World Nomads Travel Scholarships

People paying you to travel

It happens. Sometimes. You only have to be in the top three submissions out of about 2000. So, you know, a 1 in 666 chance (how do you like that number for luck, huh?). I submitted a piece about Parc Mont Royal in Montreal. It’s quite short (2500 character limit). At first I mistook the character limit for word limit and outlined a much longer story, but I quickly rectified my mistake. To me, it’s much more difficult to convey scene, plot, character, etc in ~450 words than in 2500, so the editing process was tedious. I finally got it down to 2500 characters only to have a friend tell me that it didn’t have enough of a narrative thread. Which meant I needed to add things and subtract things. Talk about time consuming! I think it turned out pretty well in the end.

World Nomads

Besides funding aspiring travel writers to attend travel writing conferences and take road-trips in Europe, World Nomads does a lot of other cool things. Primarily, they provide travel insurance for adventurous travelers in over 140 countries. They also have a travel journal network where anyone can set up a travel blog and share their adventures and pictures with other travelers or even answer questions about different countries.

In the instance that I don’t get the scholarship (the more probable outcome), World Nomads also offers paid writing gigs that you can apply for (which I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in the near future).

In any case, I’d love for you all to read my submission to the scholarship. Even though it’s not a popular vote, it’s still nice to have a few page views and comments :)

Read My Entry

Windermere and the Peter Rabbit Museum

Back in October I Visited the lake district

Windermere, to be exact. At 7:45 AM on a Saturday and with a slight hangover, I trudged up the stairs of the bus that was packed with foreign exchange students and travelers leaving their hostels for a day. I picked a seat as close to the front as I could and fastened my seatbelt (proof that I’m becoming an adult?). The ride there took four hours.

When we arrived

We piled off the vehicle and into the parking lot, happy to escape the confinement of the bus on which we’d experienced more than our fair share of hairpin turns and curves that weaved a little too closely to cliffs’ edges. I forced down the rest of my ham sandwich from that morning to keep the nausea at bay and headed over to the kiosk where we were told we could purchase tickets for the ferry on the lake.

Marina in Windermere, UK

The Marina in Windermere, a few steps from the parking lot

I paid my £9.00 for a 90-minute tour on the Yellow Cruise, then headed off to explore the town while I waited for the boat to arrive.

Cafe Latte in WindermereI grabbed a quick bite to eat at a cute cafe called Café Latte and worked on some writing. The soup and bread was incredible, and the serving staff very pleasant. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike.

Tea aboard the Windermere FerryWhen it was time to embark

I found a nice seat on the upper deck of the boat and indulged in another pot of tea (ubiquitous in this country).

Sailboats on Lake WindermereThough beautiful, the tour was a bit monotonous, and I grew a little bored of the scenery. With more time, I’d have rented a row boat or a kayak and gone out on the lake myself. As is, though, sitting on the ferry drinking tea and watching sailboats go by was not an altogether bad way to spend an afternoon. We reached Bowness and the ship’s majority disembarked. Sailboat on Lake Windermere

One-day Vacation

I relocated to a quiet seat with a table and a window on the lower level. A middle-aged couple sat in the booth in front of me – a woman with dyed blond hair, garish blue eye shadow and fuchsia lips. Her husband’s gray head occasionally blocked her face from view. She seemed tired and frustrated. Maybe she’d been there too long. It’d be hard to find things to do in this town for more than a day.

Streets of WindermereSurprise attractions

When we docked in Lakeside where we’d started, there were still a few hours before we had to get back on the claustrophobic death-trap the Brits call a coach, so I decided to take a walk around town. As I strolled, I encountered a sign with a large brightly colored arrow pointing down an alley. “BEATRIX POTTER ATTRACTION” it proclaimed. I followed it.

Cultural Experience

As I arrived, I was greeted by a very unexpected sight: directly in front of the ticket desk to the Beatrix Potter Attraction, several men and one woman were performing Zulu song and dance in costume. I stood and watched for a little while, clapping my hands along with the beat. I watched until they began demonstrating dance moves piece-by-piece and encouraging the audience to repeat them. Then I suddenly felt self-conscious and slunk off to the exhibit.

Peter Rabbit in the Beatrix Potter AttractionThe exhibit itself was an elaborate walk-through of many of Beatrix Potter’s books. There was a short informative film at the beginning to give some background information to the ignorant tourist (me), and after strolling leisurely (or at a brisk pace due to time constraints) through the various houses, ponds, and garden plots of Potter’s characters, there was a large room dedicated to the timeline of the author’s life.

