The National Sporting Library

Escape from the midday heat of the Upperville Horse Show and stop into the neighboring National Sporting Library. Founded by sporting enthusiasts George Ohrstrom and Alexander Mackay-Smith in 1954, the collection that started with 7,000 assorted volumes has grown to 17,000 meticulously categorized titles. The library is dedicated to preserving and sharing the literature, art and culture of horse and field sports. It houses extensive collections of 16th-21st century books and manuscripts on equitation, along with hunt diaries, scrapbooks and photo albums. Besides a healthy collection of first editions throughout, the rare book section houses the library’s oldest volume (on dueling, dating to the 1520s), along with an original manuscript penned by a young Theodore Roosevelt. The Library offers educational lectures, book-signings and film-screenings. Art exhibits include paintings and bronzes from rarely seen private collections and museums. Art from the Library's permanent collection is found throughout the Library, including eye-catching weathervanes from the estate of the late philanthropist Paul Mellon. Paul Mellon also donated the bronze Civil War Horse, a memorial on the NSL campus to the 1 1/2 million horses and mules that died in the Civil War. The Library’s current exhibition is Horses at Work and Play, which displays the Library’s collection of artifacts and antique toys. This exhibit is on display until June 30th. The Sporting Library is a historical treasure that is free and open to the public. For more information visit NSL.org The National Sporting Library has also received an extremely generous donation of $250,000 from Ronald M Bradley and fiancé Danielle Kazmier, both pictured in our Social Scene Section attending this year’s fundraiser in Washington D.C. The Library is open Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. [gallery ids="99831,99832" nav="thumbs"]

Middleburg’s National Sporting Library Shows Off in the Federal City

Horse and hunt country lovers traveled from as far as Middleburg, Va., as well as nearby Georgetown to the Kalorama townhouse of the Johnsons for a cocktail reception to benefit the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, May 19. The library's board chairman Manuel (Manley) Johnson and vice chairman Jacqueline Badger Mars served as event hosts. With its historic buildings and grounds, the Middleburg non-profit boasts the finest collection of books on horse and field sports in the world. "It is the largest collection of rare books in equine and fishing sports books," Johnson told the crowd, which included Tom McMillen, former U.S. representative from Maryland and retired NBA basketball player, Scott Wilson, Hector Alcade and Robin Phillips. The library holds a 1683 first edition of 'The Compleat Angler" along with essays on hunting from Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Grover Cleveland and extensive photos of President John Kennedy in Middleburg. The National Sporting Library Gala is scheduled for October. [gallery ids="99924,99925,99926,99927" nav="thumbs"]

