Hunt Country Freestyle

Roaming through Middleburg, we take a detour to the charming Briar Patch Bed and Breakfast in Aldie, VA. A worthy detour!




The road to Middleburg stretches through a vast and gorgeous countryside, with rolling hills, gleaming Thoroughbreds grazing happily in oak fenced paddocks, and a million diversions. Saddle shops, farm stands, antique shops, historic sites, and tiny bistros are all so enticing that is a practical impossibility to stay on the beaten path.

"We can't stop again," my beloved husband says with his famous resolve. "We'll never get there."

There in this case is Ellen Goldberg & Dan Haendel's Briar Patch Bed & Breakfast on Route 50 West just east of Middleburg. Goldberg and Haendel are both affable D.C. attorneys who evidently love the notion of "leaving it all behind" in favor of a quiet, picturesque respite on a country estate.

Shoring up our resolve to quit antiquing and finally get there, we guided the Expedition past a beautiful Osage Orange tree and into the Briar Patch. Strolling along the narrow front porch of the main house, we ambled in to discover Ms. Goldberg in her office, complete with silk Persian rugs and a delightfully laid-back demeanor that made us feel right at home.

We joined a vast collection of guests ranging from a family rambling through Virginia's many historic battlefields to a relocating physician. Ellen showed us around and we made our way to the one room cottage, just behind the main house. Far from the creepy and forced conviviality that plagues many bed and breakfasts (actually, we are very fond of bed but not so much of breakfast, and that might be the underlying cause of such a sentiment), the Briar Patch was quiet, romantic, and, above all, private.

The small shotgun cabin, which was probably once a storage barn for grain, featured well worn heart pine floors, a collection of cozy antiques, a big brass bed, baskets full of current magazines for relaxing, board games, a comfortable claw-footed tub, HBO for news junkies who cannot make it through the day without the benefit of CNN, and enough goodies in the kitchen to make you think that the whole place was stocked by a well meaning grandmother who wants you to eat, eat, eat.

So we had a snack, bathed, lounged around a bit, snuck a few glimpses of CNN (though it is great to leave the world behind), and headed out for polo later that afternoon.

Canine aficionados will be happy to learn that pets (and children) are welcome at the Inn. The cottage's guest book was filled with notes from grateful pet owners and their charges, who enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere.

Returning late that evening, passing through the tiny village of Aldie in the pouring rain, past the town's historic mill, up the winding driving by the Osage Orange tree, it was easy to understand why Virginia's historic inns remain legendary for their hospitality and aesthetic appeal.

Through the rain, we made a dash from the car, laughing. The cottage's wavy, original window was illuminated by a Tiffany-style lamp. Inside, a cozy red bokhara rug awaited our tired, polo playing feet.

I couldn't help but think of Brer Rabbit, who insisted, "Don't throw me in the Briar Patch." After all, it was the one place in which he was most comfortable, despite the challenges of life.

That evening, the stars flickering high above the Osage orange tree at this small country retreat, we knew exactly what Brer was talking about.

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