Hometown Culture and Cuisine
My husband, Bubba, and I spent Saturday being tourists in our hometown, Richmond, Virginia. It’s easy to fall into a weekend rut – eh…routine. Not a thing wrong with filling Saturday and Sunday with chores, errands, a movie, and a good book, but we decided to switch it up yesterday.
We started the morning out at the Library of Virginia, where we checked out a special cartography collection. Bubs studied geology in college, and the old maps really give a sense of the character of the land. We also saw a letter that Robert E. Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis declining an offer of a new horse. Lee wrote about his horse, Traveler, “My gray has calmed down amazingly, gave me a very pleasant ride all day yesterday. I enjoyed his gaits much.”
Reading about Traveler made us think of Bubba’s cousin, Jay, who passed away too soon. Jay loved history and, especially, Civil War history. He named his German Shepherd Traveler, after Lee’s gray horse. Jay was a beautiful, complex, loving spirit, a poet who delighted in making people laugh and feel loved. We really miss him so much, and I like to think that our encounter with Traveler in the special collections room of the library was not so much about Robert E. Lee as it was about our Jay, reminding us to have plenty of fun and keep close to each other.
So. In Jay’s honor, we bailed on the maps and headed over to Perly’s, where our courtship first started. Over curried split pea soup and a Harvey Hudson sandwich we did what we always do at Perly’s: talked about our dreams and hopes and our life together. Hands down favorite date place.
Happy in that special world of being together, we left Perly’s arm-in-arm and headed to our favorite downtown place: Kelly Justice’s Fountain Bookstore. Our book choices definitely reflect the sort of love bubble we were walking around in. I picked out Peace is Every Breath by Thich Nhat Hahn; Bubba chose Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World by Prince Charles.
We spent the afternoon touring Shockoe Slip in the witty, knowledgeable, gracious company of Real Richmond , lead by Maureen Egan and Leigh Ann McKelway [who used to be a Horton from Florence, Alabama, where my mom was born].
The tour started at Shockoe Slip’s Mise En Place, a private cooking school. Chef Christine, a New Englander, shared the recipe for her empanadas and cracked jokes about learning to make ham biscuits when she moved to Richmond ten years ago.
Off the Hookah, our next stop, surprised me the most of all the stops on the tour. Is it a hookah bar? A sushi bar? A sweet new outdoor dining spot?
Yes, all that in the most OTT way you could imagine.
By that I mean, beautifully over-the-top.
We cruised around the canal to work off some calories, then stopped by the Pipeline Look Out, and watched the herons.
From there, back up the hill to the Urban Farmhouse Market.
They had coffee and homemade donuts waiting!
From there, we welcomed the walk up to the Capitol. Maureen described Richmond’s use of ironwork and pointed out examples of iron ornaments. At the top of the stairs, she gave us a good history of the building itself. I had no idea it used to be brick red then later mustard yellow.
Throughout the tour, Maureen shared notable moments in Richmond’s history. She encouraged everyone to learn more about the Richmond Slave Trail and told the story of the blacksmith, Gabriel, who turned Patrick’s Henry’s liberty or death slogan on its head by raising an army of 1,000 fellow slaves, as well as artisans and free blacks determined to march into Richmond under a white flag with the words, “Death or Liberty” inscribed in red. Before heading over to Sin e` Irish Pub, we paused near the site where the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was signed into law in 1786.
At Sin e`, which we learned means ‘this is it’ in Gaelic, we sampled bangers and sliders and fried pickles.
Check out this wild ceiling mural at Sin e. Maybe it depicts the legend of Beowulf.
Our tour ended at Bistro Bobette. Earlier in the day, Bubba and I had pressed our noses against the window there and decided we’d like to try it, so we were excited to get a sneak peek and can’t wait to go back for dinner.
We don’t play tourists very often, but we should. We covered a lot of ground Saturday – The Library of Virginia, Perly’s, Fountain, Real Richmond, the James River – and were reminded why we love Richmond, and why we should make it a priority to get out into the community, out of our routine a little more.