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Traveling with no regret

A Weekend Getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains — June 30, 2020

A Weekend Getaway in the Blue Ridge Mountains

“Let’s find some beautiful places and get lost together.”  –Unknown

We own an RV that we use to escape on weekends and so far, it’s been great fun.  While our long term goal is to RV for longer periods to some bucket list places, currently, we are weekend warriors exploring our home state of Virginia.  Recently, we ran away to the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Living along the East Coast of Virginia, we are lucky to have the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains not too far away.  The mountains are beautiful in every season and regardless of the time of year, a cool mountain breeze and an epic overlook always puts life into perspective.  

If you are passing through Central Virginia or are in need of a weekend adventure, here are some top ideas for you if you have a few days in the Blue Ridge.

Visit Monticello: Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson our Nation’s third President, Founding Father, principle author of the Declaration of Independence, diplomat, and architect.  Monticello is still, to this day, a reflection of Mr. Jefferson’s love of architecture and gardening.  Perched on a mountain above Charlottesville, there are sweeping views in every direction, lovely gardens to stroll through, and friendly docents and Jeffersonian experts always ready to teach you the history of the place and answer your questions when you visit.  Before you visit, check the website at www.monticello.org for ticketing and helpful hints for your visit.  If you’re a history buff, love architecture or gardening, Monticello is a great way to spend several hours.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

Pick your own fruit:  There is nothing better than picking your own fruit right from the tree.  If you are looking to pick your own or grab a taste to grab and go, visit the farms below.  Be sure to check out their websites for the crops in season and the wonderful goodies you can enjoy like apple cider and apple cider donuts!

Find them at www.chilesfamilyorchards.com

Carter Mountain Orchard, 1435 Carters Mountain Trail, Charlottesville, Virginia (apples).

Chiles Peach Orchard, 1351 Greenwood Drive, Crozet, Virginia (peaches).

Spring Valley Orchard, 3256 Spring Valley Road, Afton, Virginia (cherries).

Tom Swinnen/Uplash

Skyline Drive: Skyline Drive is a 105-mile road that runs the length of the National Park Service’s Shenandoah National Park.  It runs between Front Royal, Virginia and Charlottesville.  Skyline Drive is known for it’s hiking the Appalachian Trail, waterfalls, and epic views.  For details about the Drive and where to stop or stay, be sure to visit their website at www.visitskylinedrive.org.  

A mountain view

Wine, Beer & Spirits: If you like wine and beer tastings, the Blue Ridge of Virginia is the place for you!   I wouldn’t begin to make recommendations here since for medical reasons, I drink very little.  However, know that there is an abundance of wineries, distilleries, & breweries throughout the area.  Do your research and always ask a local for a recommendation–or try them all!  

Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis/Uplash

A visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains always makes me a believer of our State’s motto, “Virginia is for Lovers.”  Whether you’re looking for adventure or a rest, I hope your next trip to Virginia is just what you need.

Enjoy your adventure!

Sweethaven Lavender Farm, Williamsburg, Virginia; Where the Earth laughs in flowers — June 19, 2020

Sweethaven Lavender Farm, Williamsburg, Virginia; Where the Earth laughs in flowers

“The Earth laughs in flowers.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tucked deeply in Williamsburg, Virginia’s farm land lies a place where the Earth is laughing; Sweethaven Lavender Farm. 

Amid Virginia’s phased re-opening from the 2020 Pandemic, my Husband and I ventured to Williamsburg during a camping trip for supplies, lunch, and to enjoy all things colonial that Williamsburg has to offer–even if it was within social distancing terms.  From friends, I knew that Sweethaven was in Williamsburg so on this day, we set the GPS to work and followed it into the country to see if we could get a glimpse.   I was delighted by the farm’s charm, the scent of the lavender wafting through the humid June breeze, and the delightful sounds of the industrious Bumble bees as they went about their work. 

The centerpiece of Sweethaven Lavender Farm

The prominent public building on the property is the Mercantile, a white barnlike structure that conjures visions of an Amish barn.  Inside, are lavender products of every sort and experts to answer questions.  Outside though, as is the case with nearly every farm, is where the magic was happening.

