My Love Relationship with Richmond

River City

I moved to the “Fan” in Richmond about 5 years ago, with little to no knowledge about what the “Fan” actually was, other than an area in downtown Richmond that was shaped like a fan.  Go figure.  In that time, I have developed what I like to call a Love relationship with Richmond.  I love her and there is no place I’d rather be.  Here are some of the reasons:

1. Monument Ave – Visitors to Richmond, no mater where they come from, always leave with images of Monument Avenue in their minds.  There is no way around it.  For those of you who haven’t seen this stretch of road, close your eyes and picture beautiful tree-lined blocks with early 20th century brick town homes big enough to house 3 families, cobblestone streets divided by grassy knolls and giant, powerful monuments that pay tribute to Confederate Generals (Lee, Stuart and Jackson), Confederate President Jefferson Davis, “Pathfinder of the Sea” Matthew Fontain Maury, and Richmond Native/Tennis star Arthur Ashe.  Monument Ave is the site of the annual Easter on Parade, Ukrop’s 10K race, and Confederate marches.  Any time of day you can see people taking a nice stroll, walking their dogs, enjoying a run, or just laying out in the grass taking in the history and beauty that is Monument Ave.  It is one of Richmond’s greatest spots and treasures!

2. Kuba KubaThis Cuban joint remains my favorite place to eat in Richmond.  You don’t even have to enter the front door to enjoy the spicy aromas seeping out of the tiny two-man kitchen.  On most nights, especially when the weather is nice, you will see people waiting outside of this tiny restaurant with  mouths watering in great anticipation for tasty Cuban cuisine.  The owner, Manny, is often present and smiling through his thick salt and pepper beard at anyone who walks through the door.  The inside decor includes murals and black and white photos of ancestors, brightly colored booths and tables, and an old-school soda fountain counter with stools for those would enjoy watching the cooks/waitresses in action.  The portions are gargantuan, and filled with some of the freshest ingredients you will find in the city.  The visual aesthetics of each meal alone gives great joy.  My favorite meal would probably be the Cuban Roasted Pork served with black beans and rice and cuban bread.  Wash it down with a cold cerveza or maybe a freshly made refreshing limeade, and finish the evening with a Cuban coffee and piece of grandma’s homemade Tres Leche cake…mmmmm.  You leave with leftovers and the scent of Cuban spices nestled into your clothes.  It is my go-to spot for visitors that never disappoints the senses.  Brunch is pretty money there, too!

3. The James River – Although I made my first trip to the James River at the young age of 3, I didn’t fully appreciate the James until this past year.  I can now see its beauty and unending gift of exploration and fun.  A day on the river means trucking through “uncharted” marshes and waters, holding your day pack high above your head to keep it dry, and finding the perfect sunning rock on which to perch and enjoy a beer and the views.  No mater if you hit up Texas Beach, Pony Pasture, or the rocks just off Belle Isles, you are sure to soak in some warm VA rays and take in the beautiful water that is the James.  Traveling across the river’s bridges also provides some nostalgic and pretty views, especially downriver as you drive along the Powhite Parkway.  The arches of the old bridges hop across the flat rocks and scattered greens that protrude from the water’s surface.  I appreciate these views as they remind me of Richmond’s rich history of transporting goods up and down the James and of the role the waterway played during the Civil War (AKA: The War of Northern Aggression if you are a Richmond native).  The James is truly a wonderful place to spend a day in Richmond!

4. Carytown – Despite living in 4 different places in Richmond in 5 years, my final apartment is my favorite as it is smack dab in the heart of Carytown.  Carytown is a stretch of road, maybe 3/4 mile long that is lined with unique and local restaurants, boutiques, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, an old-time $2 movie theater (The Byrd Theater), and other shops.  On the first warm day of Spring, I swear no one goes to work or school and they all come to walk Carytown.  Some of my favorite spots along Cary Street include: Mom Siam, Coppola’s, Bev’s Ice Cream, Capital Coffee, Nacho Mama’s, New York Deli, For the Love of Chocolate, River City Cellars, and Bin 22.  There are outdoor patios on every block for those who enjoy people watching over a drink and dinner outside.  The boutiques range from trendy fashion forward threads to hard to find consignment pieces from the 1940’s and on.  Mongrel is a fabulous place to pick up an eclectic gift and funny card, while World of Mirth will keep a kid’s senses busy for hours on end.  Carytown has it all!

5. McClean’sThis restaurant has also become one of my favorites for breakfast over the past year, thanks to a coupon in my Valpak!  I had driven by the big McClean’s sign many-a-times during my jaunts up and down Broad Street, but was always a little bit skeptical.  Boy was I wrong!  This diner type, family-run, good ol’ fashioned home cookin’ spot is one of Richmond’s jewels.  It’s the type of place that turns you into a “regular” because you keep coming back for that greasy spoon atmosphere and food!  I think that Danny and I are now recognized by face when we step through the door, and we often sit in the same booth if it’s available.  It makes me feel a bit more like a “regular”!  My go-to breakfast is coffee, water, and a McClean’s Muffin with eggs scrambled, bacon and cheddar cheese.  The walls are plastered with various Rat Pack, John Wayne, and Audrey Hepburn posters, along with pictures of patrons taken over the 30+ years it’s been open.  The waitresses range from teenagers to women in their 40’s, each as sweet as pie and attentive as all get-out.  It is a perfect Monday morning breakfast spot that will start your week off right!