Wintry Weekends

Every year around late February, the air begins to swell with a certain potential. As the mornings go by, the accumulating whistles of tree sparrows echo like a symphony reaching a familiar crescendo. The slog of post-Christmas drudgery lies vaster in our wake than in our precession. Legs begin to twitch inadvertently beneath office desks. We have done our time cooped up in our beds, fighting the cold, not knowing when we will escape again. Winter is on its last leg. It’s time to get out. This year, unfortunately, there is still two feet of snow on the ground. With this surplus of residual snow, however, comes a unique opportunity for those itching for a relaxing weekend getaway. Pastoral bed and breakfasts and luxury hotels surround the D.C. area. The landscapes of these mountain and riverside resorts are still in a rare, delicate state of wintry serenity, while the weather has become warm enough to enjoy nearby attractions. With the leftover snow keeping most people at home, it is an ideal time to take advantage of countryside luxuries with extraordinary intimacy. The Shenandoah and Charlottesville Just a stone’s throw from Monticello proper, The Inn at Monticello is a five-acre bed and breakfast, and a convenient base of operations while exploring all that nearby Charlottesville has to offer. Just far enough outside the city to enjoy the rolling landscapes from your private porch or cottage, and down the street from a handful of vineyards, the inn is still only a 10-minute drive from the center of town. Once in Charlottesville, across the street from the UVA campus, visit the Corner. A stretch of coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores and nightspots frequented by the academic and local community, the Corner is a local watering hole, and a perfect place to enjoy a simple cup of coffee with a good book, grab dinner, or have a few drinks. Among the scenery, UVA’s historic chapel and the “Academical Village” are noteworthy sites that have been temporarily beautified by the snow. For a more inclusive package, the Boar’s Head Inn offers enough amenities and activities to help you recharge your batteries for a weekend without having to leave the premise. With four restaurants and an in-room dining option, guests can dine as casually as they please. A sports club and spa, complete with a dozen indoor tennis courts, allows guests to strap on sneakers and shorts despite the snow. Restaurants to check out around Charlottesville include The Ivy Inn Restaurant and Hamilton’s at First and Main. Producing cuisine inspired by seasonal and locally grown ingredients, The Ivy Inn offers classic American fare with modern twists, such as pumpkin ravioli or veal osso buco with sautéed local bok choy. At Hamilton’s at First and Main, inventive pairings such as roasted halibut stuffed with chèvre or crab cakes with lemon-basil aioli are the highlights of the menu. The Middle Piedmont Region When discussing luxury dining and accommodations in Virginia, The Inn at Little Washington garners the same reactions that one gets if mentioning Disney World to a four-year-old. The love child of renowned restaurateur Patrick O’Connell, a self-taught chef often accused of having “perfect taste” and a pioneer of the local, organic movement, The Inn at Little Washington is one of the most highly decorated restaurants and hotels in the country — and just about the only nationally lauded two-for-one. This time of year, O’Connell’s celebrated kitchen is honoring the tail end of black truffle season, one of O’Connell’s favorite occasions to have a bit of elegant fun. Expect such menu items as Maine Diver Scallops with leek purée, caramelized onions, and black truffle. As an additional, limited-time treat that comes out with the meal if you behave: black truffle popcorn with truffle oil, Parmesan, parsley, and a sprinkling of black truffle. “It sounds ridiculous,” says Rachel Hayden, marketing director for the inn, “but it’s insanely addictive.” The Middleton Inn, an award winning bed and breakfast just down the street from The Inn At Little Washington, sits on a knoll of a country estate with unparalleled views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy a four-course breakfast or a wine and cheese hour surrounded by bucolic landscapes and the crisp mountain air. Art galleries and quaint boutiques such as the Middle Street Gallery and R.H. Ballard make for great day shopping. While rusticating the winter weekends away, vineyards are ideal day trips. Linden Vineyards is a seamless compliment to low-key winter months, maintaining a philosophy of “quiet and calm.” A vineyard of considerable acclaim and prestige, the small-scale producer has earned a reputation as one of Virginia’s finest wineries — and likewise has had a large hand in opening the world’s eyes to the viticultural possibilities of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. Their chardonnays are regularly compared with California’s, while the variety of reds all have considerable aroma and full, rich flavors. Perfect to drink on the vineyard’s premise or in front of the fireplace later in the evening. The Narmada Winery is quite new to the area, and already creating quite a stir. Among a full offering of different varieties, their dessert wine was voted the best in Virginia in 2009. This time of year, while visitors are sparse, visitors have a chance for intimate tours with an up and coming vineyard. With the mountains still blanketed by a layer of soft, white snow, and streets clear enough for walking around town, now is a unique time to experience rare beauty in the Shenandoahs. Hot Springs Let’s be honest with each other. There might not be all that much in Hot Springs, Virginia (although George Washington National Forest is rather pretty). And, yes, it might be a little out of the way. But what Hot Springs does have is The Homestead. This is what matters, and it is worth the trip. Resting on 3,000 acres of Allegheny Mountain terrain, The Homestead is a luxury mountain resort that has been spoiling their guests since before the American Revolution. This National Historic Landmark of a retreat is ranked among the world’s finest spa destinations, and has enough activities to keep someone busy through the entirety of winter. There are a variety of suite accommodations from which to choose, including pet friendly rooms. Their world-class spa alone would nearly be worth the trip — even more so in these dragging winter months when skin begins to crave an escape from the dry, cold atmosphere. Revitalize the mind, body and spirit with a hydrotherapy treatment, and then, if the mood is right, go see a movie at the in-house theater or swim in the naturally heated indoor pool, play tennis on the indoor courts, go skiing, ice skating, bowling, snow tubing. To say the least, The Homestead understands how to make the most out of winter. With nine restaurants to choose from, guests can dine in almost any manner they please. Put on a your evening’s best to enjoy French American cuisine at 1766 Grille, or enjoy a poolside lunch wrapped in a beach towel with a view of the snowcapped mountains just outside the window. Spring is coming, and, as we stagger around slush puddles at intersections and flip up our collars to deflect renegade snow clumps falling from waning rooftops, most of us agree that it couldn’t get here sooner. Even still, life should be enjoyed in the here and now. With so many unique opportunities just hours away, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the intimacy and the solitude of the last weeks of winter. [gallery ids="99058,99059" nav="thumbs"]

