be fair, the top-tier of Virginia wineries probably will not be found at the Bloomin’ Wine Fest, but then again they probably will not be there with the blacksmiths, muskrats and trotters either.  The appeal is spending a spring afternoon sampling wines and craft beers in the historic section of Winchester, listening to a choice of live music in three different venues, snacking on Festival Food, and people-watching.  And you may just find a wine you really like.

The two-day event will run from Friday April 24 from 3 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  More details here.

Winchester Ciderworks Orchard Tour and Tasting

A new component to The Bloom this year will be an actual venture into a real apple orchard.  On Sunday April 26, Winchester Ciderworks will be offering tours and tastings at their site just outside Winchester.  The half hour walking tours promise a wealth of practical information on planting and growing of fruit trees, bloom temperature sensitivity, spraying, pruning, the latest “green” techniques, when and how to harvest, and more.  With any luck, some trees may be in bloom, but no guarantees.

cider tasting at Winchester Ciderworks After the tour, participants will return to the cider works for sampling and tasting.  Winchester Ciderworks specializes in the growing market for gourmet hard ciders.  Their cleverly named Malice hard cider (Malus domestica being the botanical name for apple trees) is a favorite of our own craft-brew-aficionado Chef Adam who says he normally is not a fan of hard ciders, but that Malice is deliciously dry. Cider Tasting at Winchester Ciderworks The ciderworks is still new but rapidly growing and you can find their ciders available in a growing number of places.  Their tasting room will be opening soon, so the Apple Blossom tour will provide a sneak peek for those interested in ciders.

The Real Bloom

DSC_0021A popular feature of early festivals was getting out into the countryside and touring the apple orchards in bloom.  In the 1920’s visitors were encouraged to climb into private cars and have the chauffeur take them on a tour.  Today, a drive in the country seems like an afterthought what with all the activities in town.  But maybe we should take a cue from the Japanese with their reverence for the fleeting cherry blossoms.  I still have a vivid memory of stopping to get spring asparagus from Rinker’s Orchard and being overwhelmed with the fragrance of apple blossoms.  Ruth Rinker told me that much fragrance was very unusual, but apparently if the conditions are just right, if you are at the right place at the right time, you will be rewarded with a rarity.  Kinda like life I think.

If you are staying here at the inn, we have created a map to help you explore orchard country.  Or maybe just set out and get lost.  Serendipity has its rewards.

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Virginia Garden Week Tour Recommendations

Dogwood, Virginia's state tree

Virginia Garden Week is a Big Deal!

Virginia’s Historic Garden Week is our nation’s oldest house and garden tour, the first being conducted in 1929.  Held during the last week of April, it is considered “America’s largest open house”.

With 3400 volunteers, it’s Virginia’s largest ongoing volunteer effort.  There will be a small army of garden clubbers out there (mostly ladies, but a few men too) putting up and taking down the white signs with green arrows.  Volunteers serve as docents-for-a-day and create over 2,000 incredible floral displays that make professional florists weep with envy.

Virginia Garden Week is huge.  In 2014, 30,000 visitors toured 234 private homes on 31 tours across the state.  The 2014 tour had an estimated $11 million economic impact.

Proceeds from the tour have funded landscape restoration projects at the big and famous (Mt. Vernon, Monticello, and Montpelier) and smaller, not as famous but local to us (Belle Grove Plantation, Burwell-Morgan Mill in Millwood, Virginia State Arboretum at Blandy, and even Handley High School in Winchester).

Local Recommendations:  Warrenton Tour

The Warrenton tour will be held on Wednesday and Thursday, April 22 and 23, and has something for everyone.  For real garden aficionados, the Appleton Gardens at Marshfield were designed by noted garden author and designer Colston Burrell.  See woodland azaleas, ferns and hellebores, a boxwood allee, a secret garden, a druidic circle, and a serenity pool incorporated into the foundation of the 19th Century house on the site that burned.

