Archive for June 2006

26/Jun/2006 – Taking the Cure at Berkeley Springs, WV   13 comments

Berkeley Springs, WV

Taking the Cure

Image of Tari's Inn and Restaurant

Tari’s Inn and Restaurant

Image of Lydia at the Highlawn Inn

Lydia at the Highlawn Inn

Image of sign in front of Aunt Pearl's House

Aunt Pearl’s House

Image of Aunt Pearl's House

Our digs in Berkeley Springs, WV

Image of the back of Aunt Pearl's

Back of “Aunt Pearl’s”

Our Room

Inside our room at “Aunt Pearl’s”

Fire Hall

The Fire Hall

Image of a quaint Street

Quaint Fairfax Street

Image of a notebook and pen

I picked up this notebook and pen to journal the trip. Yes, it’s cute.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Mary Tyler Who?

The shadow of drowsiness fell on me as I wrote this. We had arrived at our weekend retreat—The Highlawn Inn Bed and Breakfast in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. We left Pittsburgh about 2:30 PM and less than three hours later, we were cruising down the main drag of Berkeley Springs, looking for Tari’s Inn and Restaurant. Wonderfully, we got in for dinner, even though we had made no earlier reservations.

Tari’s (pronounced, “Terry’s”) is decorated in a quaint, rustic, artistic style. The meal—we each had the Caribbean Pork—was delicious and left room for dessert. The appearance of our waitress reminded me of a young Bebe Neuwirth. (Remember Lilith Sternin-Crane from Cheers/Fraiser?) To Lydia, though, she was in manner—soft spoken and mild—like Georgia Engel who played Georgette Baxter on the Mary Tyler Moore show. (Yes, we are that old.)

The walls of Tari’s were decorated with paintings and metal sculptures made of wire, nails, spikes and even faucets. The artists also were advertising, via cards left on the tables, a studio tour not far from town.

Where’s the Fire?

After dessert (mine was a Kentucky Derby cake, which was basically a warm chocolate-chip cookie, in the guise of a cake,) we found our destination, the Highlawn Inn, less than 1/4 mile from the restaurant. We signed in, got the two-bit tour, and were directed to our room in a house on an adjoining property, Aunt Pearl’s house. Ours was the Garden Room. It was cozy with a private bath and private walk-out porch.

We plunked our stuff down and headed out to explore. Our hostess had told us that the only real noise in town was the siren that called the volunteer firefighters. Wouldn’t you know it, as we made our way towards town, the siren went off. At the time, we were less than a block from the fire hall and were treated to see and hear (Yikes!) the engine as it passed us on the way to the emergency. A block later and arriving at the main drag, we saw to where it had been called—Tari’s, where we had just eaten less than an hour before. There wasn’t any smoke, so I figured it was a cat up a tree or some other Pleasantville-type drama.

Not wanting to gawk or get in the way, we trekked to a side street to explore. Along the way, I notice lots of bed & breakfasts and inns. Our walk brought us to a Dollar General store where I picked up a notebook and pen to journal the trip (so much already had happened and I didn’t want to miss anything else.) This reminds me of a tip when traveling: One should not fret too much when packing, since one can usually pick up a forgotten item at the destination.

Armed with Lydia’s research and a walking tour map we had picked up at the Inn, we strolled and took note of some of the more interesting places. Another travel tip is to get an overview, as soon as possible, upon arriving at a new place.

Our stroll brought us gradually back to the Inn. Once inside, I jotted down details of the evenings events on the back porch and Lydia perused some flyers and brochures for potential activities. We watched an episode of Monk, but soon it was time to turn in.

With dreams of massages, manicures, and facials dancing through our heads, we drifted off to sleep.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Breakfast and a Geocache

We woke up to the sound of birds chirping and it was actually pleasant. The birds in Pittsburgh should take a lesson. This morning is also spa morning! First, however, is breakfast. After we showered, we headed up to the main house for our morning meal. The dining room was very elegant. Guests each sit at tables of two or four, like a little café. Breakfast itself was served buffet style. I had coffee, sausage, eggs, and a cinnamon scone smothered in a lemon curd. Lydia talked me into trying the blueberry juice and it was yummy.

We had a few extra minutes before our spa appointment; therefore, and since it was on the way, we took an initial try at one of the area’s geocaches.

From the website:

The basic idea is to have individuals and organizations set up caches all over the world and share the locations of these caches on the internet. GPS users can then use the location coordinates to find the caches.