A Scene from Peter RabbitMy favorite feature by far was the massive screen stretched across one wall providing panoramic views from many of the real-life Lake District settings in Potter’s books. If I’d had more time, I’d have spent the rest of the day virtually traveling to castles and lake beds, and getting lost in the woods.

Hayley Peter Rabbit CardOf course, the icing on the cake was finding a Peter Rabbit Birthday card in the gift shop with my name spelled correctly in block letters across the front. I stocked up on gifts for my young niece and nephew and headed back to the coach for the four hour journey back to Edinburgh, satisfied I’d decided to explore the small lake town of Windermere.

Judy’s Vintage Tea Party

Finally, a post about Edinburgh

You may or may not know that I am in Edinburgh, Midlothian (yeah, Richmonders, I live in Midlothian), UK to do a year-long masters course in Creative Writing. I’ve been doing my best to slog through the pre-reading for my course, but I did manage to go out and do some shopping yesterday.

You had me at “vintage”

The path connecting two main squares of Edi Uni’s campus, George Square and Bristo Square (or Bistro Square as my dad kept calling it), is not long, but during Fresher’s week (orientation) walking down it is like running the gauntlet. Tons of club representatives shove pamphlets at you and at least half a dozen Dominoes workers with pizza-box-shaped signs attached to their shoulders halfheartedly swing bags of coupons in front of passersby, calling, “Free pizza!”

I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding eye contact and muttering terse no thank-yous whenever I’m apprehended at this intersection, but last week I got caught. One girl seemed particularly keen on blocking my way, and practically clothes-lined me with her outstretched arm and proffered handout. “No thank-” I began, but she was faster.

“Vintage clothing fair on Sunday!” she announced.

“Oh,” I stopped in my tracks, taking the bright yellow flyer, “alright.” I strode off, side-stepping a group of young guys waving posters and yelling, “Rock-n-roll and cheap booze!”

Judy’s Vintage Tea Party

Judy's Vintage Tea Party in Edinburgh, UK September 2013

It was about a 30-ish minute walk to the event, but most of it was through the Meadows, one of Edinburgh’s many large public parks, so I didn’t mind the trek. It was £2 to get in, and it was worth it. I walked in to an overwhelming amount of people, vintage clothes, jewelry, items, and Folsom Prison playing over a loud speaker. Everywhere I looked there was a girl with an interesting haircut, an ill-fitting faded dress and clip-on earrings, or a guy wearing a vest and a cap carrying a leather messenger bag that was falling apart. I had found my people.

Judy's Vintage Tea Party in Edinburgh, UK

Here’s What I bought

Though I was feeling a little overwhelmed by all the people and vendors, I didn’t leave empty-handed.

Green Plaid Wool Poncho

Cute green plaid woolen poncho 1960s 1970s scotland Cute green plaid woolen poncho 1960s 1970s scotland Cute green plaid woolen poncho 1960s 1970s scotland

Green/Brown Plaid Wool Dress

Plaid Wool Dress 1970s Scotland Plaid Wool Dress 1970s Scotland Plaid Wool Dress 1970s Scotland

Stretchy Celtic Knot Belt

1980s Celtic Knot Stretchy Belt

I also got a pack of bridge cards from the 1960s, which is pretty cool since I collect playing cards. I haven’t photographed them, though, so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

Scotland’s biggest vintage event

Most of the vendors were very nice and willing to negotiate, though there was one absolutely adorable baby blue coat from the 60s (à la Holly Golightly) that was a little tight through the shoulders, but had they been willing to negotiate I so would have picked it up. I chatted for a minute with Fran from shop Goodbye, Norma Jean, where I got the poncho. She said that there are Judy’s Vintage events several times throughout the year in Edinburgh, and she’d come from out of town to participate. Apparently it’s Scotland’s biggest vintage event. Chances are you’ll see me at the next one on October 6th!

Hot Damn, Hotlanta!

First night in Atlanta, GA

First night in Atlanta, GA

A week or two ago, I headed to Atlanta to work on a webseries called “Getting Out“. I had just finished working as a Stylist on a music video by musical artist Sean Cooney down in Savannah, and to keep myself awake driving from Savannah to Atlanta at 4 am for my 9am call time in ATL, I decided to write a rap. A few days later, I posted it on Youtube. Check it out below.

I was kinda going for a “cute and sweet” face before busting some rhymes, but according to my brother, it “just makes [him] uncomfortable”. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. I’m planning to post another rap soon-ish. Maybe this week. You’ll know when it happens.

