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Gems Along the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore

We have all heard about the Eastern Shore. Area natives, especially, know it as a conglomeration of vacation destinations along the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. Tourist spots. Fishing villages. Colonial towns. Communities that thrive in the summer months but are deserted for the rest of the year. While there might be truth to some of these notions, there is infinitely more to say about the diverse areas of Maryland and Virginia that constitute this collective waterfront region. The Eastern Shore is composed of distinct locales, which house residents and host visitors with their inimitable personalities. They are undoubtedly recognized for their summer appeal but should not be completely discounted leading up to the heat. Many of these towns are celebrated for their historical significance, tranquil quality and distinguishing identity – you should consider exploring some of them in the coming months. Featured towns: Eastern Shore, Md. CHESTERTOWN, KENT COUNTY, MD. This colonial town on the Chester River entices travelers to experience its historic homes, shops, arts scene and restaurants. As part of Kent County, it is surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay’s estuaries and farmland, and holds annual events and holiday functions throughout the year. Chestertown is also home base to the Schooner Sultana, “a replica of a Boston-built merchant vessel that served four years as the smallest schooner ever in the British Royal Navy,” according to its website. The ship is known as the “Schoolship of the Chesapeake,” as it offers educational programming through sailing tours. The Chestertown website offers additional suggestions for visitors, including self-guided tours, museums, theaters, scenic views and recreational activities. There are more than 40 lodging options in the vicinity, though it is known for its bed and breakfasts. ST. MICHAELS, TALBOT COUNTY, MD. You are likely familiar with St. Michaels, as its Bay presence has become less subtle over time, and it is now better known for its tourist draw. Its marina and boating opportunities contribute to its charm, but St. Michaels is equally beloved for its memorable attractions, dining, spas and special events. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the St. Michaels Winery, War of 1812 reenactments, the St. Michaels Fresh Farm Market, various cruise lines and fresh seafood meals are among the services that continue to bring visitors to the area. Vacation rentals and quaint hotels provide an array of lodging alternatives, and the website’s suggested itineraries aid with planning the ideal vacation. EASTON, TALBOT COUNTY, MD. This seaside village invites people to discover its character year-round. In addition to crabbing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, Easton is a relaxing town with outlets for exploration and enjoyment – despite the weather. Its buildings represent a fusion of Colonial and Victorian architecture, and the town is renowned for its displayed appreciation of art and music. The Avalon Theatre presents comedy, art shows, theatrical performances and assorted concerts that make it a staple venue for both vacationers and locals. Antiquing in downtown Easton, stargazing in the countryside and watching wildlife are just some of the many activities highlighted on the website. Other components of a visit might involve walking tours, community coffee shops, public golf courses, annual festivals and Victorian bed and breakfasts. An events calendar, which consistently outlines a plethora of activities for tourists, can be found on the website. CAMBRIDGE, DORCHESTER COUNTY, MD. Situated on the Choptank River is Cambridge: it was settled in 1684, and is now one of the Eastern Shore’s prime destinations. The historic downtown, centered around Cambridge’s Main Street, is more than “beautiful buildings” and “one-of-a-kind shops,” as the downtown touts itself. Rather, it has a powerful presence that stems from its rich history and is apparent to any visitor. Quirky celebrations add another dimension to the pulse: “Zip Code Day,” “Taste of Cambridge Crab Cook-Off” and “Summer Send-Off: Blues, Brews & BBQ,” to name a few. Cambridge is home to several noteworthy attractions – the Brannock Maritime Museum, the Richardson Maritime Museum and La Grange Plantation – and other galleries, boutiques and art districts. Great Marsh Park, Sailwinds Park and the Choptank River Fishing Pier are other area favorites. Featured Towns: Eastern Shore, Va. ACCOMAC, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. As the County Seat of Accomack County, this small but significant town attracts people with its history and charm. It was originally established as the Town of Drummond in 1786 and, subsequently, Drummondtown. It did not receive its present name until 1893. One of Accomac’s strongest tourist draws is perhaps its walking tour, during which people can gain understanding of the town’s evolution, through architectural changes in churches, cottages and houses. The Eastern Shore Public Library, Debtor’s Prison, Bloodworth Cottage and St. James Episcopal Church are among the notable points on the downtown tour. People live in the private residences, illustrating the community’s intimate nature and appreciation for historic preservation. ONANCOCK, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. Originally serving as a port town, Onancock aided transportation for steamboats between Baltimore, Md., and Norfolk, Va., with the Onancock Creek leading to the Bay. It is now one of the Eastern Shore’s more heavily populated towns, with more than 1,500 residents. Onancock has substantial marine- and wild- life populations and water travel opportunities. Whether you bring your own boat, take a guided trip or just want to get a full taste of Onancock, the Town Wharf is a must-see. And, the Ferry to Tangier Island, a nearby fishing village, lets visitors venture beyond the town. As a self-described “rural waterfront village,” Onancock’s visitor-friendly atmosphere and easily navigated downtown make it a desirable spot for tourists who enjoy biking and strolling. More information is listed on its website. WACHAPREAGUE, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. Wachapreague is an appropriately named seaside town – its website defines “Wachapreague” as “Little City by the Sea.” Bird watching and biking keep people coming throughout the year, as do the fishing and seafood. The Hotel Wachapreague, the town’s first hotel and one of the largest on the Eastern Shore, was constructed in 1902 and remains open today. A marine railroad and commercial fishing are some of the many draws to this charming fishing community. ([]. CAPE CHARLES, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, VA. Cape Charles has a history that dates back to the 1880s. Following its colonization, it was predominantly comprised of farmlands and wetlands, but as stated on its website, it developed into a railroad region when the Bay Coast Railroad was constructed. It is the largest town in Northampton County with 1,000 residents and under 3,000 acres of land. The Historic District of Cape Charles displays a variety of architecture, including Colonial Revival, Neoclassical and Victorian style homes. Golf clubs, horseback riding stables, wildlife refuges, state parks – plus the water, beaches and fishing – make this town a great place to investigate. []( [gallery ids="101179,142801,142784,142797,142791" nav="thumbs"]

