Every year, around Christmas time, our family takes a short trip to escape the stress of the holidays; to make happy memories, and to take a breather before plunging into the festivities. This year, we visited Roanoke Virginia. We had never been before, and it was a manageable drive with little ones. After confirming that we could get discounted rooms at our favorite chain, Marriott, we set out.
Roanoke turned out to be a magical experience. The Marriott we stayed in was busy at night with people getting in late and leaving early. Everyone was on their way to somewhere, but for us, so we had the run of the place. The hotel bar was open when we wanted it to be, and the pool and exercise room were all ours.
Customer service was amazing where ever we went. The first day we ventured out in the frigid air for lunch, we happened upon Corned Beef & Co, which turned out to be a Roanoke landmark. Liddie Biddie tore the hostess’ ear off about how her sisters had eaten the rest of her French toast for breakfast, and that was all she wanted in the whole wide world. Unfortunately, the hostess explained that they did not make French toast. My Little Princess was despondent and ordered nothing.
But when our lunch orders came, among the most incredible corned beef sandwiches we have ever eaten, there was a plate of French toast. Our daughter’s tragic story had made it all the way to the manager’s ears, and it was Christmas after all.
We visited the Virginia Museum of Transportation, located in downtown Roanoke, and lingered for an afternoon, exploring the various rail cars and the largest collection of diesel engines in the South. There were some truly gigantic ‘Iron Horses’ to be seen. We met the gentleman who had spent his entire younger life as a commercial bus driver, and who had donated most of the items for the Harry L. Messimer Bus Collection Exhibit. We spent almost an hour playing “Pilot and Stewardess” in a real vintage airplane, complete with ash trays for passengers’ spent cigarettes (wow!), before being kicked out at closing time.
The night before leaving Roanoke, we climbed up to visit Mill Mountain Park, its spectacular view of the city, and its famous Star. We stood with other strangers and watched a young man go down on one knee and present a young lady with a small box that made her gasp and cover her mouth, then cheered with those same strangers when the young man rose and his new fiancé hugged him tight. “She said yes!” What a magical place.
After that, it was dinner at Abuelo’s by the Mall, where Southern hospitality continued: the manager, Mr. Kelley, brought me a new dinner on the house when the first one I ordered didn’t turn out to be what I thought it was. All my fault, but we will definitely visit Abuelo’s next time we venture to Roanoke.
We got an early start on Christmas Eve, heading back home in the snow that waited for us to get in the van before starting to fall. We stopped to grab breakfast and a potty break two exits outside of Roanoke, and walked inside the fast food joint to see Santa enjoying an egg and sausage sandwich in the corner. By this time in our trip, given everything else, we weren’t even surprised. The little ones were thrilled, hugging and kissing Santa, and telling him that even though we weren’t home yet, they would be asleep by the time he dropped by later.
The snow waited for us to get home before it started to stick. Once we were home, there was no getting back out until after Christmas. And what a wonderful white Christmas it was.