Monday, September 18, 2023

Girls' Trip to Richmond

Before we head off again to opposite corners of the globe, I got a chance to do a quick girls' trip to Richmond with my bestie from Seoul, N. It's hard saying goodbye so often in this lifestyle, but if it weren't for the Foreign Service then I never would have even met so many awesome people, including N. I'm glad I was able to get away and get some quality time with just us.

It was her first time to Richmond and my third, but I'm telling you the city wasn't quite how I remembered it. The pandemic really took a toll on so many cities, and many of the bustling streets I experienced years ago only have some of the businesses still operating. The many vacant storefronts (and in one case the inscriptions of people who died on a storefront with "RIP" alongside their names) made my heart hurt for the people of Richmond. That being said, though, I was amazed at the resilience and quality of those institutions that remain - and we took full advantage.

We started with a visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. As we bought our tickets, the kind person at the front desk urged us to head to the butterflies first, because that exhibit was about to close for the day.

We hustled to the far end of the garden and got in line for the butterflies. I'm glad the staff member told us to go, because the butterflies were so delightful and diverse. I saw butterflies snacking on cantaloupe, fluttering about, enjoying the breeze of a fan, blending in with a tree, and more. One even landed on me, but it was so brief I couldn't snap a photo. There were interesting facts about butterflies posted around, and the exhibit also had several cocoon types on display. It was so fun.

After that, we walked around the various sections of the garden, which was interspersed with art from the ongoing Incanto exhibit, featuring scultures by Kate Raudenbush and poems by Sha Michele, who apparently met at Burning Man. The flowers, art, and small lake combined to make a lovely walk, even if my friend N really could have done without the bees.

We also got ice cream at a wonderful place called Ruby Scoops I've never been to before. The ice cream was not only delicious, but the flavors were so unique. N's favorite was the hot honey cornbread and mine was the ube cookies and cream. And yes, we did have dessert before dinner.

Then, we checked into our hotel downtown and relaxed a bit before walking over to dinner. We chose a restaurant N's friend recommended called Lillie Pearl. Honestly, they knocked it out of the park. We got an appetizer with a full head of roasted cauliflower, and the beet and fig puree it came with was one of the best sauces I've ever had. For our mains, N and I split crispy skin salmon and lobster crab cakes, and the crab cakes in particular were extraordinary. We split dessert, as well: the bread pudding and the banana pudding. Everything was decadent and exquisite, and we may have overdone it a bit.

We hung out at the hotel, doing face masks I brought that I enjoyed more than N (especially because it adhered to my face better) and talking and laughing. It was a great time. The next morning, I took N to the coffee bar at Quirk Hotel, where M and I stayed on a previous trip to Richmond and which was thankfully still open. It was just as cute as I remembered.

I persuaded N to devote the rest of our morning to the Science Museum of Virginia. I love all museums, but science museums tend to be my favorite because of how interactive they are. We got tickets that included the special, temporary exhibit Space: An Out-of-Gravity Experience. I learned a lot about what it takes to get to and survive in space and what are some of the most cutting edge challenges that scientists are tackling now to help get us to the next level in space exploration. It even included a rotating room to simulate the International Space Station! It was so cool.

We also watched a film in their giant screen theater called The Dome. The show was called Into America's Wild and featured landscapes, adventure sports, and wildlife around the United States. The movie made me want to become a backpacker and hike all over the country. The best and most surprising part was that the documentary film featured multiple Indigenous people, which I appreciated given the problematic history of the United States establishing so many government-owned parks on stolen Indigenous land.

Once we finished up our time in the museum, we popped over to Lemaire restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel. The hotel was extravagant in decor, and the food was pretty good (but not quite as good as Lillie Pearl if you ask me). With that, though, we had to wrap up our Richmond vacation and head back home. (I think N missed her cats as much as I missed baby S.) But N and I had a wonderful time, and I can't wait to see her again (probably abroad next time)!

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