Road Trip

Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Fairies, Gnomes, Otters and Rays: It’s Family Day In Solomons

By Lani Gering This month our Road Trip to Solomons is taking a little bit of a turn. Instead of highlighting the cool bars and restaurants and the fun shops and waters sport activities we normally do when writing about this little Oasis, we focused on two amazing family oriented destinations in Southern Maryland – Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center and the Calvert Marine Museum. We thought this would be fitting since we celebrate Mom this month and Mom means Family. Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center Annmarie is most certainly a magical place even when the Fairy House and Gnome Home exhibits are gone. Fortunately for you, however, they will be on display during the month of May throughout the ¼ mile walking path that meanders through the woods on this 30 acre property. There are both adult and children’s creations set up in various sections.  In addition to these whimsical exhibits, there are some very impressive sculptures in several mediums. Some of the sculptures are permanent while others are on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Currently there are 30 pieces on loan featuring the works of Antonio Tobias Mendez, Barbara Hepworth, Cesar, Robert Engman, Jean Arp, Kenneth Snelson and Francisco Zuniga. The Arts Building is virtually a rotating exhibit space with an Art Lab for children to create in and a very eclectic gift shop and a sunny patio. Classes for all ages and abilities are offered in the Studio School. Everything from pottery to dance is taught by professional artists and educators. Be sure to check their website for the many events and classes that are offered. This is also where you check in and pick up your map for the walk. I was fortunate to be able to visit…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Rehoboth Beach and the Boardwalk Plaza – It’s Good to be Back!

By Bob Tagert In an uncertain world where everything seems to change daily, we decided to take a road trip to a true constant…Rehoboth Beach and the ever constant Atlantic Ocean. I can remember the years of going to Ocean City, Maryland and then Rehoboth Beach to enjoy the sunshine and the beach activities. Today I have grown into more of a spectator than participant but the consistency of the ocean rushing onto the beach and then receding has not changed while the world around us seems to be falling apart at times. The sun and the moon still rise every 24 hours over the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. That magic and romance we felt back then is still there today although a bit more jaded. In time measured it is clear that we change much quicker than the world around us and that is why a return trip to mother ocean is necessary. Our weather window of March 16-18 looked to cover all the bases. 70 degrees and sunny on the 16th, 50 degrees and rainy on St. Patrick’s Day and another 70+ degree day for the return drive on the 18th. After a late morning start we took a pleasant window-down drive from Old Town and arrived at our destination just in time to check into the beautiful Boardwalk Plaza Hotel. This was not our first trip to the Plaza as we have visited before and there seems to be no reason to look for any other accommodations. The Plaza Hotel is perfectly located on the boardwalk and only two blocks from Rehoboth Avenue…the main drag. With the aforementioned spectator mentality, we find mid-March to the end of April to be a perfect time to go. Prices are reduced, accommodations are plentiful and street parking is free. Another bonus…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Leonardtown, Maryland – ReDiscover a most exceptional place!

By Bob Tagert With spring right around the corner, we thought we would take a road trip to Leonardtown, Maryland, which is in and is the county seat of St. Mary’s County. For many years, Leonardtown has been famous for sponsoring the annual oyster-shucking championships that are held annually at the St. Mary’s County fairgrounds. Although most of Southern Maryland is surrounded by water, the only water access to Leonardtown is Breton Bay which leads to the Potomac River. In 1708 Phillip Lynes, then Mayor of St. Mary’s City, Maryland’s colonial capital, designated fifty acres of land at the head of “Brittons Bay” to be divided into 100 lots. He further ordered that one lot be set aside for a courthouse to be built at an expense not to exceed 12,000 pounds of tobacco. Maryland’s history of the tobacco trade is preserved today with the preservation of many tobacco barns that dot the countryside. Twenty years later this plot of land was named Leonard Town in honor of Benedict Leonard Calvert, who was Maryland’s governor during this period. In the decades that followed, Leonard Town became the place where local residents conducted their official business with the colony. Farm products were regularly shipped through the port at Breton Bay. Today, Historic Leonardtown (the names were combined during the Civil War) remains the only incorporated municipality in St. Mary’s County with its own elected mayor and town council. The town is experiencing a renaissance of its downtown as witnessed by the recent openings of several new restaurants and businesses, some which are located in historic buildings. Keeping it traditional, there is an order Mennonite farming community located a few miles to the northwest, where community members sell furniture, crafts, produce, and other homemade/homegrown products. The ever changing Leonardtown Wharf is open…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

