These sparkling highlights are stand outs with family, friends and in hotels on our US trip. There are subtle touchstones that make a trip, or conversely break it. What is it that made a lasting impression after leaving “home-away-from-home” and of the people who inhabit those memories? And, I think lasting impressions are what change us.
In Washington DC, our highlight snuck up on us. Who would think that a family member could turn into a star of our trip, and be a special sparkle to our future? Beautiful niece Elizabeth who started at the Reagan White House now works at various “giving” jobs. She has entered our hearts, after being constrained from knowing us for years. Maybe time held us away from each other in order for us to grow into the people we are now, confident in the importance of family friendships and love. From now on, Washington DC will be on our permanent visiting list. And as it should be for being with a spectacular writer and compassionate woman with a big heart, her wonderful husband and three super children.
The dear Sanders family, our former Roatan neighbors, treated us to their first blending afternoon of their “reds” at their Glasshouse Vineyard in Free Union outside of Charlottesville. This enterprising couple will welcome you to their glass house tasting room designed by Jeff. You won’t be able to leave without Michelle’s homemade chocolates and her own chocolate wine she named Meglio del Sesso (which means “Better then sex”). Quote from Bill, “It’s good but not that good.”
Almost to the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania and near Gettysburg is Antrium 1844. Dort and Richard Mollett (who said they’d give a % off to my select travel reading group) bought a worn-down group of very old buildings and over the next years remodeled, refurbished, redid, and did re-everything to them. This handsome historic Inn in the small town of Tannytown is a visit to the past. The furnishings are authentic in every detail, superb meals are served with elegant style, and the guest houses are dotted between gardens of flowers, fountains, and small benches for contemplation of the surrounding woods. The Mollets have been refurbishing homes for many years, but now spend some of their leisure time, when they have it, on Roatan. As new friends for us, their obvious talent in making every detail of the Inn a delight to the eye was a wonderful discovery. As are Dort and Richard. Their Inn is a fitting place of solace from the feelings stirred up about the battle at nearby Gettysburg.
Another favorite hotel that conveys the experiences of its surroundings is the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington DC. Famous for being the meeting place of heads of state and our leaders, the staff greeted and treated us as if we were just that. The small wood-paneled lobby and nearby pristine smallish dining room done in the same soft beige, stone and white colors as our hotel room, felt just like home. It was a room so civil and relaxing that we lingered for hours over breakfast and small talk. With all the elements of power exuding from the walls, we felt completely comfortable, the secret of a great hotel.
Located across the street from Lafayette Park and the White House, some of the hotel rooms have direct views of that most famous of houses.
D.C. also has more than 230,000 acres of park space, from Rock Creek Park to the 57-acre grounds of the Washington National Cathedral, where you can buy herbs harvested from its gardens.
Throughout the states are those ubiquitous motels and hotels that are reasonable in price and provide free breakfast, daily newspapers and internet. Our favorite was Best Western where the rooms have a couch and desk-set-up or a living room attached, prices the same as the smaller and plain hotel rooms. Most of the time costs were less than quoted in our AAA books. Food prices have not gone down at all, even at the homogenized restaurants that are covering every state, like weeds on former gorgeous green pastures. Unfortunately, there isn’t a place to drive any more that isn’t very far away from the same stores, same fast-food restaurants and same motels and hotels.
After staying in lovely Lexington, Virginia, during a huge gulley-washer and the only storm of the trip, how exhilarating it was to drive into a big city and be immediately impressed. Would you guess it would be Nashville, Tennessee? Though known as the Music City, it’s more than that. It has the “opposites attract” thing going on. Combined with elegant skyscrapers and buildings of Greek-influenced design are Broadway’s bars of honky tonk fame such as Tootsies and the Boogie Bar. Two contrasting favorites are the ATT Building, with two silver spheres piercing the sky (at one angle Batman’s head comes to mind), and the only copy of the Parthenon in the world, used as an art museum.
In 1910, the Nashville Hermitage Hotel opened, advertising its rooms as “fireproof, noise proof and dustproof, $2. And up.” It’s been graced by historied personages, and was the national platform for both pro-and anti-suffrage forces, Tennessee casting the deciding vote. The handsome lobby has cushioned couches asking to be used, a setting and staff to welcome every guest. The Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry Theater destinations for country music fans were damaged by floods. The corkscrew shaped Cumberland River did serious damage from which parts of Nashville still recover.
The Gulch, not far from famed Music Row, wins the honor for having everything from good mass transit to LED traffic lights and plenty of amenities within a half-mile walk.
Memphis, Tennessee, where rock and roll took up residence with Elvis, and the blues emerged, has its historic hotel known for its famous ducks. Yes, ducks. A half-dozen full-grown ducks sit and swim in the lobby centerpiece fountain, and then at 5:00 PM are walked through the room to an upper floor to their overnight cages. The silhouette of a duck shares honors as the hotel logo, as this duck parade has been going on for years.
Every driving trip, if possible, needs to include a stop with a special long-time friend, one that knows your history and maybe your secrets. It gives that necessary grounding we all need from time to time.
Going through Dallas on our way home, we stopped to see Susanne, our Danish friend for many years since she and I met in Las Vegas on a modeling assignment. Instead of taking in the clubs when we met, we lay on the floor of our hotel room and discussed politics, finding out that we were both ‘Goldwater Girls.’ Tells you where we “were” forty some years ago. Getting closer to home, we had a quick lunch in Austin with dear Cousin Richard. Do you ever want to just laugh and giggle? Just stop by and see Richard.
Today we’re back, after thirty two days of travel. We thought that not having any reservations or dates to meet meant that impromptu adventures would be around every turn in the road. And they were! We let our instinct guide us, lived moment to moment, and took turns with choices. We also believe that appreciation is the finest way to think. The more appreciation going out, the more to appreciate comes back. In that regard, we thank our indispensible GPS Gertrude and that best of all dragons, Toothless, our Mercedes convertible for carrying us on wings of joy throughout OUR COUNTRY.