Category Archives: Farmer’s Market

A Car-Less Weekend

Jessica biking through Old TownThis past weekend I inadvertently did an appropriate follow up to my first column on the Perfect Shopping Saturday. Completely without design or pre-planning, my husband and I spent the entire weekend on bicycle and on foot, without using our car once. It proved to be the Ideal Summer Weekend in Alexandria.

Despite excellent metro access throughout most of Northern Virginia, the concept of going carless in Alexandria is nonetheless a bit of an anathema. While it is quite natural for residents of DC not to own a car, here in Alexandria, it’s a little different. Most people own a car and use it frequently, even if they commute to work via metro. Even in historical Old Town, in spite of limited parking spaces and rising parking meter prices, people still drive everywhere. I guess that we’ve got one foot in metropolitan living and one foot in suburbia. 

For me, the whole idea of not driving on the weekend always seemed ridiculous, particularly when you factor in food shopping and other errands. In my family, there’s also the difficulty of leaving the car itself. We own a MINI, which is, in my opinion, the world’s most adorable car. When the sheer act of seeing your car, never mind zooming around in it, induces a smile, all other forms of transport pale in comparison.

Nevertheless, when we woke up on Saturday morning, the beautiful weather, my Dutch-style bike, and my husband’s fixed-gear bike were beckoning. So, we threw on clothes and headed directly for the Farmer’s Market in Old Town Alexandria. There, we stocked up on fruits, vegetables, sunflowers, and more fruits and vegetables (I cannot get enough of either).

In August, the Old Town Farmer’s Market is heavenly. Between the free samples of peaches and apples, the cornucopia of in-season vegetables, the local vendors with their display of colorful crafts, and the delectable freshly-squeezed orange juice sold by a vendor on the eastern edge of the square, there’s nothing better. 

After the market, we then piled the fruits, vegetables, and sunflowers into my detachable basket and headed home. But, instead of locking up the bikes and heading out to run errands as we usually do on Saturdays, we merely dropped off the food and headed back to Old Town.

We grabbed lunch, walked around the Torpedo Factory, perused the cool products at Decorium and ArtCraft, then strolled up to get coffee at Misha’s. Naturally, we had to go to The Hours to admire their amazing selection of cocktail shakers and glassware. Eventually, we wandered back down towards the water, had a leisurely dinner, and caught a film at the Old Town Theater.

On Sunday, we followed a different pattern. In fact, we did something very weekend traditional: we slept in, and then cycled to Old Town for brunch at Chadwick’s. It was once again a gorgeously sunny day and the bicycles beckoned.

Lingering over brunch was very convenient, as it was suddenly opening time for most of the stores in Alexandria. In my world, boutique browsing is a natural accompaniment to Sunday brunch. Of course, being on bicycle did not stop me from shopping (really nothing can). Even though it was over 90 degrees, I found a wooly page-boy style hat at The Shoe Hive that is destined for fall cycling.

Yet, just when I thought that my weekend was set for a leisurely pace, my husband suggested that we cycle at least part of the way to Mount Vernon. This was an entirely mental suggestion because I was wearing a sundress and wedges with a shopping bag in tote. Nevertheless, I became convinced. So, we strapped my Shoe Hive bag to the back of my bike, bought some water, and headed down the Mount Vernon trail.

Suffice to say, my shopping bag received many disapproving looks from more serious road cyclists down the trail. For this reason, I took great pleasure in passing a number of people who were fully kitted-out in Lycra on their expensive bikes whilst I was in my wedges and on my heavier upright bike with my shopping bag.

Once completing a circle on the Mount Vernon Trail, my husband and I headed back to Old Town for a coffee and snack, and then rode over to Trader Joe’s to grab food for dinner. We then trekked home, completing an ideal weekend in Alexandria without ever putting our car key in the ignition.