Sheila Johnson’s Salamander Resort Opens in Middleburg

After years of work, design, discussion and delays, Salamander Resorts and Spa in Middleburg, Va., formally opened the morning of Aug. 29 with snips of golden scissors at the entrance to "Sheila Johnson's house." An hour's drive from D.C., the 168-room luxury resort sits on 340 acres and is filled with Johnson's idea of the Middleburg experience and mystique with finely detailed rooms, spas and pools, a library and club bar, cooking studio, wine bar, a stable-inspired restaurant, a stable and paddock, conference rooms, ballroom and terraces. It is the "only new luxury destination resort in the United States to open in 2013," according to Salamander Resort & Spa. Prem Devadas, president of Salamander Resorts, greeted the opening-day guests at the front entrance: "Welcome to the house that Sheila Johnson built." He thanked officials from Middleburg and Loudoun County and introduced the speakers. Middleburg Mayor Betsy Davis recalled that -- after contentious debates on the project and its approval -- Salamander founder Johnson told Middleburg officials seven years ago, "I won't let you down." Davis said that she admired Johnson's way of "paying it forward" and added, "Sheila, we will let you down." Scott York, chairman-at-large of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, crumbled up his speech and said everyone was waiting to see Salamander's interior as quickly as he praised the resort's economic benefits. (Salamander has 2,000 employees.) Rita McClenny, head of Virginia Tourism, tagged Salamander "a crown jewel" for the state and recalled that Jackie Kennedy put Middleburg on the map in a big way 50 years ago. David Gergen of CNN also touched at the history of Middleburg with its connection to the Kennedys and the Harrimans. Gergen mentioned that the resort's opening was during the week of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Gergen said he found it "fitting that … we come to celebrate Sheila’s dream" and noted that Johnson is a co-producer of the film, "The Butler." As she thanked the many involved in the project, Johnson -- businesswoman, philanthropist and second richest black women in the U.S. -- spoke of feeling "so many emotions." "Look at what we have accomplished." When she moved to Middleburg years ago, "Middleburg was my refuge," she said. "I found friendships. I felt at home." With the vision of her resort fulfilled, she said, "There is love in every single detail." And so, with the ribbon-cutting, Salamander was open -- and guests eagerly entered "Sheila's house" to have some champagne and a very fine lunch under the supervision of chef Todd Gray. They could see and taste the love in every detail. [gallery ids="101437,153974,153956,153951,153948,153944,153976,153961,153966,153970" nav="thumbs"]

