Hear about travel to Richmond, Virginia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Becky Pekora from SiteDoing.net about her adopted hometown.
“Richmond used to be a perfect destination only for history buffs. There’s a significant amount of history here from colonial times and especially the Civil War. But, I’ve been in Virginia for about 6 years now and after the past few years, I have really seen Richmond grow up. Now it’s blossomed into a more well-rounded trip. Not just history buffs will love it.”
“There’s tons of great restaurants, some James Beard nominated chefs here in the city, breweries, a significant art culture, everything from street art up to really great galleries and a very very high-quality art museum, and lots of outdoor activities.” Becky gives us the name of some of her favorite restaurants from fancy to simple southern to where to find a great Sunday brunch.
Becky takes us to some of her favorite neighborhoods including Church Hill, Shockoe Bottom, and Scott’s Addition. We talk about whitewater and parks in the middle of the city. We hear about her favorite picture spot on Libby Hill Park and the beautiful Belle Isle.
Near the stadium where Richmond’s baseball team, the Flying Squirrels, plays you will find a growing brewery and distillery scene and Becky picks out of few winners for us.
Outside of town, you can find antebellum plantations and two Civil War battlegrounds, so it’s still not a bad place for history buffs.
Things to Do in Richmond VA: The Ultimate Weekend Itinerary
Proper Pie Company
American Civil War Museum
White House of the Confederacy
Richmond Food Tours
Food + Fashion Tours
Map of Richmond Murals
A Tour of Toronto’s Graffiti Alley
GrafiffiMundo Tour of Street Art in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Visit Charles City
The Roosevelt Restaurant
The Roosevelt Restaurant (reviews)
Stella’s Restaurant (reviews)
The Naked Onion
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Tredegar Iron Works
Virgina Holocaust Museum
Richmod National Battlefield Park
Petersburg National Battlefield
Maggie L Walker National Historic Site
Virginia Diner (Peanut store)
Children’s Museum of Richmond
Jefferson Hotel (reviews)
Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown – Episode 81
Pocahontas State Park
Richmond’s hottest spot: Scott’s Addition
Ardent Craft Ales
Richmond Flying Squirrels (Baseball)
join us for a Amateur Traveler trip to India – November 4 2017 – AmateurTraveler.com/trips
I just listened to your Podcast on the Baltic Cruise on Viking. My how you’ve mellowed over time. You are sounding more and more like us seasoned cruisers. Viking, Azamara and the other small ship lines do a great job setting up tours.
We’ve traveled the Baltic and Scandinavia many times and really agree with your and Mary Jo’s impressions.
We always pick small ships now in an attempt to avoid the crowds. That’s ships of 700 to 900 people. We also go in the off season which helps avoid the mega cruise ships. The small ships also go to smaller ports that the mega cruisers can’t get into. For example, we cruised up the Thames to Tower bridge on the Azamara Journey. We docked by Tower bridge for several nights. Can you imagine a better place to start your London day and trips?
I think you are ready for another great trip. Several years ago we sailed from Valparaiso (Santiago), Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina via Antarctica. It was the Azamara Journey again. It sailed up and down the Chilean coast stopping at many small towns. We sailed up and down Fjords and visited Patagonia. We then sailed to Antarctica across the Drake Passage passing Cape Horn lit by the midnight sun. We were blessed with calm seas for both crossings. We spent several days visiting various locations. Crossing the Drake Passage again, we sailed up the coast visiting more ports in Chile, Uruguay and Argentina.
We agree with your perception that crews are much happier and provide better service when the cruise line takes care of them. Azamara, Celebrity and Viking take fairly good care of their crews and the experience is better.
Thanks for all the great podcasts.
Steve from NC
Quite a cruise! We did a Rick Steves tour of Tallinn, Helsinki and St Petersburg a few years ago, and we loved Tallinn. We had two local guides, one young and one older. The younger was all optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of the country, but the older seemed to think the tanks would eventually come back. We also had better weather for picture taking at St Petersburg than what you had.
Chris: Amateur Traveler, Episode 526. Today in the Amateur Traveler, we talk about a Civil War Museum and brew pubs, plantations and the White House of the Confederacy as we go to Richmond, Virginia.
Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. If you’re interested in any of the Amateur Traveler trips and you’re listening to this in 2016 especially, you’ll want to stay tuned for an announcement at the end of this episode or go straight to amateurtraveler.com/trips to learn more. But now, let’s talk about Virginia.
