Thursday, May 5, 2011

Charleston, West Virginia - Part I

         Charleston’s East End Historic District has the look and feel of a graceful southern city.  I’m staying in The Brass Pineapple Bed and Breakfast - a Victorian home near the West Virginia State Capitol.  A towering oak tree graces the inn’s front entrance; carved woodwork and stained-glass windows adorn the rooms inside.  My room, the Bauer Room, is named for the home’s original builder; the first thing I notice is an oversized wooden bed topped with pillows and comforters.  It’s late and that soft, deep mattress is calling....
Ahhh, a good night’s sleep in a cozy bed.  Coffee, tea and pastries greet me in the dining room on this blue-sky morning.  I pour a mug of coffee, venture to the porch and listen to birds singing from the great oak.   After a few minutes I return to the dining room where the B&B’s host, Steve, serves a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, shortcake and fruit.

         I’m halfway through breakfast when I hear voices on the stairway.  A few seconds later four women appear.  They’re all wearing pink T-shirts with a message silk-screened on the back: “4th Annual Mom’s Weekend Away to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia at the Brass Pineapple B&B in Charleston.  Every May since 2007.”  On the front of their T-shirts is this passage:  “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume.”  Proverbs 27:9
Oak-shaded Brass Pineapple B&B.
  Who are these women?  I’m about to find out.  Melinda, an ordained Presbyterian Minister; Amy, a Pharmacist; Kim, a Human Resources Director; and Becky, a former counselor of education who now stocks cards for Hallmark, met 11 years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina through “Mommie’s and More” - a support group for first-time mothers.  They had all taken breaks from their careers for motherhood, and to cope with the changes in their lives and the emotions they were feeling these new mothers joined the support group and became fast friends.  Four years ago Amy moved to Cincinnati and the women decided to hold annual gatherings as a way to keep in touch.  
  We chat and I learn that the Moms are all avid readers.  I tell them of my plan to write a travel book someday and to visit Taylor Bookstore in downtown Charleston today.    
         It was nice meeting the Mom’s and as I leave breakfast I tell them to look for their names in my travel memoir.
  What to do next?  I decide to walk a half block to the State Capitol Complex.  My first destination is the West Virginia Cultural Center and State Museum.  The museum’s theme is a walk through West Virginia’s history; the journey starts in prehistoric forests, then winds its way through the Civil War, railroads, industrialization and paved highways before terminating on the information superhighway of the internet age.  I learned a few things from the museum’s impressive displays.  For example:  Did you know that West Virginia (then considered Western Virginia, a part of Old Virginia) was the most divided in loyalties of any “state” in the Civil War?  Over 50,000 soldiers fought for Western Virginia - 20,000 for the Confederacy and 30,000 for the Union.  West Virginia became the official 35th state after the Civil War.
  Leaving the museum, I notice a crowd gathering around the War Memorials and wander over to see what’s going on.  A group of veterans is gathered to celebrate the first annual Veteran’s Remembrance Day.  The vets intend to use this annual event to speak about veteran’s issues with their state and federal government representatives.  A noble cause.  Many of the veterans are dressed in suits and ties but one group is attired in motorcycle-gang garb - the Vietnam vets, obviously.  While the vets are speaking I admire the memorials; inscribed on their surfaces are the names of West Virginia’s servicemen killed in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  The story is still being written on Iraq and Afghanistan.

If you would like to visit the Brass Pineapple, check out this website:  http://www.brasspineapple.com/Brass_Pineapple/Welcome.html

For more information on Charleston, West Virginia travel:   http://travel.yahoo.com/p-travelguide-480309-charleston_vacations-i

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