Monday, May 21, 2012

The Things I've Seen in Richmond

When I was packing to drive to Richmond for a week, I was operating under the assumption that I would probably be doing the same things on a day-to-day basis as I do at home, with the notable exception of going to work.  There would be dogs to walk and entertain, but that wouldn't take up all my time.  I packed my PlayStation 3, thinking I'd watch Stargate while job-hunting online.  I even picked up a used copy of Assassin's Creed, a video game I'd been thinking of checking out.  I'd need a break from the Stargate and job stuff, I decided.  And then I got down there, and was seized with the urge to explore.

I've been to Richmond so many times that I forgot I'd never really seen Richmond.  Usually we're down for a family gathering or on the way to the beach in North Carolina.  But Richmond is a vibrant, interesting city and really there is so much to see!  I spent most of my time in Carytown, mainly because it's very close to my aunt's house, but I also consulted the Design Sponge Richmond city guide for ideas.  Here's a little not-so-little list of the things I saw and loved.

Maymont - Maymont, built in 1893, was the home of the Dooley family.  The house and its furnishings were left to the city of Richmond at their deaths, meaning it's in remarkably whole and immaculate condition for an historic house.  The furnishings are especially exciting, as some are pretty darn wacky (case in point).  Aside from the house, the estate also includes two gardens (the Japanese garden in particular is large and intoxicatingly beautiful), an impressive collection of historic carriages, and a small zoo.
Hollywood Cemetery - This is Richmond's big historic cemetery, and I have no idea whose idea the "Hollywood" was.  Home to the final resting spots of two US Presidents and Mr. Jefferson Davis of the CSA himself, there's a lot of historic significance in this graveyard.  However, I found it appealing for another reason entirely.  It's quiet.  It's beautiful.  It sits right over the river, and the trees keep it sheltered from the sun on hot days.  In short, it may be Richmond's most perfect park, if you don't mind sharing space with ghosts.  There are graveyard maps available for purchase for $1 just inside the gate, but I found if you follow the well-marked blue painted line through the cemetery, you can find all the really significant stuff from the road.  Be sure to check out the stone dog.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts - I've already written about the VMFA, so I'll keep it short: it's great.  It's a fantastic museum with an AMAZEBALLS decorative arts collection (primarily Art Nouveau and Art Deco), and the 20th and 21st Century art collections aren't too shabby, either.  Best of all, it's free!  They do charge for special exhibitions (there wasn't one this week), but based on my experience those are usually worth the price of admission.

Need Supply - It's no secret I love this place, it's a great little boutique representing the best of both local and national designers.  I walked away with just jewelry, more because of their dearth of larger sizes than anything else.  Their denim selection is amazing, but sadly they carry nothing above a size 30 (about a 10).  They do, however, have TOMs shoes in stock, if you've ever wanted to try them out.

Mongrel - This is about as close as Richmond gets to a place to buy souvenirs, though it's closer to a locally owned Paper Source than anything else.  Mongrel carries gifts and cards of all shapes and sizes, things you need and things you don't, and is super classy about it.  I think my mother put it best when she observed that she "could do a lot of damage to a Christmas stocking" in Mongrel.

World of Mirth - On the surface, World of Mirth is a toy store, but just walking through the door shatters that illusion.  Whoever does the buying for this place is a kitsch-loving nerd, and it is fantastically obvious.  From the cabinet of Day of the Dead skeleton goodies to the hipster fake tattoos, by the time you hit the wall of Doctor Who items near the back of the store, I can guarantee you'll have found something to make you smile.  And lest you think it's only fun for adults, I assure you there's plenty for kids to delight in, too.

Antiques in Manchester - AIM, as it's called, is a Saturday antiques market in the Manchester area of the city.  It takes place in a covered alley, so I imagine it operates rain or shine.  I went expecting to ooh and aah over things I could not afford and maybe pick up some art if I liked anything, but was surprised to find things well within my price range (and this from someone who pays full price--bartering terrifies me).  I walked away with furniture, but there were plenty of people selling jewelry, textiles, and assorted decorative elements, too.

Chop Suey Books - Another Carytown gem, this new/used bookstore has loads to offer, complete with the requisite uninterested bookstore cat.  They don't have much in the way of genre fiction (romance, mystery, sci-fi, etc.), but they do have a delightful offering of older pulp fiction paperbacks, and a fantastic poetry selection.  Non-fiction's not really my bag, but those sections looks formidable, as well.

New York Deli - Deli fare with a spin, this place serves food that's simply great.  They've been doing it longer than any other place in Richmond, so they should know their stuff.  I've never been in the evening, but the bar looks pretty solid, too.  Bonus: PHOTOBOOTH.

The Belvidere at Broad - My mom and I chose this place for our Mother's Day dinner, and were so proud of ourselves for venturing out away from Cary St.  I was impressed by their vegan and gluten-free selections, as well as their beer and bourbon lists.  Our one complaint was that our food was a bit too salty for our taste, but other than that it was delicious.  I had the vegetarian Nicoise Salad, which was a rare treat.

Amuse - This restaurant may be inside the VMFA, but don't let that fool you--this is no ordinary museum eatery.  With an impressive, ever-changing menu (they focus on what's in season locally, and take inspiration from whatever's currently showing at the museum), Amuse is a different restaurant every time you visit.  We sat outside overlooking the sculture garden and slurped cool spring onion vichyssoise--perfect for a warm spring afternoon.

Carytown Burgers and Fries - If you're someone who appreciates a finely crafted burger, then this place is a must for you.  A teeny space that feels as "hole-in-the-wall" as it gets, the food is worth and wait and the inevitable crowd.  I'm a non-vegetarian who happens to really love veggie burgers, so I was delighted to find not one, but three veggie options on the menu--Boca, veggie, and black bean.  I went with the veggie, and was well pleased.  I took my food to go, but there is also an outdoor area to sit and dine.

Can Can Brasserie - a perennial favourite, you can't hit Carytown without checking out Can Can.  A French eatery that actually feels Parisien, this place is a treat.  However traditional it may look, however, Can Can puts their own spin on classic French foods.  I dined here for lunch, but the brunch menu looked delicious, too (and from the brunch crowd we saw another day, I'd say it is)!

Conch Republic - Right on the James River, Conch Republic is a great place to spend a warm evening.  This place is all about the Florida Keys, with a menu chock-full of seafood and even some unexpected gator.  I had the spinach and strawberry salad, which was about as delicious as a salad has any right to be.

I highly recommend Richmond as a place to spend a day or weekend or week or month, there's so much to see and do.  I'd love to have done more, but basically I ran out of money (random observation: the Richmond HomeGoods was about the most impressive HomeGoods I've been in).  Honestly, if you can take only one thing away from this list, see the cemetery.  It may seem morbid, but it really is a lovely, lovely place to spend time.
And now back to my regularly scheduled life.


Jillian said...

Hollywood cemetary is named so because of the prevelance of Holly trees.

Kelly Anne said...

Ha, that WOULD make sense, wouldn't it? Thanks!