Spring is for Equestrians

Driving southwest beyond the bustle of DC, the edges of the city begin to melt away into its suburbs where high-rise buildings are fewer and farther between and new condos and housing complexes spring up along the highway, accommodating residents of the nation’s expanding capital. Continue still further south and even those images of city living begin to fade. Low-lying fences of dry, stacked stone run along the twisting roadsides, separating the asphalt from the rolling country beyond. What could be taken as a picturesque scene from an English painting is actually Virginia’s Loudoun County, the heart of America’s Horse Country. The many stories that make up Loudoun’s long, rich history of equestrian life are housed in the National Sporting Library and Museum, where over 17,000 books dating back to the 16th century, as well as cycles of exhibitions, chart the county’s sporting traditions back to their roots. The current exhibit, on display through June 30, is “Horses at Work and Play,” which showcases literature and toys from the National Sporting Library’s collections and the renowned Athelstan and Kathleen Spilhaus collection. This fall a new wing adjoining the library’s old brick building will open. The renovated hall will be the home of American and European fine sporting art, celebrating horse culture and field sports with through artistic representations. Horse culture is also the life and blood of many shops in Loudoun, such as Middleburg’s Journeymen, a tack store and workshop creating custom-made leather goods such as chaps and saddles. It’s also the only place in town to get repairs and adjustments for your gear. The front of the store is home to a boutique where a tailor can outfit you with fitted suits in addition to riding attire. Punkin Lee, the owner of the store whose strong hands and piercing eyes are at odds with her unique name, has been working with leather as the head of Journeymen for the past 34 years. A Middleburg native, Lee, grew up around horses, hunting and showing throughout her youth. At one time her grandmother’s barn was even the stomping ground for General George S. Patton’s horses, she said. “It’s the industry here,” Lee said. “Annapolis has boats, we have horses.” Having made every repair from a camel saddle to handmade leather boots for a dog, Lee stresses that the quality of her work is what keeps her customers from Middleburg and around the world coming back to her store. Pieces of Lee’s world-class gear have even made their way to the Olympics. For the past 157 years, Loudoun residents and horse enthusiasts from across the world gather in Upperville for the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, the oldest horse show in the U.S. featuring events from children’s competitions to Olympic-level riders and horses. June 6 through 12, the show will enter its 158th season at The Oaks, the event’s beautiful, grass-covered showgrounds nestled in Loudoun’s rolling foothills. For just $10 per person, visitors can watch a packed schedule of daily events with competitions for hunters, jumpers and breeders. Visit Upperville.com for more information. On May 7, about 50,000 people will travel to Great Meadow in The Plains region of Loudoun for the 86th annual Virginia Gold Cup steeplechase. The day’s six hurdle and timber horse races as well as its Jack Russell Terrier races are famous nationwide, and draw countless vendors, tents and tailgaters. The spectators will also have a chance to compete in the hat contest. Ladies sporting the biggest and best derby hats will be judged in the afternoon on Members Hill. To learn more about the steeplechase, go to VaGoldCup.com. Another tradition in Loudoun County is the Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church. This self-driven auto tour will enter its 52nd year the weekend of May 28, when drivers will tour a circuit of Upperville, Middleburg and The Plains, visiting the areas thoroughbred breeding farms, show hunger barns, fox hunting barns and country estates. Call 540.592.3408 or visit HuntCountryStableTour.org for more information and tickets. But riding in Loudoun County isn’t just for equestrian addicts and professionals. It’s a part of life for everyone, including visitors and first-timers. The area abounds with stables and fields where just about anyone can learn to ride. At the southern tip of Loudon, Aldie Dam Stable occupies more than 450 acres of land and offers lessons and trail rides for riders with all levels of experience. Call 540.931.8779 to find out more. Although Loudoun’s title of Horse Country is rich in history and tradition, the area also holds another prestigious title: Wine Country. More than 54 wineries are scattered throughout the area, their presence marked by the sprawling vineyards interspersed among the farms and grazing fields. The wineries are grouped into five clusters: the Loudoun Heights Cluster, the Waterford Cluster, the Potomac Cluster, the Mosby Cluster and the Harmony Cluster. This arrangement, in addition to the long, beautiful country roads, makes touring the vineyards an incredibly relaxing experience. These picture-perfect venues are wonderful settings to enjoy the slow pace of the countryside while sampling some of Virginia’s best wines. [gallery ids="99655,105340,105336,105334" nav="thumbs"]

