Old Town Alexandria

I have loved Old Town since I first moved to DC, back in 2003.  When I was in law school, living in a hot apartment on the crowded GW campus in Foggy Bottom, Old Town was my afternoon escape.  I’d take the Metro to King Street and spend a few happy hours wandering up and down the main drag, licking a cone of frozen custard or coconut ice cream, poking my head into shops and pretending that I was on vacation.  When hubby and I moved out to Arlington, then to East Falls Church, Old Town was an occasional day trip for us.  For the past three years, though, we’ve been living in Mount Vernon (that’s right, I don’t mind telling the world where I lived, since I don’t live there anymore…) and Old Town has become “our place.”  It’s where we would meet for wood-fired pizza after work on many Fridays.  It’s where we would take Peanut for long strolls on a Saturday, or to church and brunch on Sunday.  (We had many favorite brunch places – Fontaine, Vermillion, Hank’s Oyster Bar…)

On our second-to-last night in DC, I headed home from work a little early and met hubby and Peanut out in Old Town.  I got there first and treated myself to a nice browsing (and buying) session at the Torpedo Factory.  For those not in the know, the Torpedo Factory was once an actual torpedo factory – back during World War II.  But today, it’s an art center.  It’s divided into dozens of studios where resident artists work and sell their creations.  You can find everything from oil paintings and digital photographs to pottery, hand-dyed silk scarves and hand-crafted jewelry.

Here’s the interior, shot from the first floor:


If you haven’t been, and you’re in the area, please go check it out.  The Torpedo Factory is one of the coolest, most unique things to do in the DC area.  Many of my paintings were purchased there, and all of my small but growing collection of pottery and stoneware.  I’ve taken many visitors there: my parents and family friends, my aunt (an artist), and Katie and Jeremiah, to name just a few.

I often go in just to browse, but this time I had a few items on my agenda to purchase – just little things that I’ve wanted for a long time.  (Fortunately, most of the painters’ studios were closed, so circumstances prevented me from doing real damage.)  Here are my purchases:


I’ve always kept half an eye out for a handmade mug from the Torpedo Factory, and this time, I found the perfect one: a handmade, smoky grey-and-blue stoneware mug from David Norton Pottery.  The artist wasn’t there, but one of his studiomates was, and she told me she always saw seascapes in David’s work.  I’d been thinking it looked like the night sky after sunset, but now I can’t not see a seascape.  One of my favorite details is the little indentation at the top of the handle – perfectly sized for my thumb to rest.  Now that’s some thought that went into this mug.  I love it, and I’ve been drinking my tea from it many mornings.

Another thing I’ve always wanted was a pair of earrings from Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery.  They make these gorgeous knitted wire earrings, many of which have freshwater pearls embedded in them.  R bought a pair years ago, but I’ve never been able to pull the trigger, although I love them.  Last time I was there, I’d passed on a pair with black freshwater pearls and regretted it.  So when I saw the above pair, with creamy pearls, I jumped.  I also grabbed a pair of funky, but still understated, beaded earrings, and I’ve been wearing them quite a lot since I picked them up.  And from the same gallery, I bought this pretty blue, green and gold woven bookmark.  I sent a rainbow version in the mail to my pen pal Katie some time ago and have wanted my own ever since, but never saw a color combination I liked.  Until this time – well, this is a color combination I love.  So I grabbed it.  Worth.  Every.  Penny.

Hubby and Peanut met me in the Torpedo Factory and we had a nice browsing session (being careful to watch Peanut’s wingspan and keep her away from breakables.)  Then we nipped up to the Spice and Tea Exchange, where I stocked up on some of my favorite spices and bought a stoneware salt pig, and headed to dinner.  We had pizza at Pizzeria Paradiso, our favorite local pizza joint, and then split up to head back to our cars and meet up at home.


On my way back to my car, I meandered through the waterfront and snapped the above picture.  It’s the perfect shot of the OT docks – serene at the end of the day.  Just looking at it relaxes me.  Much like a visit to Old Town itself.  It’s not my backyard anymore, but rest assured – I’ll return there.

10 thoughts on “Old Town Alexandria

  1. YES! Also one of my favorite places. Visiting Old Town, especially on a Saturday night, always feels like stepping into Oz — so much to see and do.

    Did you ever visit The Christmas Attic, further down on South Union Street?

    • Oh… my goodness. Yes. I loved The Christmas Attic! I used to drag my husband in there every time we walked down South Union. (Also love the Virginia store and Old Town Coffee, Tea & Spice – that street is an embarrassment of riches.) I don’t think I ever bought anything at The Christmas Attic, though, for the same reason I never bought anything at Decorium – too much stuff, and I’m easily overwhelmed! (Libra problems.)

    • And I’m glad to have had such a beautiful place to share when you came for your visit! We did have a good time, didn’t we? 😀

    • Next time you visit DC – whenever that may be – I highly recommend Alexandria. 🙂 It’s great worked in with Mount Vernon or just on its own. And the Torpedo Factory is a must. Everything there is just so unique and special. Not all of it is to my taste, but that’s as it should be. There’s something for everyone!

  2. I enjoyed your recollections of Old Town! I lived a short walking distance from King St for over two years; it’s still my favorite location in the DC area. I always enjoyed the Torpedo Factory too, although I haven’t purchased nearly as much there as you have. 🙂

    • It’s such a beautiful area! And yes, I have done some major damage at the Torpedo Factory in my time. 🙂 But I don’t regret any of it! I love that my house is full of beautiful, one-of-a-kind items that bring me joy by reminding me of a place where I’ve been so happy!

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