I visited Virginia (and travelled to West Virginia too when there) for Xmas and New Years 2018-2019. I have decided to split this post into two sections because there was so much to talk about vegan food-wise that I’ll speak about those another week. This post consists of all the touristy things, enjoy!
Weds 19 Dec ’18
I travelled from Tenby to London Paddington on Wednesday 19th December after finishing some last jobs in work in the morning. I arrived into London about 4:30pm and then hopped straight on the Heathrow Express to get me to the airport. I was stating in the Ibis Styles hotel on Bath Road (just outside the airport) and took a quick (free) public bus from the terminal to get there. I headed to McDonalds for dinner and headed back to the hotel for a relaxed evening.
Thurs 20 Dec ’18
My flight was 11:35am on Thursday 20th December from Heathrow to Washington D.C. (Dulles) direct with Virgin Atlantic. I left the hotel pretty early and arrived at the terminal a few hours before departure. I’ve got to say I was pretty disappointed with the bag-drop process by Virgin Atlantic. In the past if I’ve checked in online for other airlines the bag drop has been a very quick process. Instead at Heathrow there was a queue you had to join for bag drop or check-in so it didn’t really provide any advantage checking in early other than choosing my seat in advance.
The flight was quite good and seemed to go quickly as well which was a bonus. I had a couple of vegan meals (lunch and dinner) before we landed in IAD. It was my first flight ever that I had ordered a special meal and it was quite nice to be brought mine before other passengers on the flight!
My friend Michael picked me up from the airport in Dulles before heading back to their house. This was actually worse than the flight out there as the traffic was bonkers! Lots of people travelling home for the holidays. I think the journey to Richmond, Virginia took us four hours whereas it is usually a couple of hours. By the time we arrived back Adam had finished work so that was well timed! We headed to Cheesecake Factory for dinner and then had a lazy evening at the house. It was nice to be there and I knew I had a couple of weeks to relax now after the hectic couple of months of work before Xmas.
Fri 21 Dec ’18
Michael had taken Friday off work but Adam had to go in for his last day before Xmas. We had a lie-in and a very lazy morning before heading out to 821 Cafe for breakfast and to the State Capitol. We also popped to see Adam at work in downtown Richmond as we were in the area.
After we had visited Adam at work we drove around the city a bit before heading back to the house. Not going to lie, we were lazy and definitely had an afternoon nap when Adam was still in work! We headed to Chipotle for dinner and once we had eaten we headed to a light show at Meadow Event Park. It was a drive-through experience and the lights were all timed to music (that you tuned in to with the car radio). After that we had another chilled evening of watching TV.
Sat 22 Dec ’18
On Saturday morning we headed to Stir Crazy Cafe for a late breakfast. It was such a nice little place and there were lots of vegan options for me. Once we had finished brunch, we headed to Short Pump Town Centre to do a bit of shopping. It’s one of my favourite malls about and they always decorate it so nicely for the holidays!
Once we had finished having a browse at Short Pump we headed to Costco as Adam and Michael wanted to pick up a new tele. I convinced them to get a 55″ one vs a smaller screen they were going to get. Oops! It did look a lot better mind. I had the cart heading out of the store but got stopped as they check everyone’s receipts upon leaving – definitely a weird experience!
After heading back and setting up the TV, we headed to TGI Fridays with Sauron. I tried the Beyond Meat burger which I’ll speak about more in my upcoming post and then we headed to the cinema. We watched Mary Poppins Returns and it was really good. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been wanting to watch it since seeing a sneak preview at D23 in 2017! The movie finished quite late so we headed back to the house shortly after that.
Sun 23 Dec ’18
On Sunday we headed to West Virginia (making it twelve States I have now visited so far!) We had booked to go on a bunker tour at the Greenbrier Resort. They had created a chocolate holiday scene in the hotel lobby which I found fascinating. This was entirely made of dark chocolate and took the team so long to create.
The hotel and resort was very dated (as you can see from the carpet alone below) and it had been heavily decorated for the holidays. We arrived early afternoon and had a walk about before heading to our bunker tour.
It was quite a fascinating experience to learn about the bunker there in case of nuclear attack. The bunker was fully prepared from its construction in the 60’s to when it was exposed in the early 90’s. By that point it was unusable anyway as nuclear weapons could be sent via missile instead of aircraft. Once we had finished the tour we had food at Drapers restaurant/diner and headed back to Virginia via a few idyllic towns to see their lights.
