During a recent conversation, my friend Dubliner said that he thought a couple of destinations that I had mentioned were “Almost Heaven.”
As soon as he said that, John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” started playing nonstop in my mind. Whenever I’m on my way to Sweet Briar (or anywhere else in Virginia, for that matter), I start reciting the well-known lyrics to the song as soon as I cross the Ohio River and enter West Virginia.
There’s nothing like the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River to cure what ails you. Robert E. Lee must have known that too, as he retreated often to the Greenbrier at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. With its lovely rhododendrons, refined afternoon tea, and luxurious interiors designed by Dorothy Draper and Carleton Varney, the Greenbrier has been one of my favorite hangouts since I was a little girl. “Chessie the Railroad Kitten,” pieces of Greenbrier Rhodendron china, and an elegant, vibrantly colored scarf featuring a drawing of the hotel’s Victorian Writing Room (once known as the most photographed room in the country) are some of my most prized Greenbrier souvenirs.
Long ago, when visits to the Greenbrier meant traveling through the harrowing Hawk’s Nest to get there, the coal jewelry and $10 quilts for sale on the side of the road kept my mind off the steep cliffs we climbed in our car. Today, the Greenbrier is the perfect place to stretch my legs en route to “the place I belong.”
This year, a restorative trip to springtime Virginia – with a rest stop at the Greenbrier, of course – is especially necessary. To tide myself over until then, I called a favorite place in Virginia the other day. After a conversation with a friendly, helpful and Southern-accented fellow Sweet Briar alumna, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” started up again. Soon, I’ll have important business to attend to: the adoption of a cow, a few cats, and a terrier! Are you curious? Watch for a future post announcing their arrival!