For historic preservationists, The Oaks is a 1930’s Classical Revival home filled with seven generations of family possessions and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Want to see how to create some history of your own?  Visit Springlea where the owners incorporated three 18th and 19th century buildings brought to the site within the “skin” of a clapboard house that has commanding views of the Blue Ridge.

Gourmet box lunches are available at Whiffletree Farm from 11:30 to 2:30, ONLY by advance reservations and prepayment made by April 16.  Email warrentonlunches@vagardenweek.org for lunch selections and reservations.  The restored Wiffletree carriage house will be open.  Not exactly a two-car garage, it was built to house the First Lady of Foxhunting’s collection of over 100 carriages.

AttackeIf possible, try to be at Elway Hall around 2:00 either day of the tour where local packs of hounds will be shown.  This IS Virginia, right?  A 1907 Edwardian mansion, Elway was the largest private residence in the Warrenton area at the time it was built.


Local Recommendations:  Winchester Tour

The Winchester tour on Saturday April 25 features two museum houses and three private homes, all within a three-mile radius.  The Glen Burnie House, described in our blog last week, and its six acres of gardens are well worth a visit.  The English and Asian style gardens contain three crab apple allées, folly buildings, fountains, sculpture, and a newly completed spring garden containing 13,000 spring bulbs.  The other museum house is an 1854 Gothic Revival that served as Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters for four months during the Civil War.

Glen Burnie Historic House

Glen Burnie Historic House

The private homes on the tour include an award-winning design connecting two adjacent 18th Century homes with a common Japanese and English-style gardens.  The other two homes on the tour are a 1915 Craftsman house and an 1870’s Italianate house with vibrantly painted rooms filled with light from the large original windows.

Box lunches are available by emailing winchester@vagardenweek.org with “Box Lunches” in the subject line.  Pre-payment is required by April 21.  Alternatively, lunch will be available in the area at Bonnie Blue Southern Market and Bakery on the tour day.

Local Recommendations:  Front Royal Tour

The Front Royal tour will also be held on Saturday April 25 and features a historic church, three private homes and two historic house museums.  The home at 67 Pollys Court is a 2012 Timberframe Hybrid home with geothermal heating, pegged mortise joints, stacked stone walls, and a spectacular 20 foot high window framing a view of the Shenandoah River and surrounding mountains.  The house is filled with art and artifacts from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.  The grounds contain extensive plantings; the custom Timberframe barn will also be open.

A buffet lunch will be served at the Parish Hall of the 1892 Victorian Gothic Calvary Episcopal Church which is also on the tour.  Reservations can be made by contacting Mrs. Peg Goodyear at (540) 636-9321.

The two museum houses are at the same location.  The 1788 Balthis House had its last addition in 1859 and features multiple outbuildings and two living history gardens.  The Belle Boyd Cottage is restored to the time of the Civil War when it was home to Confederate spy Isabella Boyd, complete with replication of an 1860’s garden.

Make a Plan

Wisteria at Vaucluse

Wisteria at Vaucluse

In our view of course, the best way to enjoy any or all of these local tours is to incorporate them into a stay at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring.  We are 45 minutes from Warrenton, 25 minutes from Front Royal, and 20 from Winchester.  You can tour our 1820’s historic Manor House and even spend the night!  Our grounds and gardens aren’t too shabby either.  Get full details about times, tickets and directions for tours at vagardenweek.org.  Check room availability at the inn here.

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Winchester’s Glen Burnie Historic House Opens for Season

Glen Burnie Historic HouseThe Glen Burnie Historic House on the grounds of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) in Winchester, Virginia, opens for the 2015 season on Wednesday April 1.

Touring Glen Burnie is not your typical docent-led tour of a historic house recreated to look as it last did as of a certain date or era.  Rather, Glen Burnie offers a self-guided tour of a house filled with exhibit panels that interpret the lives of the previous occupants, where you can actually (gasp!) sit on a chair.

