I moved to Alexandria at the very tail end of 2012. It didn’t feel like home immediately, but now I struggle to imagine home being anywhere else. It was in Alexandria that my relationship with my one local sister blossomed into a real friendship. It was in Alexandria that I met some of my very closest friends, and in Alexandria that I came to know my sweet husband. This place, for bigger reasons than simple physical presence, has truly become my home.
Part of being “home” entails having your go-to places: your favorite places to eat or shop, meet with friends, and simply wander around on a warm spring evening. I wish I could tell you a long list of wonderful places to go, but frankly, I’m very much a homebody, preferring to host friends for a game night and homemade pizza rolls over heading out for a night on the town.
My favorite places are the ones where big emotional things have happened — the corner of Prince and Fayette where one of my dearest friends and I began our first deep chat, the courtyard of The Carlyle House where the best person I know asked me to share a life, the little pocket of suburbia just outside Old Town where my niece and I walked every afternoon when I was her nanny.
Home is what happens, not where. Home is the people who feature in your stories, the friends who will sit back with you on a porch swing in 20 years and regale your just-a-little-too-young-for-this children with horribly embarrassing stories of their mother’s foibles while the two of you share a bottle of red and laugh until there are tears.
My Alexandria is my husband, who keeps me fed and snuggled. My Alexandria is pretending to be The Little Mermaid with my niece at the fountain in Market Square. My Alexandria is my old roommate drinking champagne with me on the balcony of our old place, it is Misha’s with my boss in the back room before we open, it is Beer & Hymns with Christen Kinard , and it is laughing until late with Lexi and Amanda as we put the finishing touches on last-minute plans for Lexi’s wedding. My Alexandria is my community, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
But with all that said, I love Old Town, and I do get out. Even on my days off, I’ll often trundle in just to roam the streets with a cup of coffee and my Spotify to keep me company. What are my must-visits, you ask? Why, here, let me share….
As I was doing her makeup for a photo shoot recently, Christen told me, “I love that Bellacara feels warm. It’s comforting, like a home. I feel that way about The Shoe Hive, too.” And though it sounds like a shameless shill for my place of employment, I really do feel at home at Bellacara. Angela and I used to joke that one day she would walk in and find me curled up in a sleeping bag in the back room, because I’m always here. I like coming in early to write my Stylebook pieces, to eat my oatmeal, and play with our new products that I forgot to take home with me the day before. Christen was right, it’s comforting here.
Obviously different from my workplace. (Though I do a fair bit of shopping at work, too.) I adore The Shoe Hive and Red Barn Mercantile. The Shoe Hive holds such beautiful pieces that it’s difficult to not drop a whole paycheck every time I walk in, and Red Barn always smells good, holds fun and interesting (and useful!) items, and reminds me so much of the type of cozy store you find up north in Michigan. Definitely two of my happy places.
I’m a sushi fan. I think that one day when I’m expecting a tiny addition (NO, it’s not now, Mom.), sushi will be even harder for me to give up than my beloved cheap champagne. Before I even discovered Bellacara, a good friend and I stumbled upon Momo Sushi on Queen together. It was a rainy, chilly day, and we sat by the window at a teeny table, and my deep and abiding love for this place was born.
I should think, given our location, that this answer would be obvious, but perhaps not. Misha’s has my heart, hands down. A couple years ago, when one of my sisters and her fam were in town visiting, we walked in on a busy Sunday morning. One of the baristas saw me come in and had my usual waiting for me at the end of the counter by the time I’d even opened my mouth to order. “Did they just Cheers you?” my brother-in-law asked. And if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, I’m not sure what would.
Brandon and I have lately been going out in Shirlington more, simply because of its close proximity to our home, but I will always have a soft spot for Virtue Feed & Grain. The night we got engaged (our anniversary, by the by), Brandon surprised me by having a group of our friends ready to celebrate with us at Virtue. They took such great care of our party, and we returned to celebrate our dating anniversary again in December — equally great.
That is 100 percent Lavender Moon Cupcakery. Their vanilla cupcake with lemon curd filling is the best thing since cake itself was invented, and you can quote me on that.
Did I miss some of your favorite spots? What are they? I’m always looking for somewhere new and cool to try out!