I’d like to welcome to the show Becky Pokora from thegirlandglobe.com who has come to talk to us about Richmond, Virginia. Becky, welcome to the show.
Becky: Hi, it is great to be here.
Chris: So, first of all Richmond, Virginia, why should someone go to Richmond, Virginia?
Becky: Richmond used to be a great destination only because it was perfect for history buffs. There is a significant amount of history here from colonial times and especially the Civil War, but I’ve been in Virginia about six years now, and after the past few years, I’ve really seen Richmond grow up. Now it’s kind of blossomed into a more well-rounded trip. So not just history buffs will love it, everybody has something that they’ll find that they’ll enjoy. There’s tons of great restaurants and some James Beard-nominated chefs here in the city, breweries, a significant art culture, everything from street art up to really great galleries and a very, very high quality art museum, and lots of outdoor activities for anyone that loves those more active endeavors.
So there’s really something for everyone, great mix whether you’re coming here as a solo traveler or if you’re coming here as a family or just that romantic getaway. There’s a lot of different sides to the city that you could play up.
Chris: Excellent. What would you recommend for, say, a one- to two-week itinerary in Richmond and the vicinity?
Becky: So I think Richmond lends itself really well for four or five days. One of the things that really stands out about Richmond is that every neighborhood is very distinct, so you could walk just a couple of blocks away and you’ll feel like you’re in a very different part of town, and the way that San Francisco has those really neighborhood feels. So even just walking from one neighborhood to another could take a full day just to pick up on those vibes.
Chris: Well, and where would you start? What neighborhood would you start in and why that one?
Becky: My favorite neighborhood is Church Hill, which is an old 18th century mostly neighborhood, lots of old town homes, lots of brick and that beautiful old feeling. Just so much history is still alive there, but it’s also been revitalized in the last couple of years. So even though it looks historic, it feels very modern and contemporary which is a really cool blend of old and new. So you’ll find some of those cutting edge bakeries, bars, lots of craft cocktails these days and lots of stuff going on in that area.
Chris: You’ll have to tell me what a cutting edge bakery is? I don’t know what is cutting edge in the bread business so.
Becky: So all sorts of great breads, but we have places that focus on gourmet pies.
Chris: Okay, you hand me a pie, okay.
Becky: I don’t know if you’ve ever been to just a pie bakery before, but.
Chris: I have and I would go back, yes.
Becky: Yeah, but there is more than bread and cupcakes to bakeries and Richmond does a really good job showing those off as long as you then walk off the calories afterwards.
Chris: Okay, but you can’t tell me that there’s a pie bakery and not give me the name of that.
Becky: It’s called the Proper Pie Company.
Becky: And they have actually both savory and sweet pies. So if you’re feeling very indulgent, you can start with a meat pie for lunch and then segue your meal right into that sweet pie. The pumpkin pie is award-winning, but there is all sorts of fruit pies and chocolate & custard pies too.
Chris: Okay, we’re in the south here, so I’m assuming that the sweet pies tend to be pretty darn sweet.
Becky: They are, and it takes a little bit of time to get used to if you are not used to that, but order a cup of coffee to go with it and they tend to blend pretty well.
Chris: Excellent. And I’m sorry, I interrupted you as you were walking around the Church Hill neighborhood.
Becky: Yeah, so it is pretty cool, because if you walk maybe 10 minutes away from Church Hill, you can actually get into a downtown neighborhood known as Shockoe Bottom. And that Shockoe area is cobblestone streets, and even though there’s some financial district and central business that goes on down there, there’s also lots of boutique stores, totally different types of restaurants, bars and more of that night life clubbing compared to a craft cocktail intimate bar. So it’s very interesting how just going on for a little while will completely change the vibe.
Chris: And Shockoe Bottom is a rather odd name. Do you know what the origin of that? Are we talking about an Indian name or…?
Becky: You know, I’m not actually sure, to be perfectly honest. There is a creek there with the same name, so I’m assuming that’s where it got the name but I don’t know if the word itself is Indian or not.
Chris: Okay, is there anything particular we are doing in Shockoe Bottom?
