Thursday, March 26, 2009

Breakfast options in Harpers Ferry

Let me start by saying I really liked our time in Harpers Ferry, WV and Teeny certainly felt it's charm and did not feel any of the "inconveniences" .

Yes we chose to visit Harpers Ferry in winter (late February) and yes we realized it is low tourist season, frankly that is why we chose to visit. I really wanted to have a country folksy cozy weekend family getaway. I feel I have mainly been exposing Teeny to big cities and high density tourist destinations and it was time for something a little different.

I assumed due to the number of accommodation options and restaurants I had read about in such a small area that is Harpers Ferry, that we would have at least a few eating options. I know I sound obsessed with food, I am. Eating local food and soaking in the atmosphere is part of the travel experience.

When we woke up from our first night in Harpers Ferry, breakfast was on the cards. We took our time getting dressed and then stepped outside to find nothing open. Well almost nothing, The Vintage Lady, a charming little clothing and jewelry boutique was open and the proprietor told us that there is nothing open for breakfast in town, our best bet is to jump in the car and head a few miles up the road (even further than The Anvil Restaurant). Well that is a very nice solution if we had arrived by car. We had chosen to arrive by MARC commuter train, making the journey all part of the overall experience.

Looked like we were skipping breakfast or taking another long walk for our meal. We thought it was worth checking with our accommodation, surely other guests have come across this issue (right?). It turns out that yes others have come across this very same issue. To try and ease the hunger, the kind folks at our accommodation have cleverly stocked their shelves with pancake mix and syrup. Not exactly what I had in mind but let's make lemonade out of lemons. The lovely lady at reception set us up in the back kitchen with all the ingredients and equipment, put on a fresh batch of coffee and even set Teeny up with a video to watch while we (it was really the Bloke) prepared breakfast.

With our bellies full, we were ready to discover Harpers Ferry.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Anvil Restaurant

We finally got to the Anvil Restaurant, albeit a little wet after our walk through the rain. (See previous post Friday night in Harpers Ferry). We were grateful to have reached our final destination and to be sitting in front of a big old fire about to be fed. The Anvil was not full considering it was the only restaurant open in town. There were probably only three other tables occupied in the dining room and another three or four people in the bar area.

The place and the food felt old, not in the charming and comforting sense of the word. Rather everything was a little on the stale side, from the ambiance down to the baked potato that they serve with all the entrees.

I ordered Crab Cakes, the Bloke ordered steak and Teeny not feeling a culinary adventure on the cards (how did she know and why didn't she warn us) had pasta with butter from the kid's menu. The entrees were served with limp salad (it was really just some old lettuce with one slice of tomato) and the ubiquitous baked potato, which felt like it was cooked last week and wacked into a microwave for a quick preheating prior to serving.

To be fair the steak Bloke ordered was good, all three of us attacked it quite vigorously. Teeny also rather enthusiastically ate through the contents of the bread basket and that pretty much sums up the highlights of the meal.

Even with the coupon (Yes, I am using they say when in Rome) I had printed from the Anvil Restaurant website the meal was more expensive than I had anticipated and I certainly did not feel it was a good value for money family meal.

Was the Anvil worth the walk? Yes it was open.
Would I walk two miles to eat there again? No.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday night in Harpers Ferry

Eating out in Harpers Ferry, WV was not as easy as I would have assumed.

We felt fairly peckish upon arriving into Harpers Ferry early Friday evening. Teeny and I especially are early eaters, getting fairly cranky if there is no food in front of us by 6pm.

Finding a dinner option was a priority after checking into the accommodation, I was feeling a little apprehensive about our choices as this charming little town was feeling a little deserted once we walked the short way from the train station to our accommodation. I mean there were no shop lights on……lights off no one home, not a good sign for a hungry family who had already eaten the stash of granola bars.