Donald Trump Invests in Wine Country

Vineyards conjure images of grandeur: rolling hills of grape vines, lavish dinner parties at million dollar homes, a sort of bohemian wealth and influence. Sometimes though, it can come to a roaring halt when those same vineyards that supply the grandeur fail in a way Mother Nature could have predicted. Patricia Kluge, famed socialite who married rich, divorced nine years later and settled for the Charlottesville Mansion and nearly $1 million a year and then remarried, is again under fire after her $3 million house foreclosed this month. In February, Albermarle, a 200-acre and 45-room estate built by her late husband, John W. Kluge, was repossessed by creditor Bank of America for $15.3 million. It all started when Kluge established Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard on 960 acres in Charlottesville. She took out $65 million in loans to expand wine production and to build luxury homes on half the land. Then the bottom dropped out and she found that she could only sell half of what they anticipated. She defaulted on $35 million in loans. Over the past three years, Kluge lost Albermarle (originally valued at $100 million, now on the market for $16 million), $15.1 million worth of jewelry, and plenty of art and furniture to pay her debt and then the winery. On April 7 billionaire Donald Trump bought half of the land, including the winery, for $6.21 million, the other half going to Loudoun developer Sal Cangiano for $1.2 million. Trump told the Washington Post he sees the purchase as a great real estate deal, but not as an opportunity to continue the great wine making of Kluge. “I’m really interested in good real estate, not so much in wine,” he said. Trump is also interested in Albermarle, for which they hold the First Right of Refusal, though general counsel for the Trump Organization Jason D. Greenblatt told Forbes, "Ultimately we'd like to buy the home, but the bank has an unrealistic expectation for the purchase price.” Whatever the outcome of the land, Trump's made it clear that he wants Kluge to stay on in some capacity at the vineyards, though there's been speculation about a possible golf course. Kluge will no longer own her 960 acres of land, two homes or a reputation as a wine maker.

