Last weekend, C and I took a road trip to the Shenandoah Valley. It was everything I could have dreamed of! We didn't truly hike or camp, but we had the MOST FUN EVER spending time in the cutest, quintessential main street town of Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stan-ton). It is a true hidden gem of southern culture, almost stopped in time, where the streets are quiet, people are walking, and store front windows beg you to stop and peek in. Small towns are the best. I almost feel like I don't want to share this place, fearing it would be discovered. As you can see, it is in all of its autumn glory.
Staunton was the perfect home base for all of our travels. Located about 45 min from the entrance to the Skyline Drive, the sleepy town rests in the valley below the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. It is fillllled with history at every turn. C and I chose to rent from Airbnb, which was probably the best decision we could have made. It added so much character to the trip; our apartment was a part of a beautiful brick home built in 1844. It included a rooftop deck with stunning views of the surrounding mountains - this was C's favorite - perfect for some vino and chilling! The best part of staying at The Attic was the amazing couple who owned it - Ellen and Lou - seriously some of the kindest people we met on our trip. I had never booked through Airbnb before, but I am just so excited to plan a trip again. I don't know if it will be topped! They made us feel so welcome. I loved their sweet rescue greyhound, Tess, the most gentle and quiet dog I have ever met.
Staunton had everything - walkability, cute cafes, history on every corner, sweeping mountain vistas, even a gelateria. Apparently, it's a real treasure of a town if you're a foodie. We went to the Shack, a super intimate restaurant 2 minutes away from the Attic. Seating only 26, we were immediately curious and booked a reservation (luckily!) After starting out with a pimento cheese appetizer, I ordered the squid ink rigatoni with jalapeño pesto - one of the most eccentric dishes I've ever had - and it was SO spicy, exactly how I like it! We would have liked to order more, but because the restaurant is so small and the food is so fresh, they only have so much. Another reason we decided we had to try this place was because Lou and Ellen's son is the award-winning chef behind all of these unique creations. If you ever find yourself in Staunton, this place is absolutely worth a try.
Some more highlights:
- The Camera museum - seeing all types of cameras, from Leicas to Nikons to Tintypes. Fascinating for the history buff in me. My favorite was this portrait of Robert E. Lee.
- The Civil War history in Staunton is boundless. The notorious Stonewall Jackson, hero of the Confederacy, has quite a legacy here. It was interesting to see that legacy alive, seeing as one of my goals of this trip was to learn more about the battles in the Shenandoah during the early and later years of the Civil War.
- The By & By - both a beer garden and a cafe. We stopped here for some sustenance in the form of cheese, cheese, and more cheese. How can you have a girls' weekend without a cheese plate? Oh, and I highly recommend the Uncle Shelby :)
- The quiet. The town was so mellow, yet stately and alive. It is hard to describe the old-town feel of it without noting just how respectfully quiet everything was. No obnoxious car horns, people yelling into phones, music playing from street corners. It's a classic American town.
- Breakfast at Cranberry's Grocery and Eatery - a health and wellness store, plus all organic American fare. Nothing weird or scary, just classic American food. We stopped here for breakfast during our morning walk.
- Playing the piano - C's hidden talent! - outside of the main street's antique store.
- Enjoying all the cheese we could. It was a cheese-filled weekend! I think we agreed that blue cheese was our favorite that weekend.
- The sweet potato gelato at The Split Banana. Some of the best I've had since Italy!
Staunton worked out so well for us. We were able to see the best of a northern Virginia autumn - the foliage, the food, and the distinct chill in the air made for such a cozy weekend. I'll always remember this weekend with a special fondness. Can't wait to show this place to other people I love the most!