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A History of Luxury The Greenbrier Resort

In the small community of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, nestled safely within the Allegheny Mountains, lies one of this country’s most longstanding and luxurious resorts. Since 1778, The Greenbrier has hosted distinguished guests from around the world, setting the standard for luxury accommodations nationwide, while continually reinventing itself. Once known by the Southern elite as the “Queen of the Watering Places,” this sprawling estate in the lush foothills of the Appalachian Mountains is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast. With the very best of comfort and accommodations, spa treatments, leisure pursuits and world-class cuisine, The Greenbrier brings together all the luxuries of the world’s finest resorts with the distinct history and character of the region. Accommodations The wide variety of accommodations can facilitate any combination of guests, whether a couple on an intimate retreat or dozens of corporate employees on a not-so-business trip. With an endless variety cottages and suites, guests will find intimate single guest houses and seven-room suite, equipped with wood-burning fireplaces and private porches and patios overlooking the surrounding area. The staff’s attention to detail is impeccable, with no detail overlooked, ensuring an elegance that strikes the right balance between class and comfort. Leisure Once settled in, The Greenbrier offers enough activities to keep guests returning with every season. Once winter blankets the grounds in snow, you can explore the crisp outdoors in a horse-drawn sleigh ride or go ice-skating at the resort’s private skating rink. In the summertime, guests go kayaking, rafting, fishing or swimming. From bowling and croquet, to culinary demonstrations and the ancient sport of falconry, there is truly something for everyone. The highlight, however, is the resort’s collection of four 18-hole signature golf courses, all of which compliment the surrounding mountainous landscape. The Greenbrier mixes spectacular scenery and PGA Tour-tested challenges to golfers why they fell in love with the game. The championship courses—The Old White TPC, The Greenbrier, The Meadows and The Snead, a private resident's-only course—are skillfully designed to challenge and captivate golfers of every skill level. The resort also features a full-service clubhouse, award-winning golf shop and expert instruction by The Greenbrier Golf Academy. The resort’s 40,000 square-foot luxury spa is another signature offering, providing an elegant setting to rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. Relax in a whirlpool bath or soak up the healing properties of the native sulphur waters. With their wealth of exclusive spa treatments, there are endless reasons to visit this award-winning spa. The Bunker at The Greenbrier While The Greenbrier itself is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast, the resort has long housed its own amazing secret of national significance. But after 30 years the secret is out. Carved deep into the mountainside beneath the resort’s West Virginia Wing is an emergency Cold War fallout shelter, once a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress. The declassified Bunker at The Greenbrier is a must-see experience that takes you behind the scenes of a fascinating period in the history of the resort, as well as the country. Now open to anyone interested in reliving a legendary piece of history, Bunker tours provide a unique and in-depth look behind the hidden doors of an American epoch. In order to enhance the experience of the Bunker, The Greenbrier worked with the Virginia Historical Society on an on-site exhibition gallery, featuring artifacts and reproductions representing the security and communications area, dormitories, VIP lounges and medical clinic on top of old photos of the facility and a video on the history of the Cold War. Guests will learn about the groups who met there and enjoyed theme parties and dinners without ever realizing they were in a top-secret government facility designed to be the workplace for Congressional staff in the event of an emergency. And the event space is still open. If you’re looking for a nontraditional meeting space or event location, The Bunker at Greenbrier might just be the place. The Greenbrier Clinic Formed in 1948 by progressive business leaders, The Greenbrier Clinic is based on the philosophy that a healthy executive is the cornerstone of a healthy business. The Clinic’s founders reasoned that taking good care of company executives is a solid investment in the company’s future. Today, thousands of visitors come each year to combine a relaxing, luxurious holiday with the Clinic’s unparalleled diagnostic evaluation, care and unparalleled personal attention. Over the years, this sensible concept has proven itself with executive patients. And visitors to the Clinic still have ample time to enjoy all of the resort's luxurious amenities. But above all, The Greenbrier Clinic delivers the highest quality diagnostic health care. The Clinic's state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment assures maximum comfort and safety to patients. And a friendly relationship between doctors and patients is encouraged by the medical staff, fostering trust and enhancing personalized care. The Clinic's emphasis on preventive health counseling encourages healthy individuals to safeguard their most valuable asset: their wellbeing. [gallery ids="100270,107045,107041,107034,107038" nav="thumbs"]

