Anne Blackwell Thompson’s Guide to Richmond, Virginia
Our Summit alums live in some pretty fantastic places across the South (and beyond!), from small towns to large cities. And how they choose to spend their free time in these places no doubt inspires their creative efforts. One alum for whom this is certainly true is Anne Blackwell Thompson, the artist behind Blackwell Botanicals and the Tuckahoe Plantation’s 2017 “Artist in Residence”. Anne’s love of art and culture (both historic and modern) are evident in where she likes to spend her time when not working in her studio in Richmond, Virginia. Take a look at the photos she shared with us, as well as some of her local favorites, in this mini guide to Richmond.
A quick 36-hour trip to Richmond must begin at our newest and hippest hotel Quirk Hotel where art and glamour reign supreme under the curated guidance of owners, Katie and Ted Ukrop. I gathered friend and Southern C alum, Sarah Wiley, of Huger Memories to play “guests” in our hometown. Our first stop was checking into the Quirk Hotel with my trusty yellow lab, Holly, who was warmly welcomed by the staff. The Liberty of London pink ties and bow ties worn by the staff was a charming touch! It was great fun to relax in the lobby and map out our day in the pink infused lobby. For design aficionados, pink is a neutral at Quirk Hotel!
Our first adventure started with a visit to the uber stylish store, Verdalina, located only one block away from the Quirk Hotel. The clothes are stunning and beyond works of art. Fashionistas flock from around the globe to this corner. We could have lingered for hours! Virginia has been known to be for lovers – the craftiest of lovers bestow Verdalina gift cards. (My custom bumper sticker!)
Since our stomachs were growling, we decided to put on our walking shoes and make a pilgrimage to the darling and quaint biscuit shop, Early Bird Biscuit Co., located in the historic Fan district. Tim Laxton, the beloved Biscuit Baker, recently moved his biscuit shop to be closer to Retreat Doctor’s Hospital so that family and friends visiting relatives in the hospital would be able to have comfort food nearby. Doesn’t that just melt your heart!
After devouring our biscuits for nourishment, we continued on our walk down the most famous and storied street in Richmond – Monument Avenue. This magnificent street is a true Richmond gem and has some of the most beautiful homes and architecture in Virginia. Charles Gillette gardens, Duncan Lee masterpieces and William Lawrence Bottomley, oh, my!
Also, located conveniently in the Fan is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The newest exhibit–Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style (through August 27, 2017) is a must. You could actually hear one gasp after another while viewing the 100 examples of haute couture. We wrapped up our tour on the 3rd floor of the museum at Amuse restaurant with a cocktail created specifically for the Yves Saint Laurent exhibit appropriately named “Fancy Pants”.
Our next stop was a leisurely drive out River Road to tour Thomas Jefferson’s childhood home – Tuckahoe Plantation. The gardens at Tuckahoe Plantation are a horticultural treasure trove. I have been very fortunate to be named the “Artist In Residence” this past year at Tuckahoe Plantation and have enjoyed every season of harvesting flowers from their bountiful gardens. On the way back into town, we dined al fresco at the charming country cottage Portico Restaurant and Bar.
After arriving back full circle that evening at the Quirk Hotel, we made sure to stop in the Quirk Gallery to view the latest exhibit. Currently, one of my all-time favorite artists, Hillary Waters is exhibiting her brilliant botanical art featuring her unique “Snake Charmer” series – shed snake scales dissected and meticulously arranged on paper. I actually purchased one (okay, two) of Hillary’s masterpieces as a surprise anniversary present to my husband because nothing says “I Love You” like shedded snakeskin. Also, my husband is a huge fan of Hillary’s work! Be sure to have a nightcap at the Q Rooftop bar and take in all the sights and sounds of Richmond. The rooftop view is spectacular and if timed correctly the sunsets can be a riot of color against the skylines.
Up and out the next day to grab some complimentary bikes from Quirk Hotel with fellow alum Sarah Wiley and off we go to explore Richmond on two wheels. If you are in a cycling state of mind, book a tour with Basket & Bike Excursions and enjoy a tour led by a local guide to Upper Shirley Vineyards in Charles City. In 2012, Richmond was named “Best River Town Ever” and many of the cycle tours follow the Capital Trail along the James River. Once arriving at Upper Shirley, be sure to bask in the ample views of the James River and culinary treats. I highly recommend the shrimp and grits!
Continue your bike ride over to Shirley Plantation, which is the oldest family-owned business in North America. Conclude your cycling tour with a stop at Westover Plantation which is dramatically positioned on the banks of the James River with a view that will leave you speechless.
The best ending of any day in Richmond is catching up with a dear friend, Laura Trevey at Can Can Brasserie located in the heart of Carytown. Grab a table by the open air windows and take in all the magic and charm of Carytown. A big bonus, the bread is homemade and cooked on site and the atmosphere is picture perfect!
All photos by Christopher Rorer Thompson, except those of Hillary Waters’ artwork.