[Paleopsych] NYT: 36 Hours: Middleburg, Va.

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Mon Apr 18 19:25:13 UTC 2005

Travel > Escapes > 36 Hours: Middleburg, Va.

[This is of no particular import, except that Sarah and I have eaten in 
the famous inn with her parents a few times and that Linda Tripp, the only 
decent person in the Clinton scandals, has moved there.]

    JUST 40 miles from the halls of Congress, Middleburg leaves
    Washington's blue suits and red ties behind for jodhpurs and riding
    helmets - though on its narrow streets, lined with historic buildings,
    an 18th-century powdered wig wouldn't look out of place. Olympic
    equestrians, country squires and political power brokers mingle in the
    brick and stone downtown while out in the surrounding green hills,
    thousands of equine residents luxuriate at well-tended stables.
    Middleburg has long been a retreat from the limelight for public
    figures. John F. Kennedy spent weekends there during his presidency,
    and Jackie rode in the local fox hunts. Elizabeth Taylor and Senator
    John Warner had their low-key wedding at his Middleburg estate (he
    sold it after the divorce). Linda Tripp fled to Middleburg from her
    worst-best-friend notoriety and now designs Christmas ornaments for
    her husband's East Washington Street shop. Like most old-money
    retreats, Middleburg is a guarded, private place, but visitors can get
    a glimpse of the horsey life in garden walks and estate tours in
    spring or at Christmas, at polo games on summer Sundays, and
    especially at the steeplechase races that draw thousands of spectators
    in spring and fall.


    5 p.m.
    1) On the Back Streets

    You'll come upon no Starbucks or McDonald's in a walk around
    Middleburg's tidy and tiny downtown, and none are likely to get by the
    vigilance of its well-financed preservationist guardians. Stroll down
    Washington Street for a sense of the town's history and character.
    During the Civil War, the Confederate raider John Singleton Mosby used
    the town as his base for attacks on the Union Army. According to local
    legend, a horse was hidden in the basement at 205 East Washington
    Street to keep Union troops from confiscating it. Vine Hill, on the
    corner of the Plains Road, is a landmark because of the telescoping
    design of its three Federal-style wings. Follow a nearby stone path
    and you'll find a bronze statue of a cavalry horse, honoring the 1.5
    million horses and mules lost during the Civil War. The statue is
    outside the National Sporting Library, a research center for turf and
    field sports from fox hunting to fly fishing (102 the Plains Road;
    540-687-6542), open Saturdays by appointment. Next door are the
    offices of The Chronicle of the Horse, the principal American journal
    of English-style riding, which has been published in Middleburg since

    7 p.m.
    2) Jazz at Dinner

    When the sounds of live jazz begin to drift through town, follow them
    to their source: the Back Street Cafe (4 East Federal Street;
    540-687-3122). The owner, Tutti Perricone, is also a singer and
    actress in local performances who can trace her Middleburg roots to
    the late 1800's. As you listen to Golder O'Neill's bass, sit on the
    cozy patio festooned with blue and pink passion flowers and feast on
    cioppino with fresh linguine and shellfish in a white wine sauce
    ($17.95), one of Ms. Perricone's many original recipes.


    8 a.m.
    3) A Half Century of Breakfast

    Don't let the outdated interior deter you from sliding into one of the
    aging half-moon booths at the Coach Stop Restaurant (9 East Washington
    Street; 540-687-5515). It has been the place for breakfast since 1958,
    and in that time the drab brown décor has remained unchanged. The
    current owners, Mike and Mark Tate, started here as busboys in high
    school. Local artworks brighten up the place, as does the strong
    coffee. Riders come straight from the barn in their dusty boots and
    britches to order the horseman's special ($6.75), with eggs, bacon and
    hash browns.

    10 a.m.
    4) Ornaments and Ratcatchers

    Although Middleburg thrives on a country state of mind, its collection
    of stores and galleries, many with an equestrian theme, fill the
    streets with weekend shoppers. The Christmas Sleigh (5A East
    Washington Street; 540-687-3665) sells Linda Tripp's White
    House-themed ornaments ($65 each). Whether you're a rider or not, you
    can dress the part for the upcoming steeplechase at the Middleburg
    Tack Exchange (103 West Federal Street; 540-687-6608), a consignment
    store for high-end English riding gear so well known for its unique
    stock and rock-bottom prices that it gets calls from riders in England
    and California. Look over riding accessories from ratcatchers (riding
    shirts) to antique hunting flasks. Properly accessorized, stop at
    Market Salamander (200 West Washington Street; 540-687-8011) to pick
    up a steeplechase picnic of rotisserie chicken ($14), Brussels sprouts
    with Virginia ham ($7 a pound) and a bottle of the local Chrysalis
    Vineyards' Virginia viognier ($30). Call ahead to place an order -
    especially a large one - to avoid waiting.