Earlier that day I had printed out a list of restaurants reviews in the area. I have learnt it pays to have a Plan B and even C when traveling with Teeny, when spontaneity does not work out I pull out my handy dandy lists. So we hit the phone and started calling all the restaurants in town (which is not a lot to begin with). Reviews aside it turns out there was only one restaurant open in town and it was 2 miles away. Which is not very far but having arrived by train we were planning on getting around town by foot.

As we were walking to the one and only dinner destination open in town on a Friday it started to rain, so we started walking very quickly along the dark deserted street of Harpers Ferry. Along the way we did pass a pizza place. The Kings Pizza & Italian Restaurant, which was open but we opted to keep heading towards our original destination, The Anvil Restaurant. At this stage the crankiness level fueled by our hunger and fatigue from walking was high.

I knew that Harpers Ferry was a small little quaint town and that is exactly the reason we chose it for a weekend getaway. I just did not realize it was a relative ghost town in winter with shop and restaurant owners choosing not to open due to lack of "tourists". Or is there a lack of "tourists" due to there being no amenities open?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Car Free Travel

When planning a recent weekend trip to Harpers Ferry, WV, I looked at all modes of transport to deliver us there. By far the most it economical and as it turns out entertaining option was the train. The round trip cost was $40 for the family. We caught the MARC train; it is the Maryland Transit Administration’s (say that 3 times fast) commuter train. The timetables and services are limited to 3 routes, Brunswick, Camden and Penn Lines (two of which we had already caught from DC to Baltimore and back) with a further downside of only running during the week (commuter train…it is not just a clever name). For us it was a perfect excuse for a long weekend. Leave on Friday afternoon and come back Monday morning, getting to experience the true commuter lifestyle.

On Friday after work I meet Teeny and Bloke at the Silver Spring MARC station, which I can see and hear from my office so all that was missing was boarding it. The train was on time, which on that particularly chilly Friday afternoon was a good thing as the Silver Spring MARC station is an outdoor platform and we boarded the big steps. We were the only ones traveling with luggage and a small child. They certainly do not mind if you bring luggage but there is not a whole lot of storage capacity. We actually sat on two separate bench seats. Teeny and I on one, with Bloke and luggage on the other. Everybody else was a commuter, with their compact laptop bags (again commuter train…not just a clever name).

Unbeknown to us we sat in the party car (NB: there is a quiet car – ask the conductors to point you in the right direction if you or your teeny travelers are noise adverse). Being in the party car really is carte blanche to make noise. Not that Teeny was feeling terribly noisy that afternoon. She quickly settled in with her DVD player to watch whatever princess epic she was obsessed with that week and nobody really noticed when she screamed a question in my direction overcompensating for not being able to hear herself speak because she was wearing earphones and listening to the movie too loudly.

I on the other hand forgot to bring entertainment for myself, no magazine, no book; it looked like I would have to rely on my Bloke for stimulating conversation for the one hour trip. There was too much excitement and chatter all around us and the time went by quickly. We were sitting on the first level but the open plan second level was where the real party was happening. The commuters up above were obviously seasoned pros, they came prepared not with luggage but with beer, snacks and lively anecdotes, greeting and fare welling friends at the various stops along the way. Discussing upcoming weekend plans, taking polls on how much to gamble at Charles Town race track whilst knocking back more beer. The conductor made a show of saying, "you guys better be drinking root beer up there.”. It was as if they were all personally introducing us to the delights and characters of West Virginia.

Bloke was a touch upset he missed out on a good Friday afternoon beer drinking opportunity and later confessed he was most tempted to offer to buy a beer from one of the regulars…I think West Virginia is already rubbing off on him.

Historic Harpers Ferry Train Station
All the while Teeny was oblivious to the chatter around her, intent on watching her DVD. Before you knew it and certainly before the end of Teeny’s movie, we had arrived at the recently restored Harpers Ferry Train Station. It looks exactly as I imagine it did when the trains first started rolling through Harpers Ferry - a small charming red timber building. To gain entry into the building and begin our weekend in Harpers Ferry we took a cue from the locals and crossed the tracks after the train had departed instead of using the underground crossing tunnel….that’s for tourists.