The Perfect Shopping Saturday

I have lived in the DC area for nearly seven years. Yet, even though I am admittedly a shopaholic, it is a rare weekend that I ever venture outside of Old Town Alexandria. Why should I? A quick jaunt through the Old Town Boutique District always meets my shopping needs.

When you can find a dress straight from this season’s runway at a boutique like Treat or Hysteria and a pair of handmade leather heels from an exclusive Italian designer at Shoe Hive, the argument for getting in my car to drive 20 minutes on the beltway to a shopping mall or to head to Georgetown to fight for parking suddenly loses credulity.

I am not lazy. As the owner of a new small business, I work crazy hours and am glued to my Blackberry and laptop. My weekends are much coveted free time to hang out with my husband and relax.

For me, there’s nothing better on a Saturday morning than rolling out of bed, hopping on my Dutch-style bicycle, and heading to Old Town for the Farmer’s Market followed by an afternoon of shopping in the hidden gems of the city’s boutiques.

So, over the past two Saturdays, I formulated a mini quest to chart out the perfect shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. I had intended to do this in one day. Yet, I was faced with the difficulty of this venture by its sheer magnitude because there are 28 shops in the Old Town Boutique District.

I love the idea of shopping local, both to support the city’s economy and to explore the unknown within the familiar. I’m always amazed at the selection of unique design, impeccable craftsmanship, and sheer variety available with the shops that comprise the Old Town Boutique District.

Combining data from my two samples, here is my personal ideal shopping Saturday in the Old Town Boutique District. Since I am a fashion addict, this list is exclusively clothing and accessory-related, and covers only a small fraction of the other shops in this group. There is no purchase necessary on my Saturday agenda, as most of the fun (and hence angst for my husband) is in wandering around to discover things.

  • Begin with a leisurely coffee at Grape and Bean.
  • Get a designer consignment fix at either Mint Condition or Diva.
  • Browse finds from this season’s sample sales at Treat.
  • Wander up King St to stock up on makeup and beauty products at Bellacara, then check out lingerie and sleepwear at Bloomer’s (secret: it’s also the best place in the DC area to find Spanx).
  • Walk down to Arts Afire or Fibre Space to admire their handcrafted goods.
  • Heading back down King St, saunter down St Asaph St to look in window of Fitness on the Run in order to contemplate whether or not to trade in gym membership for a private studio.
  • While pondering fitness goals, go to Red Barn Mercantile to browse their quirky and unique home furnishings.
  • Favoring the fitness value of walking via window shopping, walk five blocks to S. Fairfax St. to check out selection of designer clothes at Hysteria.
  • Walk a quarter of a block south into a cute little brick courtyard to admire (and inevitably try on) shoes from familiar and little known designers at Shoe Hive.
  • Finally, drag tired feet a few more blocks north and then east to buy a much-deserved piece of dark chocolate or other sweet treat from The Sugar Cube.

My next quest? To tackle La Cuisine and their myriad of cooking resources.

All Aboard

This shopping local thing is catching on!  Last week, I got an email from my friend Staci that said, “Three more bags of redirected dollars on a Saturday morning. Yay!”  She also included a picture taken with her iPhone of her three bags of goodies.  Excited to find that someone was joining in with the challenge, I asked her about her day.  Here’s what she had to say-

“We took karate lessons at United Studios of Self Defense…, then went down to the Farmer’s Market <at Market Square> (only buying locally grown food and flowers specifically).  Went to Why Not? and got a birthday present for a party we needed to go to, a book, a rocket toy as a reward for Donovan, and a backpack for Margaret, since hers is trashed from school.”

“Chocolates at The Sugar Cube to fortify us for the walk back to the car.  Checked out AppleSeed to get some gift ideas.  Flowers, dinner for 2, gifts, school supplies, a treat for the kids.  Three bags of products and just over $100 spent, not counting the coins in the fountain for entertainment value for the kiddos.”

Thanks for letting us know, Staci.  What a fun day!  And to anyone else out there reading this, let us know if you are “redirecting” your dollars and where.  Happy Shopping…Locally!