On our way back from the Outer Banks, we had one more stopover – just one night (not enough time – it’s never enough time) in Alexandria, Virginia, where we used to live. This time we didn’t make plans to see any friends – we’d managed to connect with just about everyone we wanted to on our way down to OBX, and since we weren’t going to be in town very long on this pass through we just wanted to spend the time enjoying our old haunts – which meant Old Town.
We spent our last three years in the DC area living just south of Old Town, a few miles downriver and down the G.W. Parkway, and Old Town was basically our neighborhood. We were there every weekend, almost all weekend. Our farmers’ market, our favorite brunch spots, our favorite walking trails, and our church were all in Old Town. I miss all of those places every day that I’m away, so we made it our mission to hit as many as possible.
First stop was Fontaine Creperie, which was probably my favorite restaurant in Old Town. (Well… maybe. It’s actually more like a three-way tie between Fontaine, Pizzeria Paradiso, and The Grape & Bean.) It was Sunday, around noon when we rolled into town, so the place was packed with brunchers and the post-church crowd, but we were able to squeeze our family of four into a table for two. I enjoyed every bite: latte, Moroccan crepe…
And the Bella (Nutella and strawberries!) for dessert, shared between Steve, Peanut and me. (Sorry, Nugget.)
After Fontaine, we were pretty much stuffed, but we weren’t done with the Old Town Food experience – not by a long shot. We swung by The Grape & Bean to pick up iced coffees to take on a walk through the town.
The Grape & Bean is pretty much unlike anyplace I’ve been in the States. It’s a wine shop and communal table restaurant that serves amazing coffee, delicious French and Spanish dishes, and lots and lots of incredible wine. It reminds me a bit of a restaurant Steve and I visited one night in Beaune, France.
Iced coffees in hand, we strolled down the street to Founders Park, my favorite green space, right on the Potomac.
I love it there. Our walk was haunted by the memories of summer weekends past – and holidays, too. Like one Independence Day, when we lounged on the grass with our friend Carly, watching the boats and eating cherry pie right out of the dish.
We walked back along the waterfront and stopped to admire the view of the docks. (And hello Chart House! I had my law school graduation dinner there. Yum.)
Nugget was zonked.
Back on King Street – the main drag – we stopped into Why Not?, a children’s store that had always intrigued me. Peanut was still really young when we moved away, and I had never really explored the kids’ boutiques. She’s definitely interested in the merchandise now, so we had fun checking out the toys – and then I got really excited when we ventured upstairs and found a roomful of BOOKS! And not just any books – USBORNE BOOKS! Usborne publishes some really cool and unique kids’ books and I’d been on the hunt for a few for Peanut for ages, but they’re not easy to find. I let her choose what she wanted and she picked a book about outer space and one about airports. That’s my little nerd! We also grabbed a gardening alphabet, Good Night Virginia (to add to our collection!) and a couple of Usborne books for older kids, which I’ve put aside.
After all the walking, Steve and I were both feeling pretty thirsty, so we made our way back to The Grape & Bean, for the grape this time. Yes, we went twice in one day. Don’t judge. It had been two years.
We both ordered a French rose, and it was crisp and refreshing and summery and perfect.
Obviously, there was one place we absolutely had to hit while we were in town, so we closed out the evening at Pizzeria Paradiso.
Couldn’t decide what to get, so we ordered two small pizzas instead of one large: a Paradiso with mushrooms and pine nuts, and the Genovese, a potato-pesto creation that is my favorite thing on the menu. (Well, second favorite. The free olives they bring to the table are the best thing ever.)
Love this crowd.
The next morning we were up bright and early, the better to squeeze in a bit more fun before heading back north. We started at Le Pain Quotidien.
I had the smoked salmon breakfast, and I split an avocado tartine with Steve. Both were out of this world.
Fueled by LPQ, we headed off for one final stroll around Old Town before we had to pack up and roll out of Old Dominion. I could never get enough of walking through the historic streets, drinking in the scenery and the beautiful old homes.
Before leaving, we stopped for one more meal (I know it seems like we did a TON of eating on this overnight, and we did, but it had been so long since we got to enjoy our favorite places – we decided to treat ourselves, not worry about it, and get back to eating like grownups when we got home – so that’s exactly what we did). We swung by our old favorite sushi place and enjoyed some fresh seafood. Even Peanut got in on the act:
She’s an extraordinarily picky eater, but she will randomly eat her weight in sushi (don’t worry – she’s old enough for it, and we moderate her intake). It was good to get some fresh food before our long road trip. (Which was miserable – Nugget screamed the entire time – so let’s just look at the pretty Old Town pictures and pretend that part never happened, okay?)
Until next time, Old Dominion! No matter where I live, I’ll always love you best.
Have you ever been lucky enough to live in your happy place?