The oldest portions of Glen Burnie, dating to 1793 and 1794, were built by the son of the founder of Winchester.  But perhaps the most interesting occupants were the most recent, descendant Julian Wood Glass Jr. (1910-1992) and his partner Lee Taylor (1924-2000).  In between were an array of family and slaves, many depicted in the interpretive panels placed throughout the house.

The breakfast room explains Glass and Taylor’s tradition of brunch at Glen Burnie, with an impressive display of porcelain, crystal and silver.  In the drawing room, visitors learn more about Glass and Taylor’s flair for entertaining, both inside the house as well as in the spectacular gardens they created.  Michael Lesperance, a principal on the interpretive planning and design firm The Design Minds, Inc., was part of the team that developed the new Glen Burnie exhibition that debuted last summer.  In an article about the design process, Lesperance commends MSV for its willingness to acknowledge the relationship between Glass and Taylor.  “…we have reached a point where visitors are open to understanding the cultural attributes that shaped the collecting, entertaining, and – as at Glen Burnie – architectural decisions that reflected homosexual lives.”

Glen Burnie model house

House interior, scale model is in room to the right.

So, the house and its exhibits give us a peek into the lives of its occupants, but the most fascinating look comes from peering into the scale model of Glen Burnie created by Lee Taylor.  He used clay brick for the exterior and real wood for the floors to create the 1:12 scale model which is now on display in what was most recently the home’s dining room.  A fascinating article in the February 2015 issue of Virginia Living entitled A World in Miniature outlines details of the house, but also gives insightful background details of the Glass-Taylor relationship as well.  It’s definitely worth a read.

botanical painting

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum
By Ann Currie

When the house opens for the season on April 1, the Glen Burnie drawing room will be the site of its first exhibition, entitled Beauty in Botany, featuring 22 works by seven regional botanical artists.  Works included in the exhibition range from beautiful but accurate illustrations of various stages of a plant’s life cycle to more expressive renderings of flowers.  The drawing room will be a fitting venue to carry on Glen Burnie’s legacy as a home dedicated to art, beauty and gardening.

The MSV is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  The Museum is open year-round: the house and gardens are open April through October.  Admission is free on Wednesdays thanks to a corporate sponsor; other days admission is $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and youth (ages 13 to 18).

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Taylor Pavilion in Old Town Winchester

Taylor Hotel, Winchester, Virginia

Old Town Winchester just keeps getting better.

DSC_0056The latest excitement is the completion of the Taylor Pavilion, an open-sided pavilion that is part of the newly created pocket park behind the recently restored Taylor Hotel.





Pocket park at Taylor Pavilion

Pocket park at Taylor Pavilion

The tiny green space and the remaining side wall are all that remains after the collapse of the mid-portion of the hotel.





Taylor Pavilion, Fly Tower in background


The pavilion will be used for weekly farmer’s market stalls and as an event venue.





Taylor Hotel, Pavilion, and Fly Tower Sunday Jazz in Old Town Winchester is a 3-part series featuring the SV Jazz ensemble (hear them here) on the afternoons of September 14 and 28 and October 12.




Defend the ValleyThose familiar with Defend the Valley (which includes the story of the Jones family here at Vaucluse during the Civil War) may recognize the columns of the old Taylor Hotel from the book jacket cover.  With the sounds of live jazz wafting from behind the hotel on a Sunday afternoon, Winchester has come a long way.  Our gratitude to all who have worked so long and hard to make this happen!

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Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad

posted by Neil Myers

Steel wheels

See West Virginia Fall Colors and Eagles too!Young Eagle Flying

Train buffs and nature lovers alike agree that the Potomac Eagle out of Romney, West Virginia, is an ideal way to see West Virginia at its best, particularly in October’s fall foliage season.  The operators don’t guarantee that you will see an eagle, but say that eagle sightings occur on over 90% of their trips.

Fall Mountain ScenicFortunately for our guests here at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring, the train’s starting point in Romney is only a little over an hour away, making the 11:00 a.m. departure time quite doable following our delicious breakfast that starts at 8:30.  We can get you on the road by 9:00 a.m.  See directions to the train station from the inn here.

