travel

How We Wound Up in the Capital

Needing to use hotel points before they expire is probably the silliest reason ever to drive 675 miles—and back—and yet, we’re a bit insane spontaneous like that. We had two nights at any Omni hotel that were only good through April 30, and after looking at all the Omni offerings, we realized that the D.C. hotel was the one closest to us by car (in a location we actually wanted to visit). So we packed up the dog and the Audi and we hit the road. It was also the day after his first tax season had ended, so SVV was overdue for a vacation.

And if I’m being totally honest, the main purpose of the entire excursion was to see our Semester at Sea friends in Charlottesville on the way back. But since we were already going all that way by car, continuing on to D.C. first for an excursion just seemed logical.

Not ones to ever get anywhere in a hurry, we stopped in Knoxville en route to have dinner with my sister and the other Spring Break girls. I welcome any excuse to eat at The Tomato Head, my favorite restaurant from my own college days in K-Town—and to see some of my favorite grad school gals. They came bearing goodies from the general store. Think they’re trying to fatten us up?

Afterwards, we stopped by Coolato Gelato for a treat, even though it was 50 degrees out and not at all ice cream weather. (It was, however, completely worth it.) They even give out a canine-friendly gelato free for “dogs who bring in their parents” so Ella got a snack, as well.

That night, we made it to Roanoke, where we booked a hotel about an hour out via Hotels.com and snuck the pup in via her neon messenger bag. Way to be discreet, Ella.

On the road between Roanoke and D.C. we opted to pull over for a riverside walk. It was absolutely gorgeous—I am a firm believer that there are few places in the world more beautiful than the South in springtime—and everything was lush and green. Some of us—no names—couldn’t control our impulses to chase the local wildlife and took a swan dive into the river after just having a bath the day before. (Sound familiar?)

D.C. was delicious—er, I mean beautiful, too. (Wait, not everyone plans their vacations around meal and snack times? I’m shocked.) Aside from all the normal tourist attractions, we managed to see Meredith and Sarah for dinner at Open City, run into Kendyl who was holding a work event at the Mall and just happened to e-mail me that morning about something unrelated (hence leading us to discover we were in the same city, just blocks away), devour some Baked & Wired cupcakes in Georgetown, and catch up with my 2003 Edinburgh roomie Kate and her wife Carrie in Alexandria. And in true Scotland fashion—and since we’re both old and married and don’t stay out till sunrise as we did in our expat days—we paid homage to the motherland by finding deep-fried Mars bars on King Street (at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub, lest you be looking for the same).

It was a great, friend-filled few days, but the reunions were only just beginning.

In Charlottesville, we stayed with Layne and Brian—two of our favorite people on planet Earth, with whom we traveled with in South Africa, Vietnam and Honduras (they actually got engaged on the ship last fall!)—and headed downtown for a wine festival and to meet up with our other compadres, Jane and Andrew (creator of the viral sensation, Sea Dub). We managed several tastings before the rain arrived, and when it covered the city in a blanket of near-freezing precipitation, we moved the party to Mono Loco.

The next morning, it was even colder so after brunch with our other ship friends Lily, Luke, Laurie and John at Bluegrass Grill, we retreated to Layne and Brian’s woodland home to spend a lazy afternoon in sweats.

Andrew, Jane and Jane’s sister came over later for a cook-out—or cook-in as it turned out to be—and cabin fever took over. There was yoga.

There were handstand contests.

And there was puppy loving.

Marissa joined the fun with her Morkie, Harvey, who was exactly Ella’s build and size. They chased each other around the house for a solid two hours.

All in all, the weekend couldn’t have been more perfect.

After stopping at the Institute for Shipboard Education headquarters on the UVA campus yesterday morning to see even more shipmates Annie and Kate and meet other colleagues I only knew via e-mail and avatar, we had a long eight-hour drive ahead of us. We got home late last night, and while I was nostalgic for our ship friends and, at the same time, wishing I lived in Virginia, I was also thankful for the time spent with my favorite person.

Oh wait, I meant this guy.

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Comments ( 36 )

  1. “I am a firm believer that there are few places in the world more beautiful than the South in springtime.” YOU GOT THAT RIGHT! After 12 years in brown (but beautiful in its own way) Colorado, I’ve spent this whole spring just in awe of all the blooms and greenery. It’s gorgeous!

    And… I love Mono Loco! They have amazing margs!

    • Well, Colorado might tie the South for first at certain times of the year (at least in the winter time when covered in snow or once the flowers are in full bloom in the summer!). Still, EVERYTHING down here is just so green right now, and after four years in Northern California (yellow and drab and the same so much of the year), I’m loving me some spring.

