Think Outside the State

American Tale: My 50-state Adventure

Category: History

Mountaineers are Always Free: Charleston, West Virginia

Hey everyone! I know it has been quite the break since the last post, but with teaching and my new position at work, I haven’t had a chance to update in a while.  I recently flew for the first time, and visited Texas (everything was bigger!) so hopefully I will be able to update more frequently as I continue to plan my next adventures.

Over the Labor Day weekend, my best friend and I decided there was a long overdue road trip that needed to happen immediately. This led to a wonderful sprint up to Charleston WV.

This trip was a bit more spontaneous than many of my others, and being one day/one night, it’s a little easier to blog about than the other states that I’ve been to recently (those blogs are coming soon as well).

 

We started the four and a half hour drive by stopping at our favorite bakery in Charlotte, NC. Shout out to Amelie’s for providing sustenance and energy for the road ahead.

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The weather was impeccable, we couldn’t have asked for a better day to travel and explore this interesting capitol city. Through Virginia into West Virginia, I found myself constantly pointing out the scenery. Poor Taylor was tired of looking at rocks and trees, but she humored me.

 

Something neither of us had thought about, were TOLL ROADS. Being where I’m from, Toll Roads are a little foreign, and my least favorite (but probably funniest) part of the trip was frantically digging for change at each of the three booths. I had to sacrifice one of my favorite coins for the cause, but I know Charleston was worth it.

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We took our time on the relaxing drive up 77 to 64, and stopped several times at different rest areas and the West Virginia Welcome Center. This exit has a lot of offerings, so if you need a break or a snack, definitely stop here. (We stopped on the way in, and the way out!)

 

When we finally arrived in Charleston, I was immediately in love. It’s got the small town “slow down and relax” feel, coupled with the history of an interesting state capitol. Perfect storm for making me daydream of living there.

We shopped around for hotel to stay in (I told you this was a bit spontaneous) and we settled on the Hampton Inn . Shout out to the amazing receptionist DESIREE, who helped us get a comfy room and gave us many suggestions for sight seeing. Coupled with free breakfast and the softest bed I’ve ever slept on, I’d definitely suggest staying there!

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Our next stop, and one of my personal top priorities: Lunch. We had looked on Trip Advisor and other sites suggesting good eats in the area, and settled on the Tricky Fish for our culinary needs. They specialize in fish tacos and a very chill vibe. The weather was perfect to sit on the porch and watch the world go by, as we planned our next leg of exploration. I had the mahi-mahi taco blackened, and Taylor had the shrimp taco blackened. We split an order of their hushpuppies, and realized early in that we had ordered FAR too much food. We left stuffed to the gills and ready for the rest of the city.

Our next stop was the unbelievably must-be-out-of-a-fairy-tale capitol building. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the gold gilded dome, and the area surrounding it. I regret not being able to go inside, but there was a wedding party taking pictures and we didn’t want to photo bomb someone’s special day!

 

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Across the street from the capitol building was a lovely overlook, where there are stairs leading down to the river. Every turn on the beautiful streets of Charleston led to more things to look at and more to explore.

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Our next stop was Capitol Street. We parked and walked the span of it, starting around the library. You can see the age of the buildings as you pass, but they are well kept and utilized.

Our first stop was Taylor’s Books. First, let me start off by saying this place has the perfect vibe.

There are various greeting cards sections (with very funny takes on several celebrations), a wonderfully laid out “new” books section, and a very diverse “used” books section. They have a great kids area, and art gallery off the side of the main store.

 

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As if all of these things are not setting you up for the most perfect bookstore in the world, they have the precious commodity that keeps us American’s going: Coffee. And if that’s not enough, they have an array of different desserts and timg_1124reats. I had an Emerald City iced coffee, and it was the perfect balance of sweet, creamy, and coffee. Jaime at the counter suggested it, and I was far from disappointed. She also gave some great suggestions for places to see and check out in the city. Rachel, who also works at Taylor’s, added in a lot of helpful local input. (Thanks Ladies!)

 

Our next stop, and Jaime’s first suggestion, was Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream.

 

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Taylor had delicious black raspberry, and I tried the delectable Heath bar. The place was relaxed and inviting, and we stopped in for a bit to plan our next moves and people watch. From talking about their weekend plans to their next pokemon adventure, you could tell the people in the store were happy, ice cream in hand, in this amazing atmosphere and town.

We drove around a good bit after that, and took pictures in different areas of the city. We decided to check out a local

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print shop, Kin Ship Goods . If you’re looking for a place to pick up some very creative, locally printed, interesting mementos of the city, this is the place to be. I was impressed at the offerings, but fell in love with my “West Virginia vs The World” shirt, and some interesting sunglasses. I loved the shop so much, I went home and ordered a sweatshirt from their website. While we were there, they were being interviewed regarding the shop, and it’s awesome to see treasures like this while traveling.