The Apple of Charlottesville’s Eye

In 1998, a great barn was built in Keswick, VA on the Castle Hill estate, just a stone’s throw from Charlottesville and Monticello. Located on a 600-acre plot of rolling, endless hills, the barn was designed to accommodate cattle auctions for the surrounding ranchers. Like much of Keswick, the land is undeveloped and still entrenched in the natural beauty of Virginia, with a prominent view of the Southwest Mountains. When architect and landscape designer John Rhett saw the abandoned barn in 2008, with it’s 8,000 square feet of open space and 25-foot ceilings, he had other plans for it. He became involved with the current owner of the property fixing up the house and beautifying the grounds, but it was clear that there was much more to be done, especially to the barn. When Rhett was approached about putting a vineyard on the property and converting the barn to a winery, his answer was a bit more interesting than a simple yes or no. “I prefer trees to vines,” he said. “I said, why don’t we think of planting an orchard and starting a cidery.” And so the Barn at Castle Cider, a cidery and the area’s newest event space, came to be. The barn has been completely transformed since Rhett, now General Manager, began renovations. At one end of the barn is a beautiful fieldstone fireplace with white oak paneling, where ranchers used to mingle before the auction. “That’s our tasting room,” says Rhett, who is building a limestone bar and small kitchen into the area. The tasting room is designed fittingly for cocktail parties, rehearsal dinners and other small gatherings. The library, located directly above the tasting room, has its own working fireplace and an upper porch with a breathtaking view of the outlying meadow and mountain range. “The other end of the barn is where they used to wash down the cattle,” says Rhett. “We’re going to convert that room to our tank room for the cider.” In the center of the barn, with the cavernous open space, Rhett is building a stage and a loft. The loft connects to the library by a catwalk, and each end of the loft has wide doors that open to views of the estate. Rhett then designed terraced lawns by the barn, which sit above a stream and small lake. It is almost too easy to envision a wedding ceremony by the water, with the great white barn in the background, surrounded by mountains and apple trees. Beyond its rustic beauty, the Castle Hill estate holds historical significance to the area, and Rhett did not want it lost to the public. “There’s a lot of history here,” he says. “This place was built in 1764.” Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Castle Hill was originally the home of Colonel Thomas Walker, Thomas Jefferson’s guardian and mentor. The land’s local historical significance, and a mission to build the community through the making and partaking of cider, was much of Rhett’s inspiration for designing the barn as a public and private event space. The rich history of Castle Hill bleeds into the apple orchard Rhett planted in the fall of 2009. Made up of 600 trees with 28 different types of apples, its most prized variety is a largely forgotten breed named the Albemarle Pippin. “It’s an apple that became a favorite of Queen Victoria’s,” says Rhett. “She was given a basket of them, and she liked them so much that she removed the tariff from the apple just so it was cheaper to import them.” The Albemarle Pippin got here by the hands of George Washington himself. Originally from New York, Washington gave a cutting to Colonel Walker (the very same Colonel Walker from before), who planted it in Albemarle County. “We’re bringing it all back to Castle Hill by planting them here,” says Rhett. The apple varieties will all be fermented individually to retain their unique flavors, and then blended to create different hard ciders. Rhett has gone back to the origins of cider production with his fermentation process. He has brought in amphoras from the Caucasus Mountains in the country of Georgia, called kvevri. They are lined with beeswax and buried in the cool earth, wherein the cider is poured and the fermentation works it’s magic. “The cider never touches modern material to impart any flavors,” says Rhett, who dislikes the metallic taste he finds in wine fermented in steel tanks. “There’s no one really in the world making cider this way anymore.” The kvevri are buried alongside the barn, protected by a large overhang. Fifty feet away, the very same cider will soon be served at the bar in the tasting room. “You walk into the barn and you smell apples,” says Rhett. “It’s really nice.” The Barn at Castle Hill is a warm and stunning host for any affair, a space that begs to be filled with life. Its high walls echo with the expectations of history experienced, and history waiting to be made. The barn has been hosting fundraisers and events, and they have their first wedding booked for June. I imagine this place will be filling up fast. The next time you visit Charlottesville, stop by the big white barn, have a glass of cider and see for yourself. For more information, visit Castle Hill Cider online. [gallery ids="102508,120188,120177,120183" nav="thumbs"]