6. River City Social and Sports Club – About 2 years ago I started playing co-ed touch football through this RCSSC league and have had a blast ever since.  The idea is genius.  Twenty-two year olds and up get teams together (dodgeball, football, broomball, kickball, volleyball, and wiffleball) and play weekly games that remind them of either their glory days of high school athletics or being a kid in gym class.  Games are followed by drinks and food at the local “sponsor” bars with other teams throughout the week and weekend.  Although I have only partaken in football and kickball, I can safely say that RCSSC has allowed me to feed my competitive nature and love for sports while making great friends and having a blast in my “adult” years!  Who ever said that fun with sports had to stop after high school!?  Any metro area without a similar league is missing out.

7. GRTC – I actually have a love/hate relationship with the GRTC bus system, however it has carted me to and from school and work over the past 5 years, and for that I am thankful.  The bus lines are designed with the downtown worker/student in mind.  There are easy stops all along Broad Street and there is the 84 line “Campus Connector” which is free for all VCU workers/students.  VCU full-time students also get free bus passes (for the past 3 years), which makes a difference when living on a student stipend, even though the bus ride one-way is only $1.25.  All in all, despite some crazy and lazy bus drivers/passengers, I have appreciated and loved the ease and convenience of Richmond’s public transit.  Riding the bus also makes me feel like I am doing my part to limit my “carbon footprint” 🙂

8. Crossroads Coffee Shop – This hipster little coffee joint became a favorite spot when I moved into my 3rd apartment on Floyd Ave.  It was conveniently located along my walk to catch the Campus Connector (see GRTC above) bus to school.  Therfore, my visits to get the regular order (Everything bagel toasted with veggie cream cheese and a medium non-fat latte) became more and more frequent.  The workers are friendly and often decorated with tattoos and piercings, the ambiance is bright and cheerful, and the counter wall leading up to the register is littered with fliers advertising area farmer’s markets, shows and exhibits as well as business cards of local artists and such.  Plus, they not only sell the best bagel in Richmond (courtesy of New York Bagels and Deli in the west end), but they also have an assortment of Bev’s ice cream (see Carytown above).  An added bonus: the lattes are like crack and will keep you going strong all day long!  For coffee shops in Richmond, Crossroads has my vote.

9. Friday Cheers – Friday Cheers is a formerly free (now $2) concert series the city puts on every Spring/Summer season down on Brown’s Island.  On a warm Friday night, there is nothing better than to take your blanket, lawn chair and beer money and head on down to the waterfront for some live music.  Even if you are unfamiliar with the band, you are sure to run into friends and catch up over a cold beer from the beer trucks or glass of wine from a local vineyard.  The backdrop to the stage is Richmond’s skyline, with the James River off to the side.  Friday Cheers is one of the best city-run events in Richmond, and a great way to kick off the weekend when the weather is heating up.

10. Six-degrees of separation in Richmond – While this isn’t a place or event, it is something special about living in Richmond that makes city and surrounding burbs (of close to 2 million residents) seem like a quaint little town.  No matter who you run into at a bar, cookout, or sporting event you are sure to have a friend in common.  The “six-degrees of separation in Richmond”, while often less than six degrees, is the reason I have made some of the best friends over the past 5 years.  It is the reason I have the best boyfriend, and the reason I have been so lucky to have been reconnected with my current roommate (former acquaintance from JMU).  Although it can sometimes bite people in the butt (if they are trying to get away with something they shouldn’t), it is one of my favorite things about this city.  It always seems so interconnected and personal, despite its size and volume of residents.

BONUS: The Richmond Flying Squirrels – When I first moved to Richmond I head about their minor league team the Richmond Braves.  I never made it to a game, despite the ball park being just up the road from my apartment.  For a city that appeared to love baseball and all things “Richmond”, I was never impressed by the enthusiasm that swirled (or didn’t swirl) around the Braves.  Fast-forward a few years and the Braves have left Richmond, there is talk of building another ballpark down in Shockhoe Bottom, and the city is clearly divided on the future of baseball in River City.  Then something magical happened.  Talk of a new team hailing from my home state of CT started traveling down the pipeline and the idea of baseball in Richmond again started to gain momentum.  Contests to come up with a new team name and mascot flooded the local news and papers.  When the day came to announce the team name and mascot, you could cut the anticipation with a knife.  The suspense was killing us! Drum roll please….dadadadadadadada…. Richmonders say hello to your new minor league team the Flying Squirrels and their mascot Nutzy……HUH?  Despite the initial perplexed looks on the faces of most Richmonders, the Flying Squirrels and Nutzy have found a warm place in our hearts and the love for baseball has returned to River City.  I have to give major props to the marketing team who has advertised and organized events surrounding games, sent Nutzy to local schools to promote his program “Go Nuts for Reading!”, and showed great dedication to making games fun and affordable for the entire family.  I have already been to three home games ($6 general admission baby!) and enjoyed the $8.75 32 oz beers (not a bad deal), BBQ sandwich and some nuts of course!  I wear my Flying Squirrels gear with pride and hope that the excitement doesn’t fade for all of those baseball fans in Richmond.

When I first started putting this blog together, I wasn’t sure if my post-grad job would allow me to stay here or take me away.  Now having finished the blog, I know that I will be leaving for a job.  I will be sad to move away from Richmond at the end of summertime, but will return often and partake in these and many other “loves” I have here.  Thanks Richmond for a great 5 year run 😉

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May 24, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Life.

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