From Wichita, I headed up the Kansas Turnpike, through Kansas City and continued east. I had thought I might end up in Hermann, Missouri, a 19th century German settlement in the heart of Missouri wine country. But when I arrived, the pieces just didn’t come together.
Although Hermann is home to dozens of B&Bs, the ones I checked were completely booked. The historic district was filled with amazing red brick architecture, yet many structures stood empty with “For Sale” signs in their windows. Driving through the streets, there was restoration under way in more than half of the buildings, leaving them unoccupied by shops or cafes that might otherwise be there. The main street was partially dug up and flanked with road work signs. There were very few people around, though I didn’t stop in at any wineries on the outskirts of town.
Gorgeous buildings, massive restoration, B&Bs booked and the streets deserted? I didn’t know quite what to make of it all, so I just explored a little while, took a few pictures and decided to drive on. To where? I didn’t know.
Somehow, in trying to get back to the Interstate, I made a wrong turn and ended up on a back road that ran through the wine country. It was still light and the scenery was beautiful. I knew I wasn’t too far from St. Louis, so I decided to continue on and see where the road led. (Note: In spite of the fact it appears I wander aimlessly on these trips, I never go too far from a major city or Interstate during the later hours of the day, in case I need to just grab a basic motel room for the night.)
It was in this manner that I stumbled upon Washington, Missouri, another wine country town alongside the Missouri River. As opposed to Hermann, Washington did not appear to be half restoration project, half ghost town. There was activity along the waterfront, shops and cafes open along the main streets and a general sense of livelihood. I decided to park the car and explore.
While driving in, I had noticed a small winery/cafe with outdoor tables occupied by customers who looked quite content. After walking a few blocks to seek out other spots of activity, I circled back for a better look. And so I came to find La Dolce Vita Winery and Cafe, which conveniently had a small B&B sign.
I arrived just in time to see two employees taking in a sidewalk “Open” sign for the night. Checking my watch, I was surprised to see it was already 8:00 PM. I caught up with them and asked about the B&B and soon found myself in a conversation with the very accommodating owners, Donna and Bob. As luck would have it, the B&B suite above the winery/cafe was not occupied. I promptly took it for the night.
La Dolce Vita is located in the Zachariah Foss house, built in 1846 and the oldest wood framed house in Washington, MO. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is restored authentically, allowing a look at wood construction of the 19th century. Though the accommodations are large enough to hold a family, they are rented as one unit, so I had two spacious bedrooms, a quaint sitting room and a full bath with garden decor and two claw foot tubs – the sweet life, indeed.
To top all this off, the building is located directly across from the riverfront. From a comfortable deck on the lower level, I was able to watch boats passing by and people strolling through the riverfront park. To add a soundtrack to the scene, trains rolled through the Amtrak station periodically, which was located directly across the street. Though not a quiet getaway, between trains, cars, people and a busy boat ramp, it provided a wonderful feeling of being dropped inside the activity and ambiance of this small town. I loved it.
Once the restaurant closed, Donna and Bob left for their own off-site home, leaving me with chocolate chip cookies and muffins, plus a fruit plate and quiche for the morning. I had not only the B&B suite, but the entire building to myself.
I had missed the hours of La Dolce Vita’s restaurant, so I took a walk along the main street and grabbed a bite at Marquardt Landing – sports bar inside, patio dining outside. Casual, comfortable, clean and good food.
I slept well and had time in the morning to sit on the deck with a fresh mug of coffee, writing in my journal and considering options for that day’s travel. This is one of the things I love most about traveling with flexible plans, being able to fall into unexpected adventures. As the owners and employees arrived to start another busy day, I thanked them, packed my car and headed on down the road.