Just outside the Mercantile there is a gated garden with flower boxes filled to bursting with flower lover delights.  Two of my favorite flowers giggled there, tickled by the passing breeze!  A rainbow of button Zinnia where just starting to burst open, tempting Bumble Bees with their showy colors followed close behind by my zoom lens.  Swaying in the breeze at the far end of the garden were several beds of sunflowers with their bright faces searching for the sun, ready for their closeups.

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden” –Elizabeth Lawrence

As we stepped out of the gated garden area and into the fields of lavender there was a faint fog of deep purple at knee level stretching along the ground in neat rows.   The luxurious purple lavender was in full bloom all around us.  Other visitors to the farm were bent in half angling for an up close sniff, snapping photos, and collecting bouquets of lavender to take home.  Children giggled in the distance, playing together while the grown ups enjoyed a picnic lunch.  And, the resident bumble bees were busiest here, totally ignorant of our intruding cameras.  They were focused on their task for the day, leaping from one bloom to another, humming and buzzing to each other as they worked.  At one point, I put my camera into the fray and captured their song, delighted that they nearly mistook me as a flower as they bustled by.

The lovely purple rows of lavender

Enjoy all that the farm has to offer

Only 130 acres and opened to the public in June 2019, Sweethaven is a beautiful, amethyst gem tucked deeply into the emerald Williamsburg farmland.  It is a treat for the senses.  The farm offers all things lavender including a chance to pick your own bouquet as the lavender blooms in May and June, their own line of organic skincare, and culinary products including pre-made picnic lunches by reservation. 

Sweethaven Lavender Festival Days

The Festival Days are how I first learned about Sweethaven initially, seeing ads and knowing several friends that visited the event.  The event includes live music, food, local artisans, and the opportunity to learn about the farm and it’s lavender. The event grows from year to year so be sure to watch their website, www.sweethavenlavender.com, for dates, tickets, and other details on their event for 2021.    

Ready for their closeup!

How to find and visit Sweethaven

I can’t wait for our next visit to the farm!  If you’d like to see more, be sure to visit Sweethaven’s website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. If you are in Williamsburg in your travels, Sweethaven is certainly a great place to visit that is outside of the big tourist sites of Colonial Williamsburg and truly a unique experience.  

Find them at: Sweethaven Lavender Farm, 2301 Jolly Pond Road, Williamsburg, Virginia 23188; www.sweethavenlavender.com

We would love to have you visit Virginia and I know you won’t want to miss a visit to Sweethaven! (I can’t help but call is Sweet-Heaven)

 

Virginia State Parks Campground Series: Chippokes Plantation State Park — June 13, 2020

Virginia State Parks Campground Series: Chippokes Plantation State Park

“I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.” –George Washington

As a native Virginian and in my humble opinion, Virginia has great State Parks which highlight all of the features that make Virginia a great place to live, work, and play.  Virginia has so much to offer.  At sea level, we have long stretches of open beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and along the Chesapeake Bay.  A few hours away, we have the Blue Ridge Mountains that offer epic views, apples, hiking, mountain climbing, and ample opportunities for checking out local wineries and breweries of all sizes.   

As one of the original 13 Colonies, our state is full of history.  From Jamestown and the first settlements, Yorktown and the end of the Revolutionary War, to Colonial Williamsburg and all of it’s charms.  Our history even extends to the names of our towns that stem from the history brought to the United States from England such as Portsmouth, Suffolk, Isle of Wight, and Norfolk, to name a few. 

With our new RV up and running, we have taken it out twice and have fallen in love anew with our State’s parks.  Our intention is to explore as many of them in our RV as possible.   I hope to bring you along and share our adventures in the parks we visit.   

Chippokes Plantation State Park

Just under an hour from home, Chippokes Plantation State Park is one of the closest parks and best known to us of all the parks.  When we bought our RV in March, we took it straight to Chippokes for our very first camping trip and despite the Pandemic interrupting our fun, we have restarted our camping adventures at Chippokes again this month.  With Chippokes being so close to home, it has been a great spot for us to test our camping ability in our new equipment before venturing too far.  My husband has called these our “Shake down” trips.  

What is now Chippokes Plantation State Park was founded in 1619 by Captain William Powell, Lieutenant Governor of Jamestown, who lived in Jamestown settlement for 10 years.  The property changed hands many times and was willed to the State of Virginia upon the death of it’s last owners in 1967. 