Getting Out…in Atlanta

I arrived in ATL barely ten minutes before call time and feeling slightly like death (but just slightly). Luckily, there was a little bit of down time during the shoot, and I napped on whatever was available to me (mostly chairs, the floor, face down on a table…). I did try napping standing up once. I wouldn’t recommend it.

The webseries is a college-y comedy about 3 roommates + a girlfriend (my character) who are just trying to get out of college. In the first episode, the guys get a new (female) roommate, and shit happens.

We made a promo where Connor, one of the roommates, tries to show us how to “Dougie”. The results are pretty hysterical. Plus I’m super awkward in it, my favorite thing. For your viewing pleasure:

On Set of “Getting Out”

It’s not a film project without a few bumps in the road, and “Getting Out” was no exception. But somehow we made it through a week of filming (plus a pickup day the following week), and I even got to do a little bit of makeup. I created a black eye for roommate Ian after a raucous party episode, and did Riley(new roomie)’s basic makeup on one of our shoot days. And I have to say, I do enjoy acting, but I think I get more out of the artistic/creative side of things. I love creating a character through their clothes and makeup.

Heath's black eye on Getting Out

Heath’s black eye on Getting Out – still need to practice making black eyes, but this is what I came up with on short notice.

Coincidentally, our boom operator/sound mixer/entire sound department, Bryarly Bishop, has a vlog and made a behind-the-scenes video for Getting Out. It’s mucho entertaining. Have a look:


Days off…Enjoying Atlanta

We’d planned to get all five episodes done in a 5 day week (a little ambitious, I know), and we ended up a little bit behind. So we made the following Tuesday our pick-up day, and I had a few days off to check out the town.

Midsummer Music Festival

I crashed on my friend Pam’s couch, and she, her roommate Broek and I headed to the Midsummer Music Festival in Candler Park, about a 5 minute walk from Little Five Points. On our way there we grabbed a beer at a pub, and Pam and Broek tried “Poptails”, alcoholic popsicles. When we got to Candler Park, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band was celebrating their 35th anniversary, and we had a great time dancing along to their New Orleans brass.

MidSummer Music Fest in Atlanta, GA

Midsummer Music Fest

Indian Lunch Buffet at Chopaati

On Sunday, I met the cast and crew of Getting Out for lunch at Chopaati. According to Broek, Decatur is the best place to go for Indian food around Atlanta. Many of the crew had never had Indian food before, so I sort of became the “expert” even though I had no idea what any of it was. My whole reasoning behind going to a buffet instead of a sit-down Indian restaurant is so I can see the food before I put it on my plate! But everyone seemed to enjoy it, so I must have done something right.

Delicious Indian Food Meal at Chopaati in ATL

We attacked this meal. And it was delicious.

A Different Way of Riding

Later that afternoon, Pam and I went horseback riding, and I learned a few things about endurance riding, a very different style from what I do (hunter/jumper). In endurance riding, you ride for long periods of time – as long as 24 hours. Everything from the tack to the horse’s gaits are different, but it didn’t take me too long to figure it out, and we spent a lovely afternoon on the trails.

Touring Historic Oakland Cemetery

Pam & Broek suggested I check out the Historic Oakland Cemetery, so on Monday, after somehow failing to locate the High Museum of Art, I had lunch at a deli in midtown, then drove over to the cemetery and managed to find free parking.

Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

I wandered around for a bit, then got a phone call from a good friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while and spent the next few hours chatting with him. And let me tell you, if you ever want to have a private conversation in a city where you don’t have any privacy, go to a cemetery. There’s usually only a handful of other wanderers, and they’re generally respectful enough to leave you alone. Plus you probably look like a crazy person talking to your dead relatives…or something.

Secluded path in the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

There is something about cemeteries that is so peaceful and calming that I absolutely love. Maybe it is how expansive they are compared to the number of wanderers there. Or maybe it is the absolute stillness that makes me feel connected to past generations. It is the only place that is simultaneously empty and crowded, and I love being alone without feeling alone.

Shadow-girl in the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA

Dorn Brothers Photography Art Show

On Tuesday, we finished our pick up shots for Getting Out then headed to IHOP for some red velvet pancakes (not everyone in the cast is 21, so grabbing a beer was kind of out of the question). Afterward, everyone went their separate ways, and I had a little time to swing by the Dorn Brothers‘ “Ghost of Old Highways” Art Show wrap party at the Carroll St Cafe to say bye to Pam and check out some pretty incredible photography.

The Dorn Brothers were also the photographers on a music video I worked on called “Black Curtain” by the same musical artist, Lovett, and there seemed to be a handful of people at the art show who’d worked on both. So it was pretty cool to see some familiar faces.

