As soon as you turn down Vaucluse Road from Route 11 near Stephens City, you know you are close. Cross over the train tracks. Feel the gravel beneath the tires. Vaucluse Spring Lane will lead you over Meadow Brook, which is fed by a huge limestone spring—the Vaucluse of Virginia Spring. Meander along 44 bucolic acres of fields mowed by cows beside the undulating brook which carves its way through the boulder-strewn meadow, reminiscent of the Highlands of Scotland. You may well encounter deer, rabbits, foxes, and wild turkey along your way.
The original Vaucluse Manor House was built in the late 1780s by Gabriel Jones—a colorful character known as The Valley Lawyer—and is aptly named after the village and spring in Provence, where the 13th century poet Petrarch penned his immortal amorous verses to Laura. Vau-Cluso means closed valley in the Provençal Occitan dialect of the medieval troubadours, such as Frédéric Mistral. One painting portrays a woman plucking petals from a flower that divulges that he indeed does love her. Romance pervades.
In 1963, Vaucluse was purchased by Valley artist John Chumley, and the Mill House Studio served as his artistic haven for the remainder of his days. This picturesque two-story structure welcomes you with a white picket fence-enclosed garden. The springtime will serenade you with its pond of peepers; we spotted one hopping across the road. A whimsical frog even holds your Gilchrist & Soames soap in the spacious bathroom, equipped with a two-person Jacuzzi tub overlooking the green fields. Snuggle up downstairs by the gas fireplace. Wake up in the king-size brass bed to a wall of windows with dramatic water views, mesmerized by the sound of the stream rushing through the old millrace from your open windows. It is sure to slow your pulse and soothe your senses.
Encounter the perfect artist retreat here. While away the afternoon with sketchbooks, chalk pastels, drawing pencils—even an instructional art book—from Adirondack chairs on the patio or beneath the trees at the edge of Vaucluse Spring. Framed pastels by talented guests adorn the walls. Sketching with great care on a recent afternoon, visitor Ashley Mangan of Merrifield was heard to say, “I’m hoping I make the wall.”
In 2015, the inn was purchased by Derrick and Tiffany Niide. Tiffany, a physician with a focus on integrated care and mindfulness-based approaches to stress reduction and wellness, offers occasional morning meditation classes. “You experience a drop of blood pressure as soon as you step on the property.” Indeed, this is a place to rejuvenate.
Derrick’s lifelong passion for cooking finds expression in the elegant country breakfast served in the Manor House, which houses six guest rooms. Start with decadently crunchy gingerbread scones dolloped with ginger-spice butter or a zucchini muffin, both of which pair nicely with red raspberry or orange and spice herbal tea. Afternoon tea is served from 3 to 5 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Enjoy an artfully layered house-made biscuit with parsnip purée, smoked Gouda, and local sausage or the Vaucluse rolled omelette with organic baby spinach, feta, and sweet corn, drizzled with basil-balsamic and topped with crispy prosciutto. Then step outside to relax in the sunshine on the front porch, looking out to the great lawn and beyond as the birds serenade you to greet the day.
Just across the way is the Cottage with two guest rooms; four rooms reside in the Chumley Homeplace. Or opt for the rustic elegance of the Cabin by the Pond or The Gallery, with a pool overlooking the quiet countryside.
This was the peaceful place Tiffany and Derrick had long been seeking. In this oasis you’re certain to experience true tranquility. You may be compelled to extend your visit. Either way, upon your return home, you will very likely still imagine the rush of the spring.
Village Square Restaurant & V2 Bar – The Very Heart of Winchester
Old Town Winchester, long known for its apples (and now peaches and apricots) hosts an ongoing series of festivals and parades all spring and summer. Even Bold Rock Cider uses Winchester apples. Stroll at your own pace down the inviting walking mall to the Village Square Restaurant and V2 Bar. Step inside to a cozy brick-walled interior with original wooden floors. Start out with a local arugula salad with crispy pancetta, grilled asparagus, roasted red peppers, and black truffle vinaigrette, followed up by the intermingling flavors of a fresh ahi tuna poké—rare tuna, grilled pineapple, avocado, cucumber, and a sesame soy emulsion.
But get set for the main course. Culinary Maestro Chef Dan works pyrotechnic magic behind the scenes, conjuring forth a perfectly seared medium-rare, warm red-centered 9-ounce filet mignon so intrinsically flavorful it defies any need for enhancement—yet a whisper of delicately balanced horseradish cream sauce lends an undeniably irresistible flair.
But it doesn’t stop in the kitchen. Chef Dan Kalber, along with owners Mayor John David Smith and Joerg Eichmann, host their annual Celebration of Hope Gala dinner, raising over $150,000 to benefit the Valley Health Wellspring Cancer Center. Seven talented chefs create a 7-course wine-paired dinner with surprise ingredients—a sort of culinary roulette.
Not only geographically in the heart of town, this entity represents a generosity of spirit that seeks out philanthropy at every turn. Awareness of Chef Dan’s generous, big-hearted spirit extends far and wide. Amanda Bono of nearby Valerie Hill Winery, where he has catered many an event, states it simply. “He’s a great human.”
While teaching music theory at the conservatory, Amanda started pouring as a side-hustle summer gig and never left. You get a true sense of the small-town spirit. “There’s a real warmth to that walking mall,” notes Tasting Room Manager Josh Richards. The curious juxtaposition of the sherbet array of prom dresses posing for photos to a backdrop of historical monuments on a fine spring evening make it safe to surmise that this place will continue to be a convivial gathering place for a long time to come.
Nearby Family Fun!
This corner near the northern tip of Virginia offers much in the way of diversion. Front Royal Outdoors offers canoeing, kayaking, rafting, or tubing trips down the Shenandoah River. Or explore the nearby State Arboretum of Virginia, where visitors explore on foot or drive a circular route through 170 acres of native and exotic trees and gardens.
But the most unexpected find might just be Dinosaur Land, which garnered an impressive 4 out of 5 sombreros for the tackiest place on the Eastern Seaboard—only beaten by South of the Border itself. The little ones are certain to be enthralled. It’s downright Cretaceous!