Sunday, July 3, 2011

Harper's Ferry and Philly

In early June Max and I took one of our road trips, this time to visit with Matthew and Sharon in Philly.  We've gone to Philadelphia every spring since Matthew and Sharon moved, and it is one of my favorite trips.  Not only are Matthew and Sharon perfect host and hostess, Philadelphia has great restaurants (we're working our way through them) and even more interesting- there are some incredibly beautiful gardens.  I'm not sure we've made our way through the list yet- but it will be fun to start again!
Since we have a plan of trying to spend at least one night in every state, this year we focused on West Virginia.  Now I'm not sure we'll make every state before our "wings are clipped"- and for now we have only remote plans for Hawaii (I spent three years there and would love to go back to visit my old haunts) or Alaska- but we have at least preliminary plans for the others.  But for this year it was WEST VIRGINIA!  We have driven through West Virginia any number of times on trips to Philly, or Virginia, or North Carolina, or New York (you get the picture), but we had never really stopped there.  Since we wanted to be close to Philly so we could drive in easily on a Friday, we chose Harpers Ferry, a town of a somewhat reputation concerning the Civil War, but also about as close to Philly as you can get and still be in West Virginia.

You have all heard of the famous raid made by John Brown on the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry  that was one of the factors that sped the country toward the Civil War.  The interesting thing is that Harpers Ferry sits at the confluence of and between the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and the government used the water power provided by those rivers to make rifles and stored them in the arsenals there.  Now I think that probably the Civil (nothing "civil" about that war) War was inevitable, it did strike me as rather odd that the act of a "crazy" John Brown attacking a United States aresenal was such a catalyst for the tragedy. 
Max found a wonderful Bed and Breakfast there called the Ledge which sits high on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the rivers.  Consequently we had a great view from our deck outside our room.

We ventured out after our arrival to explore the area and were advised by our host to cut through the old cemetery across the road for a trail down to the site of the raid and the river banks.  The cemetery was the original cemetery for the town and had some graves dating to the 1700’s.
Just below the cemetery is the ruins of the first church built  at Harpers Ferry, but all that is left are parts of the stone walls.  It turns out that the trail we were told to find is part of the Appalachian Trail that wanders between Georgia and Maine and we seemed to be right about the middle of it.

There was a railroad bridge that  had one of the tracks  converted into a walking bridge and as we crossed the bridge (well I didn't actually cross the bridge- while Don was crossing the bridge I was talking on the phone- and when I finished Don said he was a bit windy and he thought I could just skip the experience...) it was obvious to see the mixing of the waters of the two rivers.  The Potomac was muddy and brown and the Shenandoah was green.  If you look close at the following picture you can see the line of mixing where they come together.

So we now have marked off West Virginia as a place visited and are ready to add the few states that we still have not been to together. You'll just have to wait and see which states they are- though I might mention that on our most recent trip we spent nights in 8 states and none were "new".
The next morning we drove the short distance to Philly and Matthew’s and Sharon’s condo.  Two of our favorite things to do in Philly are to eat at some of Philly’s interesting restaurants and to visit some of Philly’s wonderful gardens.  So on Saturday we set out to visit Chanticleer Gardens- wish that we had "gardens" in Cincinnati, but we just don't.  Our conservatory is one of the best in the country- and our zoo hosts an amazing botanical garden- and of course we have many parks- but gardens we just don't have.  Traveling to Philly is always such a treat!
This was the estate of Adolph Rosengarten whose pharmaceutical company later became part of Merck Pharmaceuticals.  Not only were the gardens beautiful, but the current grounds keepers were also quite gifted wood workers made chairs and benches that were located around the grounds and and property.  We all took available opportunities to sit and just view nature at its best.

Of course the gardens also had some wonderful plants and water features too, including a large pond where I found this lazy turtle who posed for me.

The Southern Magnolias were in bloom...

And there were a few beautiful lillies here and there....

And streams with little waterfalls...

And reflecting pools...

On Saturday night we ate at the White Dog Cafe (  Sharon and Matthew took Clare and me to this restaurant last August when we stopped after our piano camp, and I was anxious to return.  It did not disappoint!

On Sunday we headed out to brunch at Terrain which is part of a nursery/gift shop/cute things store.  The place was beautiful, but I have to say that they were very proud of their products and food and consequently demanded high value for them.  I'm not sure I've ever spent more and gotten less food at any other place.  I didn't even know that it was possible to cook a one egg omelette, but it really is.  You're not going to gain weight certainly. On that account they are surely in first place.  By example in the picture below is my helping of potatoes - all of it. I did manage to find a new cookbook (not that Don would think I need a new cookbook) that I ordered- on the spot from my phone from Amazon for half what they were charging! It was waiting for me when I got home!

From Brunch we went to Tyler Arboretum, 650 acres of land that was part of  lease of land from William Penn to Thomas Winshall in 1681 . We weren't sure that the auboretum had quite decided what its future will be.  A good part of the land was decorated with little "fairy villages" complete with gobblins and gnomes and appeared to be ideal for parties for young children.  And because of their focus on fairies I'm now the proud owner of wings and tutu and tiara- all for any visiting fairy that might come to call here in Cincy!
Another part contains some magnificent trees planted in the 1830's by decendents of Winshall.  There is even a Giant Sequoia that although is small compared to the ones in Califronia, is impressive nonetheless.

Sunday evening kept us in Philly in the City Center area at the Farm and Fisherman.  You can check it out if you're interested at

It had great food and great wine (which we brought-love those BYOB places- it does save money!) and capped off the evening with some great food.

So as you see- we had a wonderful time!  And I feel certain that Matthew and Sharon will plan another great adventure for our next trip east!


Amber said...

great photos!

lil sis said...

I think you should have dressed UD or Matthew up in the fairy costume and posted that picture!!!!

Brandy said...

Thanks for sharing your pics of visiting Matthew and Sharon. The gardens are beautiful and Matthew and Sharon look great! I'm looking forward to reading blogs about the rest of your mammoth trip.

Lucas said...

Have you done Wisconsin yet? Because I can make that happen this fall. :D

LOVE that last chair that Max is sitting in. Wow, what a place to rest.

And HURRAH for outsmarting the spendy place and using your phone to order that book Aunt Max. That really had me laughing.

And Sharon? You look SMASHING dahling! Truly.

Looks like a great trip!

Oh, and I second Kelly's suggestion.

Don said...

Lucas: We have done Wisconsen, twice. Both were last year when we ventured to Saint Paul. Both times we stopped at or near Madison at a B&B so Wisconsen is already marked off.

smathis75 said...

i always love hosting you guys in philly. you both enjoy everything that i enjoy and we always pack in just the right amount of stuff to tucker us out and make our waistbands a tad tighter! i love you both! XO