The 3-hour narrated excursion winds past historic farms and through the narrow mountain valley created by the South Branch of the Potomac River, rather inelegantly named “The Trough”.

The train is hauled by a vintage 1950’s locomotive. There are open air cars with benches, open air covered cars, passenger coaches with seats that reverse for the return trip, cars with seating at tables, a snack bar, and first class dining cars complete with Chesapeake and Ohio china and tableware.

Railroad Track Scenic

The TripAdvisor reviews are overwhelmingly positive, although there are a few grumblings that the “gourmet” food isn’t really, that the train was too hot, too cold, too basic, etc.  Just don’t expect the Orient Express — it IS West-By-God-Virginia after all — and “Wild and Wonderful” is what it’s all about.  Tips gleaned from Trip Advisor:

  • sit on the left for best views,
  • bring a picnic lunch if you are picky about food,
  • bring warmer clothing in the fall than you might think you would need, and
  • travel mid-week if you want to avoid children and just generally have a better experience.



In addition, our suggestions are:

  • plan on staying at the inn two nights (the nights before and after your trip), and
  • if you are still up for more scenery after your train ride, return to the inn by way of  routes 220 and 55–it’s only 30 minutes longer than the shorter route and takes you past entirely different scenery.

The Potomac Eagle runs on a Saturday-only schedule through September, and starts October daily service on October 3.  Check their website for more information including schedules and prices.

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Fort Valley: The Alternative Scenic Drive


posted by Neil Myers

Fort Valley, and the George Washington National Forest that completely surrounds it, offer a beautiful alternative to the Shenandoah National Park and its Skyline Drive.  We often send our guests at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring to nearby Fort Valley when they are looking for “the road less travelled”.

Fort Valley is a proverbial “hidden valley”, cradled between the two ridges that make up the northern two-thirds of the Massanutten Range, which is located entirely within Virginia’s northern Shenandoah Valley.  There are only two main roads.  Route 678 (Fort Valley Road) runs roughly north/south the length of the valley.  Route 675 runs roughly east/west, crossing the Valley on the southern end.  You can leave the Valley by following 675 west through Edinburg Gap down into the town of Edinburg or follow 675 southeast into Luray.

Our recommendation is to enter Fort Valley from the north.  From route 55 midway between Strasburg and Front Royal, turn south at Waterlick onto route 678 (Fort Valley Road).  This road winds along Passage Creek between the bases of Signal Knob on the west and Buzzard Rock on the east.  Signal Knob offers great hiking.  Follow the link above to Hiking Upward’s description.  The orange blazed section of the Signal Knob trail is part of the Massanutten trail, a 71-mile loop that circles the valley along the ridge lines, not unlike the way the Appalachian Trail follows the crest of the Blue Ridge through the National Park.  Not exactly a day-hike!

While visiting Fort Valley, we definitely recommend visiting the Woodstock Tower.  At Detrick, about 15 miles into the valley, turn right onto route 758 (Woodstock Tower Road).  After a couple of miles, this will become a gravel road.  After another couple of miles on the gravel road you come to an unmarked T – turn left (you will still be on 758).  About a mile after the T you will come to the parking area for Woodstock Tower which is just a short hike away along the ridgeline.  For those of us used to hiking in the Shenandoah National Park on trails meticulously maintained by the PATC, this little trail may be a shock of trash and graffiti.  Get over it and do it anyway!  You won’t be sorry.

Looking west from Woodstock Tower

The views from the tower are outstanding.  To the west you will “overlook” the Seven Bends of the Shenandoah River where it lazily winds back and forth on itself.  Disclaimer:  with the leaves still on the trees, you will be doing good if you see more than one bend, but on a clear day I’m sure you can see West Virginia.  The trucks on I-81 look like teeny-tiny toys.  Looking to the east, you will see the Blue Ridge (and the national park) through a gap in the Massanutten Mountain.  So close and yet so far!

