The Blue Ridge mountains were calling so we took the brief trip from Salem up on to the ‘Blue Ridge Parkway’ – a road that runs for almost 500 miles through several states and is renowned for the astonishing scenery. Part of the Appalachian range, the mountains are astonishingly beautiful and also accessible (apart from in the snow of winter) but they are wild.
This is bear country so caution and preparation for any trip is vital.
We took a drive up to the ‘Star of Roanoke’ , a man-made feature which gazes down on the city with a popular viewpoint and took a road trip along the Parkway while conscious of a reports of impending winter snowfall.
The star of Roanoke. Pic by @jabberingjourno
The city of Roanoke itself has a more buzzy city feel, with a large selection of restaurants. It prides itself on having more eating destinations per head than many of its counterparts. Food is always on the brink of a Virginian conversation and often service is smart, friendly and efficient.
During my stay I ate out repeatedly and well and of course taking the fast-food options on board including Chick l-A, a chain ubiquitous in the southern states which offers fried chicken with their famous grill fries and hom-made lemonade.
But Roanoke offers much more than fast food.
We ate on a Friday night at Montano’s, near the Tanglewood Mall, a fantastic independent eaterie with full deli.
Massively in demand, booking a table is essential to enjoy a vibrant waiter-served menu of Italian, Mexican and steak delights in a bustling, yet intimate, environment.
My tip is the corner booth.
It just so happened it was ‘restaurant week’ in Roanoke with many offering meal deals – Billy’s in Roanoke was an upmarket choice offering perfectly-cooked tuna, steaks and desserts to die for.
We also checked out Shakers sports bar near Valley View Mall for melt-in-the- mouth fried chicken, the hill top family-run Carlos for Brazilian and my favourite ,Cafe Asia, for Tha/Chinese fusion dishes with a kick.
And it is not just food the Virginians take pride in.
My favourite bar was Jack Browns, a tiny and quirky bar offering interesting decor (multiple bras hanging off a light fitting and tabled adorned with bottle tops), food and a remarkably globe-spanning menu of beer including US brews bottled and on tap.
I was particularly keen on the Sierra Nevada pale ale.
Flying away from Roanoke airport on a tiny propeller plane Philadelphia-bound, I realised I had barely touched the surface of this giant state – the rest i there for the discovering.
I’ll be back.