It’s a global treasure hunt for geeks. We didn’t find this cache right away, due to a mistake in the coordinates and a shortage of time. We vowed to return. Besides, we were off to the spa.

Bueller? Bueller?

Afterwards, over lunch, Lydia asked me if I could do that more often, meaning could I have a spa treatment more often. I told her, “I could do that tomorrow.”

Being my first spa experience (though I have had massages before,) I had no preconceived ideas of what lay ahead. This, for me, is a perfect state of mind to be in, since it lets me observe without filtering or processing. I can simply absorb the experience. I would process it all later.

After we paid (and the credit card was approved—whew,) we were escorted to separate changing rooms where we stripped into our birthday suits and put on robes. Upon emerging, we were directed to our private Jacuzzi and slipped into the warm water. After a moment, someone turned a switch and the jets droned to life. After a tenderizing soak, the jets stopped and we took our queue to emerge, dry off, and enrobe for the next leg of the morning.

I followed Lydia upstairs to a waiting room, where she had been told to go following the whirlpool. While we waited, various staff members took turns walking by our room and, on occasion, calling out a name. “Kathy? Kathy?” Nope. No Kathys here. Then after a few minutes, “Brenda? Brenda?” Missed again. Lydia said she felt like she was loosing the name lottery.

Then, pay dirt. Both Lydia and I were called at the same time, but by two different people. We each went off to our separate treatments, a pedicure for Lydia and a manicure for me. I actually had a manicure before. A day or two before my wedding, I had my nails done for the first time. I also had my hair colored on that occasion, to knock down some of the grey. I was twenty-eight then. Now, I like my salt and pepper locks.

Turned out that my next stop was to Kim for a massage. But first, I was off to the waiting room for another round of name lottery. “Ryan? Ryan?” My blank look told the inquirer she had missed. I wondered how many waiting rooms there were. Was my masseuse, Kim, at another room asking Ryan if he was Grant?

After a few minutes, Kim arrived and called me to follow her to her room. She left me alone to disrobe and climb up onto the table under the cover. In a few minutes she returned and began the treatment. Kim impressed me with her caring, nurturing personality. This was evident in her hands and her voice.

I gotta tell you, massages are the best. I’ll have to see if I can find a place near work or home where I can indulge more frequently.

After the massage I was directed to a quiet waiting area, where I happened to meet up with Lydia again. We rested serenely and enjoyed another round of name lottery with two ladies who were waiting with us. Again we were each called at the same time and we separated to our individual facials.

The facial seemed to me to be a combination of washing and massage of the face. This was combined with oiling, heating, and massaging of my hands and feet. It was pleasant enough, but not as fully relaxing as a body massage. That brought our treatments to an end, so we headed to the change rooms, got dressed and headed out into the warm sunny day.

Art and Ice Cream

We had scoped out a Mexican restaurant the previous evening, so we made that our target for lunch. The service was almost nonexistent, but the food (when it finally arrived) was very good.

After lunch, in our post-spa serenity, we wandered around town mixing with the buzz of other tourists and locals. At some point, we made reservations for the next evening at a restaurant that had bee recommended to us, the Panorama Restaurant. That evening , however, we were all set for dinner at our Inn.

Our meandering took us into various shops and an artists’ co-op called “The Icehouse.” Inside were displays by local artists, of which there are quite a few given the small town’s size. One of the exhibits was of various quilts. Some were for sale, others for display, and still others were part of a silent auction to raise money for the local library.

From the Ice House we went for ice cream at the Creekside Creamery. Being a warm, sunny afternoon, the shop was very busy and the three older staffers were being run ragged by the crowd of patrons. I think, though, everyone was patient and understanding and we all eventually got our cold desserts.

I had a pina colada smoothie and Lydia had a cup of pistachio ice cream. Lydia—poor thing—had a headache, so we decided that our grueling day (wink, wink) had earned us a nap. After all, it was 4:00 p.m.

A Brick Bath

Two hours later, we woke refreshed, showered, and dressed for a special dinner. I felt so bad that I didn’t have much of an appetite for dinner, because the food was delicious. That Mexican lunch held me longer than I would have expected. The menu was:

  • Leek and Goat Cheese Tart
  • Herb Garden Salad (fresh herbs and Mandarin oranges with raspberry balsamic vinaigrette)
  • Fruit Sorbet
  • Stuffed Alfredo Chicken (free ranged chicken breast stuffed with three cheeses and spinach, topped with alfredo sauce) AND
  • Parchment-wrapped Salmon (fresh salmon filets baked in parchment with fennel, carrots, green onions, and red peppers)
  • Potato Gratin with Rosemary and Garlic
  • Assorted Homemade Breads
  • Double Chocolate Fudge Cake with Brandy-Cherry Sauce OR Cheesecake with Strawberry-Amoretto Glaze

The sun had set during dinner, but we still wanted to get a walk in before bed. We headed in a different direction down to the main drag. En route, we found the cache that had eluded us earlier, but we had no pen to write in the log (and there were some other things to see as part of the find that were printed on the description page, also not to hand,) but we were psyched to have “made the find.”