Looking east from Woodstock Tower

From the tower, we recommend you continue west on route 758 down the western face of the mountain into the town of Woodstock.  There will be a series of switch-backs, no guard rails, so just take your time.  Woodstock is a bustling little town with shops to explore and places to eat.  From there you can head back north to the inn along route 11, exploring the little towns on the way.

Alternatively, you can come retrace your route back down into Fort Valley from the tower and continue south on 678 to Fort Valley Ranch to go horseback riding (advance reservations recommended).  Or, continue on 678 to 758 on out of the valley to Luray to visit the Caverns.  In any event, you will have visited an unspoiled slice of Virginia that you would be happy to return to whether or not the national park is open.  Enjoy!

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Apple Harvest Time in the Shenandoah Valley

posted by Neil Myers

No visit to the Valley in September or October is complete without an expedition in search of apples.  It’s the perfect excuse to travel the back roads and see some countryside.  Having lived here since 1995, we are happy to recommend our favorite spots to get apples.  Each orchard has its own personality but all have one thing in common:  they are all family businesses, as in fourth or fifth generation orchardists.  Not something you see very often.

Rinker OrchardRinker Orchards is a classic pick-your-own (PYO) operation.  Started in 1972, one of the first in Virginia, they are now seeing the return of a third generation of apple pickers.  We have guests at the inn who remember coming out as children with their families every fall to pick at Rinkers.  There are large bins of pre-picked apples, but picking from the tree really takes no longer that picking from the bin.  You can probably get all the apples you want from just a few trees, so it’s not like you are wandering around the whole orchard.  Things to know:

  • PYO is available Friday through Monday only.
  • The minimum purchase is a bushel, although it’s fine to mix together different types of apples.
  • Apple butter will be made on site by the Stephens City Lion’s Club on September 14, 21, and 28.  Just personal opinion, but Neil says this is the best of the local apple butters.
  • Rinkers is maybe best known now for their cider, available at the orchard but also at other markets, including the local Martins Food Store.  Made only from fresh fruit and flash pasteurized, we serve it at the inn until the supply vanishes, along about New Years.


Marker-Miller Orchard is a PYO operation that has grown into a destination all its own.  There are 20 varieties of apples, 12 of which you can pick from the trees yourself.  There’s a full bakery onsite, producing lots of treats including their famous cider donuts.  The mountain view from the front porch rockers is the best of the local orchards and there is a wide variety of local products for sale.  Things to know:

  • The market is open daily in September and October.
  • Their Fall Farm Festival in September 28 and 29, featuring live music from 1 to 3.
  • Their Apple Harvest Festival is October 12 and 13.


Richard’s Fruit Market has a nice assortment of already picked apples, and mixing the different types is encouraged.  You’re quite likely to meet at least a couple of generations of Richards while visiting.  Listen to their banter, and get a little peep into life in the Valley while you are at it.  The apples are sorted and graded right there at the market, and there’s almost always a small collection of “freak” apples or vegetables that have caught someone’s eye.  A little off the subject of apples, Neil is a huge fan of their home-canned jars of Tomato Mix, which is the perfect starter for a quick midweek meal at home.  Exactly what you would can if you had the time to do it yourself.  Things to know:

  • The market is open daily.
  • Their Apple Festival is Saturday October 19.
  • Richards is host to the Virginia State Gourd Festival November 2 and 3 (don’t giggle – there are fascinating things to be seen, and purchased).



Woodbine Farm Market in Lebanon Church offers 16 varieties of apples including at least two heritage varieties not found at the other markets – Spitzenberg and Ash Mead Kernal.  The drive from the inn down Middle Road is lovely, and if you will be heading west on Route 55 to go hiking or touring in West Virginia, you can pick up some great pork or chicken barbeque there as well as a tasty dessert for a picnic.  We’re definitely going back in October to try the Spitzenbergs.  Open daily.