On Wednesday I passed through Columbia to see my fam, then headed back to Wilmington for my next adventure.

Hometown Tour Pt II: Wilmington’s Arboretum

The other day, I was driving past Wilmington’s Arboretum for about the 12th time after a meeting that ended sooner than expected, so I decided to stop and enjoy the free (!) garden.
Arbor over greenhouse in Arboretum Wilmington, NC
As I mozied through the unattended gates, I noticed an art class painting the scenery directly to my right. Nice to see that the community is taking advantage of this free space!

Japanese rock garden Arboretum Wilmington, NCI wandered past the painters, spectators, and children running underfoot toward a section of the garden that immediately caught my eye. It was a Japanese rock garden directly in front of a small hut built in the Japanese style, with large red wooden ‘gates’ in the same style on either side of the path. You may or may not be aware of my obsession with all things Japanese, but suffice it to say that this part of the Arboretum made me very happy.

Japanese style hut Arboretum Wilmington, NCI played with the sliding doors to the hut for a little while, then moved on to other parts of the garden. It was not nearly as large as Airlie Gardens, but the space was well-planned and had plenty of secluded areas where I could envision myself reading or drawing or simply soaking up the green space for use on a rainy day.

Pencil Cactus in greenhouse at the Arboretum in Wilmington, NCI toured the two greenhouses, observing some really neat types of cacti. Then I read about rainwater irrigation techniques and learned that this urn-like fountain was more than decorative. It was recycling the water collected from the roof of the greenhouses.

Rainwater Irrigation System Arboretum Wilmington, NCEventually I made my way over to the Ability Garden (Horticulture Therapy Program) where a myriad of flowers and herbs were for sale for the meager price of $3.00. Better than anything I’ve seen at Lowe’s that’s for sure. They even had planters for sale full of various greenery that had been assembled by kids in the program.

Ability Garden Arboretum Wilmington, NCI walked back to the final space (as it turned out, it was supposed to be the entrance) which appeared at first glance to be a community garden. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that all the vegetables grown in this garden were donated to a charity that helps people in need. I think the Arboretum is my new favorite place!

big old tree arboretum wilmington, ncOn my way out, I grabbed a couple pamphlets about volunteering with the Arboretum and peered through the locked doors of the gift shop. Guess I’ll have to stop in next time!

Wilmington, NC: touring my new home

A few days ago, I did my first touristy thing since moving to Wilmington

I was feeling the need for some greenery and decided to seek out a Botanical Garden. The idea was planted (ha) in my mind a few days after I’d arrived when I drove out to Wrightsville Beach and passed a sign for Airlie Gardens. It wasn’t until I’d spent two days confined to my apartment doing some copy editing for a friend of mine that I finally snapped. I needed green and I needed it now!

I’d finished my work around 2:30 – Airlie was closing at 5:00 – just enough time to soak up the ‘wilderness’ for an hour and then come back to get ready for my yoga class (I’ve started attending yoga classes at The Wilmington Yoga Center…$15 for 15 days!).

When I was living in Montreal, I was spoiled with a number of amazing parks and green spaces close by. The Botanical Gardens was one of my favorite places to go, and I went quite a few times. I’ve also grown up going to Brookgreen Gardens outside of Myrtle Beach, another incredible green space. I’ve seen Kew Gardens in England, Versailles in France, Elizabeth Park in Hartford, an entire city of parks in Ottawa, High Line Park in NYC, and plenty of other beautiful green spaces that I haven’t mentioned here. Needless to say, I have pretty high standards when it comes to parks.

Airlie Oak in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

The Airlie Oak - estimated to be over 400 years old

 

I paid my $5 admission, nodded as the man at the desk explained the self-guided tour route, then walked out the door and stared at my map. Cautiously, I followed what appeared to be the correct path, passing by a miniature version of a train station not quite small enough to be a doll’s house and then emerging onto an open lawn. There was a crew of workmen busily erecting big white tents, wiping sweat from their foreheads as they hammered 3-foot long metal stakes into the groomed terrain. This was my first impression of Airlie: an open space perfect for weddings and special events. Not much different from anyone’s backyard.

I passed through the ‘Tranquility Garden’, a butterfly house with a handful of monarchs and a huge tacky sculpture hanging from the center surrounded by ‘donated’ private spaces. One of these spaces even had a sign hanging above its cascading pebbles listing the name of the landscaping company that created the monstrosity. I felt more like I was on a tour of homes in a newly-developed neighborhood than in a botanical garden. Despite my aversion to the layout, I did absolutely adore one of these ‘private spaces’. Check it out below.