    1:30 p.m
    5) Horseflesh

    Middleburg's main steeplechase venue, Glenwood Park (about a mile
    north of town on Route 626), holds several races each year, including
    the Middleburg Spring Races on April 23 this year. In steeplechases
    and the similar but more informal point-to-point races, thoroughbreds
    race over varied terrain and have to negotiate obstacles as high as
    four feet, four inches along the way. At Glenwood, you can watch from
    a wide ridge as the horses tackle courses as long as four miles; you
    will want binoculars. Trainers and grooms gossip next to the
    white-fenced paddock as the entries of each race are saddled, so stand
    within whisper distance to get the inside scoop. Betting is illegal;
    the thrills come from the breathtaking equine athleticism. For more
    information, call 540-687-6545, visit [1]www.middleburgspringraces.com
    or consult the Virginia Steeplechase Association's Web site,

    7 p.m.
    6) Dinner at the Ordinary

    By now you've noticed the elegant fieldstone Red Fox Inn (2 East
    Washington Street; 540-687-6301) in the center of town. The innkeeper,
    Turner Reuter, says the original structure dates from 1728, when
    Joseph Chinn, George Washington's first cousin, built Chinn's
    Ordinary, a place for weary stagecoach and horseback travelers to
    recharge. Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
    President Kennedy's press secretary, Pierre Salinger, once held a
    press conference in its small art gallery (ask for a visit after
    dinner). Request a cozy fireside table or sidle up to the bar, which
    Mr. Reuter says was built from a Civil War operating table. Try the
    house specialty, rich peanut soup ($6.50).


    9 a.m.
    7) Meet the Settles

    About 12 miles west of town, past manicured hedgerows and tidy
    fencelines, Sky Meadows State Park (540-592-3556; admission on
    weekends, $2 to $4 per car) is a 1,862-acre retreat created largely by
    Paul Mellon and tailor-made for a day visit. Mount Bleak House was the
    home of the Settles, a farming family, 150 years ago and still has the
    look of a middle-class farmhouse in the mid-19th century. Imagine the
    Settles looking out at night at Confederate campfires speckled across
    the distant pastureland. The park has maps for easy loop hikes, one to
    four miles, in the Blue Ridge foothills. One leads to the Appalachian
    Trail, near the park's western border.

    8) Rest on Your Laurels

    At the nearby Ashby Inn (692 Federal Street, Paris; 540-592-3900),
    John and Roma Sherman, the proprietors, stand behind the buffet and
    serve a Sunday brunch ($24) with made-to-order omelets and inn-cured
    gravlax. The inn, considered "a restaurant with rooms" by some, is
    famously popular with weary Washingtonians. If weather permits, you
    can sit outside near the Shermans' herb and vegetable garden. Even if
    the weather is chilly, sneak out the back door to admire the
    spectacular mountain view, and then return inside for strawberries
    with whipped cream.

    The Basics

    Middleburg is 23 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport;
    you'll want to rent a car. From the airport, head west on Route 50,
    also known as the John Mosby Highway, which slows and becomes
    Washington Street in town.

    The centrally located Red Fox Inn (2 East Washington Street;
    800-223-1728) has 16 rooms and suites, six of them in the original
    1728 structure. Rooms start at $150 a night.

    Nine miles south of Middleburg, the Grey Horse Inn (4350 Fauquier
    Avenue, the Plains; 877-253-7020) has six rooms, all with period
    furniture. Rates start at $105 a night, breakfast included.

    The elegantly comfortable Ashby Inn (692 Federal Street, Paris;
    540-592-3900) is 12 miles west of Middleburg and wins raves for its
    hospitality and superior kitchen. Its 10 rooms, some with private
    balconies, start at $145 a night.


    1. http://www.middleburgspringraces.com/
    2. http://vasteeplechase.com/

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