All right, so here’s my first set of travel reviews for this blog. I love traveling, I love eating, I love sightseeing, and I love writing, so I’ve decided to put them all together! I’m not sure that many will read this, but the ones that do and decide to visit the places that I have seen, I hope my reviews will help you too!
Here we go…
Leesburg, Virginia is a small town about 30 minutes (depending on traffic) from Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C. I was advised to fly into this airport because it is the easiest commute to Leesburg, and after having arrived, it’s a very nice airport, well-organized, and right near the highway that my brother had to take to pick us up!
Here’s a snippet about Leesburg from the town website:
“It’s easy to see why Leesburg has it all. We’re located approximately 35 miles from the nation’s capital and just 15 minutes from Washington Dulles International Airport, but we’re also the gateway to DC’s Wine Countryand a short drive from the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’re the county seat of Loudoun County, one of the fastest growing counties in the country, but we’ve held on to the authentic sense of place – grounded in our 250 years of history – that makes Leesburg a real hometown.
Not only does Leesburg have it all, but we want to share it with you. Whether you’re visiting for the day or staying for a lifetime, you’ll find whatever you’re looking for, right here in Leesburg.”
As we arrived into town, you immediately see how up-to-date the city is – it is very self-sufficient. Mind you, I have stayed in a small town or two where the nearest large-chain grocery store is a 30-40 minute drive, a mall is about an hour’s drive, and you are lucky if you have a nice restaurant or two to eat at (aside from the local burger joint and bar), not to mention if you have one intersection with a light, it’s one too many.
Leesburg has pretty much most of the large chain stores like Target, Costco, CVS, Kohl’s, Walmart, etc. Their local grocery store is Wegman’s, which we’ve defined as Whole Foods meets Bevmo meets a Farmer’s Market. They have crafts stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby), sports apparel stores (Dick’s), premium outlets, and an incredible movie theater that serves alcohol straight to your chair (Cobb Village 12 theater).
Now that you know a little about the city, here’s what we’ve done!
We arrived very early into Dulles Airport (6am) so we were just ready to get back to my brother’s place. On the drive into Leesburg, I was taken by the snow-covered fields and beautiful winterscapes all around. You must know that I hail from California and Southern California at that, so the only snow I see is at Grinchmas at Universal Studios!
All of the buildings are architecturally beautiful, lending to that New England-esque style that I love so much. I suppose the correct verbiage would be that the buildings include architectural styles such as Federal, Colonial Revival, Ranch, and Queen Anne (to mention a few).
Our first stop was for breakfast at Eggspectation. What a great name! We were eggtremely eggcited to visit this little breakfast place. Even though we were egghausted, we were also eggtra hungry from the traveling and were looking for some hearty eggs and bacon with toast. It was very empty for a Thursday morning, as to be expected, and we were seated promptly. The menu is breakfast all the time and because it was after 11am, we were able to order lunch also. There were a lot of choices: I got the BLT, my husband got eggs, bacon, toast, and I think sausage, my brother ordered about the same, and his girlfriend got a half grapefruit. The food was pretty good. Everyone seemed to be happy with what they got and also full. My BLT was good, but I wasn’t prepared for the heaviness of the bacon. The sweet potato fries were crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside. The service was average – the server did not have much pep in his step and it showed, but our food was correct and warm as well. I would recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a good breakfast spot in Leesburg.
Next stop, Wegman’s. Unfortunately, my husband had the bad luck to get sick right before we were supposed to leave on our trip. I packed a few anti-cold necessities, but not everything. We walked into Wegman’s and you are immediately impressed by its massive size. Lucky for us, the cold medicine was pretty close to the entrance so we didn’t have to search very long. We picked up my motion sickness tabs, Day-Quil, cough drops, and some much-needed lip balm. Prices are about the same as a Whole Foods (a little bit pricier than normal but not out of the question), but the check-out time is the slowest I’ve ever experienced. I’m not sure if it’s because I saw a couple checkers double-check a few items to make sure they had rung it up or if its the poorly organized checkout stands or if it’s the slowness of bagging the products (I’m thinking a combination of all three), but it took us 10 minutes just to buy a few things and get the heck out of dodge. Great store though, apart from having to check out. From what my brother and his girlfriend say, you can get everything there, the produce is phenomenal, the wine selection like nothing they have ever seen, and it looked clean, organized, and top-notch. Maybe they should put in some self-check aisles because then we could have been out in 2 minutes or less.