Secluded garden in Tranquility Gardens of Airlie Gardens Wilmington NC

After the Tranquility Garden, I followed the path to the Pergola Garden. This was more like what I had envisioned – decades-old growth over a pebbled pathway that led to a small pond in one direction and an unknown grave in the other.

walkway in Pergola Garden Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NCPergola Garden in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

Unknown grave in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

According to legend, this is the grave of one of Napoleon's former generals. How he ended up in Wilmington, NC I don't know.

I wandered past these landmarks and into the Camellia Garden with its 150-foot (barren) rose trellis. Maybe it’ll have blooms in the summertime.

Tulips in Spring Garden Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

I continued to the Spring Garden, where tulips bloomed around a fountain, and then on to the Mount Lebanon Chapel, which was built in 1835 and still in use today. I meandered through the cemetery behind the chapel, marveling at the new graves built around the centuries-old decrepit ones. I’ve always felt most at peace in cemeteries, so I stayed here for a little while, trying to decipher the names and dates on the old grave markers, imagining how each spent his or her life. One grave, covered in seashells and beach sand, I imagined was that of a light-house keeper, in love with the sea and all its creatures.

Mount Lebanon Chapel view from cemetery in airlie gardens wilmington, ncSea Shell grave in cemetery behind Mount Lebanon Chapel in Airlie Gardens Wilmington, NC

Finally, I moved on to some beautiful marsh-side views and circled round to the Garden Services Center where I started.

Bradley Creek and Airlie Lake Airlie Gardens Wilmington NCThough off to a rough start, my trek through Airlie Gardens was not disappointing. Definitely worth the $5 and 10 minute drive spent to get in. Not a must-see on your first trip to Wilmington but definitely a pleasant additional activity for any nature lover.

My next stop in this town will hopefully be the Arboretum, a free-to-the-public 7-acre “horticulture laboratory”.

Misadvenures in Lewisburg, WV: the coolest small town in America

Recently I worked as (intermittent) Wardrobe Assistant on the film Child of God which was filmed in Lewisburg, West Virginia (Budget Travel’s ‘Coolest Small Town in America 2011‘) by Rabbit Bandini Productions.

I drove six hours to West Virginia to help with two separate crowd scenes – one an auction, and one a scene at a fair. You may think I’m crazy to drive so far for only a few days, but when I got the request from costume designer Malgosia Turzanska (with whom I’d worked on “Edge of the Woods”), I jumped at the chance. This would be an incredible opportunity for me – to work on a feature-length film by a well-known production company (Rabbit Bandini is comprised of director/producer duo James Franco and Vince Jolivette) for any length of time would be a giant leap in the right direction.

When I arrived, I was nervous – what would these people think of me? But after my first day on set, I got used to everything and had no trouble settling in. The crew members were extremely nice and it didn’t take long for me to get over working around a celebrity.

The first day went smoothly, and in no time at all day 2 had arrived along with about 35 extras for the opening auction scene. Jen Lou, our PA Laura, and I ran around like madwomen, fitting extras in costumes, dealing with the one or two divas whose costumes “just weren’t right.” One man who claimed he was “always cast as the lead” (presumably why he was cast as a background actor) showed up on set wearing pants that were clearly 4 sizes too small. I handed him a size 34, and he said, “There is no way these will fit me. I am a size 30.” When he finally put them on, they were too small. I have news for you buddy, the pant size you wore when you were 19 is not going to be the same size you wear at 41.

Once we had the actors dressed and approved by the director, the rest of the day passed uneventfully. It started to drizzle around midday, and by the time we started breaking down camp, it was raining off and on pretty steadily. Set was moved to the middle of the woods a few minutes down the long dirt driveway, and Jen Lou went with the crew to help the actors with their changes. I stayed behind to pack the van in order to make the transition to our next location smoother.

The van was parked in a tight space between two other large vehicles, and with the doors swung wide, it was impossible to see anyone coming or going. After packing a few more bins stuffed with men’s boots, jean overalls, and undergarments, I lugged them to the van, umbrella perched precariously under my chin.

