You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
14-16 December 2021
In the performance of other duties, we chose to mix in a few days in Culpeper, VA, a town of historic reputation, and this is the wonderful West Park Gardens B + B on West Park Ave just a few blocks south of the downtown. There are three rooms, ours the largest behind the 2nd story right window and running right the way back to the rear of the house.
Stephen, the owner and designer, who lives in the basement, has furnished the bedrooms and the ground floor common rooms with all manner of tasteful and thoughtful amenities. This is our enormous mainroom, leading back to . . .
. . . a bathroom and, beyond that, a small dressing room. The single caveat about the place is that the two smaller rooms, less expensive, share a bathroom in the hall, whilst we had our own.
The little dressing room
Kristin and Choupette catching up on the day's news
Eighty gazillion channels on the televisions, of which we never availed ourselves
The breakfast room and . . .
. . . part of the daily spread. More serious fixings are also available in the kitchen . . .
. . . like bacon, eggs, and what not.
The living room in West Park Gardens
Oh, and the billiards room
More information and reviews are available on Facebook and Booking, and probably other places as well.
Melvin admiring the back yards. This is Kristin's review on Booking.com --
Reviewed: December 18, 2021
Culpeper is a charming place to visit and West Park Gardens is a delightful place to stay there.
Liked · The place is exceptional - well designed and lovingly decorated for the season. It is full of thoughtful touches from the large back yard with a chess game, fire pit and fountain to the bedrooms. The toiletries are very nice. The "breakfast" bit was delicious and fresh with a well stocked kitchen. There is a stand with all sorts of amenities from toothpaste and mouthwash to hand sanitzer and clementines. It was spotlessly clean. We had two cats who were welcome. We had a lovely three night stay.
Disliked · leaving
We're on our way out for a walk round the town, and Choupette wants to ensure that she'll be invited along.
Which she wasn't.
This is the Burgandine House, on Main St. near the base of West Park Ave; it's dated here as ca.1749 but there are strong suggestions that it actually dated from later in that century. It's a log house with weatherboard siding and was donated to and renovated by the city.
Culpeper, presently a growing town of about 20,000 residents, began life with the chartering in 1749 of Culpeper County, named for a former Colonial Governor of Virginia. Thomas the 6th Lord Fairfax, the proprietor of vast tracts of land in the region, hired George Washington, who was then 17 years old, to survey and plot out a new 10-block town on the spot in 1749-1750.
The town, called Fairfax at first, was registered with the House of Burgesses in 1759, but in 1795 the US Postal Service identified it as Culpeper Court House, confusingly, and since there are so many other Fairfax place names in the neighborhood, the state renamed it simply as Culpeper in 1869.
This is pretty much the very town centre, the intersection of Main and Davis Streets; according to Google Maps, that appears to be the 'Bank of America Mortgage' building, but why it's got that Italianate palazzo thingie on top of it is not clear.
The tourist trolley on its appointed rounds (almost certainly made by Hometown Trolleys of Crandon, Wisconsin)
Scouting for dinner down E. Davis St
This is probably the most 'historic' single shot in town, and . . .
. . . we'll check it out. The café is called It's About Thyme and the middle building is the Thyme Market (and the alley between has restaurant seating, too) -- and the next building to the right is the Copper Fish, which purports to specialize in seafood and calls itself a 'raw bar'. They say that they share the same menu (and kitchen), but we saw very little seafood around except in the hors d'oeuvres. We went to dinner there twice and were not disappointed anyway.
On the other side of E. Davis another 'historic' scene, including the Rusty Willow boutique. Like most towns these days, the downtown retailing consists mostly of food and snacks, gift shoppes and boutiques, specialty crafts, small antiques shops and local art galleries. The necessities of life require a 1-2 mile drive out along the ring road.
A nice touch
A different Hometown Trolley, what prosperity. Even Staunton's only got one.
The visitors' centre is located in the vintage rail station, as is the Museum of Culpeper History and the tourism offices. The first rail station was built here in 1852, two years before Staunton's -- it got through the Civil War but not without damage and was replaced in 1874; that one burnt down in 1903 and this one replaced it, but during the Ronald Reagan Era of destroying railroad facilities so there'd be no going back from automobiles, it was scheduled for demolition in 1985. Happily, the town and a citizens' group, with a state renovation grant, restored it and reopened it to the public in 2000.
The city maintains that 'the community effort to preserve the depot sparked wider interest in downtown renewal, leading to the restoration of storefronts and the installation of new streetscaping and other infrastructure.' Putting Culpeper seriously on the tourism itinerary, in effect.
The Amtrak 'Cardinal' train, Chicago-New York City, runs through here, via Staunton and Charlottesville, thrice weekly, but Culpeper's also got a daily service from D.C. to, since 2017, Roanoke.