The Colonial touches of Chippokes Plantation State Park

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Chippokes is noted for it’s continued agricultural production.  In fact, it is one of the oldest continuously farmed properties in the Nation and is home to Chippokes Plantation Farm and Forestry Museum.

Oceans of corn growing in the warm June sunshine take up much of the acreage of the park and continue to speak to the land’s purpose at it’s founding

Situated on the tidal creeks and the banks of the historic James River, Chippokes Plantation State Park has a lot to offer Virginians and our guests from out of state. 

Located in Surry, Virginia, and at currently 1,403 acres, the Park offers camping, cabin rentals, a swimming pool, a visitor’s center, trails, a beach, gardens, and a museum.  Also offered are costumed interpretations, guided hikes, workshops and ranger-led tours of the historic Jones-Stewart Mansion.   An active community park, there are annual festivals, canoe tours, hiking trails, fishing programs, and equestrian facilities.

Beautiful June Magnolias at Chippokes

The Park is easily reached from the Historic Triangle by the Jamestown-Scotland ferry or the James River Bridge.  We like it because of it’s close proximity to the Williamsburg area and the abundance of activities in that area. 

If you plan to visit the park for the day only, you should be aware that there is a parking fee charged year round at all Virginia State Parks and self-pay parking information is available at the contact stations. 

The Campground

The Chippokes Plantation State Park campground offers two rings of sites.  S1 through S18 have blacktop pads, offering water and electric.  These are “site specific” sites and require a reservation.  Sites S19, S21, S23, S25, and S27 are also site specific but do not have blacktop pads.  All other sites are first come, first served, and can be very uneven.  The park also offers three yurts by reservation. 

Comfortable for a week of camping at Chippokes Plantation State Park

The park is quiet, clean, well maintained, and a friendly Camp host has checked on us as we have checked in each time.  Park representatives are available and make regular rounds.  While we don’t need to use the bath house, we did check them and they are clean and well maintained.  Laundry facilities are also available. 

Be sure to check the website at www.chippokes@dcr.virginia.gov for additional information regarding fishing, swimming, fires, drone use, camping or cabin reservations, and a list of festivals and events in the park. 

You can also visit the Virginia State Park’s website at www.virginiastateparks.gov

Local nearby attractions linked by the Colonial Parkway and the Colonial National Historic Park

From Chippokes, a short Ferry ride drops you just short of the Historic Jamestown. 

Boarding the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry

The Colonial National Historic Park encompasses the  Jamestown Festival Park and the Yorktown Battlefield, two of the points of the Historic Triangle in our area and connected by the Colonial Parkway.   

Jamestown is the first permanent English settlement in North America, founded in May 1607.  

Yorktown is most famous as the site of the surrender of British General Charles Cornwallis to General George Washington and the French fleet that ended the American Revolutionary War in October 1781. 

Read more about the Colonial National Historic Park at www.nps.gov/colo/index.htm and the Colonial Parkway at www.nps.gov/colo/parkway.htm.

The third point of the Historic Triangle, and also along the Colonial Parkway is Colonial Williamsburg.  Williamsburg was the Capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 when it was moved to Richmond.  This is where General George Washington assembled the Continental Army in 1781 for the siege of Yorktown.  It is also home to the College of William and Mary.  The Colonial area and it’s buildings are worth at least a day’s visit with costumed interpretations of life during the time of George Washington.  Read more about Colonial Williamsburg at www.colonialwilliamsburg.org

Other attractions of note

Busch Gardens, Williamsburg

Water Country USA, Williamsburg

Sweethaven Lavender Farm, Williamsburg (plan your visit for the lavender bloom in May and June)

Great Wolf Lodge, Williamsburg

Yorktown Battlefield, Yorktown

Yorktown Victory Center, Yorktown

Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que, Williamsburg

And don’t forget to try local breweries and wineries in the area.  

Chippokes Plantation State Park is a great home base for campers who would like to be near the Colonial attractions without staying in the hustle and bustle of town and for a much more reasonable cost. 

We love the area and plan to be back again and again.

We hope to see you there or in one of the other Virginia State Parks soon!