Long before Fresh-and-Local became a “trend”, these Shenandoah Valley families were out making the best of our sweet limestone soil by planting orchards.  We’ve developed a great affection for them and respect for their hard work.  We hope you’ll enjoy visiting them.

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American Impressionism Comes to Winchester

posted by Neil Myers

American Impressionism:  The Lure of the Artists’ Colony, on exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, now through August 4, 2013, follows the Golden Age of American impressionism through several artists’ colonies from the 1880s through the 1940s.  Paintings are grouped by artist colony, from Cos Cob and Old Lyme in Connecticut to Taos, New Mexico and several in California.

Winchester is the first stop for this travelling exhibit from the collection of Pennsylvania’s Reading Public Museum.  As quoted on the Winchester museum’s website, “‘The exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see such a wide variety of approaches to impressionism in America,’ said Scott Schweigert, The Reading Public Museum’s Curator of Art and Civilization.   ‘I think visitors will be delightfully surprised by the tremendous scope and depth of the Museum’s collection in this area.'”

"Winter in the Valley"My favorite may well have been the Edward Willis Redfield (of the New Hope, Pennsylvania Colony) rendition of Winter in the Valley, maybe because it reminds me of Jeff Chumley’s painting of the shuttered Vaucluse in the snow all those many years ago.  It was a pleasure to be able to sit quietly for a few moments and enter into another world.

New visitors to the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley will want to see its permanent collections for a great introduction to the Shenandoah Valley, its people, history and decorative arts.  Although the historic Glen Burnie house is currently closed for renovation, a visit to the museum’s Founder’s Gallery exhibit, Moveable Feasts:  Entertaining at Glen Burnie, gives a glimpse into the world of Glen Burnie’s last owner and his partner.  The exhibit takes a light hearted look at everything from brunch on the patio (with tame quail and a squirrel) to formal-dress cocktails in the Pink Pavilion (with the guests wearing Planet-of-the-Apes type masks).  The gardens and grounds are also open for touring and well worth a visit.


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Antiquing in Front Royal

Arleen Brown Antiques

posted by Neil Myers

Who knew what a positive effect eBay and facebook could have for small storefront antique shops.  A recent visit to Arleen Brown Antiques and Beau Monde Boutique in nearby Front Royal, Virginia, uncovered two shops who are able to keep an amazing inventory of fascinating things because a large chunk of their sales is made all over the globe through the internet.  All the better for those of us who can walk in the front door and see a cornucopia of goodies first hand!

Arleen with Cloche

The savvy owners of these two shops are clearly a mutual admiration society, most interestingly because they make such a study in contrasts.  Arleen Narron, whom Barry and I have known since our old days of shopping at Law’s Auction in Manassas, has been in the business for 34 years.  Several of the prints hanging at the Inn were purchased from her years ago, and I just saw two more that I really would like to have.  Her current shop, Arleen Brown Antiques on Main Street in Front Royal, has fabulous accessories, fine art and vintage jewelry.

Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld Jewelry

Classic Chanel and Lagerfeld Jewelry

I was particularly intrigued with Arleen’s collection of Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld jewelry, classic!  Check out her facebook page to get a flavor of what she carries.  Closed on Tuesdays.






Beau Monde Boutique

Beau Monde Boutique

Cassandra Eckert, proprietor of Beau Monde Boutique, has only been in the antique business for about four years, starting out online with eBay.  She opened her shop on Main Street, just a few doors down from Arleen Brown Antiques, in August 2012.  Although newly opened, it gives the appearance of containing a long lifetime of collecting.




Beau Monde vignette

Vignette at Beau Monde

This is not one of those spacious shops where someone has done the work of putting together a whole grouping of coordinated items that you might scoop up and take home.  You need to spend some time looking and thinking, which truly is the fun of antiquing.  The mood is eclectic, exotic, even a little edgey (in a good way), a study in contrasts.  See Cassandra’s eBaycollection too.  Open daily.



Beau Monde Beauty

Beau Monde Beauty

Have you been to either of these shops?  Buy anything?

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