In and Around Harrisonburg, Virginia

By Bob Tagert Heading out for a road trip in the winter doesn’t lend itself to very many good photo ops since everything is brown and gray but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go on one. One of our favorite destinations during the other seasons has been Route 11 in the Shenandoah Valley. We have visited Strasburg, Thoms Brook, Woodstock, Edinburg and Mt. Jackson. We have written about these towns and shared our adventures of the countryside, wineries and the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. This time we decided to take a longer trip down the Valley Turnpike to Harrisonburg. The Valley Turnpike or Valley Pike is the traditional name given for the Indian trail and roadway which now is U.S. Route 11 in the Shenandoah Valley. Before the arrival of the English colonists, Native Americans of the Delaware and Catawba tribes used this well-watered path as a migratory route and hunting grounds, moving between what is now Georgia and Canada. In the 1730’s Scotch, Irish and German immigrants coming from Pennsylvania began to move up (south to the higher elevations) the valley and establish settlements. The Valley Pike was given the U.S. Route 11 designation in 1926, and remained the major north-south highway thoroughfare for the Shenandoah Valley until Interstate 81 was built beginning in the 1960s. After a nice drive down Route 11 we arrived at Harrisonburg, home of James Madison University (JMU). Although the city has no historical association with President James Madison, JMU was nonetheless named in his honor as Madison College in 1938 and renamed as James Madison University in 1977. The city has come to represent a large community of ethnic and linguistic diversity in recent years. Over 1,900 refugees have been settled in Harrisonburg since 2002. As of 2014, Hispanics and Latinos of any race…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Take A Road Trip Down Memory Lane in 2021

By Bob Tagert Take A Road Trip Down Memory Lane in 2021 In keeping with tradition, I like to recap the Road Trips that we took the previous year in this space. With February being Valentine’s month, we took a drive over the mountain at Thornton Gap to visit Shadow Mountain Escape, the dream of Karen and Ralph Riddle (really great people). You will find Shadow Mountain about three miles on the Luray side of the Thornton Gap entrance to Skyline Drive on Jewell Hollow Road. In an attempt to provide an environment conducive to happiness and fulfillment, they focused on exposing the beauty and spirit of the natural landscape and the remarkable life that flourishes there. The use of Timber Frame construction in all of the buildings adds to that theme. Ralph wanted to create the “Old World” charm that comes from his German heritage. There are four cabins on the fifteen acre property. In celebration of the abundant wild life, all of the cabins were given indigenous “bug” names. The SME Bear Dance Lodge was the first rental built on the property and the two cabins were named the Dragon Fly and Bumble Bee. The Butterfly loft opened in 2003 and the final rental, the Ladybug, was completed in 2011. Our March issue took us to Ellicott City, Maryland. Ellicott City sits in a Maryland valley and the Patapsco River runs through it. The historic town is subject to flooding when heavy rain visits the area. There were devastating storms in 2016 and 2018. In spite of this rare occasion the town is thriving and is a great destination. Ellicott City was founded in 1772 and is located 10 miles west of Baltimore. Walking is the best form of transportation as street parking is minimal but the town…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Home for the Holidays 2021

By Bob Tagert Home for the Holidays 2021 Every month we write about fun and inviting destinations in the DMV. Some are close to Alexandria and some are states away, however, every December we stay home and write about our beautiful city. Recognized by Oprah Magazine as one of the most magical Christmas towns across the World in 2020 and by Southern Living as the perfect southern town for a Hallmark Christmas movie in 2019, Alexandria brings an old fashioned sense of holiday wonder to the area with centuries-old brick-lined streets, twinkling with holiday traditions that make visitors feel transported. Step back in time and enjoy Colonial Christmas programming at George Washington’s Mount Vernon or skate through Ice and Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run. Dozens of independent boutiques are going above and beyond to make their shops dazzle. Stroll among al fresco dining spots along 18th and 19th century streetscapes or pick up gourmet goodies to go. Under a canopy of sparkling lights, a stroll on historic King Street is like being in a real life Dickens Village, complete with a European flair. Recognized as a Top 3 Best Small Cities (up from #5 last year) in the U.S. 2021 for the fourth consecutive year by Conde. The Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards are the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry and are commonly known as ‘the best of the best of travel.” More than 800,000 Conde Nast Traveler readers across the globe submitted responses rating the travel experiences across the globe that they long for most when they couldn’t travel and decided to visit first once they could. This year’s awards reflect the ways the world of travel has begun to welcome back guests and the travel professionals that have never…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

The Return to Blue Rock in Rappahannock County

By Bob Tagert The Return to Blue Rock in Rappahannock County   Actually…Blue Rock has ties to the city of Alexandria. Many years ago, two brothers, Bernard and Jean Campagne-lbracq, owned La Bergerie Restaurant on North Lee Street – La Bergerie was a very popular French Restaurant for many years whose doors have since been closed. These are the same brothers who opened the original Bleu Rock Inn, which became a popular destination for Alexandrians back in the 80’s and early 90’s. The business has had a few different owners since then and the property eventually deteriorated until the recent purchase by Chef Bin Lu, formerly of Pineapple and Pearls, Bourbon Steak and Cityzen in D.C. After watching the restoration of this beautiful piece of property over the last year, we finally had a chance to pay a visit when they opened their doors in late October. Although the Blue Rock is not “new”, it has had major renovations all the way around. The old “Tavern” is now the “Tasting Room”, the main dining room and terrace have all been revamped and there are now rooms available for those who want to spend the night/weekend. The old stables are gone and the landscaping has taken on a whole new life. (You will see, however, that the arena polo field is still in need of some TLC. We were informed that bringing it back to life is on the agenda but it may be awhile down the road.) Located in the heart of Rappahannock County, Blue Rock is a modern take on the classic country inn. The 80-acre equestrian themed property, set against the Blue Ridge Mountains, features five uniquely designed inn rooms, an on-site restaurant lead by esteemed chef, Bin Lu and the aforementioned Tasting Room. An adjoining five-bedroom farmhouse,…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm

