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Erica and I have returned from our ten-day trip to Virginia and Washington DC.

We spent our first three days in Winchester, VA, a great centre for touring the beautiful?Shenandoah Valley.

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Courthouse, Winchester, VA

The excellent?Museum of the Shenandoah Valley?is an essential starting point. The museum is well laid out and shows what life in the?Shenandoah Valley?has been since Europeans began to settle the area in the 18th century. Winchester itself is an attractive city, at least in the residential and downtown areas. Like most American cities, the centre is surrounded by a rash of malls and shopping areas. Unfortunately the centre, which depends on tourists, was a dead zone so early in the season.

We managed a short hike in the?George Washington National Forest?on Masanutten Mountain. We stopped off at a cafe in Strasburg on the way back to Winchester and found ourselves in conversation with a great-granddaughter of Joseph and Pauline Hannen, early American Baha?is. She herself is not a Baha?i, but she clearly had a great fondness for her Baha?i heritage.

We also took a trip to?Harpers Ferry, a place of considerable historic significance at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers.

The history of Harpers Ferry has few parallels in the American drama. It is more than one event, one date, or one individual. It is multi-layered