The Romance and Wonder of Keswick Hall

Coming up the winding driveway, just across the railroad track and beyond a horse pasture, I was greeted by a small vineyard and a grand, three-story resort house. The sun was setting just over the Spanish tile roof and the Southwest Mountains lay stoically in the distance along an endless, green golf course. I walked into the front doors of Keswick Hall and was greeted by the hum of intimate conversations, the crackling of a wood fire and the clinking of glasses in a wide, open parlor. The parlor was warmly lit, elegant and modest, with a tin of warm cider sitting on heated bricks by the entrance. In front of the fire, couples were reading, talking, playing chess, enjoying drinks. It was just before dinnertime. This was the definition of a romantic retreat. Sitting on 600 acres, this sprawling country estate in the lush foothills of Keswick, Virginia is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast. With the very best of comfort and accommodations, couples spa treatments, exceptional wines both local and international, and world-class cuisine, Keswick Hall brings together all the luxuries of the world’s finest resorts with the distinct character of the Virginia region. Thomas Jefferson called this area of country the “Eden of the United States,” and Keswick Hall holds true to this claim, offering the most sinfully delicious experiences you and your better half will have this side of the Atlantic. The accommodations are worth the trip itself. The rooms are bright and thoughtfully furnished, the wide, soft beds entice even the well rested, and a pouch of aromatic bath salts sit by the tub. The windows open to pastoral vistas on all sides. A plate of gourmet cheeses and a bottle of house wine await new visitors with a personal note from the staff. These are perhaps small details, but the intricate cares taken by the resort add up. It is this very attention to detail, this individualizing of each guest that makes Keswick stand out. You are not just another guest at Keswick, but a valued member of the family for the duration of your stay. “There’s a very comfortable beauty about Keswick,” says Patricia Castelli, Keswick Hall’s resident historian. “There’s an incredible sense of elegance, and it’s also so comfortable. It strikes the right balance, which is what makes people so astounded by it.” And Keswick has surely astounded plenty of guests— Condé Nast deemed them the number one small resort in the country in 2010. Keswick feels so intimate because it’s a very real part of its surrounding community. “The estate has been here for 100 years,” says Castelli, “and its history ads weight to its authenticity. You’re discovering an area rather than just coming to a hotel—and it’s such an outstanding place to discover. A lot of people don’t know we exist, and after they visit they wonder why they didn’t know about us before.” The grounds offer a wide range of activities, from exploring the vineyards to fishing, to even archery. But the highlight is the Arnold Palmer Signature 18-hole golf course, which compliments the landscape as if it is a natural part of the mountain range. The course is an Autobon certified sanctuary, maintaining strict standards of resources and limiting pesticides. Keswick wants the course and the estate to be as agreeable to wildlife as possible, and they go well out of their way to make the range as environmentally friendly as it is beautiful. Meanwhile, in the kitchen of Keswick’s Fossett’s Restaurant, Executive Chef Dean Maupin brings together the bounty of the local farmland with effusive vision and international inspiration to create frighteningly delicious cuisine. The food is delicate and elegant without being fussy. During the harvest months, most of the produce comes from the estate’s garden, run by the Chef himself. The menu is seasonal and changes frequently, but during the winter months you can expect such offerings as smoked trout with avocado and apple, beet salad with citrus vinaigrette and olives, pear and pecorino ravioli, pappardelle with braised lamb shoulder and tapenade, duck breast with truffle risotto and Madeira jus, or parsnip quiche with sage, fontina and thick, fresh bacon. The food is, quite simply, as good as food gets. Each ingredient is played to its absolute perfection, each dish is perfectly balanced, and the kitchen keeps in touch with its environment, seasonally and locally. While Keswick certainly offers the best of all general amenities—a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, billiards, a library, golf, tennis, horseback riding, personal and couples massage sessions, a world class wine cellar—this is all only the surface of Keswick’s allure. Keswick Hall shines not because it allows you to escape from the surrounding area, but because it engrosses you in it, reminding you of the beauty and richness of the Virginia homeland. It invites guests to fall in love with its character, through the landscape, the food, the activities, and the memories you will surely create. There is a gentle, serene beauty about the Virginia countryside, one that is perfectly tailored for a couple looking for a quiet and intimate experience. Keswick Hall is a quiet pinnacle of romance and relaxation, and now is the perfect time of year to fall into its warm, generous arms. For more information, visit Keswick.com [gallery ids="99595,105014,105021,105018" nav="thumbs"]

My life on horseback

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A polo handicap is a passport to the world.” In my opinion, it is a passport to life. I was born in Stratford upon Avon, which is in the Warwickshire countryside. I sat on my first horse at 18 months old and took my first riding lesson at the age of six. Little did my parents suspect that buying me my first pony at age eight would lead me to what I am now — a polo player. My pony and I learned to compete together in gymkhana, jumping, and cross country. I even tried a little dressage. But the day I went to watch a polo match with a friend I knew I had to play. I took one lesson, and I was hooked. Polo is like life — although it’s a team sport, it’s ultimately down to you. You get up. You compete. You miss shots. You hit great ones. You sometimes fall off, but you rise and go on. At that time, I was working for a U.K. company as a sales and marketing executive. They wanted me to open their Washington DC office. I first asked if there was a polo club before I said yes. I met my husband playing arena polo on a freezing January night. I knew he was my type of man — a polo addict. My husband and I now live on a horse farm with our polo ponies, in Virginia. Our team, Los Tigres, plays in local leagues during the summer. In the winter we travel to play polo in places like Zambia, England, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Dubai, and Jamaica. [gallery ids="99200,103424" nav="thumbs"]