We strolled through the state park and tried to imagine George Washington, more than two hundred fifty years ago, taking a bath in a tub made of coarse brick. Then again, as Lydia observed, “What was comfortable in 1748? Precious little.”

A little more walkies and talkies and we were (well, I was) ready to call it an night. Back in the Garden room, we threw on the A/C to cool off, got dressed for bed, and journalled the day’s activities.

Image of a table at B&B

A table at our B&B

Image of Grant standing outside the Atasia Spa

Grant standing outside the Atasia Spa

Image of a candle's flame, close up

Candle’s flame, close up, on our table.

Image of Lydia by George Washington's Bath

Lydia by George Washington’s Bath

Farmer's Market

Sunday Farmer’s Market on the way into town.

Geocaching Spectator

Mean-looking geocaching spectator

Image of table our reservation

We have reservations

Image of the Panorama Restaurant

The Panorama Restaurant

Image of Lydia heading into the Star Theater

Lydia heads into the Star Theater

Image of an old time popcorn machine

Old-time popcorn machine, fresh popcorn

Image of seats of the Star Theater

Seats inside the Star Theater

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Breakfast and Towels

We had nowhere in particular to get to first thing. We slept in a little, skipped showers for the moment, and went up for breakfast. They cleaned our room while were at breakfast and, as a result we didn’t get clean towels. You see, the Inn had a program of taking used towels and replacing them with fresh ones only if they were left on the floor. They explained that this was done as part of an effort to spare the environment. A guest would show that they wanted to participate in the program by hanging towels they were going to use again on the rods.

Since we hadn’t showered by the time they cleaned our room and, therefore, the towels were still on the rods, we didn’t get fresh ones. That meant these towels, the ones from the previous morning, were to last us until the next morning. Looking back, I suppose we could have asked for fresh towels, but we didn’t.

Morning Foraging

Instead we headed down into town. On the way, we wandered through the farmer’s market. I helped a young fiddler finance his trip to some place that I forget, by throwing a couple of dollars into his violin case. Yes, I am quite the art patron. Lydia picked up some scented Shea butter—a very good moisturizer.

First item this morning was to find me some casual clothes (I know. I didn’t bring any casual clothes. What was I thinking?) I think we did well on our hunt:

  • Green shorts that fit: $3 at a consignment store.
  • Comfortable, if not stylish, sneakers: $10 at the dollar store.
  • Ankle socks, 4 pairs: $5 at the dollar store.
  • Perfect green tie-dyed t-shirt: $12.25 at a garden market.
  • Getting suitably “casualized” for some geocaching: Priceless.

Item two was to put together a picnic lunch. We scored some crackers, two kinds of cheese, iced teas, bananas, and chocolate for dessert. After our successful foraging, we headed back to the B&B to change.

Picnic Along the Potomac

We had planned to tackle some more geocaches today. One of them required solving a logic puzzle to get the correct coordinates. I love these puzzles. A few minutes later with solution in hand, we saddled up to the first cache called, “Spruce Pine Hollow.” This turned out to be a traditional hide of an ammo can in a log, which we knocked off in short order.

On the way from there to the next cache, we let our Garmin GPS 60cs unit route us through the back roads of Morgan County on the way to Hancock, Maryland. During this second cache, along the Potomac River, we decided to get a bit of a walk in and have our picnic lunch while some muggles disbursed. (“Muggles”: geocaching-speak for non-geocachers who are unaware of the game’s existence.)

We were back on the scent, but we had some trouble finding this one. We sat in some shade to rework the puzzle solution and confirm we had the right coordinates. After a little more searching, we discovered we had been sitting right on it a few minutes earlier. Some mean-looking red bugs observed us quietly as we extracted the small container and logged our find.

We were both pretty beat form the tromping and heat. It was 3:00 p.m. and I could have used a whirlpool soak and a massage right about then. Instead, we headed back to the B&B to get freshened up for dinner at the Panorama Restaurant.

