Travel Staunton Virginia: A Town with Resilience and Soul

 

Staunton, Virginia

While every town in the Shenandoah Valley is unique, I feel a strong connection to Staunton. It is an eclectic town with historic buildings ranging from the 1870’s to 1920’s. Streets are sprinkled with art, culture, and coolness. Yet despite all of that, there is something more. Staunton is a town with soul. Every time I leave here, I feel very good about travel and the people who make this town what it is. What makes me feel this way? It all came together this past April while having lunch under a big red umbrella at the Yelping Dog

Staunton, Virginia

My first trip to Staunton was in the Fall of 2020. The streets were more quiet due to Covid, but, there were people dining under canopies on the street. Businesses were open and the main streets were calling my name with their storefronts cleverly decorated in every color of Fall.  True to who I am, my attention was pulled in a different direction.  A few steps off of the main street and I was in Barristers Row looking at a cozy bookstore. It happens to me all of the time when I travel. I am drawn to hidden places.

Barristers Row, Staunton, Virginia

As I took a few steps, something caught my eye. It was the entrance to a garden behind the R.R Smith Center for History and Art. A space filled with light and color, it invited me in and down a set of stairs. There were flowering bushes, trees, and a sculpture of a tiger peaking out of some greenery. In addition, there were tables and chairs thoughtfully placed in the midst. I noticed a memorial headstone with the name, Mevluda Tahirovic. The headstone was flanked by bricks on the ground with each one of them bearing the name of someone who passed or honoring a life from Staunton.

The Smith Center’s Mevluda Tahirovic Memorial Garden

Later that night,  I found the story online. It’s a story about love, honor, and the creation of, “The Mevluda Tahirovic Memorial Garden. There is a beautifully written article about the space. To this day, the man who donated the money for the garden and its maintenance prefers to remain anonymous. It was in honor of Mevluda, the love of this life. He had a deep love for Staunton and wished to have this space honor Mevluda as well as others in Staunton who passed. There is something that speaks to your soul about this area of quiet grace and reflection. It is so cleverly tucked away yet it draws you into its peaceful surroundings and tugs at a tiny part of your heart.

Clock Tower Restaurant, Staunton, Virginia

After leaving Barrister’s Row, I headed in the direction of the Clock Tower Restaurant. If you come to Staunton, its sheer presence rising high above town will draw you in. It has a long history with a few ghost stories for the curious mind. It also has amazing apple cider donuts. That was my next mission. After all, it was Fall in the Shenandoah Valley. The cool air and the sound of an occasional leaf being crunched underfoot set me in the right direction.

Suddenly, I was greeted by a dose of the most vibrant colors on a brick wall.  Muralist Christy Baker is responsible for its creation. Completed in 2016, you can see the famous blue Shenandoah mountains in the background along with its open sky and greenery. Two Cardinals,(Virginia’s state bird), are holding the sides of a banner that state three powerful words, “You Belong Here.” The idea behind the mural was to create a sense of belonging and togetherness for those who see it. Words are powerful. These three words might mean the world to someone who needs to hear them.

“You Belong Here”, by Muralist Christy Baker

That afternoon I left with new stories, a pair of antique earrings, and of course, cider donuts. I will never forget the impression that Staunton left on me that afternoon.

This past April of 2021, I returned on what I can only describe as the happiest Spring day. Staunton is not short on culinary talent in their restaurants and cafes. It was the Yelping Dog that drew me in with the sounds of laughter, clanking dishes, and good vibes. Immediately I was treated like an old friend and served up the best sweet and savory charcuterie board along with a tart cherry cider. Our server Deb was like an old friend welcoming you back. After sharing the coincidence that we both called Philadelphia our home at one time, we started talking about Staunton.  You could tell that Staunton was her place and she took pride in it. She shared the story of how Staunton was flooded in August of 2020. I couldn’t imagine as I looked around the street and thought about my first trip here. It made me think about the friendly store owners that I met along the way. She had pride in her eyes as she talked about how the town owners banded together. Such amazing stories of hope and resilience all in the midst of Covid.

It felt good that afternoon to see people thriving and happy. The winter was long enough. When you travel, a place should leave you better off than when you arrived. On that April afternoon, I realized why Staunton was my kind of place. While it boasts many distinguished awards for a small town, I like to think of it as a town with a tremendous amount of resilience and soul.

 

 

 

 

Natalie
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