Richmond Surprise: Day 1
Since I spent a good part of my last two summers in Richmond while my children were in camps, I was a bit sad to think we would not be there at all this summer. I waited too long to register for summer camps and they were all full.
. . . . or at least so I thought.
Amazing news! Morning spots just freed up . . . in Session 1 (July 14- 18) Please let us know if this is something you are still interested in!
Yes! Yes!! It was amazing news and we were thrilled. This was the art camp my children adored and the staff seem to enjoy my children just as much. It was a serendipitous match.
We packed our lunches, found the art smocks and backpacks and set the alarm for an early start.
After dropping off the girls, I didn’t really have a plan in place for what my son and I would do for the next few hours. I drove around a bit aimlessly and went past The Library of Virginia. We decided to start there.
The current lobby exhibition is about The Flora of Virginia. I had heard about this from the Virginia Native Plant Society. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what this was but I understood that many people were VERY excited about the publication of this flora.
The first question, of course, is what is a flora? The exhibit explained:
I loved the idea that this was an intersection of science and art and that hand-drawn illustrations were used rather than photographs.
The most recent Flora of Virginia was published in 1715 by John Clayton. It has never been formally updated since. Most botanists were using a combination of flora for West Virginia and North Carolina when working with Virginia plants. Now they have a flora to call their own!
I learned many interesting things from the exhibit. Of organizational note, Carolus Linnaeus was an important pioneer of plant organization. His work in 1753 to set up a naming system for plants consisting of two names, genus and species, revolutionized botany. Prior to this innovation, there were all sorts of naming systems for plants and many plants had extremely long descriptive names.
I also learned what the term “herbarium” means. While it sounds like it has something to do with herbs, it really means “a collection of dried, preserved plant specimens on paper.” It’s kind of like a library of pressed flowers. The specimens are artfully arranged on paper with the name of the plant and any important notes. Usually a decorative stamp identifying the herbarium is in the top corner. They were described as another intersection between science and art.
Another great exhibit told of the artist’s conk fungus. This is sort of like a large mushroom that grows on trees. It has the unique property that if you mark on it with a sharp object, it will leave dark brown mark that resembles carvings in ivory or bone. Artists have used the fungus as a canvas. There was a great example on exhibit of a fungus from a botany club where all the members had signed the fungus.
The exhibit had a combination of rare books, artwork, photographs, history and botanical information. It was a clever meshing of many different disciplines.
After the exhibit, we toured The Virginia Shop, their gift shop. This was a wonderfully designed gift shop! It had a huge hipster influence with all kinds of artful and quirky items. I made note of several items for future Christmas and birthday gifts.
If you are a Virginia local, you can sign up to join the Library of Virginia’s mailing list. They have a great book club and other events.
After the library, we took a quick walk across the street to the Virginia School Board building where you can take the elevator to the top floor observation deck for an amazing view of the city.
Walking back to the car, we saw this billboard at a local sandwich shop:
Although I don’t think anyone would say that the economy is in “recession,” there are aspects of the Virginia economy that feel that way sometimes. I hope this small business struggles through.
I picked up my daughters from camp. This year, they both only wanted to do half day camp. When I asked them why they said it was because last year I did such fun adventures in the afternoons that they didn’t want to miss out! Wow! This may be the highest compliment my children have ever paid me. They actually wanted to hang out with boring old mom!
The children had one primary destination in mind for our Richmond adventures so I decided to get that out of the way first.
The Richmond Zoo is small but on a previous visit we had a lot of fun there. They allow you to get up close to feed the giraffes which is fun and they have other activities as well like a train ride, carousel and petting zoo.
Unfortunately, however, there was one factor working against us on this trip:
There are no indoor exhibits at the zoo so we braced ourselves for walking around in the heat. I purchased some sunscreen at the zoo store which came on a nice caribiner clip so that I could attach it to my keys. (A good organization tip to remember.)
We wandered around looking at animals, most of whom were trying to lie down in whatever shade they could find. My children complained the whole time that it was too hot and they were ready to leave after only about an hour.
We did enjoy watching a giraffe run across their savannah exhibit. I don’t know if I have ever seen a giraffe run in person before. It is an amusing sight. The giraffe has such gangly long legs that it runs in a sort of graceful tangle. We also saw some zookeepers transporting a large Galapagos tortoise into a mud pool to help it cope better with the heat.
So, our circumstances weren’t the best for a zoo visit but I was glad to get the zoo out of the way so that the children would be ready to see other things.
Overall, day one was a success! Richmond is such a comfortable city to visit with the amenities of a big city but less parking hassles and traffic. We all looked forward to what the rest of the week would bring.