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Live like the 1% in Virginia's Hunt Country, where the dogs and horses have nicer sweaters than you do
Welcome to Middleburg, the heart of Virginia's Hunt Country, where even the apartment dwellers drive Audis and manage hedge funds. With the Occupy movement and election year politics putting the nation's ultra-rich in the spotlight, why not make a field trip out to the gorgeous Hunt Country to study the 1% in their natural habitat?
The Hunt Country includes the pastoral, hilly counties of Loudoun and Fauquier counties, about an hour west of Washington, D.C. Although there are some low-income residents in both counties, it's better known as an area of horse farms, fox hunts, fake accents, old estates, McMansions, and new money trying to be old money. Loudoun county now has the highest median household income of any county in the country at $119,540.
Middleburg is ground zero for upper crust leisure time pursuits in the area. Men in chunky, checked wool blazers and ascots share the streets with elegant looking women in riding boots and Burberry scarves. Dogs and horses in the area will be wearing nicer sweaters than you, but don't let the pretentious leanings of the town scare you away, as it's an undeniably charming, walkable small town.
The first thing you're likely to notice about Middleburg are all the hand painted signs for businesses like the Christmas Sleigh, which offers "fine European wares," Juliens, a "sandwicherie," The Fox's Den Tavern, and Les Jardins de Bagatelle, a French store where Callista Gingrich and her credit cards might feel right at home. The shops and oh-so-trendy eateries might be hard on your wallet, but it's hard to deny the fact that the place is an extremely pleasant spot to spend a day, or if you have beaucoup cash, a lifetime.
Curious to know where the "poor" people in Middleburg reside? Check out the condos just north of Washington Street. Sure, they go for half a million bucks, and the cars in the parking lot are Land Rovers, Audis and Benzes, but some of them are a few years old.
After you've had your fill of Middleburg, take a little detour north of town to check out an 8 bedroom, 12 bath, 464 acre estate that is currently on the market for just a hair under $16 million. And then when you're done fantasizing and are ready to rejoin the 99% crowd, head north to the picture-perfect town of Waterford, an absolutely pristine, historic village that was founded in 1733, and still looks as it did centuries ago. The town has dozens of historic homes, two old cemeteries, sheep and farm animals right off of the main street, and a tiny little jail where drunkards and petty criminals were once detained.
There is but one real store in the town, a very eerie, but worth visiting market, run by a woman named Linda. Her museum-like collection of products for sale is meager and obscure (see photo on the right), but she makes nice wool socks from the sheep that are right out back. Once a year, in October, this quiet little village comes alive for its annual fair, which includes a historic home tour and crafts exhibit.
You won't see any signs of ostentatious wealth in Waterford, but on your way back east, look to your right and left on Route 7 and you'll see 7,000 square foot homes- big money temples that would make Donald Trump blush. Close your outing with a walk around historic Leesburg, and a killer $6 doner sandwich at Doner Bistro. You'll need that little reminder that the best things in life usually cost less than a mink coat or a 464 acre estate.
All photos copyright Dave Seminara