Restore Mind, Body and Soul at a Wellness Retreat

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The Fox’s Den Tavern

A beguiling print of Benjamin Franklin hangs in the powder room of The Fox’s Den Tavern, in Middleburg, Virginia. Why is Benjamin Franklin hanging in the loo? As it happens, one of the owners of the restaurant, Charlie Carroll, is a direct descendant of Franklin and three other signers of the Declaration of Independence. There are countless other surprises at the Fox’s Den Tavern, which Carroll recently opened with his longtime companion Christie Knoff. If lighting is everything, this cute couple has brilliantly succeeded with a sophisticated ambiance worthy of any great dining establishment. While the Fox’s Den Tavern has the inviting atmosphere and comforts of a private club, the comparison ends there. “We wanted the best,” said Knoff of their decision to hire Vi Nguyen, a highly accomplished chef trained in the classical French tradition. Nguyen has created a superb menu of fine American cuisine, including pan seared rainbow trout with beurre blanc, lobster and truffle macaroni and cheese, and the enormously popular fried oysters. Parts of the menu change daily, so one will never tire of this magical spot, which even makes the famously temperate founding father smile. The Georgetowner sat down to speak with Charlie and Christie (C&C) about their new establishment and discuss the joys of being countryside restaurateurs. GT: How did you decide to decorate in an elegant Edwardian fashion? The objects are lovely and seem to have a rich provenance. C&C: That is because they are our own belongings! We had many things in storage. We wanted to create a space that was inviting and makes you want to stay. GT: The Burgundy walls have magically transformed the space. Who chose the color? C&C: We did, despite some skepticism about a dark color. We found the color and tripled the hue to bring out the texture and warmth. GT: What other structural changes were made to the space? C&C: We refinished the bar using old wood with a beautiful patina and we utilized the wall to make a long banquet with comfortable pillows GT: You have created a sumptuously elegant interior, which makes people want to stay for hours. C&C: Yes, thank you. That’s also why we have different seating areas. The bar and a casual lounge with sofas are separate from the tables and banquette room, which makes it easy to accommodate large groups. GT: What inspired you and helped you prepare to open the Fox’s Den? C&C: We were the general managers of the Charlotte Inn on Martha’s Vinyard for thirteen years. Every aspect of the inn was impeccable and set a great example. GT: Before we get to the food, how did you select the staff? C&C: We wanted a familial feeling. We have Noel Ryan tending bar and Jamie Plaskitt, a fourth generation Middleburg native, and other wonderful staff members. GT: How did you find your chef? C&C: Before we met our chef we knew that we wanted a classic comfort food. Our chef, Vi Nguyen, is classically French trained. He worked at the Ritz Carleton and in his family’s restaurant. We wanted the best, and I’m pretty sure we got him. GT: What distinguishes your restaurant from others? C&C: Good Service, good food, and an elegant, but casual atmosphere. GT: How do you like being in Middleburg? C&C: We love it. It’s such a small and friendly community. We were inspired to open the Fox’s Den while we were visiting family in the area. It’s a perfect place to have a restaurant like ours. We are thrilled about the restaurant and being in Middleburg. The Fox’s Den Tavern is located at 7 W Washington St, Middleburg, VA 20117. Call the restaurant at 540 687 4165 for reservations and more information. [gallery ids="99581,104900,104894,104897" nav="thumbs"]