Spring Break ’11: Brightwood, VA

I’m excited to have collaborated with my wife, Lauren, on a blog post about a short trip we took locally last year!

Last April my oldest daughter had a week off for spring break. Knowing that we couldn’t stray too far because of Robert’s work schedule, I started thinking about what we could do locally, but still feel like we were able to get away. It just so happened that the wonderful Tulip Festival hosted by EcoTulips in Brightwood, VA was going to be kicking things off right about the same time. Last year, the festival partnered with Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, which happens to have a small cabin on their property that they use as a bed and breakfast. It was everything I was looking for in a getaway…nearby (about a 45 minute drive), rustic, quiet, and a huge perk was that our kids could help out with some of the farm chores. Our 24 hour vacation was coming together; first a stop at the Tulip Farm and then a night at the Brightwood Farm cabin. What I hadn’t planned on were the unexpected and fun stops along the way.

If you’ve never been to Jeroen and Kerrian Koeman’s tulip festival you need to mark your calendars now. It is truly a site to behold (http://www.organictulipfestival.com). The Koemans own EcoTulips, the only organic tulip bulb source in the USA. Jeroen, affectionately known as the Tulip Man, hails directly from Holland where his family has been in the tulip business for generations.

After we left the tulips we headed down the road to Brightwood Vineyard and Farm (http://www.brightwoodvineyardandfarm.com) owned by Susan and Dean Vidal. Susan met us at the main house and guided us down the driveway to the cabin. Let me tell you, the cabin, the setting and the accommodations, completely exceeded my expectations. Though it is very small (I like to say cozy), it is beautiful and the attention to detail is amazing. Eden immediately found her way to her single bed loft, and our youngest, who was still two at the time, fit perfectly in her portable crib in the corner of the bedroom. We hadn’t even set down our bags yet and already I was scheming about when I could come back with just Robert…though Eden would never forgive us for not taking her too.

Once we were settled, we met up with Susan again, who let Eden help her gather some eggs. Willa tried too but the concept of setting them down gently was lost on her…ooops.


It was time to start thinking about dinner and while there are dining possibilities in Culpeper and a few on Rte 29, I didn’t want to wander too far and take time away from exploring the property at Brightwood Farm. Then I remembered that Jeroen (the Tulip Man) had mentioned that the Brightwood General Store sold good pizza. Perfect, we’ll buy a pizza and bring it back to the cabin where we’ll sit out on the front deck and listen to the Robinson River pass us by.

Well, that was a good plan until we actually pulled up to the place. I knew when I walked in and heard Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” playing, this was no ordinary general store. I was smitten, in love, in awe…with a general store. Usually words like “quaint” and “charming” are used to describe a country general store. The Brightwood General Store is totally rock ‘n’ roll, in a charming, quaint kind of way of course. The owner, Dave, greeted us with a big, wide grin and began chatting up Robert, who as part Jamaican and part Malagasy, stands out a bit in these parts. They hit it off immediately, and instead of ordering a pizza to go, we stayed and ate at the store. Dave knew every person who walked through the door and introduced us like we were like his special guests, although I suspect this is just part of his charm. On weekends there’s live music and there is even a sizeable outdoor area you can rent for events/parties. Noticing the sun was starting to fade we reluctantly said goodbye to Dave and the wonderfully quirky Brightwood General Store and headed back to the cabin.

On our way back to the cabin I yelled “STOP THE CAR!”. Poor Robert, I think he thought we had hit something. It was the amazing view (see photos below). Sunset + mountains + horses= me exploding with giddiness. I had to get out and take it all in.

The next morning, Gretchen, the farm intern, delivered a basket full of goodies for breakfast. There was homemade elderberry jam, cheese, homemade bread, fresh juice, coffee and fresh eggs of course. We filled our bellies and then met Gretchen at the main house to begin our morning of farm chores.

Eden was so excited. She fed the sheep, the goats, the donkeys and the ducks. She collected duck eggs and even helped clean up the donkey poop from the barn. What more could a seven year old nature girl want than to scoop donkey poop? It was the highlight of her day (I am serious).

This trip was perfection. I knew we would have a good time, but I hadn’t anticipated that we would all have a truly great time. We accomplished what we set out to do…we had a 24 hour adventure that didn’t break the bank, gave us a change of scenery in an amazing setting and the girls got to have some new experiences. Like scoop donkey poop, the highlight of the trip according to our wannabe farm-girl, Eden.

Hmmm….where to next?

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