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I see them on the streets–parents with their high school-aged children, couples holding hands, retirees–wandering around Shockoe Slip looking a little lost, wishing they could be on a food tour. I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re thinking. Often I see people huddled around an old interpretive sign about Gallego Mills that sits in the middle of the busy road at Canal and 10th St. The interpretation I get is that was a terrible place to place a sign you want people to read. Nothing much in their line of vision is enticing and the cars zooming by are surely not expecting pedestrians there.

walk the walk

I was once a sad Richmond tourist. When we were about to move here in the early ’90’s we met my parents downtown with a couple of hours to kill. We wanted to go for a walk with our young children. We saw some sort of historic marker for Kanawha Canal and walked across Cary St. to the concrete expanse that doesn’t even deserve the term concrete jungle. There was no there there and there was no Canal Walk yet, so it was disconcerting to say the least. 

Richmond is too fond of saying what used to be here and not good enough at telling and showing people what is here now.  Standing at the foot of the Capitol and hearing about who used to be here resonates, but standing in front of a sign that shows a building that isn’t there where a highway is doesn’t.  Hence the Real Richmond: Food Tours & More effort. 

I walk all over Richmond now. No sad tourists on our food tours. So far that’s actually true. We specialize in happy folks walking and eating and seeing the sights and sites. We have opinions–and some of them are even based on facts. Food, facts & fun.

Richmond is real, but doesn’t quite know it. Perhaps that’s part of its charm.  I had my shot at framing the real Richmond when I wrote Insiders’ Guide to Richmond, available at BN.com or  Amazon.com and in bookstores around the country and Richmond’s fabulous local gift shops and bookstores (Fountain Bookstore, Chop Suey Books, Book People) soon:

They just had to have a statue somewhere

 I wrote the durned thing so I’m responsible for much of what’s in the 312 page book–though I had little say in the cover and little control over the maps, including the screw up on the Richmond Overview map where Chesterfield County is missing its field. Sigh. [And I just found out today, Sept. 23rd, that a local photographer, Al Wekelo, took both photos on the cover and unfortunately Globe Pequot didn’t give him photo credits. Groan.]
It could have been worse–because it was for a while.  The first I heard about the cover was that it was a cityscape–snooze–and not the river shot I had suggested, but I was just the lowly work-for-hire writer, so what could I do? Months later my editor mentioned in passing that it wasn’t a cityscape after all, but “some statue.”  Apoplexy set in immediately. This is Richmond we are talking about. Statues mean war here.  I could see all my hard work framing Richmond as a dynamic, artsy, outdoorsy, historic town gone with the wind, so to speak….

I calmed down a tad when he sent me the cover shot of the George Washington Equestrian Statue in Capitol Square, but still not happy. Ok, not Monument Ave, so that was a relief, but it read as dull and static, and I knew most people would think it was one of those Confederates on Monument Ave. and think Richmond was the same old racist place it used to be.  I pushed back hard.

After several back and forths wherein I told them they were making a big mistake, and that of course, statues are static and Richmond isn’t, I heard there was a slight chance that they might use another photo. After a nerve-wracking weekend I got the image below from my very kind editor–the Poe Museum garden. Still not the river, and I wasn’t happy that they took out “and Emancipation” in the little sticker on the front…and there was one other slight problem.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and all that, but one wrong word can be bad news. Let’s just say you should click on this and look carefully: IG_Richmond poe

You see one capital, you’ve seen ’em all? So now I can say I’ve not only changed the face of Richmond, I’ve changed its name.  What a coup. Happy to report they straightened out the city confusion after I mentioned it.

But those Connecticut Yankees weren’t done messing with me yet. Unbeknownst to me until the advance copy arrived at my door the other day, they had switched out the photo of TJ’s State Capitol for a cannon that I bet a million dollars isn’t even in Richmond. Hey, I tried.  Who knew there was this much intrigue involved in putting together a travel book? And we haven’t even gotten to the part where all the foodies will have my head for not including their favorite spots….

I’m back!

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