On our way back from my brother’s fire department in Arlington, we stopped by a wrap and smoothie place for lunch/dinner = linner. It is called Tropical Smoothie Cafe, and even though it was around 11 degrees outside, I couldn’t resist trying one of their smoothies. I ordered the Thai Chicken wrap and completely devoured it’s deliciousness. The smoothie I ordered was the Island Green Spinach and Kale smoothie and I was almost done with it my the time we drove home! Definitely recommend this spot. In fact, just writing about it makes me want a wrap and smoothie for dinner.
Friday, we made it to this great little pizza spot called Fireworks Wood-Fired Pizza. Here, you can get pizza and beer – what else could anyone want? It’s a fairly small interior, but quite charming and quaint. You can see the wood-fire ovens and in the winter, it’s a lovely break from the cold. We were seated at a table on the back wall, so the ladies sat on the bench seating. You are seated pretty close to other patrons, but as long as everyone was friendly, it wasn’t a problem at all. Their menu has a lot to choose from: you can have some appetizers, a salad, choose to build your own pizza, or have one of their specialty pies. We opted for the Fire Roasted Olives, The Smokey Blue pizza, The Fire Works pizza, a Brother Thelonious Belgian-style Abbey ale (my brother’s choice), two Fox Barrel cider beers (for the ladies), and a hot Chamomile tea (for the sickey). EVERYTHING, and I mean everything, was absolutely delicious! The pizza topping combinations were unique and complimentary and we all enjoyed every single bite. Highly recommend this restaurant if you want pizza, maybe a beer or two, and a nice cozy place to have lunch or dinner. The service was top notch as well – friendly, quick, and helpful.
The men wanted to do some manly things, so what better place to go than the gun range! We took a drive to Silver Eagle Group. It’s off the main streets, in an industrial area, and if you hadn’t been there before, or didn’t have GPS, it could be easily missed. The signage is not obvious, but does exist. Before taking part, you must sign a waiver (of course), but this is very efficiently done using the computers they have set-up – it’s all electronic and instant. Then you much show ID and sign another waiver (didn’t read it, but I’m sure it waived them of their liability should you get shot, on accident of course). Then you are off to rent what you like. My brother brought his shotgun and then we rented an AR-15 (since you can’t do that in good ‘ole California). The men enjoyed themselves immensely. The ladies mostly watched, although we did try our hand at each of the guns. My favorite was the AR-15, of course, because there was hardly any kick AND I happened to get a bullet right through my paper man’s jugular – AWESOME! The shotgun, on the other hand, was a piece of beastly equipment, that hand a mind of it’s own and an attitude. I shot it twice and was done…forever! No bruised skin for me, thank you very much!
When we wanted to have a little fun and play a game or two, we headed to Finnegan’s Irish Pub (Sports Bar and Grill) in The Village. It’s pretty much what you would think it should look like! They had shuffle board there and we quickly found a table in the bar right next to it – easy access to the game, our drinks, and our appetizers. We happened to have arrived while Happy Hour was going on – SCORE! The appetizers and drinks were all half off – INCREDIBLE! Shuffle board kept us busy for an hour or so and then we decided we were hungry for some dinner, so we headed out of the new Leesburg and into the old downtown.
Old Town Grill Steak & Seafood is a restaurant located in downtown Leesburg, an area definitely not crowded with foot traffic in the winter. There were only two people in the restaurant when we entered and the same two when we left. They had a fire going in the fireplace which made the dining area more cozy. The owner, I believe, is the one who served us and he was very kind. The menu has older-type dishes, as you would assume, but delicious nonetheless. A favorite dish on the menu is their salmon. I happened to order the shrimp with crab and I loved every piece I could eat – with the appetizers we had at the pub, I was definitely full before I was completely done with my entree, so I shared a little bit with my husband and cousin. A cute place to go if you are looking for a definitely quiet and old-time feel of a restaurant.
Even though we love to eat, we definitely couldn’t leave without visiting a couple wineries. This area is FULL of them and we decided to take advantage of the close proximity of two of them. The first was a winery that my brother and his girlfriend had visited before.
Tarara Winery is located amongst a lovely forest area near the Potomac. Here’s a summary from their website:
“Tarara Winery takes pride in showcasing its wine in an elegant and natural setting. Tarara creates an experience that sets apart the visitor from the pretension and attitude that is commonly associated with wine to present some of Virginia’s finest blends available. Our wines are to be enjoyed with great friends while visiting Tarara Winery’s beautifully manicured 475 acre farm which surrounds Shadow Lake and stretches along the Potomac River.
Enjoy a tasting and discover your favorite wine. Local charcuterie, cheeses, breads and chocolates can be enjoyed next to Shadow Lake or on our deck overlooking the Potomac. Please note that Tarara’s deck and grounds are only for those who are patrons of Tarara Winery.”
