Friday, June 30, 2017

When You're Home

When you can't vacation, staycation.

For the first time since, I don't know, the early '90s, I won't be on vacation for the week of July fourth. I'm not going to lie, it's a little weird.

So in an effort to make the most of being stuck in the city when most of the population bugs out, I'm trying to do things almost as pleasurable as vacation, except I'm still sleeping in my own bed at night.

I'm also not waiting until Saturday to begin doing it.

So after luring a willing walker to join me by the river this morning, I suggested a road trip, although without sharing its destination. We hopped in the car and he obligingly followed my directions, moving toward lower elevations and, as he put it, more sky.

I love that sense you get as you head past cornfields and boat dealers toward sea level and any sense of far ground disappears, leaving trees in the foreground but only the promise of water behind it.

Getting out of the car, he asked incredulously, "How do you know places like this?" Please.

It was an absolutely lovely day to find a table under the canopy at Merroir and spend the afternoon watching boats come and go from the marina, marveling at the changing bands of color on the river and sipping Vino Verde.

If that's not enough to evoke time away from home, I don't know what is.

For my companion, it was an especially interesting sojourn because he's never been much of a seafood eater, having only recently tried mussels for the first time.

Today was the equivalent of a hat trick since we shared crab and vegetable soup (the vegetables tasting like pure summer), smoked cobia salad with pickled cauliflower, butter lettuce and grilled bread and, most impressively, Old Salte oysters.

You know a guy is completely under the spell of the setting (sparkling company?) when he's willing to slurp bivalves for the first time.

We'd barely finished ours when the two couples seated behind us got theirs. They'd already proved themselves worthy as they debated what their first bottle of wine should be when one of the two women announced, "Let's begin with the better bottle since we won't know the difference later."

Eating through their oyster sampler - Rapphannocks, Rochambeaus and Old Saltes - one guy finished the latter and decided, "That's like licking a salt lick!"

Well, you know given my affection for Old Saltes, I had to couch his feelings in more positive terms, so I swung around and explained that, no, it's not salt lick-like, it's like being knocked down by a wave and getting a mouthful of saltwater.

"I never would have come up with those words, but you're right," he said, sounding vaguely amazed. No big deal, sir, I traffic in words.

They then ordered a second dozen, this time all Rappahannocks. Wimps.

Best of all, Merroir wasn't crowded so we felt zero guilt about lingering while we talked about overuse and inappropriate use of quotation marks (If you break a "plate," you will be charged $1.00), our initial sailing experiences (very different) and oyster farming (this was before he saw the oyster chart in the men's room).

Granted, it wasn't sitting on the screened porch overlooking the ocean, but it was no afternoon in the city, either.

We could have lingered hours longer, but one of us had early plans tonight (his were later), so we hit the road before we were ready to give up the gorgeous tableau in front of us. After a crash caused us to have to detour on the way home, we arrived 12 minutes after a friend was to have picked me up at home.

Oops. Luckily, Pru was smart enough to amuse herself until I belatedly made my appearance.

We dished (more accurately, a post-vacation debrief) while I got cleaned up and changed before strolling over to Saison Market for dinner. It's my third time there in five days, not that there's anything wrong with that, but we wound up eating inside because all the outside tables had been claimed on such a lovely day.

Our meal was prelude to seeing Virginia Rep's new production of "In the Heights," a big deal because it's Lin-Manuel Miranda's award-winning pre-"Hamilton" musical.

And we weren't the only ones stoked for it judging by the buzz in the room and sold out house on a Thursday night.

And with good reason. The talented cast wowed the crowd with stellar singing, dancing and acting that brought this rapidly-gentrifying corner in Washington Heights to life against a set that evoked a NYC streetscape with the blinking George Washington bridge in the background.

Despite the large size of the cast, only the handsome Josh Marin was familiar (as Benny), and seeing so many out-of-town faces only increased the sense that I was seeing a play somewhere other than Richmond.

Because sometimes when you're on vacation, you want to relax by the water. Other times, you just need a bit of culture.

And when you're on staycation, sometimes you get both in the same day.

As Pru commented tonight, "It must be exhausting to be you."

When it is, there's always the low-hanging fruit of a vacation staycation nap to tide a girl over. Maybe tomorrow...


  1. I might just go for a vino verde myself. Also on a staycation, but not nearly as exciting as yours. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Exciting is in the eye of the beholder!