Dinner

Only about a five-minute drive from town, we parked across the highway from the restaurant at an overlook that gives the restaurant its name. The view from here has been judged one of the best in North America. It was very… well, panoramic. Not that I have seen every impressive overlook but, I would have imagined there are many more breath-taking spots, like the Grand Canyon and the mountains out west. But hey, I’m not the one calling this one of the best. Even if it isn’t “one of the best,” it is worth a look.

At the restaurant, the food itself was good with only a few glitches. I had the filet mignon. (I had asked for medium, but got almost well done.) Still, it was very tender and tasty, so I let it slide. Lydia had the Pork chop, which was about an inch thick.

The service was a little more casual and “diner-like” than the menu prices lead me to expect. However, we were cared for adequately.

Our third cache of the day was right in the overlook parking lot. The coordinates were dead on and Lydia nabbed it—a quick find.

A short drive later, we were back at the B&B so we could rest up before our movie.

And a Movie

After a rest and a show on T.V. about motor homes, we strolled down to the Star Theater to see “The Wild.” On the way, we stopped by the State Park (fountains and baths, etc.) once again, to wrap up the geocache from the first day by signing the log book and finding the answers to the puzzle, which were not needed to find the cache, as it turned out. Then, it was onward to our movie.

Our draw was more than the movie, however. (Though we had heard good things.) The theater itself was unique. The Star Theater has been open and screening movies since the 1920’s. That evening the adult admission was $3.50 each; the popcorn and apple cider added another $2.25, bringing the total for the both of us to less than $10.

The popcorn machine was from the 1940’s and still made a great batch. The seats were small and tightly spaced, but some had been removed and replaced with couches, which had to be reserved. There was even a stage platform in from of the screen. It was a cool experience and the movie was decent, too. On the way home, the evening air was a comfortable 68°. We took our time strolling back to the Inn to retire for the night.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Completing the Cure

This was the final day of our short, spa getaway weekend. Since Da ‘Burgh is only three hours away, there was no need for us to rush. We broke our fast leisurely, then went back to our room to pack. After checking out, we packed the car and drove into town—all of one left turn. We took some time to wander the State Park that is home to the natural springs of Berkeley Springs. The facilities here also offer soaks, showers, and massages. To complete our “cure” we removed shoes and socks to wade in the spring water pools. Looking carefully, we noticed where the water bubbled up through the sandy pool floor. We filled up some water bottles at the free fountains to take some of the springs home with us. Properly refreshed, we mounted up and headed north.

The Earth Cache

An earth cache is a special type of geocache that features, not swag, but an interesting natural spectacle. This cache is basically a giant “V” cut into a hill that allows interstate 68 to zoom past. On the site of the cut there is a visitor’s center.

The air conditioning in the center was a big relief. They had various displays explaining the geology exposed by the construction.

Don’t Try This at Home

After our break, we continued west along I-68 for a few miles before diverting off onto US-40, a scenic side route that parallels the interstate. Winding along this route brought us to another geocache spot at an overlook. For this cache, however, we did not have the printout explaining what we were looking for and, as a result, we were not successful.

Later, reading the description, we discovered that this had been a micro cache—a very small container and difficult to find—which had been puzzling, since the location could have accommodated a full-sized, traditional cache. Oh, well. Other “cachers” had had trouble finding it, too.

From there, we decided to rejoin I-68. Just as we were making the turn onto the ramp, Lydia spotted a likely spot to grab a bite to eat. As no one was around, I broke every rule of the road and stopped, backed off the ramp, and turned into the place.

At first I took it to be a restaurant, but it turned out to be an Amish-run convenience/grocery store. We picked up some sandwiches, drinks, and snacks, which we ate outside on a picnic table. Lydia also got some wheat-free dough.

Fueled up, we jumped onto I-68 (no illegal maneuvers this time,) then to I-79 and home. We flaked out, unpacked, and got plugged back into the online world. I believe that we will make it a family guideline that all future trips will include a visit to a spa.

Image of waders in the springs

Waders in the springs

Natural Spring

Natural Spring

Image of a model of the Sideling Hill Cut

Model of the cut at Sideling Hill

Image of stairs up to the Sideling Hill Cut

Stairs up to the Sideling Hill Cut

Image of Grant and Lydia at Sideling Hill Cut

Grant and Lydia at Sideling Hill Cut

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Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 by Grant in Random

25/Jun/2006 – Haiku   8 comments

 

   Grey sky releases
   cold drops to patter and ping
   against a blue mood

 

Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 by Grant in Random