This 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.