Becky: There are a couple of museums down there. I mean it’s also easy on foot to get like to the Museum of the Confederacy or the White House of the Confederacy, both claims to fame in Richmond history. One of the things I like about Richmond is that they have a lot of that confederate history and there are a couple of people that are still diehard confederate fans. I don’t want to make light of that, but this city itself does a very good job of presenting things in a balanced and historical faction. They embrace their history in a way of showing how it’s part of American history without necessarily taking a stance or opinion on things. So it is very well done and very worthwhile site, if you’re into museums.
So if you have a couple more days in Richmond, I’ll try and get off of the historical slant here because I know that’s not for everyone, there are lot of more guided tours that will kind of help you see the city. Everything from Segway tours that go through the street arts, which is a lot of fun and kind of new initiative and new push by the city, lots of food tours. I know someone who is actually starting up or has already started up a food and fashion tour. So you go to a couple of different eateries for light snacks to see some of Richmond’s restaurants, and in between, you’re going into some of the Richmond boutiques to look around at some of the vintage clothing or some of the more modern, new twist on clothes. I don’t follow fashion, but I feel like I should go try that, just to see if I can broaden my horizons and find a new store.
Chris: Well, and you mentioned the street art tour on Segways, are we seeing commissioned pieces or are we seeing graffiti or some combination?
Becky: It’s some combination and graffiti in Richmond ranges from actual people tagging things to businesses that may have commissioned something for the side of their building, even if the city itself didn’t sponsor it.
Becky: So there are lot of restaurants or independent businesses that want some sort of a high quality art painted onto the side of their building. So you see some very, very good murals, some are that spray paint graffiti that you’re probably thinking of and others are different techniques. But it’s very cool especially in the neighborhoods. Jackson Ward is one that has a lot of street art in, even if you’re just walking around on your own and there are others downtown as well. But having someone who can show you around and point them out, since some of them are hidden and others have some pretty cool stories behind them, it’s a fun way to learn a little bit more.
Chris: And I have done two of those tours, one in Toronto and one in Buenos Aires and thoroughly enjoyed both of them. Not just the art but also the culture and some of the explanation that you wouldn’t get, as you’re saying, without going with somebody who knows what they’re talking about.
Chris: Excellent, where do we go next?
Becky: After you’ve spent a couple of days in Richmond, hopefully you’re here in the summer time so you can take advantage of our river culture and spend some time on the water. Within about a half-hour, there’s a city called Charles City, it is about half-way between Richmond and Williamsburg, and that’s really a cool place to spend some time also. And it’s really easy to do as a day trip from Richmond, because it’s about half-an-hour away. But that kind of takes you out of that big city feel and into more of that small town, scattered plantations along the river. So it’s a fun twist compared to staying in town. And a lot of people combine Richmond and Williamsburg anyway into the same trip.
Chris: And before we do that, I want to actually get back to the city, because there’s a couple things that I want to elaborate on and few things you have mentioned that we didn’t talk about. So you mentioned restaurants earlier including some that are critically acclaimed, but we didn’t talk about what they were.
Becky: Some of the best restaurants, at least one of my favorites, is called The Roosevelt, and that is also in that Church Hill neighborhood. And it is a southern restaurant through and through. You’ll find fried chicken and then grits all over the menu, as well as other things. But that is a small, intimate restaurant, one of a kind, and that is one that gets lots of word of mouth and a lot of prestige from people who know way more about culinary than I do. But I can tell you, even as a regular patron, the food is just out of this world, and it’s surprisingly quite affordable as well. So that’s something that we enjoy here in the city.
Chris: Any other favorite well-known restaurants or little corner places that a tourist wouldn’t even know about?
Becky: Stella’s, which is a Mediterranean restaurant, is in an area we call the Museum District because it’s very close to museums. It’s also a very residential area. And this particular restaurant is tucked off on a street corner that unless you were somebody who lives nearby, you’d probably never accidentally drive by it. But it’s packed, you have to get reservations. It’s been open for years, it doesn’t matter. You’re still probably going to be squeezed into a tiny little table on the corner, and if you don’t call ahead in advance, you won’t ever find a seat. Considering that Mediterranean food kind of seems a little overdone or maybe uninteresting, they have new twists every time I go in there. They have a standard menu, but their specials are usually what you want to order, because the chef has a few more of those creative liberties to make something new and different. They also do a great brunch.
