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Going to be showing off Richmond’s riverfront (even that phrase seems almost funny as I write it–Richmond hasn’t had a riverfront so much as a river in the backyard) with Off the Eatin’ Path: Richmond’s Riverfront starting this Sunday, May 6th at noon. We’ll start in Shockoe Slip and wander around the canals and Brown’s Island and wind up at Canal Bistro at Off the Hookah for lunch. 1.5-2 hours of art, architecture, adventure and me blabbing in between bites! The RVA Street Art Festival sure spiced up one section of our route with the fun (and possibly ephemeral if a buyer buys the Hydroelectric Plant and wants them removed) multiple murals that live there now. Get down there to see them one way or another, please!

see what's behind the scaffolding...

You know I’ll season the tour with lots of James River Park System info, ways to get out and enjoy the river and the creatures who frequent it–not all of them fitness-crazed people yelling “Hoo-rah!”–and several lesser known historical tidbits. It should be a relaxing yet exhilarating tour. The high school group who were my guinea pigs for this tour in March said I saved their lives by taking them on the tour. I don’t recall pulling any of them out of the rapids, but maybe I was so engrossed by RVA’s riches that I didn’t notice that part of the tour….

All Aboard!

On our typical food tours, I push the river as worthy of a visit all sorts of ways. I’m glad that on this route the James will get to speak for itself.

a flood of interest in the James these days...

So I agreed to moderate a Writing Show panel for James River Writers this evening. It’s about food, drink, and romance in writing. You had me at chocolate chip cookie. I am thinking hard about what food I should bring with me to stuff into my mouth in order to prevent me from saying something really dumb. Dark chocolate could do the trick, but it’s so unseasonably warm today, it might melt all over my hands and then I’ll get chocolate all over my notes and then I will have to rely on my brain to come up with something to say of its own accord and there we are back at the saying something dumb issue.

A chocolate for my thoughts?

A vicious circle. That reminds me of cupcakes.

The mocha/chocolate one is my go-to cupcake.

There is no photo of an actual cupcake because as soon as the box gets opened, it’s not a pretty picture anymore. Actually, I have learned to show enormous amounts of restraint leading Real Richmond food tours around town. I don’t partake of everything at every stop. For me to spend time in a cupcake joint, inhaling the aromas of chocolate, coconut, and other good/evil things and not eating a bit is proof of something–I’m just not sure what. It is weird beyond belief, but some of it is vanity. Knowing that putting cupcake to mouth would leave too much evidence on my clothes, in my teeth and around my lips–not to mention elsewhere–helps in the self-restraint department. And then when the tour is over and I walk past said cupcake shop, I pop in and buy a 4-pack to take home. The Virginia General Assembly would do better to focus on issues such as banning driving while eating cupcakes than some of the other things they’ve been messing with. Three panelists, Michele Young-Stone, Andrew Fox, and Kit Wilkinson will be on tonight’s panel. All are novelists, but different genres: Michele writes adult fiction; Andrew sci-fi/fantasy, and Kit Christian Romance and suspense.  There is a joke to be made about Christian Romance and what the Republicans in the General Assembly have been up to of late. I will try to show restraint tonight and not blurt one out. Cupcake, anyone?

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.

Running this new food tour biz around town, Real Richmond,  has been lots of work and lots of fun. But until this moment, our tag line–food tours & more–has been less than accurate.  Food tours of Shockoe Slip, Shockoe Bottom/Church Hill, VCU/Fan, Carytown/Museum District, and The Wards are all well and good (and they sure are good), but where’s the more?

I’m working on it.  I’ll be sure to let you know when I put tickets on sale for my newest tour: Secret Basements of Stratford Hills–not to be confused with Cramped Closets of Westover Hills or Real Housewives of Stratford Hills. Just give me time. You’ll see the hoarders, the varmints, the occasional pinball machine, and lots of things I threw in the van as we were emptying my mother’s house in Maryland. You’ll hear stories of sewer line back-ups, burst pipes, and bat attacks–perfect for Halloween. To add a little history, we’ll dine on Paw-Paw fruit (in season–just as George Washington did), meander by that purty river and see who is grilling what illegally (and ask them to share or we’ll call the cops), and investigate the canned goods stockpiled in crazy people’s basements. Trust me, we won’t have to walk far. In the summer we could easily make it a beer crawl–just along Riverside Drive.   Sounds like a great tour. Scary thing is I bet some people will want tickets….

Multi-media day here in Richmond, VA.

Hear from me about the James River Park System license plate campaign. Just 20 more needed by the end of next week! Here’s the Richmond Times-Dispatch article. interviewed me regarding things to do around town. Since the article was about RVA happenings I wrote about in Insiders’ Guide to Richmond (buy it at Fountain Bookstore or Chop Suey Books, among other places), I behaved and didn’t mention my new food tour biz, Real Richmond.  Let’s just say you have to read between the lines to smell what’s cooking. But these tips are the sorts of things we mention on our tours. Insiders\’ Tips from ME

And here is  Richmond.Com\’s take on Real Richmond\’s Shockoe Slip food tour.  It would appear that I get around. Honestly, I haven’t left this chair in front of the computer for hours. Still need to brush my teeth. I’ll get on that right away.

That ought to sate us for a while. But if you want to DIG IN to RVA some more, go to Real Richmond to see how to taste AND see Richmond.

I’m back!