Plans Underway for 13th Taste of Rappahannock

Plans are underway for Headwaters Foundation’s 13th Annual Taste of Rappahannock, widely considered one of the county’s most popular fundraising events. This year’s event, which will be held at Belle Meade Schoolhouse on Sept.11, beginning at 6 p.m., promises to be an exciting evening. “We’ve hired Red Apple Auctions of Alexandria to help us with both the silent and live auctions, and they have some great new ideas that we are implementing,” said Toni Egger, executive director for Headwaters. Nearly 50 one-of-a-kind items will be auctioned. Already on the bidding list and sure to cause competitive bidding are a week at Le Silence, a charming, five-bedroom farmhouse in the scenic countryside of Burgundy, France, a trip to Cancun and a theater weekend in Washington, D.C. Guests may bid on other experiences, such as a helicopter ride and accompanying gourmet picnic, a cooking workshop and dinner with well known chef and writer Hi Soo Hepinstall, a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at Copper Fox Distillery, original art from a number of Rappahannock County’s most accomplished artists, and more. Rappahannock County’s students have always been the primary beneficiaries of the Taste, and this year, more than ever, they will be a part of this time-honored event. Students will be involved in every aspect of the evening, from greeting and chatting with guests to serving hors d’oeuvres to helping prepare and serve a wide selection of dishes of locally sourced foods. A musical ensemble from Rappahannock High School will provide live background music. During the formal dinner program, one student will share how his experience with Headwaters has made a difference in his life. Funds raised during the annual Taste of Rappahannock are crucial to underwriting the enrichment programs offered to students by Headwaters throughout the year. This year’s “Challenge” will, in fact, be a challenge — thanks to generous donations by Rappahannock resident Mitzi Young and the late Took Crowell — and should generate significant contributions. High level challenge donors will be honored with a champagne reception. The funds raised this year are more important than ever, as Headwaters looks to expand its outreach efforts. In addition to supporting its robust, long-lived programs, including Farm-to-Table, Starfish Mentoring,, and Next Step, and its supportive teacher mini-grants and complimentary staff development efforts, funds are needed to develop new programs. “Rappahannock County has a new school administration with new ideas and programs they will want to launch. We want to be ready and able to help,” Egger said. “We would like to create an opportunity fund so that we can respond to developing needs and ideas for programs at all levels of school.” In the planning stage is an after-school program for elementary school children. Egger said that a survey will be sent in August to elementary school-age children and their parents. “We want to learn from the parents and students what they would like to see in an after-school program before we build it and will incorporate their thoughts and suggestions,” Egger said. “We hope to start such a program in January.” She credits Headwaters volunteer Philip Strange for outlining a proposal for the effort. Demand for tickets this year will likely be greater than ever, in part because of advertising support in Flavor magazine, which reaches some 50,000 people throughout the region, including D.C., Maryland and northern and central Virginia. Details of this year’s Taste are online at Headwaters Foundation’s Web site, www.headwatersfdn.org. Event Co-Chairs Cheri Woodard, Terri Lehman, and Ashleigh Cannon Sharp said that invitations to the 13th Annual Taste of Rappahannock were sent out in early August. Tickets are $150 for individuals. Patron tables of 10 are $2000. Sponsored tables are $1200 and include two tickets to the event. No doubt, the event will sell out as soon as invitations reach the mailbox. To participate, e-mail your name and address to Toni Egger at director@headwatersfdn.org or call Toni at 540-987-3322. Tickets are $150 for individuals and tables may be sponsored. Event sponsorships are also available. The Grand Prize: One week at Le Silence, a charming five bedroom farm house in central Burgundy’s Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan. The property, originally part of the famous Manoir de Ruères, is situated in the quiet hamlet of that name midway among the historic cities of Avallon, Saulieu and Vézelay. Within easy driving distance, one may find the renowned wine regions of the Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits, Côte d’Or and Chablis, and somewhat further afield, Beaujolais and Sancerre. Several of the world’s greatest restaurants are within a half an hour, including Marc Meneau’s L’Espérance and the late Bernard Loiseau’s Côte d’Or; and smaller but superb establishments abound nearby. Though 220km from Paris, Le Silence is connected by a near-by major auto route (circa 3 hours driving time), and for those wishing a long day or two in Paris, by a high speed train from nearby Montbard deposits you at the Gare de Lyon in one hour and one minute. The immediate environs of the house boast many of the poignant monuments to the World War II French Resistance, and the region is dotted with memorials to brave Americans and Britons who perished supporting them. The Musée de la Résistance in nearby Saint-Brisson is especially moving. The house itself, which has been in the Wimbush family for nearly 30 years, sits on four hectares of wooded farmland. It has been substantially modernized and is fully equipped. For local color, fine food and wine, history and culture, and the upmost tranquility, Le Silence is hard to match. This is a unique opportunity for one or several couples, or a larger extended family. Bidding starts at $5,000 (for use of the house only; does not include travel). [gallery ids="99190,103304,103307" nav="thumbs"]