Brunch is something that Richmond does every week without fail. Everybody in Richmond goes to brunch, usually on Sunday mornings, and not too early either, 11 and 12 or even 1 is a very popular time to go to brunch. Stella’s, I think is one of the best brunches in the city, just because they have different twists on breakfast classics and it’s a fun place to go.
Chris: Okay, favorite lunch place for a quick lunch while I’m out and about.
Becky: My favorite place is actually called The Naked Onion, and it’s a sandwich shop. They have one or two picnic tables out front, but it is mostly a take-out place. And even though it’s take out, I recommend calling ahead to place your order, so that you don’t have to wait forever while they are making your sandwich. Most of them are hot sandwiches, so it does take a little bit of time. One of the best things on their menu is a Bahn Mi sandwich. They have a couple of different variations whether it is pork belly, pork tenderloin, or a vegetarian version, but one of my favorite things is to pick up a sandwich from there and then take it to one of the parks in Richmond and just have a picnic lunch.
I think a lot of travelers don’t necessarily do that. They just assume that they have to sit down in a restaurant and eat their meal. But not far from there, there are some great places to picnic. In a place called Byrd Park, there’s a fountain there, lots of lakes, and then lots of green space. So that’s a fun twist for lunch as well.
Chris: Okay and then the first restaurant you mentioned was in the Museum District. Are there museums we should go to in the Museum District as long as we are talking about that?
Becky: Absolutely, the best one, in my opinion, is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a Smithsonian-quality museum and it’s entirely free. It went under a multi-million-dollar addition about three or four years ago, so it’s even better than it was beforehand, so people should go back even if they went once. I’m not usually an art museum fan, to be perfectly honest, but the reason I get drawn to this museum is because they host a lot of events. They have happy hours a couple of times a week. They bring in live music. People literally dance in one of the open atriums. They have tango classes. They also have some art workshops too if you want to get a little more hands-on with your art. And they’re open late on Thursday and Friday nights. So you can go in there and pop-in and order a glass of wine, and then go on one of their free walking tours through the museum, so someone can point out some of the different pieces that are on display.
So even if you’re not someone who necessarily knows anything about art, it just feels very accessible and very comfortable compared to some of the more traditional art museums where everybody is quiet and standing and looking at things. This one is really built to try and bring out people’s opinions and start discussions and get people in the door.
Chris: Any museums that are going to surprise me?
Becky: If there are, I haven’t found them yet.
Becky: A lot of the museums in Richmond are very well done. A lot of them are focused on history. Tredegar Iron Works is a really good one, also down by the Shockoe Slip neighborhood of Richmond. That was previously a historic iron works, now it hosts a couple of different exhibits on civil wartime.
One museum that I’m not really sure why we have in Richmond specifically, we have a Holocaust Museum, I don’t know why Richmond is home to it, but it is something probably worth checking out, if you have an interest in that type of thing.
Chris: Okay, and then you also mentioned getting on the water and the river culture. How am I going to enjoy that? How do I get on, I’m assuming I am not just going down the river and jumping in, so what are you recommending?
Becky: Yeah, so the James River is very prominent in downtown Richmond and through the suburbs. So downtown Richmond actually has some Class IV and V rapids in it, so you can take a whitewater rafting trip if you want. It’s very cool. When you are not too busy making sure you don’t fall out of the raft, you get a really great view of the skyline. But there’s also lots of places that will rent either kayaks or stand up paddle boards in some of the calmer, more mellow parts of the river. And it’s kind of a Richmond tradition to go tubing down the river, you can rent just black inner tubes and be lazy as you float by.
And then one other place that is kind of a Richmond favorite that tourists don’t necessarily visit is Belle Isle which is a small island in the middle of the James River and people pack their picnics and walk across the pedestrian bridge to get there, and go sunbathing on the rocks. You can wade in the river also. It’s usually, honestly, the water is too hot for most swimming in the middle of summer, but it is kind of cool that because the climate here is so moderate, you can be in the river for most of the year, sometimes with a few more layers on than others. But it is pretty comfortable to be in the river.
Chris: I know you were anxious to get us out of town, and not because you don’t like Richmond.
Chris: Anything else we should do in Richmond? Now you had mentioned something about driving past things, would you recommend getting a car when we are in Richmond?