Their tasting fee is $10, unless you go with someone who is a part of the wine club. Now, I’m not a huge wine drinker, but I enjoy trying it. I’m learning and there is no other way to learn about wine than to drink it. I enjoyed one or two wines at this winery, but the person doing our tasting was very informative and since my husband is much more knowledgable about wine than I am, the man was able to answer all of the questions he had. Everyone was friendly and it was nice that is wasn’t so busy.
The second and last winery was everyone’s favorite – Fabbioli Cellars. The winery is set in a house amidst other homes. As soon as you walk in, it feels very cozy and homey and welcoming. They have tables to sit at where you can enjoy the wines you have purchased and/or the specialty items (salami, cheese, olives, etc.) they have for sale. We inquired about the tasting – $15/person and it included a small “bite” (literally) with each wine, specially chosen to work WITH the wine.
We had a lovely, knowledgeable leader, Paula, who lead us through a fun and informed journey of each wine, complete with its own family stories.
Here’s what they wtote
“Where it All Began
Fabbioli Cellars is a business and a concept that has been in the works for over 30 years. When we moved to California in 1987, we had in the back of our minds the idea that we could find a piece of land and grow some grapes. It sure sounded easy back then! Kids, life, careers, land prices, cash flow and family steered us back East in 1997. We knew that the idea would not work for us in CA, but our time was well spent in gaining the knowledge, skills and confidence to make it happen in Virginia.
In early 2000, Colleen was driving young Sammy around to get him to settle down and stumbled into a 25 acre parcel in the southern Lucketts area, just north of Leesburg in Loudoun County. We had been seeking land for a while but were unable to find the right piece. Although this piece did not fit all the parameters of a perfect vineyard site, it would be able to grow good grapes. It also filled many other concerns and needs for our family as a home.
The planting began in 2001, along with building the house. The main planting was Merlot with a little Petit Verdot for blending.
Focus on Family
Fabbioli Cellars is incredibly proud of our network of family, friends, employees, and volunteers that contribute year-round to our endeavors. To us, all of these people comprise our extended family. From planting to pruning, crushing to bottling, and delivering to pouring, our team is the key to the success of our rapidly growing business. Bound by a common passion for fine wines, earth-friendly farming, and lasting friendships, we revel in the challenges that each day brings. Confident that our efforts will not only bring us closer together, but will positively impact the experiences of our customers and our community while showcasing the best in Loudoun’s rural economy.”
I LOVED the wine here. My husband LOVED the wine here. We, unfortunately for our wallets, loved a few wines each. We ended up ordering 5 different wines plus a magnum and had it shipped to our home back in California. I definitely recommend shipping, even though you have to pay for shipping, because the weight of the wine will definitely make you go over your baggage limit (if you’re flying home) and then you have to lug heavy bottles around and worry about them breaking open all over your clothes. They shipping was incredibly fast as well – it showed up about 5 days after we left.
Anyway, the little bites were a cracker with a piece of salami, an olive with cheese, a chocolate, etc. They enhanced and/or brought out something special in the wine. I’ve never done a tasting this way and I wish everyone did it like this. After our tasting was over, we opened a bottle of wine that we had purchased, sat down with a log of salami and a wedge of garlic cheese, and enjoyed the snacks at their front tables. We met their cat who is very friendly and was able to take to those that work there for a little bit longer. A definite must-see winery.
Our last dinner was at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. It is pretty much like any chain-type restaurant, setting-wise, with booths, tables, an updated feel. Their bar does have a fireplace that was burning when we arrived. We just love how many fireplaces all the restaurants seem to have. My brother had told us that he had a delicious steak there, complete with bacon and blue cheese (my favorite), so we just had to try it. I ended up getting what my brother recommended and I loved every bite of it. My hubby had lots of trouble with his steak and getting it cooked to the right temperature – he like medium rare – and all three times, it just wasn’t right. The manager did come to us and took off the steak, gave him his salad for free, and my dessert for free, which was very nice and was more than enough to make us happy. Everyone else got what they ordered and enjoyed it. It’s a little pricey, but my meal was definitely worth it.
I realize, after writing this all, that my reviews are probably going to be novels, but if you want to read it, then I’ll write it! Also, they might not be very good now, but I’m sure the more I write, the better I’ll get.
After having visited Leesburg, it is definitely a place I could move to. It’s quaint without being too rural, and I found it very charming. Maybe we’ll just get a vacation home there…
Links to websites you might need: