Richmond – a lovely surprise!

We recently spent a few days in Richmond, a 2 1/2 hour train ride from Union Station in DC.  What a lovely city; we had no idea we should have already planned a visit to Richmond.  Just the scent of magnolia trees on every block was enticing.  The meeting Allen attended was held  in The Jefferson (www.jefferson-hotel.com), a beautiful building dating back to 1895.  In addition to the amazing architecture, you can add the most gracious service we have experienced in a hotel in a very long time.  Everyone we met went out of their way to ensure a perfect visit!  The concierge staff knows everything about the Richmond area, and they are happy to either make suggestions, or assist you in determining how best to spend the time you have available.  Since cabs are not as prevalent as in areas such as DC, The Jefferson offers transportation to local tourist venues as well as restaurants – and the drivers can relate stories of the city and its history in amazing detail.  Once you are dropped off at your location, you are provided with a direct number to call when you would like to be picked up for a return to the hotel.

During our short stay, we had two excellent meals at Acacia (http://acaciarestaurant.com/), which is located at the edge of the Fan District.  Since the menu changes daily, we enjoyed different seafood options at both meals.  One night it was sauteed grouper served on a bed of Parmesan risotto with roasted mushrooms and spinach.  As the only soft shell crab lover at the table, one of us was able to enjoy a fabulous serving of perfectly prepared tempura-style soft shells.  The stuffed zucchini blossom appetizer was as beautiful as it was tasty, and we did give in and enjoy dessert at both meals (those change nightly, too).  Acacia was highlighted in a “Postcard” written by the Washington Post restaurant critic some time ago, and we agree with his assessment – wonderful food and beautiful presentation!  Another trendy section of the city known as Carytown, is one we plan to explore on our next visit.

While Allen was attending sessions at the meeting, I found that The Virginia Museum of Fine Art (http://www.vmfa.state.va.us/Default.aspx) was the perfect place to spend a few hours.  The museum, beautifully situated on 13 1/2 acres, first opened in 1936.  A 165,000 square foot expansion was completed in May 2010, and the result is impressive.  The collections housed at the museum are extensive and each area is designed to highlight a specific collection.  The added perk of Amuse Restaurant made the time at the museum even more enjoyable.  What more could you ask than to sit on the lovely deck in beautiful weather with a perfectly prepared crab cake and a glass of white wine?

Our tour of the Capitol Building was led by an incredibly knowledgeable man who made you want to stay for hours.  We will return to do the tour again, especially when we have more time to visit the grounds, and wander around the building.  The Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House also are a “must see” for anyone interested in learning more about that time in history.  There are so many reasons to return to Richmond, and we hope to visit again during the upcoming Faberge Exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – it begins in early July and runs until October 2 of this year.

And as our time in this beautiful city ended back at the train station, we found ourselves in the midst of a wedding reception! While our train was supposed to depart a little after 6PM, it was delayed by a disabled freight train and the reception which was scheduled to begin at 7PM found that they had several unscheduled ‘guests’ – well, really observers. From the entrance of the attendants and bride and groom, to the impromptu announcement to the train passengers by the mother of the bride, to the dance lessons (the hustle??), the two extra hours spent waiting for the train were at least entertaining!

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