Becky: Yeah, so Richmond itself is not really built for public transportation. There are a few buses, but they’re few and far between. So you have to make the schedules line up just about perfectly. If you are staying in the downtown core, you can absolutely rent a bike and get around that way. You’ll probably, for most downtown attractions, you should never have to ride more than five miles or so. So that’s not terribly difficult. I would recommend, especially if you’re going to try and get out of town to some of the nearby battlefields or anything along those lines, you’re probably going to want a rental car.
Chris: I know you keep wanting to extend past the history buffs and we should do that absolutely, but you’re talking to one, so in terms of battlefields, the two that I think that are closest to town is the National Battlefield Park of Richmond and then also the Petersburg, which are nearby. The one thing that I saw is you’ve also got a National Park for a civil rights advocate, Maggie Walker, which I assume is one of those small, little, tiny national historic sites.
Becky: You know, I’ve actually never been there. I’ve had a couple of people tell me that I should, so maybe this is the kick in the butt that I need to go ahead and do that.
Becky: But that’s in the Jackson Ward neighborhood which has a lot of African-American history and culture to it. So it makes a lot of sense that the historic site is right there in the middle of that neighborhood.
Chris: Excellent, well, and you mentioned that neighborhood, are there any other neighborhoods we should mention before we move out of town?
Becky: One of the ones that has a lot of restaurants and bars in it is called the Fan and they call it because the streets fan out, almost like a peacock, from Virginia Commonwealth University. So there’s a very student vibe there, because there are a lot of students that live in those neighborhoods and walk into campus. Carytown is another one that guide books love to mention. It’s less of a neighborhood and more of a single street, Cary Street.
Becky: And that has a lot of shopping and one-of-a-kind boutiques, specialty gifts, that type of thing, lots of restaurants and people watching
Chris: Have a favorite shop in Carytown?
Becky: You know, I actually tried to avoid Carytown like the plague.
Chris: I was sensing that.
Becky: I think something that you probably have to do, because there are so many Richmond things on that street, but once you’ve done it, because it’s usually full of other people, I try to just get out of the way, parking is kind of a hassle, and there’s so many people on the sidewalks, it’s even hard to walk down sometimes.
Chris: And you see so many Richmond things
Becky: So some of it is just Richmond stores, if you want a can of Virginia peanuts, you can go on a store that’s really just dedicated to those for example. So there are just a lot of specialty products on that street. There’s also a lot of restaurants that will do things like that Richmond brunch that I was talking about earlier. It’s also host to lot of events or festivals that take part in Richmond, so there’s probably something going on most weeks of the year.
The one thing I love about Carytown is the Byrd Theatre, which is an old movie theatre. I believe it actually started as a regular theatre for live performances, but now it’s a movie theatre. They play second-run movies for about $2 a ticket. But the real time to go there is on Saturday nights. They have someone playing the historic organ that was in this theatre prior to a show. It’s usually classic songs that everybody knows and can hum along with, but it’s really cool to just see the whole audience humming along and listening to this organ, and then sitting back for a movie. Especially it’s only $2, there is no reason not to go.
Chris: Excellent. And then you mentioned a couple things about something for everybody, so what would you do with a family, small kids, and what would you do for a romantic weekend?
Becky: So for a family or small kids, there is a children’s museum that everyone strongly recommends. I haven’t personally been there, because I don’t have any kids in my family, but the other one I would recommend for kids is Maymont Estate, which sounds like a strange choice for a family, and it’s a all-Victorian estate, but they have tons of grounds and part of it is gardens that are beautiful to walk through, whether you’re there on your own or with your family, and just lots of wide open green fields. So it’s good for kids to run around and then there’s also a petting zoo and also some other animal exhibit, a small zoo if you will but not necessarily a petting zoo, so there are a couple of different animals there. So kids love it, and to go and walk through all of that is completely donation-based. So if you’re only going to be there for a short time, you can throw in a few bucks. If you’re going to spend all afternoon, you might want to donate a little bit more, but that’s a really fun one to do that both the kids and the parents would enjoy to different extents.
Chris: And then romantic weekend.
Becky: For a romantic weekend, boy, I always do romantic evenings, never a whole weekend.
Chris: Okay, we’ll do a romantic evening then okay.
