Friday, September 12, 2014

Choosing a City: Why Richmond Won Out

A lot of people were shocked to hear that Todd and I are moving to Richmond. For us, it makes perfect sense. We have a list of criteria that we want in a hometown, and when we started thinking about moving, we carefully evaluated various cities (like Nashville, D.C., and Charlottesville) with those things in mind. Richmond won out for these reasons:

Richmond Mural Project
Culture. We love a city that loves its creatives, and Richmond clearly does. From colorful public art projects and galleries to cool music venues, indie theaters, festivals, and a thriving startup scene, Richmond is an undeniably creative city.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
Green Space. We both love city life, but we also need our green — trees, gardens, parks, and urban escapes. Besides giving us a big backyard just steps away from a park, our new city is built right along the James River, with plenty of trails to explore.

The Roosevelt
Food. Richmond's food scene has really taken off in the last few years. I can't wait to explore its restaurants—and write about them, too.

Cost of Living. Home prices in Richmond are significantly lower than anywhere else we looked. We wanted to buy, and we wanted to get the most bang for our buck. Huge selling point.

Weather. After spending a winter in Boston, I learned that I can tolerate extreme cold and ridiculous amounts of snow. But would I choose it for my forever home? Heck no. I love that Virginia has four distinct seasons, with beautiful falls, long summers, and bearable winters.

Location. Richmond is close to both of our families as well as a quick drive to the mountains, the coast, and Washington, D.C.

Character. This factor is probably the hardest to define, but most important. It's some combination of history, architecture, people... and some other things, too. You won't know it until you visit the city in person. Nashville has its own character, but it didn't speak to us. Richmond did, loud and clear.

Choosing a hometown is a hugely personal decision. But when you break it down, it's actually pretty simple. What are your most important criteria when choosing a city?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Visitor's Guide to Boston in 48 Hours

When I moved away from Charleston after six years, I left behind this guide to the city. Now that I'm leaving Boston, I thought I should do the same. I was here just over a year, but I got pretty good at showing visitors around (especially after working as the editor of a visitor's guide). So here it is: Whiskey Kittens' Official Guide to Boston.

Liberty Hotel

There are so many nice hotels in this city, but I always recommend choosing one with a bit of character and history attached to it. The Liberty Hotel, located at the foot of Beacon Hill, once served as the Charles Street Jail. Today it's a super stylish, luxurious place to rest your head — or grab a drink. If you're more cop than robber, the Loews Boston Hotel is in the city's old police headquarters. The newly renovated limestone building is located right in the bustling Back Bay. For something a little more luxurious, try the Fairmont Copley Plaza overlooking Copley Square, which has been in business since 1912. The hotel has a "canine ambassador," a fancy bar, and it's also where they filmed some scenes from American Hustle. None of these hotels are cheap, so if you're on a budget, just try Priceline or the Hotel Tonight app to find a deal. 

After a year in the city, I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the restaurants here. With new restaurants opening up constantly, it's nearly impossible to stay on top of it. But I did discover a few favorites. My number one Boston restaurant is Toro, a dark, always-crowded tapas spot in the South End. Try to snag a spot on the sidewalk patio, order a bottle of Spanish wine, and order more tapas than you think you can eat. You won't regret it. Keep the multicultural theme going by heading to Chinatown for some noodles (Gourmet Dumpling House or Peach Farm), and for authentic Italian, follow your nose to the North End, the oldest neighborhood in Boston. 

Neptune Oyster
Of course, you can't visit Boston without getting some seafood. I recommend hitting up an oyster bar like Neptune, B&G Oysters, or Row 34 for some New England oysters and a lobster roll. For dessert, my favorite bakery is by far Flour, and luckily there are locations all over the city.

A word of warning: Cocktails are not cheap in Boston. Just how expensive are they? I accidentally paid $22 for a gin gimlet once, but they average around $15. But if you're a sucker for fancy cocktails, like me, you'll want to splurge a bit. Wink & Nod is a cozy speakeasy-style bar in the South End, and Drink is highly acclaimed for its custom creations. Over in Cambridge, both the food and drink menu at Commonwealth is playful and innovative, and Charlie's Kitchen has some of the cheapest drinks and food I've found in the area — plus they have a beer garden.


Acorn Street, Beacon Hill
Boston is a small city, and very walkable — you can easily see the highlights on foot in just a day or two. The city's must-see sights are anchored around the Back Bay, from the shops of Newbury Street to the meticulously landscaped Public Garden. Visitors love to take a ride on the amphibious Duck Tours that take you past all of the key attractions and into Boston Harbor. If you love art, a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, and/or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are in order. If you'd rather just mosey, check out Faneuil Hall, the North End, and Beacon Hill (Acorn Street, pictured above, is quite possibly the most photographed street in America). 

Depending on the season, there's likely some sort of sporting event going on, whether a Red Sox game at Fenway Park or a Celtics or Bruins game at TD Garden.

Boston Public Library
A few other places to see if you have time: the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church, the Esplanade, Top of the Hub, and the SoWa Market on Sundays.

Enjoy your visit to Boston!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dear Boston: A Breakup Letter

Dear Boston,

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just spit it out: We’re breaking up. Our time together has been amazing, but I just don’t see a future for us together.

To be honest, I never really saw this as a long-term thing. I came into it knowing it was a fling before settling down. And you showed me a good time, giving me the thrill of living in a major city, introducing me to new people, and reminding me that there’s so much more life beyond the little world I’d been living in for so many years.

We explored the landscapes of New England together, from Maine to Boston’s harbor islands, and it was so refreshing to get away from the familiarity of the South. I fell in love with the rugged northern coast and the lighthouses and the quaint little towns that seem to be around every corner. You took me to a Red Sox game and sunset concerts by the Charles River. I even fell in love with your accent.

And while it wasn’t the longest relationship ever, you did change me for the better. I used to be nervous in cities, scared to walk around on my own and intimidated by public transportation. I learned to be more independent and confident, and now I feel like I could find my way around anywhere alone. I learned that I can survive a harsh New England winter. And you gave me the push I needed to take my career to the next level (and Todd’s, too!).

I had thought we might make it through another winter together, but things have changed. Several things, in fact, have happened in the last year that have made me reassess where I want to be. And I just don’t want to be 10 hours away from my family in a crappy, overpriced rental.

It’s true—I’ve been cheating on you for months now. Looking at pictures of houses in other cities and fantasizing about what life would be like somewhere else. And while it started out as a diversion, it eventually became a bit of an obsession. And when I discovered that my dream house was on the market back home in Virginia, everything fell into place.

This isn’t just any house, you understand. It’s the kind of house I saw myself buying 10 or 15 years down the road, when I was a real grown-up. It’s big and historic and beautiful, and when I look at it I see Christmas parties and baby nurseries and backyard barbecues. I realize I’m ready to settle down, in other words.

So thank you for the past 14 months, Boston. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I know we’ll see each other again before too long, and I hope we can still be friends.


P.S. Here's a picture of the new city in my life, in case you're interested.