Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trip to Alexandria, VA (part 1)

I spent last weekend in Alexandria, VA on a much-needed vacation. As it coincided with Mr. Llama's business trip, we only had to pay for my ticket and one night in the hotel (more money left for food and yarn, I say!).

The flight in was quiet, uneventful, and productive for knitting - I'm currently knitting this sweater out of Cascade 220 100% wool, and managed to finish the body up to where the sleeves will be joined! There was another knitter in the same row, which was nice to see, and the in-flight movie was
Monsters vs Aliens, a movie I had been intending to see but never got around to. I really enjoyed the movie - good vs evil plus some girl-empowerment going on, I found it both funny and original. Plus, Stephen Colbert voices the POTUS!

After taking the Metro and a nice walk to the hotel, I spent a bit of time sitting before Mr. Llama returned and we walked down to King Street in Old Town Alexandria. The street is lined with restaurants, stores, and historical sites, and is extremely pedestrian-friendly though King Street can have heavy traffic at times. Dinner was at the Fish Market, a busy place with a raw bar and giant glasses of beer. We shared a full pound of their specialty, the "Hot" Spiced Shrimp. Basically, just unpeeled shrimp cooked in a combination of spices that included bay leaves, coriander, and red pepper flakes (among many others I couldn't identify, but I was about halfway through the bathtub of beer - Harpoon IPA if you're interested - so that probably had something to do with it!) The shrimp, two orders of Hush Puppies, and some bread made a good meal for a hot day. Their Hush Puppies are some of the best I've had - lots of garlic flavor kept them from being just fried sugary cornmeal.

After dinner, we made our way to Cafe Salsa for some mojitos - they were apparently on special that night, as we only paid about $40 for 14 drinks (we were with a group - really). No skimping on the mint here, and they weren't too sweet, either. I probably would have preferred mine to be made with a dark rum, but that wouldn't have been a standard mojito, either. That pretty much finished off the night for all of us, and we made our way back to the hotel and some sleep.

The next day I spent alone while Mr Llama was again at work. I wandered back to King St to find some breakfast and especially some coffee, and went into La Madeleine, one of a chain of French bistro-ish eateries, emerging with an almond croissant and a double espresso. Unfortunately, the croissant, while topped with crunchy toasted almonds, was filled with a too-sweet flavorless goo which made the pastry soggy and unappitizing, and the espresso, which lacked any semblance of crema, tasted only slightly better than the coffee I had on the airplane. I'd like to hope that the rest of their menu isn't so bad, but I didn't bother going back to find out! After the nauseating breakfast, I walked the shops. There's a definite French influence and a number of imported French furniture stores and French bistros. I found a place to try breakfast the next morning called Le Pain Quotidien, which I glanced into and looked less like a cafeteria than La Madeleine. The menu was also smaller, which was encouraging.

And then I found the yarn! Two stores were within walking distance, and one was having their grand opening as well! Fibre space (here they are on Facebook) had opened that morning - a nice airy space with lots of well-organized shelves, though they were only half-full since all the yarn hadn't come in yet. They did have samples of the yarns yet to come in, though, so people could touch and grope and fall in love! I bought a skein of 100% merino superwash sock yarn in a deep purple/green colorway called Iris and a set of #2 dpns to start the infamous Pomatomus socks - yay! I really loved the colors and, now that I've started the socks, love that it's not pooling strangely and the variagation doesn't lead to striping! The people there were very nice, fun, and excited, and I really enjoyed myself. I wished I had brought some knitting so I could have just spent some time on their couches! I also purchased a reusable bag with their logo - big enough for the sweater parts I've got in progress.

The second shop, though promising, was a bit disappointing. It was completely void of customers, and the only employee was very quiet and a little standoffish. I did buy a single skein of a locally-dyed yarn because 1) it was locally dyed and I wanted a souvenir yarn, 2) it was
so soft, a 50/50 blend of merino and silk, and 3) it was the only skein of a pretty varigated green - I'm a sucker for orphan skeins, they're like little lost kittens!

Since I hadn't brought any knitting with me, I planned to go back to the hotel - but first, a side trip to Trader Joe's! There aren't any Trader Joe's in Colorado, so I needed to get my fix. Tasted some wines, bought a lot of chocolates and freeze-dried fruit, and picked up some Bourbon Vanilla and Spanish Saffron for much better prices than I can get around my town. After that, it was back to the hotel, where I spent the rest of the afternoon winding my new sock yarn and starting the Pomatomus - got all the way through the cuff and into the pattern before Mr. Llama returned and we were off for dinner.

To be continued . . .


Rosie Hawthorne said...

I'm loving your Alexandria visit. Looking forward to more.

Have fun!

Kathy said...

I used to live in Alexandria, and I can attest to it's treasures.