Becky: So the Jefferson Hotel would be where I recommend people stay if they’re there for a romantic getaway. It’s over the top glamorous, in a good way, not in a cheesy way at all, with stellar service. I’ve never stayed in the rooms, I do have family that’s been there and has highly recommended it. But they also have some really great restaurants right in the hotel, great happy hour specials. They do an afternoon tea on the weekends with a live pianist, so that can be romantic. But one of the other things that I like to do is walk along the canal in downtown Richmond. You go there after dark, you won’t be the only couples there. There will be plenty of other people strolling along the canal, but it is very pretty and it’s lit up usually. So that can be a great way to just spend some time with someone, and because the weather in Richmond is nice almost all year round, it doesn’t matter what time of year you’re there. It’s always nice to be outside and take a walk.
Chris: And then you talk about year-round and time of year, what is the best time of year to be in Richmond, and then the best day to be in Richmond, maybe a festival or something like that?
Becky: The best time of year is probably towards the end of October, if that’s not terribly specific.
Chris: That’s okay, that worked.
Becky: All in general, it’s a really nice time to be in Richmond. There’s still a lot of things going on and a lot to see and experience in the city, but the oppressive heat of the summer has kind of worn off.
Becky: So that’s a nice combination of things. You can still enjoy a lot of the outdoor activities that time of year. Generally speaking, spring is nice also, but it does tend to get more rain, and I know that puts a literal damper on some people’s plans. So it just depends on what you’re looking for.
Chris: And then favorite day of the year?
Becky: My favorite day is the 4th of July.
Becky: Richmond, first of all, the summer is, although very hot, it is a lot of fun, and because the river plays a big part of it and people are off for the weekend, you will see a lot of people just down on the riverbanks, either in the river itself or nearby. One thing that Richmond does special is right as they’re setting off fireworks in Byrd Park, they have live orchestra playing the 1812 Overture, and you think, “Okay, who cares,” but they have actual cannons that they set off, not with cannonballs, it’s blanks, essentially, for people’s safety, but they do set off these cannons to coincide with the 1812 Overture 1and the fireworks in the sky. So it’s just a really cool event. People go a couple of hours early to claim their spot on the field, as they’re watching the fireworks but there is lots of vendors. It’s kind of like a mini-festival essentially. So it doesn’t matter that you’re there early because there will be lots of stuff going on, and lots of people that are just willing to share things out of their picnic basket and you’ll probably make a friend there if you go there for 4th of July.
Chris: I’ve done the similar thing in Boston, in the Esplanade, and I would just recommend, it’s a great thing to go, but don’t sit right next to the cannons.
Becky: For real.
Chris: Excellent. Now, are you ready to do some of the trips outside of Richmond now?
Becky: If you are.
Chris: I am, indeed.
Becky: So one of my favorite trips, I was starting to say earlier was Charles City, which is less than a half-hour outside of downtown Richmond. There’s two ways to get there. You can hop in your rental car and drive there which is absolutely no problem, or you can rent a bike, bring your own, and go down the capital trail which is a 50- or 52-mile long bike path that leads from Richmond through Charles City and then eventually into Williamsburg. The advantage of the bike trail, obviously, is there is no traffic on it. So anybody can go and do it, even if you just want to do a short little piece of it. But along the way, you will be right riverside, which is nice from a scenic perspective, and then there’s a whole bunch of old plantations that you can go and tour. Some of them have gardens outside that are really lovely to walk through. Some of them will allow you in as a regular tourist to tour the actual estate and the plantation home. Others are only by appointment or only open on certain weeks of the year because they have families that still live there.
Chris: Which ones would you recommend?
Becky: If you only have a little bit of time and you’re just trying to choose one, I would say Berkeley Plantation is a really good one to choose. The gardens and the grounds at Westover Plantation, which is basically right next door, are also really nice to walk through, but Berkeley is probably the best one from an interior perspective or a tour.
Chris: Okay, and I’m assuming these are antebellum?
Chris: Excellent. I don’t know Charles City. I have been on the peninsula doing Williamsburg, which we’ve talked about, another episode of this podcast, but I had not heard of stopping partway down.
Becky: Yeah, so it’s fun, because it’s neither Richmond nor Williamsburg. It really is its own little place. And there’s a couple of wineries there. Virginia wines are fun and scenic, maybe not always award-winning, certainly drinkable, but maybe not award-winning compared to a Napa wine or something along those lines.
Becky: And there is also a lot of bird watching out in that area. There’s plenty of birds and wildlife that live in Richmond along the river itself, but just because you’re in a less populated area, you do see a little bit more when you leave the city. So that’s another good reason to kind of just head even a little bit out of town.
