Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Simple Life, an Hour Away

When I lived in London back in 2000, I swore I would always live in a city.  I also swore I would always live somewhere where I didn't need a car.  As life has turned out, I've not kept either promise.  Instead, I've made modifications to my personal manifesto:  I will always live near a city, and I will always live somewhere where public transportation is available - whether or not I use it.  It seems unlikely I'll ever break that promise.

But every once in a while I wonder...

Have you ever heard of Washington, Virginia?

I hadn't either.  But as a self proclaimed foodie, I came to learn of it soon after I moved to the DC area, because it happens to house the acclaimed Inn at Little Washington restaurant, which is consistently the top rated restaurant in the area.  It is a little over an hour's drive from DC, and it is in the middle of nowhere.  And when I say the middle of nowhere, I mean it - there is no cell phone service (NO CELL PHONE SERVICE!), and the town consists of about three streets, a handful of B&Bs, and a shop or two.  That's it.

My husband and I made our first trip there back in 2010 sans kids, and I have to be honest, we were a bit taken aback at the time of the whole "middle of nowhereness."  It's not really our scene. But we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless, stayed at the Inn itself (which was a bit hoity toity) and had an amazing meal - I am talking really amazing. We vowed to come back in a couple years.

We did just that this past weekend, and this time, the food took second fiddle to the middle of nowhereness, which, oddly, is becoming more and more appealing to me.

We left early on Saturday morning, took our time, and explored Virginia a bit.  Did you know Virginia made wine?  Not great wine, mind you, but wine is wine, and a winery is a winery. And after the first tasting of wine, I think I felt my whole body exhale a sigh of relief.  Not because of the effects of the alcohol (okay, maybe a little), but more because I felt away.  I felt at peace.  I looked out at the rolling hills of Virginia and the expansive vineyards and the snow coming down softly, and I felt this immense gratitude to be there - away from the hustle and bustle and traffic and fast pace of being in a city, or even near, a city.  I felt like I was a world away from my daily life, and it felt freeing in a way I hadn't experienced in a long time.

By the time we made it to Washington, VA itself and checked into our B&B, the flurries had increased, our cell phones were officially out of range, and the town was picturesque.  We decided to walk around the town before the stores closed, although we really needn't have worried - it only took us a grand total of 20 minutes to walk the streets.

It is SO small, this place.  SO small.  And it made me wonder - who lives here?  What is their story? Our B&B owners, for example, what's their story?  The owner of the gallery down the street. What's her story?  The owners of the vineyards we visited...   Are these people city exiles who found their own respite in the mountains of Virginia?  With no cell phone service, or malls, or movie theaters, or fast food chains?  Are they crazy?  Are we?

As I get older, I have found myself yearning more and more for a simpler life, much to my own dismay.  I think I'm just getting tired of the race.  The race for everything - for grocery store lines and parking spots and preschool slots and doctor's appointments and pool memberships and the latest designer shoe.  The weird thing is that at the same time I curse these things, I also embrace them.  I am a hypocrite in its purest form.

The fact is, I don't have the guts to do anything different.  

I remember when I was traveling the world, I would meet people along the way who had stumbled upon a place and just stayed there - an American bartending in Australia, or a Canadian waitress in Malaysia.  People who had found a place and said, the hell with the real world, I'm staying here. Is that who populates Washington, Virginia?

If so, they are my heroes.

We had a wonderful night.  We napped for two hours.  We bought a $55 Christmas ornament and a book entitled "Famous Last Words: Fond Farewells, Deathbed Diatribes, and Exclamations Upon Expiration" (advice: never go shopping after a wine tasting).  We had another fabulous, albeit overpriced, meal at the Inn.  We made our way home on Sunday morning, excited to see the kids and regain cell service.  It was back to reality.

Realistically, we probably won't visit rural Virginia very often, despite the fact that the drive there is shorter than my husband's commute downtown at its worst.  But it's nice to know we could.  It's nice to know that if I have a rough day with the kids, if I'm at my wit's end, if my husband pulls an all nighter, if we get bogged down, if life just gets to be too much - that we can, at a moment's notice, get in the car and drive somewhere simple, somewhere beautiful, somewhere where things get put in perspective.

It's nice to know those places exist.

Washington, Virginia (photo courtesy of here)


  1. Sounds amazing. I have been to the inn once and am dying to go back. More important question...what did you do with the kids?


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