Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hometown Tourist

Who needs to go out of town for Memorial Day weekend?

Just stay right here and the out-of-towners come to you.

Or so it seemed on a canal boat ride today, my fourth and my seafaring companion's first, as good a destination as any for a Saturday stroll.

Our able-bodied skipper Cotton (yes, as in "Hi, Cotton!") broke the party ice by asking from whence came the visitors aboard.

Colorado, New York, Connecticut and North Carolina were in the house.

"Anyone here a Richmonder?" Cotton asked and a flurry of hands went up, including my own.

I'm one of those people who actually thinks being a Richmonder comes from RVA experiences and not birthright.

"That's what Richmonders look like," Cotton told the visitors, a point well made since we were a very diverse group.

"If you hate history, you just got on the wrong boat," he said as the final two passengers arrived, explaining their tardiness by saying they were from England.

"We'll be talking about you later," Cotton quipped.

"And you won't be nice about it, I'm sure," the man smiled in a clipped British accent.

Luckily for our former mother country's spawn, Cotton was not just a knowledgeable and humorous tour guide, but dressed to impress.

That's right, in this heat he was wearing a tri-cornered hat, a puffy shirt and lace-up vest, breeches and shoes with buckles.

The other canal boat was being commandeered by a guy in a baseball cap and a polo shirt, so how's that for job devotion?

I know, because we breezed right by them.

One sure way Richmond can seduce is gliding along the canal near Shockoe Boat Slip on a sunny day as a wheat-colored CSX Grain Express train passes through the triple crossing and turtles lounge nearby on dead branches, legs sticking out for maximum sunning.

When we got to the turnaround point near the Leonardo-inspired bascule bridge at Shiplock Park, Cotton said he was going to break bad.

Nest thing we knew he was vigorously repeating Patrick Henry's liberty speech, immediately followed by, "Happy Memorial Day!"

If we'd had a red, white and blue jello mold, that would have been the moment we broke it out.

As it was Cotton turned the boat around and we listened to tales of Richmond's history.

We were the first city to put beer in cans? Who the hell knew?

You should have seen how impressed with that the English couple was. So we Yanks were good for something.

On a related note, after docking we made our way up to Urban Farmhouse for lunch. where a sign greeted us, "Have you had your mimosa today?"

Why, no, now that you mention it.

The best part of a simple spinach salad with almonds and lemon honey dressing was the abundance of fresh strawberries, every one declaring itself to be at its peak.

But after walking from J-Ward to the canal, protein was in order, so I added a scoop of tarragon tuna salad, delightful to this mayo disdainer for its olive oil base.

Best of all, we ate our meal in the corner big front window thrown open to the parade of passersby.

A sunny walk, a languorous yet informative boat ride and a big plate of food in front of me.

Happy Memorial Day indeed.

And it wasn't just me. A man walking down the street winked at me when he caught my eye sitting there.

I know, Mister, right?

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