Chris: Okay, and I get the impression that we’re more in the country, are there, you mentioned the bike trail, are there hiking trails or anything you would recommend while we’re out there?
Becky: There are a few.
Chris: That didn’t sound like a highest recommendation there.
Becky: If you really want to go hiking in the Richmond area, you’re probably going to be driving about an hour away from the city. There are a couple of state parks that are a little bit closer. Pocahontas State Park is a really nice one that’s a little bit south of the city, but generally speaking you’re probably going to be farther away from that downtown area because outside of the downtown, you still have that suburban sprawl and people are still living and working in those areas.
Chris: Let’s do our last four questions though, you’re standing in the prettiest spot in the Richmond area, where are you standing and what are you looking at?
Becky: Libby Hill Park is probably what I would choose, so Libby Hill Park is in the Church Hill area. I know I keep coming back to that neighborhood. When you’re in that park, to one way, you’re overlooking the James River, and there is an area called Rocketts Landing. It’s just a little jetty area that has a couple of restaurants on it, but it is nicely designed to look at. And if you look in the other direction, you’ll be seeing that city skyline in the downtown of some of those buildings there. It’s really great at sunset. You won’t have any privacy, just because it is so popular, but it’s a really pretty park. There is a statue and a fountain there, but in general, it’s really that vista of the river and the city skyline that really makes it worthwhile.
Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Richmond?”
Becky: I don’t know if there’s anything that a traveler would say. There is lot of things about living here as a Yankee, but I just haven’t gotten accustomed to, as far as southern culture goes.
Chris: Yeah, we haven’t pointed out that you do not have a Virginia accent, because you are not from there originally. What was one of the things that took some getting used to, as you moved to Richmond, in terms of the culture?
Becky: It’s definitely a slower pace around here. You can tell which businesses are old Virginia or have been here a while just by how the staffing and how the service is, and I don’t mean that in a bad way, because it is very much a hospitality. People going out of their way to help you and be friendly. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that some things take a little bit longer. And then you can see which businesses have been started by people who have moved to the area either from Northern Virginia, we are getting a lot of people that move down, or from people farther away that are moving into Richmond. So it’s kind of interesting to see those side by side. I don’t even have to ask. I know which places have been here for a while. That and I still make this mistake, six years after moving here, ordering iced tea. I always forget that if you don’t tell them otherwise, they will automatically come sweetened.
Chris: Sweet tea, yeah. That’s more of a southern thing, in general, yeah I would expect that. Excellent. Finish this thought, “You really knew that Richmond was home, when…” what?
Becky: I think you really know Richmond is home when you start to identify with a particular neighborhood, just because they are so individual. And I think any traveler that comes to Richmond is probably going to have a similar feeling and knowing that they like one side of town more than the other, just based on the different people that you encounter because they’re so distinct. I think a certain group of locals will patronize that area more than another. So if you find the right one, you’re going to really click with the city and say, “This city is for me and I really love it.” And if you see a couple of neighborhoods and you never find the one that is really the one that you identify with, you might leave Richmond saying, “Yeah, they had a couple of good things to do, but I might not go back.” And I would just advise people that feel that way when they leave, just come back another time and try somewhere totally different, you might be surprised.
Chris: And if I guessed that the neighborhood that did that for you was Church Hill, would I be too far off the mark?
Becky: It is an area I love, I actually spend most of my time in an area called Scott’s Addition, and that is not far from the Fan or the Museum District, but it’s an old warehouse or industrial area. Most people go to that part of town because there is a lot of craft breweries in that area.
Becky: I hope that doesn’t say too much about my personality, but there’s some really great beer over there.
Chris: We don’t judge you if you give us the name of a good craft brewery.
Becky: My personal favorite is Ardent Craft Ales. They have some really great beers, some very traditional ones, and then usually, they have a couple of unique twists as well. One of my favorites is an Earl Grey Brown Ale, but they do have some more standard beers, if you’re not willing to venture out like that, or you can just get a flight or a sampler, if you don’t want to commit to the full thing. And Ardent is also great, they have an outdoor patio. Usually they have a couple of people on the weekends, selling some basic grilled food items or food truck style. And if you’re there on the right evening, you might actually see fireworks from our minor league baseball team going off from that patio, so that’s kind of an extra bonus.
