On September 6 we settled into our Richmond AirBnB, located on the controversial Monument Ave - recently in the national news for protests that brought down a number of Confederate monuments. We were walking distance to some of our favorite Richmond haunts - the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) and "Carytown" - a funky street filled with great restaurants, cafes, and shops. We stayed 10 days in our daughter Laura's adopted home town and enjoyed many visits with her and her husband Mark.
Since our last visit to Richmond in October 2019, Monument Avenue had dramatically changed. Only two of the six monuments remained - the fully intact tribute to home-town hero Arthur Ashe, erected in 1996, and the graffiti-covered Robert E. Lee monument. The other four Confederate Monuments were removed by the city government. Lee still sits astride his horse pending a law suit that led to a temporary injunction. But the protesters have turned Lee Square into Richmond's BLM ground zero. What was once the capital of the Confederacy is now the liberal hub of this now-reliably "blue" state.
Our visit to the VMFA with Laura, Mark, and nephew Patrick was a great escape from the Richmond heat. No admission charge made for a very casual tour - no agenda, simply curiosity. The current exhibition - Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities - was fascinating. As it cooled into the evening, we sipped chilled rosé under the stately trees in the fabulous Robins Sculpture Garden. We were treated to the once-in-eighteen-years symphony of cicadas. The noise crescendoed to a roar before subsiding to silence and roaring back again.
Mark shares a love of cooking with Richard. We traded the honors with Richard making a Valencian Paella one night and Mark smoking some brisket and beans another night in his new smoker, and finally we enjoyed Mark's wok skills on his powerful outdoor propane burner. Mid-COVID, who needs restaurants?
Mark's brother Steven has worked for 9 years for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation - first as a costumed historical interpreter and now as an Associate Producer making live-action and animated films for their two living-history museums, Jamestown Settlement and the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. One beautiful Saturday, Steven gave up his day off to provide us with an amazing guided tour. We learned much about American History - "Southern edition" - the first arrival of the English in 1607, the culture of the Powhatan Indians, the Portuguese delivery of America's first enslaved people in 1619 (the 1619 Project is important - check it out), and much more covering a century of the first permanent English colony. We saw musket and cannon demonstrations and toured replicas of the tiny sailing ships. We had a fabulous lunch at Amber Ox Public House in Williamsburg. Many thanks to Steven for this great day.
Just north of the city is the beautiful Bryan Park - 262 acres of hiking and biking trails and beautiful botanical gardens. It became one of our favorite places for long walks and leisurely time to catch up on conversations with Laura.
No visit to Virginia would be complete without a trek out to Bowie MD to visit with Nancy's sister Margaret and her husband Stephen. Laura and Patrick joined us, so the two-and-a-half-hour drive each way was lively. We had buckets of Maryland crabs covered in Old Bay's seasoning at Fat Boy's Crab Shack.
Before we knew it, it was time to load up the RAV4, say goodbye to Laura, Mark, and Richmond, and continue our "America is Beautiful" tour.
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Nancy McCabe &