  2. Your first Charlottesville photo brought back memories. I lived in Charlottesville for about six years and worked in various offices on the Downtown Mall for most of that time.

    • It’s so beautiful there! The mall reminds me so much of Pearl Street in Boulder. Too bad it was too chilly to spend much time wandering around that area.

  3. Great photos and sounds like a fun-filled trip! I love, and miss, Tomato Head too!! I always stop to have lunch with friends in Knoxville on the way to my parents’ house- must remember to hit it up again :)

    • Long live Tomato Head! Sunspot is my other favorite local joint. And check out Coolato next time you’re in town–Metropulse just named it the “best cool treat in Knoxville” and it’s gotten a whole lot of national press in the three years it’s been open.

  4. Glad you had fun! Next stop, Boston for fried Mars bars here: http://thehavenjp.com/. :)

    • TOTALLY. As if I needed another reason to return to Boston! Love that city. You, Kate and I need a New England meet-up, stat.

      • Heck yeah we do! Spouses are allowed, too. And I have a whole house now! With a yard! And a dog for Ella to play with (as well as Kate and Carrie’s umpteen million dogs)! :)

  5. That gelato looks so good!

  6. The first and last pictures look like they should be the front and back artwork for a country duo album. Also, now I reeeeeeeally want a deep-fried Mars bar. I’ve never had a deep-friend candy bar, and it looks…just…just delightful.

  7. Looks like you guys had a blast, but I think you pretty much always do, don’t you? LOVE that first pic too!

    We’re prepping for our own little road trip in a couple of weeks and you’ve really inspired me to make the most of it (because I’d SO rather be flying than driving 12 hours w/ a 2 year old). I’m definitely going to try to “enjoy the journey” this time around.

    • Your trip is going to be awesome! I find listening to Howard Stern (with a toddler? er, maybe not so much) and taking lots of self-indulgent photos helps pass the time. As does a whole lotta chocolate. =)

  8. You look cute in the 1st pic! nice ring :) I love DC!! i want to move there… the only thing holding me back is the winter… were u in time to see some cherry blossoms? I’ve never been to DC during that time of the year.

    • Funny story about that ring: I bought it from a local artist in Tasmania two years ago and wear it with EVERYTHING. Then, five minutes after this picture was taken, it promptly broke while in the car and got stuck with my skin pinched INSIDE it. So now it’s broken and I have a big cut. Harumph.

      We didn’t see any cherry blossoms! Initially, when we planned the trip, we were supposed to be there during the festival, but due to lack of winter/early spring, they bloomed about a month before they normally do. Ah well, maybe next year.

  9. Yay!! You went to Coolato!! Glad you enjoyed it and had a great trip to Va!

  10. Love that last shot! What a fun road trip!!

  11. You move so fast. How do you coordinate these things? Love that the three of you were on the road together again.

  12. You didn’t want to visit Atlanta? Hahaha I understand, DC might have more to offer. Love Omni hotels though.

    • I love the ATL! It’s just not really a “vacation” for me since I live just two-and-a-half hours away and could go there anytime just for a night.

  13. My hubby and I definitely plan trips around food! We have also done things like stay at a hotel 1-mile down the street from us on 12/31 so that we could get Platinum status for the year!

    • I always thought I was the only one to do such crazy things, and then I read about this whole faction of elite frequent fliers who would fly a leg to nowhere in particular in December just to keep their top-tier status.

  14. SO much fun! Wish Harv and I both had a delightful time!! xoxo

  15. I’d be totally cool with it if you wanted to live in Virginia. Just sayin’.

  16. The ice-creams are looking delicious and dogies are beautiful.

  17. Next time you’re in DC, it’s definitely worth a side trip up to Baltimore to eat your way through that city as well. You won’t be sorry! ;)

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  1. [...] here, subscribe to my RSS feed and/or newsletter. We love our readers and hope you'll be back!While traversing Virginia last month, we pulled over about 60 miles outside of D.C. for a little wander. Sometimes the best [...]

  2. [...] That night, I was able to meet my ship daughter Molly, our friend Craig, and my former work study students Mikey and Maryum for dinner at Knotty Barrel for a brief catch-up. The best thing about being involved in Semester at Sea has definitely been the number of friends I now have scattered around the country and the globe. I feel like all I’ve done since getting off the ship in December is visit many of them! [...]

  3. [...] traversing Virginia last month, we pulled over about 60 miles outside of D.C. for a little wander. Sometimes the best [...]

  4. […] braving the traffic in Vietnam, diving in Honduras and frolicking in flower fields in Holland to visits in Virginia and birthday celebrations in North Carolina. In fact, other than SVV, Layne is the person with whom […]

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