The Visitors' Centre -- we're going to stock up on tourist brochures.
Beautiful, with friendly staff and lots of brochures, but now we're headed down the corridor for the inexpensive history museum.
It begins at the beginning, but has a generous series of professionally produced plaques covering indigenous predecessors, early settlers, the Revolutionary War (esp. the Culpeper Minute Men Battalion and the town clerk who helped to rat out Benedict Arnold), etc., etc., but for obvious reasons there's a sizeable focus on the US Civil War.
We pored over the info plaques (and photographed them), but won't get into all that in this place. Given its location in central Virginia, and its railroad connections, Culpeper was a crossroads for some of the most consequential hijinks of both of the armies; Lee set up his winter quarters and launched the Gettysburg campaign from here in 1862, and Grant took over command of the wintering Army of the Potomac here in March 1864, planning the Overland and Wilderness campaign in May-June here.
It's hard to understand how any country could get itself into such a big mess, but we did it; and may again someday, who knows.
But at least we'll always have hickory smoked BBQ (and cream of crab soup).
It appears that we're being watched by one of Satan's minions.
It's time for lunch, at Yowell's Hardware Co. Inc., nowadays known as Grass Rootes. Highly recommended.
The Grass Rootes restaurant is very good, opened in 2016 on a property first purchased by the lawyer and politician Thomas Rootes in 1790. 'Since its construction, the building has been used as various businesses such as a tobacco warehouse, stables, a tin shop, Civil War jail for both the Union and Confederacy, and during the 1900's, a hardware store. It has survived two fires and a major earthquake and is said that the spirits of soldiers and slaves still remain within the buildings walls.' (Source)
I had a fine andouille sub for lunch, not expensive -- dinner was good, too, but not inexpensive. [The andouille sausage is very different from the horrifically vile andouillette of Lyon and Troyes, which smells like an overflowing sewer.]
-- What you lookin' at lady! (outside The Pier seafood restaurant, 302 E. Davis)
Culpeper street scene, looking north along Main Street
That's the Jail administration -- the sign on the door says 'Use Side Entrance'.
A lovely commemoration: 'Culpeper's memorial to her Confederate Soldiers 1861-1865', erected in 1911, early in the Great Age of Confederate Commemorations. But this one's generic, no equestrian grandstanding.
Unpacking in our room, I found that I'd forgotten my toothbrush. We asked downtown waiters, etc., where we could buy a toothbrush, preferably within walking distance. No way. So here we are, at the mall a mile or two outside of town. Good selection of toothbrushes, though.
But the Safeway, so helpful with toothbrushes, let us down a bit for reading material.
Whilst Kristin is combing through the consignment store next door, we're wondering what a Beauty Discounter is. We'd have thought they'd be all in favor of beauty.
We're not finished with thrift stores for today, alas.
Recent returnees to the USA are all probably struck by the modern prevalence everywhere of thrift stores, mission stores, consignment stores, Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General emporia for low-end necessities, pawn shops too, probably, and 'payday loan' storefronts for emergencies.
Surely there can't always have been such widespread desperation.
There are some people who've not been hanging out at the Family Dollar.
We're still not finished, we've discovered; real antiques this time.
No equivocations for these people, good on them!
Enormous. Lots and lots of Stuff. A cornucopia of bits and bobs.
This sort of thing can be addictively fun -- a warehouse full of stuff that more than likely we wouldn't accept for free, let alone pay for, but still brimming over with unlikely possibilities.
Some of the . . . is it 'booths'? 'Micro-shops'? seem to be theme-oriented, others are helter-skelter [perhaps we should avoid that term, post-Manson, but after all it was good enough for Shakespeare], goods of all kinds piled together higgledy-piggledy [from the same era].
Wait -- there's something we'd pleased to get hold of (we'd better not look at the price tag, it's too big for the trunk of the car anyway).
It's hard to guess the intended audience for these things -- not just casual browsers, surely.
Oh frabjous day, 40% off sounds like a fabulous deal. Better than just lowering the prices of things that aren't selling -- we keep the price too high for the potential market and then make it sound like a not-to-be-missed opportunity.
A metal wolf, apparently yowling at the moon (for '50$ firm', which seems to mean 'we're not negotiating on this one'). [Forget the stag's head bookends, they're $175. Firm.]
The caption reads 'The Southern Beauty'. Alongside 'Simple Pleasures: cherish time spent with your horse'.
The tag refers to this fine piece as a 'Colonial Picture: antique frame and glass', only $75 (and, who knows, perhaps negotiable). But the caption sort of puts it into the niche market.
And now, the pièce de résistance -- the Talking John McCain Doll. A veritable steal at only $8 (and, who knows, perhaps negotiable).
What's next, then? Downtown Middleburg, VA, for lunch