Let’s Wander! Our Peachy Road Trip
Who doesn’t love a road trip? Especially in the summer, especially in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and wine country…and especially in peach season? Who could ask for anything more on a sunny Saturday in August?
Camille, my Boomer Connections partner in blogging and road trips, and I left Richmond in the morning and headed west on Route 64 towards two specific destinations: Crozet and Waynesboro, Virginia. When we embark on these adventures we have a game plan: We pick one specific fun activity or point of interest, as well as a restaurant that sounds intriguing, and then do a Google search of anything else in the area that looks fun.
This day the focus was…peaches. It is the middle of peach season in Virginia, which is sweet but fleeting and we wanted to get in on the action before the window of opportunity closed. The trip was also personal: I grew up on an orchard and feel at home among the fruit trees and was also seeking a little sentimental journey.
Let me first just say this venture was 100% successful, the best day, all the boxes for a successful road trip checked. Here’s why:
- The day was perfect, sunny and warm but not too hot
- The company was delightful
- The trip was easily manageable in a day—about 90 minutes each way,
- The restaurant we discovered exceeded our expectations, a real gem
- The orchard was lovely and the peaches abundant
- The visuals are among the most gorgeous in the country…the mountains, the winding country roads, vineyards, picturesque Main Street towns, the views along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Awe-inspiring.
If you find yourself in Virginia with a free day, a tankful of gas, and a good buddy, you may want to retrace our steps!
While the peach orchard we were seeking is located in Crozet, we decided to head out to Waynesboro first, have lunch and meander, and then hit Crozet on the way back.
Waynesboro is an All-American Main Street town, our favorite kind. We love lunch, so first we located the restaurant we had discovered online, Stella Bella & Lucy’s. It had received rave reviews. We could not have been more pleased with the lunch and the restaurant itself and the nice people.
As soon as we stepped inside this restaurant at 327 West Main Street in Waynesboro, I knew it was perfect: My first glance said “tearoom” and all the lovely images that inspires.
Beautiful surroundings, flowers on the tables, a feeling of gentility but hominess, fascinating antiques making up the furnishings and adorning the walls, flowers on the tables and real porcelain teacups, fabulous desserts, fancy lunch offerings but also more sturdy ones for the men in the party, friendly and skilled waitstaff. Their Southern sweet tea was the best we have ever had (I think Camille and I can safely be called sweet tea connoisseurs).
But let’s talk about the food. It was very hard to choose, the items on the menu seemed to be all my favorites. What I did choose was a stuffed tomato—available with either chicken or tuna salad—impressive, and perched upon a bed of tender salad greens and topped with bacon. I would not have chosen the dressing but I’m glad they chose it for me—the hot bacon dressing over the top was sublime, a perfect combination. (I noted they offered the same in a pineapple wedge which also would be delicious—next time.) Camille ordered the grilled mushroom cheese melt. With spinach, grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese of choice on a toasted croissant, Camille proclaimed it a most high-class grilled cheese! 5 stars. And so many other good things on the menu: hearty salads (the bistro steak salad looks fantastic), a quiche of the week, cold plates, innovative sandwiches, BBQ. Highly suggested: a side of Helen’s Potato Salad.
Dessert? Yes! Of course, they offered peach cobbler as peaches are in season and of course I had to have it…And of course, it was delicious, served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Camille ordered the warm coconut custard pie, which is kind of hard to come by, so we get it when we see it. Also, a winner. We concur with the many glowing reviews of Stella Bella & Lucy’s, which offers breakfast from 9-10:30 and lunch from 11-2, closed Sunday and Monday.
Shenandoah Valley Art Center
Just around the corner from Stella Bella & Lucy’s is the Shenandoah Valley Art Center at 122 S Wayne Street. We found not only a gallery exhibiting local artists’ work but were able to wander through the upstairs which houses the artist’s studios and works in progress. None were in residence on this Saturday afternoon, but it was fascinating to see the workspaces and really get a feel for the creative process and the sense of community. According to their website, the Center hosts about 10 main exhibits per year, 9 member exhibits and 4-6 community exhibits–and offers classes for adults and children. A sampling of the art was available in the gift shop and there were happy to contribute to the support of the arts in our own small way…
Now, on to the peaches! Our destination was The Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet.
Chiles is a large operation, acres of trees full of fruit. That vision alone—of the beautiful peaches the color of sunset hanging full on the branches—made the trip worthwhile. And the peach orchard is just one of the Chiles venues, all the orchards have been family-owned in Albemarle County since the turn of the century (the 1900s).
Having grown up on a family farm/orchard myself as mentioned earlier, this legacy makes me feel so happy inside. In the area are… the Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, the Spring Valley Orchard in Afton, and the Chiswell Farm and Winery in Greenwood. Carter Mountain is an uber-popular destination around the fall apple harvest.
The peach orchard farm stand is its own adventure, where we found not only baskets and baskets of fruit and veggies, but other local agri-offerings: jams jellies and preserves, baked goods, even pretty farm-related housewares.
Plus, an obviously huge local favorite: peach donuts! (In Fall, the Carter Mountain location serves apple donuts.) You can pick your own peaches here, but the prices for the fruit available on the shelves are the same.
A lot of people want to pick their own for the novelty of it or want their kids to have the experience—plus you can choose exactly the fruit you want. For us, we were dressed for fun, not work, and the day was hot, so we were happy to choose among the fruit on the shelves.
In addition to peaches, I came away with a large basket of white nectarines as these are my husband’s favorite fruit. He was very happy to see me when I came home! And I am happy to report that OMG, they were as delicious as they were attractive.
Views from the Blue Ridge
The Blue Ridge Parkway is surely one of the best destinations on the Eastern side of the US, stunningly beautiful any time of the year. Camille and I stopped at some of the overlooks to take in the views and snap selfies. I can never get over how lucky we are to have this destination practically in our own backyard. And better yet, it is surrounded by…. WINE! So many wineries in this area of Virginia. We love wine almost as much–no, as much–as we love lunch. If you want an overview, check out the Monticello Wine Trail website: https://monticellowinetrail.com/
Vintage/Antique Store Shopping
As we were wrapping up our travels, we came upon a store that grabbed my attention because of the vintage paraphernalia outside. Just up my alley, we had to stop. The business comprises “two fun stores, just minutes apart” according to the travel brochures: Greenwood Antiques and Uniques at 7572 Greenwood Station Road in Greenwood and Rockfish Gap Country Store at 8860 Rockfish Gap Turnpike in Afton.
Allow time, there is a lot to see. Two stores filled with goodies: antiques, jewelry, housewares, etc. etc. I did Christmas shopping for my lady friends, got it almost all out of the way, need I say more.
Around 6PM we happily headed home, all told around 200 miles round trip.
And at the end of this full day, we found ourselves saying once again…This Boomer’s Life is good, very good! Stay tuned for our next fruity adventure.