Gardens of Hunt Country

Said to be commissioned sometime around 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar as a gift to his wife Amytis, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and perhaps one of the earliest botanical works of art. With lush trees and fragrant plants imported from her native Persia and planted in elevated stone terraces to resemble the mountainous terrain where she lived as a child, the gardens were intended to provide a homesick Amytis with a sense of comfort, peace, and familiarity in a place so different from her homeland — emotions that every garden should evoke in its keeper. Whether it’s the palatial gardens of Versailles, an intimate courtyard retreat in Georgetown, or a smaller-scale balcony garden consisting of containers filled with overflowing greenery and colorful blooms, anyone who has spent time in a garden understands the positive impact such a space has on one’s overall attitude and well-being. If you already have a garden, or have toyed with the idea of creating one, the gardening events on tap this spring in Virginia’s Hunt Country will no doubt inspire your inner gardener. Secret Gardens April 17 through 25 is Historic Garden Week in Virginia — your annual invitation to take an up-close and personal peek behind some of the most exclusive garden gates in the Commonwealth, and in some cases, a glimpse into the magnificent homes that share the landscape with them. Organized by member clubs of The Garden Club of Virginia and celebrating its 77th season, this statewide celebration is frequently referred to as “America’s Largest Open House” and is the oldest event of its kind in the United States. More than 30 home and garden tours will take place in Virginia during Historic Garden Week, with proceeds going toward the preservation and restoration of historic gardens and grounds throughout the state. Several tours are within close proximity to Washington, D.C., including two in Virginia’s Hunt Country — the Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club tour, and Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour. A mix of old and new awaits you on the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club tour, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit five outstanding residences — some constructed prior to the Civil War. Leave the hectic pace of the city behind and travel west through the scenic countryside, where lush green fields and historic stone walls make the journey just as beautiful as the destinations. Properties on the tour include Innisfree, Marly, Waverly, Middleton and Pennygent. Make your way along pea gravel paths and cobblestone walkways as you are treated to exceptional gardens overflowing with annuals, perennials, espaliered fruit trees, and terraces wrapped in wisteria. The Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour showcases five remarkable homes dating from the 18th century to the early part of the 21st century. Erchless, Rosemont on the Shenandoah, Caveland, Apple Hill and Randleston Farm are all extraordinary residences, each unique in their own way. One residence has a circular main floor plan, with no square rooms, while another has a history that dates to the Roaring ’20s. This is an outstanding and eclectic collection of properties that you’re sure to remember long after your visit. A Festival Blooms in Leesburg Promising to be bigger and more impressive than ever, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival celebrates its 20th year the weekend of April 17. Attracting more than 35,000 visitors over the two-day botanical extravaganza, this event is set to fill the streets of downtown historic Leesburg with a garden party you won’t want to miss. There’s something for everyone, so come early, bring the entire family and plan to spend the day. Over 100 vendors are slated to be on hand to equip you with everything you need to envision, and ultimately cultivate, the outdoor space of your dreams. It’s unlikely you’ll even recognize the streets of this quaint historic town, as they have magically been transformed into elaborate landscaped gardens, flower and plant exhibits and more — all certain to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Talk with landscape professionals that can help you design that perfect patio, walkway or garden area. Stock up on supplies or buy that must-have plant with over-the-top blooms that will look just perfect in your garden. Be sure to stop by the Town Green, where experts will be presenting demonstrations on a variety of topics. Learn about composting and pick up other eco-friendly gardening tips and techniques that will ensure your garden