After organizing the bins, I turned, umbrella out in front of me, and leaped from the van (because that’s what I do…leap from vans). Straight into a yellow poncho-clad person coming around the corner. “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I said, without looking up. When I composed myself and met the eyes of the person I’d nearly impaled with my umbrella, I completely lost my ability to speak. It was James Franco. He gave me a startled half smile, but in my head there was a little King Arthur yelling “Run Away, Run Awaaayyy”, and it didn’t take long for me to heed the warning. I quit the scene faster than the Knights of the Round Table ran from the Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Later, I relayed my story to another crew member. “Well, hey,” she said, “at least it’s a good story.” I laughed, “I suppose so. Next time I hear someone say, ‘this one time I saw such-and-such celebrity’, I’ll say, ‘well this one time I almost poked out James Franco’s eye with an umbrella’…”

Somehow, I made it through the rest of the weekend and the following one, without much event. In the fair scene, a lot of the crew was put in the film as extras. At lunch before our night shoot, Malgosia, Jen Lou, Julie (line producer) and I ate at The Wild Bean (try the loaded bean burger. It is delish!). Jen Lou and Malgosia discussed a costume they were particularly excited about. It was a cheerleading mini-dress from a local high school from the 50’s or 60’s, and they wanted to use it as a majorette outfit in the fair scene.

The Wild Bean on a snowy Day Lewisburg, WV“It’s going to be hard to find someone for that costume,” Malgosia said. “Yeah, we’ll need to find someone small,” Jen Lou added. They were silent for a second, then their glances met as both reached the same conclusion at once. The two of them looked at me, then looked back at each other, “So Hayley…”

Later that evening, I was wearing a majorette mini-dress, Malgosia a fortune teller’s costume, and Jen Lou the colorful garb of a clown’s assistant. How could I not love my job?

Film images courtesy Jennifer Tillery.

River City: Richmond, VA

It seems as though with every new blog post I write, comes a new apology for not writing! This stretch between posts has been particularly long (I’m sure you all missed me very much). This time, though, I actually have a more legitimate excuse – I was working as Wardrobe Supervisor for a short film, and we worked 12-14 hour days almost every day! It was a great experience, though (you’ll hear more about it in later blog posts for sure), and I can’t wait to get started on another film project.

In the meantime, though, here is the wrap up post for my September 2011 road trip: Richmond, VA. Since I have been back and forth to RVA a few times since September, this post is really a conglomeration of my recent experiences there. Enjoy!

My final stop: Richmond, VA (AKA River City)

It’s hard to decide what to write about this city in which I lived throughout college, and of which I have so many fond memories. But I think I’d like to start with a video that will give you an understanding of what the city’s all about.

One of the reasons I left Richmond, though, was the feeling of non-movement I got from the city. It is very much a city whose inhabitants seem to get stuck in time, to stagnate in their mundane job/happy hour/lamenting about life cycle. Don’t get me wrong, Richmond is a great college town. There are a ton of hip cafés, bars, and hang out spots. There is an amazing park system, and Carytown offers a number of great shops, activities, and even a dollar theater (home to the largest French Film festival in the US)! But when you live in Richmond for a while, it’s hard to get over the feeling that you’ll never get out.

The other day, my feelings were proved legitimate by an article by The Atlantic : The 10 Fastest Growing (and fastest declining) Cities in the World. While it felt good to have my sentiments validated, I felt a pang of sadness to see Richmond listed as one of the 10 fastest declining cities in the world. There’s still that part of me that would love to see Richmond flourishing, to be drawn to return there, to relive the best of my college years in the city I loved. (I know, I know, this is starting to sound uber dramatic. Give me a sec to wax nostalgic. I promise things’ll get funny in a bit).

To be fair, I love visiting the place. I love lounging on the rocks at Belle Isle, and returning to our local haunts to indulge in $6 pitchers of PBR (with friends, of course), tots with hot sauce, and some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted.

When I arrived in September, my first stop was Chipotle. My friends and I used to go here often after class, and Richmond was the first place I ever really ate here…so it seemed appropriate as a first meal in the city.

Chipotle in Richmond, VAI snapped a photo and sent it to a few friends who weren’t in Richmond to make them jealous. It worked.

I spent the rest of the visit just hanging out. After so much constant travel, it was nice just to be with friends without much agenda for a few days before heading back to Columbia.

In October, I returned to RVA for UR’s Homecoming Football game. My friends Kim, James, Sung, Bailey and I took some lawn chairs, a cooler full of homemade salad and wraps Kim and I assembled the night before, drinks, and a beer coozie necklace (courtesy James) to tailgate before the game. Eventually, we decided we should get some tickets, so James ambled over to the ticket office and somehow commandeered some for free. Our tailgate was cut short by campus police kicking everyone out as the game started, so we moseyed over to the stadium and got settled in. A minute later James had produced a hipflask, and we were receiving glares from more prestigious alumni as we loudly discussed James’s new book/light idea and how to sell it on Etsy.

Later that evening, we headed to a pub called Patrick Henry’s. It’s in a basement off E. Broad St and is the kind of place that feels full with ten people in it, the bartender lets you choose the music off her iPod, and the instant you walk in, you feel like the other patrons are old friends of yours. We sat at the corner of the bar, ordered drinks, and chatted about the day.