Chris: And I don’t remember what the minor league team is in Richmond.
Becky: We are the Flying Squirrels. I don’t know how you could forget that.
Chris: I do remember hearing that, yes.
Becky: So say hi to Nutzy, the mascot. But there are several other breweries in that area as well. Many of them are actually in walking distance of each other. So you can make your own little beer tour of sorts, as long as you get an Uber back to your hotel at the end of the day. And there is also a cidery and a meadery, if beer is not your thing. So it’s just Richmond’s booziest neighborhood is all.
Chris: Well, and I should put in a plug for…if you are in a city and you get a chance to go to a minor league baseball game, they can be a lot of fun. Not the quality of play necessarily, it’s a little more minor league, but just the experience in a minor league team can be a lot of fun, definitely more of a community feel.
Becky: Absolutely, and I will give the Flying Squirrels a lot of credit for doing lots of special events, whether it is picnic style or bring your dog to the ball game, they do have a lot of things going on.
Chris: Excellent. And last question, if you had to summarize Richmond in just three words, what would you say?
Becky: I would say, and there is a lot of people from Richmond that are going to hate that I say this, so here’s my controversial statement, I will say Richmond is south meets north, and I mean that in a good way.
Becky: When I moved here six years ago, Richmond was southern through and through. And over the years it’s kind of slowly getting some more of those northern influences, or maybe not northern, but just a bigger city with more melodies and more going on. So you do get a lot of things that kind of balance out those traditional southern customs and cultures. So it’s a really neat blend through things compared to if you’re in Washington, D.C., it just feels very city-like, without that southern hospitality twinge to it. And if you go too far south, you lose a lot of the things that you really love about big cities. And Richmond’s a mid-sized city that’s easy enough to get around and offers pretty good value compared to other big cities. So it’s a really good balance.
Chris: Excellent. Our guest again has been Becky Pokora, Becky, where can people read more about your travels?
Becky: I’m at thegirlandglobe.com. I do have quite a few articles on Richmond on that site.
Chris: Do you have a favorite one you would recommend that we can link to in the show notes?
Becky: Sure, I have what I call “The Ultimate Richmond Weekend,” so that’s a good place to get started, just because it kind of organizes things in a logical fashion as far as things that are close together and makes sense to do in a certain order, along with restaurant and hotel recommendations right mixed in. And then from there you will probably find a thousand other links to get more in-depth at some of those activities sound more interesting to you.
Chris: Excellent. Well, Becky, thanks so much for coming on and sharing your love for your adopted hometown of Richmond.
Becky: Thank you very much, Chris. And if anyone’s in Richmond, you’ll find me in Scott’s Addition drinking a beer.
Chris: I mentioned there would be an announcement at this part of the show for people interested in doing an Amateur Traveler trip. The plans had been to do two trips in 2017, one plan got interrupted, the other one’s on schedule. We had planned to do Japan in April, and it looks like that may not happen. There’s a problem with the tour company just being able to get space in that, but we are planning on doing India in November 4th 2017. So if you’re interested go to amateurtraveller.com/trips to join the private Facebook group.
I heard this week from Jim who commented about the episode we did in the Baltic Cruise, quite a cruise. “We did a Rick Steve’s tour of Tallinn, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg a few years ago, and we loved Tallinn. We had two local guides, one young and one older. The younger was all optimistic and enthusiastic about the future of the country, but the older seems to think the tanks would eventually come back. We also had better weather for the picture taking at St. Petersburg than you had.” Well, you know it was Northern Europe and you’re always grateful for every blue sky you get.
I also heard from Steve from North Carolina, who said, among other things, and I’ll put his whole comments on the comments, “We always pick small ships down in an attempt to avoid the crowds. That’s ships of 700 and 900 passengers. We also go in the offseason which helps avoid the mega cruise ships. The small ships also go to smaller ports that the mega cruisers can’t get into. For example, we cruised up the Thames to Tower Bridge on the Azamara journey. We docked at Tower Bridge for several nights. Can you imagine a better place to start your London day and trips?” And Steve, I cannot.
With that we are going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to email@example.com as Steve did, or go to the Facebook community, at facebook.com/amateurtraveler as Jim did and leave a comment. A transcript of this episode and every episode of Amateur Traveler is sponsored by JayWay Travel, experts in Eastern European travel, for which I am grateful. And as always, thanks so much for listening.
Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.