Last weekend Saturday, Sarah and I had a first day really to ourselves. We decided to take our very first day trip in the U.S. We went to the historic town of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, famous for the armed slave revolt started by John Brown in 1859. We planned to visit some wineries along the way.
We had intended to leave really early, but as mentioned it was the first day we really had to ourselves, so… we slept in a bit. I would be behind the wheel, as I wanted to familiarise myself as much as possible with the car and American roads because of the upcoming driver’s license road test I would have to take.
We arrived in Harper’s Ferry in the early afternoon. You can park the car conveniently right outside the town at a massive parking lot. A shuttle bus ferries you to and from the actual town, which therefore remains nicely car free. It was a beautifully sunny day. As both of us had been cooped up in air-conditioned rooms all week, we underestimated the sun’s strength and developed a moderate sunburn.
Harper’s Ferry is a really small town that is situated where the Shenandoah and Potomac River meet, as well as the U.S. states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. The town is best known for the armed slave revolt started by John Brown in 1859. Together with 21 others Brown raided the arsenal and attacked the town, hoping to use the captured weapons to spark a slave uprising. Robert E. Lee, who would become the famous commander of the Confederate Army a few years later, led a small contingent of U.S. Marines to end this local rebellion. John Brown initially survived, but was later tried and hanged.
We first took some time to saunter through the old town. We visited, of course, the bookshop, but also a small industry museum and a historic clothing shop. We rather quickly sat down for lunch, which really was our breakfast.
After lunch we dared to climb up the hill to Jefferson Rock, a challenging 10-minute ascend given the heat. It doesn’t seem to matter what Thomas Jefferson did, whatever he did this to, at, in, from, or on, from the moment he did it it acquired a holy status. Harper’s Ferry proved no different. Apparently, he stood on this particular rock to enjoy the view, where he would exclaim that the “scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.” You come across this quote on signs throughout the town and in every folder or website about Harper’s Ferry. It seems it is not so much the view itself that is really amazing (which it really actually is), rather than that Mr Jefferson said it was! Later, this very rock happened to become a threat as it threatened to fall down the slope. Therefore, 4 stone pillars were created to keep it in its place.
We walked down the slope, back to and through the town centre, towards the rivers. We got onto to bridge crossing the Potomac River, right before it meets the Shenandoah River. The view of the gently flowing water was amazing. Dozens of people went down the river in kayaks or on tubes. A particularly nice sight was formed by a small group of youngsters that had strung together a number of tubes and, conveniently, a floating drinks cooler. I put it on my list of things I want to do when my family and friends come over from Europe!
Refreshed by the river water, we took the shuttle bus back to our car for the drive back to Washington, D.C. Along the way we stopped twice at a winery. The first stop was Breaux Vineyards, an estate bigger than 400 acres. It is situated in the middle of some sort of plateau, surrounded by low hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A (definitely very expensive) wedding was well underway when we arrived. We checked out the wines and admired the estate. We refrained from buying wine, though, as they were a bit expensive, starting at $30 per bottle.
We then drove on to visit the next winery: Hillsborough Vineyards. Located on a Blue Ridge Mountain slope, this winery is very picturesque. Walking toward the main building we saw groups of people sitting outside enjoying bottles of wine bought at the estate and what looked like homemade snacks. One of the groups was moving on the tunes of Hispanic music, blasting from a radio they had brought along.
We went inside and decided to do a wine tasting: $10 (each) for a tasting of 6 wines. Predictably, Sarah liked the sweeter white and rosé wines better, whereas the darker red wines were my favourites. We liked them so much that we decided to buy two bottles – we needed to fill the empty wine rack up in our kitchen anyway! Sarah and I had considered organising our wedding at a winery or vineyard as well. Not a strange thought apparently – a wedding ceremony was about to start at this winery as well.
Our lovely first U.S. day-trip came to a much-to-soon end at a Thai restaurant, a walking distance from our apartment. As always, I ordered something way too spicy.