By Bob Tagert Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm This month’s Road Trip was a first….we invited guests to join us for a two night stay at The Summit Lodge at Riverbend Farm in Bentonville, Virginia. The Todhunter’s and the Condon’s were the perfect pals to extend the invitation to. Lots of good eats, drinks and laughs! Bentonville is halfway between Luray and Front Royal along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Lodge is a magnificent five-story escape nestled on 64-acres along a bend in the river. There is more to this property than a getaway, it was formerly the home of Tom and Bettina, a couple who started out in the cabin up the hill where their love story began and the concept for the Lodge was born. As I write about our adventure I will write some excerpts from a book we found at the property called The River Oak Suite by Tom and Bettina’s friend, Tony Baker. The excerpts will tell the story from the beginning. “For years and years, in the minds of those who were privileged to visit there, River Oak was the small hunting cabin, which sits high on a hill above a wide turn in the Shenandoah and the lovely river meadow that runs alongside it. But always the plan had been to build a big fine house, just down the hill from the cabin. In May 2010, we few friends met at River Oak to celebrate the opening of this new house. On the river side of the house rises a fifth-story enclosed tower, which Tom and Bettina dubbed the Skybox. It would be, for the short time left him, the place where Tom would take Bettina and the dogs of an evening to drink wine, watch families of deer emerge…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Havre de Grace Waterfront – Drawing Waves of Visitors

By Ashley Stimpson Havre de Grace Waterfront – Drawing Waves of Visitors Before it was a capital city contender, Havre de Grace was called Harmer’s Town. But when a visiting Marquis de Lafayette mentioned that the town reminded him of a charming French seaport called Le Havre-de-Grace, residents honored the Revolutionary War hero by incorporating under that name in 1785. (No need to channel your high school French when in town. Locals pronounce it HAV-er-dee-grace.) While the quiet charm Lafayette admired is still on display, Havre de Grace also feels very much like the busy crossroads that garnered the Founding Fathers’ attention. During my visit on a hot day in May, cars poured down Market Street, many with kayaks and stand-up paddleboards strapped to their roofs. Pleasure boats roared by on the wide Susquehanna River, which hugs the east side of town as it flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Trains rumbled over bridges. Joggers pushed strollers along the waterfront promenade, and weekend revelers spilled from seafood shacks and antique shops onto crowded sidewalks. While there are many modes to see the sights, Havre de Grace is a pedestrian’s paradise. To get from one end of town to the other only requires a trek of about 1.5 miles, a pleasant walk punctuated by museums, murals and gorgeous vistas. To make it simple, the city has continued to improve its self-guided walking tour along the Lafayette Trail, which meanders past just about every attraction Havre de Grace has to offer. Visitors who would like a narrated experience can download the DISTRX app and learn about each of the 57 stops along the route. One of those stops — and a good place to begin digging into the area’s history — is the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Environmental Center. Among the museum’s permanent exhibits, The John Smith Trail and the Susquehannocks is particularly enlightening for visitors curious to know what the Upper Bay and Lower Susquehanna looked like before European settlement. The…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop – It’s a Trip

By Bob Tagert Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop – It’s a Trip With the warm weather and summer upon us, we decided to retrace our steps over the years in the Blue Ridge and follow the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop. The “Loop” is the brain child of Karen Riddle, who along with her husband Ralph own Shadow Mountain Escape, an adults only getaway. More about that when we cross the mountain. The Loop actually runs along the east and west sides of the mountains and Skyline Drive. Coming from the D.C. area along Route 66, the jumping off point for the loop will be Front Royal. Taking Route 522 south the first stop will be Chester Gap Cellars. The winery site is over 1,000 feet in elevation. The views are fantastic while you taste estate grown Viognier, Roussanne, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other fine wines. The site provides high elevation with an eastern exposure and well-drained rocky soils. Perfect growing conditions. The next stop on Route 522 is Dida’s Distillery and Rappahannock Cellars. This sprawling estate is one of Virginia’s most popular wineries and in the past four years, one of the most unique distilleries. Twenty five years ago John Delmare left his winery in the Santa Clara Valley and moved his family to the Blue Ridge and started his next life with Rappahannock Cellars. Four years ago John’s son Allan spearheaded the founding of Dida’s Distillery. Living the mantra “Pressed not Mashed” Allan took what they already had and started making small batches of Brandy, Vodka and Gin. With the necessary ingredients readily at hand, Allan began to use their award winning grapes to make his new product. After four years, This “Hidden Gem” has found a life of its own and attracts folks from all over the…

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