An hour or so later, James was talking about the Clash with his new best friends, and the rest of us were taking bets on whether or not James would break his two-week no smoking record tonight (OK, maybe I was just taking bets in my head). All of a sudden this guy appeared at my shoulder, “I like your headband,” he intoned, in what I assume he assumed to be a suave manner.

“Uh, thanks,” I said, not sure where to go from there.

“I’ve just been staring at you across the bar for the last hour,” he continued, “I just think you are beautiful.” He smiled at me vacantly, “I’m Albert, by the way.”

“Oh, uh, thanks. Nice to meet you,” I said, looking around for a little help, “Have you met my friend James?” I motioned to James, who was singing a Clash song with his new buddy. He waved cheerily. I turned my back on the two and returned to chatting with Bailey.

But my admirer was not to be thwarted so easily. He made a snide comment about my iPhone, and ten minutes later we were in an argument about whether or not social media is good for society. Or rather, I was arguing. I’m pretty sure he thought he was flirting.

I argued that though social media can reduce personal interactions with people, it also greatly increases the number of relationships one can maintain. How else would you be able to find little Billy from 3rd grade 15 years later and then maintain a working relationship? Yes, I’m a little biased because I’ve worked in Social Media Marketing and am extremely “plugged in” as they say, but think of all the connections people couldn’t have made in any other way. When I moved to Montreal, I knew no one, but somehow I left feeling like I knew the whole city. How? Social Media.

Albert’s argument was that he’d rather meet people “organically”. He said that social media creates a false, half-assed relationship with someone that is little more than voyeuristic. “What happens when I graduate from VCU med school [he made sure to mention he was attending med school about 10 times throughout the course of the night] and get married and move to Chicago and never see any of my old friends again?” he asked.

“That’s what social media is for!” I protested, “So that you can more easily keep up with the friends you no longer live near, and if it so happens that someone you know has also moved to Chicago, you can look him up and see him in person!”

Albert continued down his contradictory path of confusion, “But see, I’d rather just run into that person at a bar or something than look them up on Facebook first.” I wanted to smack his smug, idiot grin from his face. There is very little I detest more in people than a condescending tone, and very little irks me more than a man patronizing me. Especially when he’s wrong.

I barred my teeth at Albert’s steepled fingers and practically spat into his face, “Chicago is a huge city. The chances of you just-” I made quotation marks with my fingers, “- running into a friend passing through the city are slim to none. Social media is an enabler. Yes, plenty of people use it to live vicariously through others, but when used properly, it can enhance your current relationships rather than deplete them.”

Somehow, despite my best efforts, Albert refused to acknowledge the soundness of my argument. But the bar was closing, and we were being shooed outside. James was still chatting with his new friend – who turned out to be Albert’s wing man – and was smoking a cigarette in front of the bar. He turned to me, “Hey, these guys-” he motioned to Albert and his friend, “-live a couple blocks from here and have invited us over for a bit. You coming?” I rolled my eyes and looked at Bailey. She shrugged. “Yeah, okay, whatever,” I said, following them down the street.

The evening finally ended with Albert telling me various times how attractive he found me and me telling him that “too bad you won’t ever see me again because you can’t friend me on Facebook [and I wasn’t about to give him my number].” Apparently Albert saw that as a challenge. The next day, I had received not one, but two emails from Albert to two different email addresses (neither of which I had given him) that read simply:

Hey,

I want to talk to you . . . sorry that I didn’t get your email.

Albert

There was also an attachment. Scanned in on VCU med school stationary, was a handwritten ‘poem’.

Instead of adding my own commentary to this poem, I’d like to share with you a friend’s reaction to the whole situation. Unfortunately, she has requested anonymity, so I can’t give credit where it’s due. But please, enjoy the following.

Thank you for forwarding this; it pretty much made my week.

The bad rhymes, the back-handed compliments, the misspelled and sometimes straight-up fabricated words, the MCV letterhead – it’s all perfection.  

Also, can we talk about the body of “Albert’s” e-mail?  Why the ellipsis? Why no mention of the poem attachment?

Good thing this guy’s a med student and not a poet or in grad school for creative writing.  Yikes.  Also, where is he getting his tips on picking up ladies?  Wearing ‘biz cas’ to a bar, having a noticeably more attractive wing man, using “I like your headband” as a pickup line…it was all so bad, and yet so right.  

Maybe James gave him your e-mail address to be a troublemaker.  Otherwise “Albert” did some serious google research.  Did you tell him how your name was spelled?  