 

After shopping and exploring, we went back to our hotel, and settled in till dinner. The beds/room were so cozy that we both accidentally snoozed until past dinner time, changing our initial decision for dinner. After wandering around for a while, we found the Recovery Sports Restaurant  was open, and had great reviews. I had a delicious Gorgonzola burger, and Taylor had grilled chicken.

img_1182The real stunner of the dinner was the appetizer: BBQ Nachos. One of my favorite foods, and this place had it going on!

 

 

I speak for the both of us when I say that the night at the Hampton was the best rest I’ve had in months. To be able to relax and not worry about work, cleaning, or cooking was a great break, and the bed and pillows welcomed me with open arms.

 

After we woke up, had breakfast, and got ready for church, we said goodbye to our lovely room, the sweet receptionist, and the city itself. We went to church in Danville (about thirty minutes outside of the city) with some old friends, and headed home afterwards. The church was welcoming and had a variety of age groups, and if you’re looking for a place to worship, I definitely suggest Danville Church of Christ . Say hello to David and Patty for me!

 

Being such a quick, short trip, there were a few attractions that we wanted to get to that didn’t work out, including:

Kanawha State Forest

Clay Center

Limelight Theatre

The drive home was much curvier and full of back roads, since we left so far from 64, but provided even more gorgeous views through the mountains and valleys.

 

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Our quick trip was exactly the break that I needed, and it was a great time to spend with Taylor and discovering a new state.

If you’re planning on traveling to Charleston in the future, definitely check out the Charleston Visitors Page, they are a great resource for all there is to do in the city and surrounding areas!

If you’re Save

Helena, Arkansas: Downtown on the Mississippi

For the second stop on our Spring Break adventure, we headed down the river to Helena, Arkansas.  We stayed at the Best Western in West Helena, then drove into town the next morning.welcome to arkansas The very first thing Mom and I both noticed were how nice and welcoming everyone is!  Our first stop was the visitor’s center, were we met Gloria and Dawna (hey y’all!).  They gave me the low down on EVERYTHING that could be done in Helena.  One of my big planning mistakes, it seems, was coming on a Monday: ALMOST everything was closed.  No matter, we found a whole bunch of things to do, and we had a great time.

mainmain street garden blog malco The town itself is filled with history, from being a stop on the Underground Railroad, to being home to a major Civil War battle.  They are the only downtown on the Mississippi for 300 miles, and they are working hard on restoration/preservation of the beautiful historic buildings they have.  We drove downtown, and were lucky to find The Delta Gypsy!

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They have high-end, beautiful products, from many different suppliers.  We were greeted immediately, and after talking to the owners for a short time, found out that they are opening a bed and breakfast this summer in Helena Arkansas, the Allin House.  Mom and I drove by the building they are renovating for it, and I have to say, It’s going to be gorgeous!  I will definitely be revisiting Helena in the future, and giving them a call! After our little stop shop, we started to hit some of the important sites of the town.  From the Levee walk (with it’s beautiful mural of influential people) to the River Park (where you can watch tug-boats pushing their barges up and down the river), the impact that being on the Mississippi has had on this town is evident.

river park boards6 After spending time on the river, we drove to the Confederate Cemetery.  It was breathe-taking, and I know I speak for my mom and myself when I say that the unknown soldier’s graves broke our heart.  Cemeteries are a place where time stands still, and this beautiful hill on the edge of Helena really created that atmosphere.  The Confederate Memorial was at the very back of the plots, and up on a hill, separated.  The drive is beautiful, the stonework of the graves is amazing, and the history itself if thought-provoking.  Mom took a specific liking to two of the grand angels, in the lower section of the cemetery.

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We stopped by the Pillow-Thompson House (which, of course, was closed on a Monday), Battery C, and then Fort Curtis.

pillow thompsonfort curtis battery c Though this isnt a picture of the “actual” battery, my favorite thing about this site was the view of the town, and the Mississippi River.  Of course, mom and I took a TON of pictures up here.  It was a major site of a very important battle in the Civil War, and the victory won Eastern Arkansas for the Union.  There are a lot of different information podiums and replications on the battery itself. After visiting these sites, our last stop was to talk with the Dana Chadwich, who owns and runs the Edwardian Inn, a gorgeous bed and breakfast that has been in Helena for many years.  The house was built in 1904 by a successful business man, and has been a private family home, an apartment building, an alcoholic rehabilitation center, among other things.  It has been wonderfully preserved, and walking the halls seems to take you back in time. edwardian Helena is a small, history-rich town, filled with wonderful people and wonderful sites.  It may not be your first destination idea for Arkansas, but you wont be disappointed if you choose to visit!  This stop was Mom’s favorite, and it has definitely made it high on my list. Up next is Oxford, MS, coming to you soon!