Partaking of the West Virginia Panhandle

About seventy miles outside of Washington, DC, there is a little hamlet called Shepherdstown, West Virginia. There’s something for everyone in the West Virginia panhandle: good food, proximity to wineries, and a lot of history. On our longest trip to celebrate Tom’s 27th birthday, we included a little of Column A (western Maryland) and a little of Column B (northern Virginia) as well. I didn’t get the BEST picture of the weekend, which would have been a bar with a sign that read “The Best Little Pub in West BY GOD Virginia!” I screamed for Tom to turn back so I could photograph that sign, but alas.

Shepherdstown is a lovely little town that grew up around Shepherd University. The campus integrates nicely with the main downtown area and draws a friendly and artistic student body. The town has an independent theatre and a thriving arts community. Below, me standing next to the “tiny house” which serves as a community storybook center. There is a notice on the door about the following week’s town tea party. That’s how adorable this town is. For reference on the house size, I am 5’7″.

There’s a pizza joint that makes a great cheesy calzone and Shaharazade’s offers fine Moroccan food and tea. And if you want to just grab a bottle and some appetizers you can hit Grapes and Grains, which has a different themed wine tasting every Saturday evening. All of these are on the main strip. Sunday morning offers a nice farmer’s market, and there are plenty of little shops to browse for fun and funky items.

Shepherdstown is nestled near two major Civil War sites: Antietam in Maryland and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. If you stay in Shepherdstown, it’s about a 20 minute drive to either site. The idyllic peace of these battlefields contrasts sharply with the history that played out on the land. Below, Burnside’s Bridge at Antietam, MD.


As a nice refresher after that history, Shepherdstown is near some of northern Virginia’s finest wineries. You can go to http://www.virginiawine.org to plan a day of tastings. We hit Breaux, Tarara, Chrysallis, and Hillsborough. These are the vines at Hillsborough Winery, which names their wines after semi-precious stones. The Carnelian is an excellent white that tastes like candy, but is not too sweet. The only drawback I found at Hillsborough was that they mowed during one of their tasting days. With my allergies, the “smelling” portion of the tasting was short-lived.

And this? This was the cutest thing EVER. Shepherdstown shut down their main street for a soapbox derby race. Note the intensity of the little wee drivers piloting their soapbox derby cars to the finish.

Shepherdstown may be only seventy miles away from DC, but it might as well be on a different planet. It’s the perfect quick road trip if you’re tired of the urban scramble in the nation’s capital.

Coming Up

Eventually, someday, we’ll put up pictures from our trip to West Virginia. (Which is not wholly accurate–the trip was also to parts of western Maryland and northern Virginia, but who’s counting?) I’m not sure if we will get to it this week–it’s already Tuesday and we have a lot of laundry and cleaning to get done before the weekend. Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule:

5/25 – 5/28: New York City

5/31 – 6/04: Chicago

6/27 (for Tom) and 6/29 (for me) – 7/01: St. Petersburg, FL for Frank’s wedding

We won’t really be traveling in July or August, except for perhaps a day trip to the Delaware shore. Got to replenish those travel reserves. We want to go somewhere for a week in September, but we just don’t know where yet. The cheapest option would be to go west and visit Denver, Laramie, and Grand Junction, CO and stay with Kristin and Olivia (and Olivia’s really, really cute baby girl Audia, whom I have not yet met but for whom I have already purchased pink and white checkerboard sneakers). Airfare to Iceland is ridiculously cheap, cheaper even than going west, but the exchange rate and import tax would kill us. We’ll keep you posted.

Savannah

The second stop on our honeymoon tour was Savannah. Sadly, we were there over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we did not see a number of the attractions. Basically, we have to go back to eat at The Lady and Sons restaurant (YEAH PAULA DEEN), see the Lady Chablis (YEAH DRAG QUEENS), and see the Mercer House (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) museum. Savannah is a really neat place–Savannah School of Art and Design buys chunks of the city and refurbishes them to historical and aesthetic perfection. Also, they have a lot of places to eat peel-‘em shrimp.

Bonaventure Cemetary, site of voodoo rites from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Spanish Moss in one of the town squares:


Again, it’s all about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this city. To wit: replicas of the statues from the cover of the book.


Mercer House!
And of course, Chatham punch from the Shrimp Factory restaurant. To make Chatham punch, follow this recipe:

– 1 1/2 gallons catawba wine
- 1/2 gallon rum
- 1 quart gin
- 1 quart brandy
- 1/2 pint Benedictine
- 2 quarts Maraschino cherries
- 1 1/2 quarts rye whiskey
- 1 1/2 gallons strong tea
- 2 1/2 pounds brown sugar
- 1 1/2 quarts orange juice
- 1 1/2 quarts lemon juice

Mix from 36 to 48 hours before serving. Add one case of champagne when ready to serve.


Naturally, if you finish the glass of punch, you can keep the glass.

We have a set.

Pittsburgh

The scene: Pittsburgh, February 2007. My old friend Andrew is at medical school at the University of Pittsburgh and I had heard legendary things about the abundance of cheap, awesome food and cheap, halfway-decent beer in P-town. So off we went for a quick weekend jaunt where I learned that it is true: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is Allegheny County’s biggest employer because every meal you can find there does cause heart failure. Pittsburgh is an excellent place to spend a weekend; go if you like great ethnic food (Italian, Polish, Czech) and a cheap drink.

Did you know that Venice is the only city in the world with more bridges than Pittsburgh? Me either. Bridges outside the Warhol Museum (which you MUST check out if you are ever in town):


A vendor in the Strip District (oh, and Andrew’s back):

The Heinz Factory, where the 57 flavors were born:


Bundled up and looking down at the Monongahela River (which converges with the Allegheny to form the Ohio River, hence Pittsburgh is the city of three rivers. However you describe it, it was really f***ing cold):