is “green.” When it’s time to take a break, grab a bite to eat from one of several food vendors and enjoy the entertainment on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn where various artists will treat you to music ranging from classic rock to reggae. New this year is a garden of a different sort — a wine and beer garden — featuring many of your favorite Loudoun County wineries and breweries. Face painting, crafts, and entertainment will be in full swing on the children’s stage, so make sure the “junior gardeners” in your family don’t miss out on any of the fun. Whether you’re avid gardener, or just beginning to dabble in plants, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival is an excellent opportunity to connect with landscape professionals, enhance your gardening knowledge, and enjoy some great springtime weather. Le Petit Jardin There’s no doubt you’ll be anxious to take all of those great gardening ideas you picked up at this spring’s events and turn them into reality. If you have never gardened because you thought you didn’t have enough time or space, think again. For many of us, time constraints or limited space just mean that we have to garden on a somewhat smaller scale. Starla King, owner of Signature Gardenscapes (www.signaturegardenscapes.com) — a company specializing in smaller-scale residential landscape, says sun, space and soil are the keys to any beautiful garden. Once you assess these three important elements, you are ready to begin creating your own personal outdoor oasis. To get you started, King offers these helpful tips for creating and maintaining gardens in small spaces: • Always consider how much sun or shade the planting area will receive each day. If your garden area is primarily shade, don’t get a plant that needs mostly sun. It will probably still grow, but will be spindly, unhealthy-looking and never mature to its full potential. Likewise, a shade-loving plant will burn to a crisp in a full-sun area. • Determine how much space you have for your garden before you purchase plants. Plants will try to grow to their intended size even if you don’t give them enough room. Buy plants whose size at maturity matches your available space. For example, if you have a three- to five-foot garden space, don’t buy five plants that will each grow to three feet wide. You will end up with 15 feet of plants in a five-foot space. Instead, consider five plants that grow to one foot wide, or three plants that mature to two feet wide. • Check the soil condition. New garden beds may require that some topsoil or soil conditioner be mixed with the earth. If in doubt, check with your garden center or plant nursery. For containers, just use a good quality potting soil. • Visit a garden center and start your search for plants that appeal to you. Check the plant labels or ask for assistance to ensure the plants you select are conducive to your sun, space and soil conditions. • Consider how your plants will look together before you buy them. Place them in your cart and see if their colors and textures complement each other. Do you think they look good? Buy them! If you’re not pleased with how look together, try different plants to obtain the overall effect you want to achieve. • At home, plant and care for your new purchases according to instructions on the labels and enjoy! So now you’re ready — get out there and get gardening. And remember, whatever your source of inspiration, be it a grand garden on a magnificent country estate or container garden tucked humbly in the corner of a balcony, make certain the garden you create is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were to Amytis — a place of comfort, contentment, beauty and familiarity. Coming Up In Country: Plan now to make sure you don’t miss these annual gardening events happening this spring in Virginia’s hunt country. Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival April 17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Downtown Historic Leesburg www.leesburgva.gov Historic Garden Week: Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club Tour April 18, 1 to 5 p.m. April 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.vagardenweek.org Historic Garden Week: Winchester - Clarke County Garden Club Tour April 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 25, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. www.vagardenweek.org Philomont Garden Phair April 24 and 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Featuring plant growers, local artisans, garden-themed retailers and more. www.philomontgeneralstore.com [gallery ids="99108,99109,99110,99111,99112,99113,99114" nav="thumbs"]