Oh Hail Storm, you come to Richmond for a few days and leave behind a trail of broken med student hearts.  Argument for moving back to Richmond: readymade med student boyfriend with a first name from the 19th century.

My Art Binge in Washington D.C.

Somehow I managed to make it to D.C. within an hour of dinnertime, completely catching my friend Kate off guard. Luckily for her, dinnertime in D.C. means one thing: traffic crawling at the pace of a slug. So in the hour it took me to travel a few blocks, Kate stopped by a delicioso Ethiopian restaurant in the cute up-and-coming neighborhood of Bloomingdale in which she lives and was ready to mangia by the time I arrived. We spent the evening catching up, chowing down, and watching Singing in the Rain (a great classic. If you haven’t seen it, jump on that!)

The next morning we spent breakfast at Big Bear Cafe oggling indie boys and discussing the world’s problems, and by 11 we found ourselves sitting on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial trying to decide what to do next. Oh yeah, did I mention that the Washington Monument (the phallus-like structure that dominates the D.C. skyline) had apparently been affected by the August 23rd earthquake and was closed for repairs? Yeah, weird, I know. Maybe they will change the name to the “Leaning Tower of Washington” or the “Leaning Tower of Pisa II” (if they’re feeling particularly original). Ok, yeah, so it’s not actually leaning. But that would be cool, right?

I also got to experience the D.C. Metro – which is a bit like a nuclear fallout shelter crossed with something out of a sci-fi film. It also runs like a zebra in the Sahara being pursued by a lion: only because it has to. And it sucks most when the lion catches up aka a bridge is being worked on.

Spacy Metro System in Washington, D.C.

We walked down the mall next to the long stretch of museums. D.C. is awesome for a number of reasons, but I think by far the best thing about it is how FREE most/all of its museums are. This is probably an attempt to make up for how friggin expensive everything else is…but we’ll take what we can get.

I wanted to do something not every tourist does in D.C., so we decided to check out the African and Asian art museums that are situated right in front of the Smithsonian Castle (Arts and Industries building). On our way there, we passed through the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, a quaint walled public garden that had tree branches and vines hanging overhead, brick walkways, and a number of different species of plants. There were a handful of businessmen and women eating their lunches quietly on benches in the garden, and birds hopped around picking up crumbs. It was incredible to see such a beautiful natural space in the middle of the downtown area of a big city.

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden in Washington, D.C.

We also walked through the Hirshhorn and National Gallery of Art Sculpture Gardens on our way to the African and Asian Art Museums. I spotted another of Louise Bourgeois’ huge spider sculptures (you may recall I saw one in front of Ottawa‘s Museum of Art), a Rodin, and a number of other really neat sculptures (see the slideshow below to check ‘em out!).

We finally made it to the African Art museum and explored its multiple floors complete with video presentation before heading to Teaism for lunch. This is a must-do if you are close by and like sushi and/or tea at all. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but definitely worth it. They even serve you your meal in little sushi boxes just like in Japan! Seriously, go there. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Sushi Teaism Washington, D.C.

On our way to the Sackler Gallery of Asian Art, I was glancing around the street like a child with ADD, when I noticed two people waiting at the crosswalk next to us. I recognized the girl from somewhere – suddenly I realized that she was one of my friends from college! I flagged her down and we all decided to meet up for drinks later that night.

At the bar that night, Kathleen told Kate (whose full name is coincidentally Kathleen) and me that her boyfriend (another college friend) was working in Alexandria, and suggested we grab lunch with him the next day. Who knew this would be just a huge Richmond reunion?

The ridiculousness continued the next day when we ran into yet another Richmond friend having a coffee on the porch of a Starbucks on King street in Alexandria. Apparently Washington D.C. is where everybody goes after graduating from UR.

We also checked out a cute coffee shop called Misha’s that was expensive (I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record), but it had a really unique vibe and a line practically out the door.

Menu board at Misha's in Alexandria, VA

Later, we met Richmond friend Ryan for lunch at another Ethiopian restaurant (we really like Ethiopian food), spent some time catching up, then saw him off to his stage managing duties for a local theater company.

That night, I met up with a couple other Richmond friends I hadn’t seen in forever at H street bar Church and State, which was small, hipster and had real confession booths! The bartenders were friendly and the music was good, but it was very expensive. I discovered later that all D.C. bars are expensive (well, everything in D.C. really), but let me just say, $21 for a rail double G&T should just not happen. Especially when you can get a Hendrix G&T for $6 in other parts of the world *cough* Richmond *cough*.

The next day I said goodbye to Kate and headed off to Richmond, VA: my last stop before home!