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Published: October 10th 2011
Part II - Staunton
As I had mentioned in Part I - Goshen and Warm Springs
, for almost twenty years, my wife and I have at various times sped past Staunton and Goshen, Virginia on our way to our annual visit to Warm Springs, VA.
Recently, we purchased a LivingSocial "Staunton" Escape package from the Hummingbird Inn
(see my review on TripAdvisor
) which included two nights at the Inn with wine and cheese upon arrival, a voucher for Rockbridge Vineyard
, and, in Staunton, a dinner voucher for Zynodoa
, two tickets to the Blackfriars Playhouse
(we saw The Tempest
), and a voucher for ice cream or gelato at The Split Banana
The Road to Staunton
We decided to take the scenic route on our way to Staunton. We began by driving State Route 39 through Goshen Pass
along the banks of the Maury River. We really didn't spend much time in this area and will have to save it for a later trip. At one point we did get out of the car to enjoy the view, but there is a lot more to see the next time we visit the area.
As we were driving along we decided to stop at Wade's Mill
, just because it looked like a neat, old mill.
Flour covered Gears
It turns our they still use water power to grind the wheat into flour. We were a bit disappointed that they weren't operating the mill that day. On the positive side, I did have a bit of fun climbing about and photographing the mill, both inside and out. I probably would have had less access if they were grinding and the gears were turning. Inside, in addition to selling various types of flour, pancake mixes, etc, they also sell a variety of kitchenware. Serendipitously, my wife found a pie crust shield, which she had wanted, but couldn't find elsewhere. A brief, but pleasant, diversion.
Our second stop was at Rockbridge Vineyard
. Suffice it to say that Rockbridge was OK, but Virginia has many wineries
that are far better. Since we had a voucher, we bought a few bottles of wine, but I doubt that, absent the voucher, we would have done so.
Staunton (The "u" is silent)
For those of you who are not familiar with the area, the "u" in Staunton is silent, so Staunton is pronounced "Stanton."
After having driven by Staunton numerous times over the years, I'm glad to say we finally stopped and spent
some time there. It is a neat old town, with very friendly people, and we would like a chance to return and see more of it in the near future.
The folks at the Hummingbird Inn had told us to try and visit the Trinity Episcopal Church (number 3 on the enclosed map) to view the stained glass windows. Unfortunately, even though both times we went by the church we could hear organ music coming from inside, the doors were locked and we could not find anyone to let us in. So, we had to admire the stained glass windows from the outside. It is just not the same, I'm sure. We did enjoy ourselves wandering around the grounds and reading inscriptions on some of the older gravestones; in many cases they have added a modern plaque that repeats the inscription so that you can easily read it. One thing that did strike me in the churchyard was the close proximity of some of the gravestones to a childrens' playground area; it struck me as somewhat emblematic of the cycle of life.
At the Travel Information Center we picked up a walking tour and proceeded to wander around
town enjoying all the variations in architecture.
During our wandering, we noticed what appeared to be a camera store. In the window my wife noticed a Leica very much like the one her father brought back from Germany after World War II. This intrigued us, so we wandered into what turned out to be not only a camera store, but also the Camera Heritage Museum
. We found ourselves entering a not very large space filled with hundreds and hundreds of cameras, from some of the oldest to the most modern. It was wonderful! We then proceeded to spend almost an hour with the curator as he showed us all the various cameras they have collected over the years. We also enjoyed tripping down memory lane as we kept spotting cameras from our youth (I'm talking 1950s and 1960s). This was a fun and totally unexpected experience.
Before heading to the theatre, we used our voucher to enjoy some Gelato at The Split Banana. It was good. If you enjoy Gelato, try some the next time you are in Staunton.
Blackfriars Playhouse is the world's only re-creation of Shakespeare's original indoor theatre, and a wonderful theatre it is. Though it
has 300 seats, it feels small and intimate...and talking about intimate, as in Shakespeare's day, there are seats on the stage if you are so inclined to sit there and the seats are available. Make sure to show up early for the play! The cast sings and performs before the play begins (as they do during intermission) and it is great fun. Get there early.
We have seen Shakespeare performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company (both in the U.S. and in Stratford-upon-Avon, England) and for many years we had a subscription to the The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC (where we saw the Tempest with Patrick Stewart). For many reasons the performance at Blackfriars was one of the most enjoyable performances we have attended. I don't know if it was the intimate theatre or the simple staging, or something else, but we left the theatre feeling very happy. We know that one of the things we enjoyed was the fact we could easily understand the actors as they did not speak quickly, as they do in many other Shakespeare companies. Interestingly, speaking with another couple at Hummingbird Inn the next morning, they mentioned that they had trouble understanding the
actors during this performance because they spoke so quickly...
A final note on the intermission show at Blackfriars; their final song was "A Mighty Wind"
, from the mockumentary
of the same name, about 1960s folk singers. Watching the crowd, I think we were the only ones around us who realized that this song was a spoof of folk songs from that era. Regardless, to us it was indicative of the humor and playfulness of the company; and everyone in the audience was tapping their feet and having a good time.
After the play, we had some time to kill before dinner, so we continued our walking tour of Staunton by heading for the railroad station and old warehouse district. On our way, we wandered into Elder Antique Auto on South New Street. At Elder they had several restored antique and classic cars on display, as well as many others either undergoing or waiting for restoration. If you enjoy old cars, as I do, make sure you wander in there as well.
After visiting the railroad station and the old warehouse district we slowly headed up to our dinner at Zynodoa. On our way we wandered into a bookstore (I
guess we have a tendency to wander while traveling) where, as my wife looked at books and greeting cards, I chatted about Dr. Who
with a very amicable clerk. As I said, Staunton is a friendly town.
We finished up our day in Staunton with a very enjoyable dinner at Zynodoa. The restaurant only uses ingredients from local producers, so the menu changes daily depending on what is available. Suffice it to say that the food, the wine and the service were all top-notch. We hope to return there on another visit to Staunton.
So, tired but happy after a fun day in Staunton, we headed back to the Hummingbird Inn.
A Bit of Goshen Pass Before Heading Home
After bidding farewell to Patty, Dan and Hummingbird Inn, we decided to at least explore a bit of Goshen Pass before heading home. We parked at the Swinging Bridge Parking area of the Little North Mountain Wildlife Management Area
(7690 Maury Road, Goshen, VA, according to the sign). We proceeded to cross the swinging bridge to the Goshen Pass Trail. This part of the walk was not great. Even though you are walking along the Maury River, immediately on the other side of the
river is Route 39 and its traffic. We finally reached the intersection with the Chambers Ridge Trail and began to climb up from the river and the road. As we climbed, the trail became more pleasant. Unfortunately, we only had time to climb a little bit before we needed to head back for the car and home.
We feel like we have barely scratched the surface of the area around Goshen, Goshen Pass and in Staunton. This area is only a few hours from home and we look forward to future visits to explore some more.
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