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.