I picked Lewisburg WV to visit on purely logistical grounds. I couldn't spare time to explore the state more and just wanted to visit a town near the state line. It proved an inspired choice. It was voted the coolest small town in America in 2011 and you may well laugh. There is, after all, nothing less cool than being the coolest before last.
There are cutesy touristy bits and some flagrant attempts to cash in on not very much history, but it had parks for strolling, cafes and bars for hanging out in, little town squares with "play fountains" and historical (by American standards) buildings. Maybe it was just the sunny weather, the pleasant chats I had or the variety of places to "hang out" on main street, but I bought its coolness.
I visited the swish visitor center and interrogated the staff as to why the tourism promotion facility for one valley in West Virginia was more lavish than for whole states. The answer was suitably public sector in tone - all to do with the cleverness of the local congressman in wangling funds, apparently. I had an enjoyable chat with people from nearby Huntington in a local bar. I took a stroll down main street to observe the various attractions recorded above. Then I fired up Speranza's engine and set off eastwards.
Virginia is greener, lusher and more like England at its most beautiful than anywhere I have seen on this tour. It is aesthetically the opposite of Arizona and Nevada, but as attractive in a less rugged way. I stopped at the Welcome Center and had a chat with a family who had followed me there for a close look at the car. I took photographs of them with Speranza with their own cameras and then took the picture shown here.
I then pressed on to my destination for today; the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton, VA. This was recommended to me by an old college friend of an ex-client from Poland with whom I plan to dine tomorrow. I had a pleasant evening in the company of said old college friend and his wife.
I wish I had known that Staunton is home to The American Shakespeare Center. It is good to know that the work of the greatest Englishman is loved here to such an extent. Staunton has a replica of the Blackfriars Theatre built from the original plans and puts on a full programme of the Bard's works.
Staunton also has at least one first-class restaurant. My new friends treated me to an excellent meal there and I have promised to match it when next they come to London. I shall have to give serious thought as to how.
This morning, before setting off for Thomas Jefferson's old gaff, I had breakfast at a cafe recommended to me last night (excellent grits) and then took a stroll around Staunton. It is really very pretty and unusually has varied shopping downtown, rather than the mobile phone shops and law offices that have replaced the businesses relocated to shopping malls in other towns. I visited a rather splendid "museum" in a local camera store, which was the owner's private collection of old cameras, but entirely out of control! Collecting is a disease and I always feel for my fellow-sufferers.
I apologise unreservedly for the cheesy driving video but what else can you really expect from a middle-aged man happily driving his convertible through West Virginia?