Mon 24 Dec ’18
Michael had to work today so Adam and I had a lazy morning before heading to Crossroads for a late breakfast. We did a bit of shopping at Short Pump Town Centre before heading back to the house. We had Chopt Salad for dinner with Michael. We actually struggled to find somewhere as places were closing early with it being Xmas Eve. After that we drove about looking at different Christmas lights in neighbourhoods and on houses before heading back to the house.
Tues 25 Dec ’18
We had such a lazy and relaxing Christmas Day it was unbelievable! We got up and relaxed, watching some tele and films. Headed out to Downtown Richmond where Adam and Michael had a bite to eat before we headed back to the house. Sauron popped over to see us before we headed to Peter Chang’s Chinese Restaurant with Michael’s mum for dinner. It was the first time I’ve ever eaten Chinese food on Christmas Day! We had another drive around to see some spectacular lights on people’s homes before heading back and watching more films. Jordan popped over to see us once he had finished work late evening and stayed a couple of hours as well.
Weds 26 Dec ’18
We headed to Starbucks for a coffee/ late breakfast (I didn’t eat as I was so full still from Christmas Day!) We ended up going to Chipotle in the afternoon for lunch and actually did our Christmas shopping on Boxing Day. We hadn’t worried too much about gifts before Xmas which was quite nice for a change! I got Adam and Michael both new iPhone cases from the Apple Store and they bought me a pair of Ugg boots which I adore!
After we had finished shopping we headed back to the house to change into some warmer clothes before heading to the Gardenfest of Lights at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. It was such a lovely evening and the lights and displays were amazing.
They had decorated pretty much every tree as well as the greenhouses indoors. There were so many lights it was hard to cover everything! We had a long walk around all of the exhibits. The photos don’t really do the place justice if I’m honest.
Thurs 27 Dec ’18
Today we had another lazy start to the day. We pottered around the house and watched some YouTube videos and TV before getting ready and heading to Proper Pie Co for midday. We arrived a bit early as they always have a queue out the door. We were actually there before anyone else so were first in line when they opened at midday. I’ll chat more about their food in my Eating Vegan in Richmond post in the coming weeks.
Once we had finished lunch we headed to see Leigh. We had a drink at the Urban Farmhouse Market & Cafe. The last time I saw Leigh was back in May when I visited Virginia last so it was nice to catch up.
We headed to The Mill on MacArthur for dinner that evening before driving about to see more Christmas lights. It seems nuts that we did this so many times during my stay but there were a heck of a lot of lights and homes to see. I’ve never seen Christmas decorations like it before!
Fri 28 Dec ’18
Adam, Michael and I headed to see Leigh and Jeff for lunch at Chopt today. Jeff was back in work so we met him during his break. After lunch we headed to Crossroads Art Centre to browse for a new piece of art (or inspiration anyway) for the house. On our way back to the house we picked up some Sugar Shack doughnuts (lots of vegan options too) before heading back and watching Bird Box on Netflix.
We headed to Pie Five for dinner that evening which was amazing for me as they had vegan cheese. I love their pizzas as you can customise them totally! They are prepared right in front of you and by the time you’ve finished paying they are baked as well.
For dessert we headed to Charm School. Adam and Michael hadn’t thought of it but noticed it was open as we were passing in Downtown Richmond so we thought we’d call in. They had vegan options which was great and their waffle cones were amazing!
I guess I graduated from Charm School…
Sat 29 Dec ’18
We headed back to Proper Pie Co. today for lunch. Just can’t get enough of that place! I had the same savoury pie as last time but tried a new sweet option today. I love their ‘Days At Sea’ tally on the back of the chalk board.
After lunch we headed to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. They have a Christmas Town event every Xmas and we wanted to see the lights and shows they had on offer. It was a couple of hours drive to get there and we parked up before heading in to the park mid-afternoon.
Everything had been decorated for the holidays and we got there mid-afternoon so got to see things in daylight before dusk and nighttime. When we first went in we saw a play about Scrooge in the Globe Theatre (right at the entrance). Once we had seen that we headed through the park and queued up for the cable cars to take us to another area of the park.
We had a quick snack in the large dining area in the Germany section of the park before we caught the steam train. This took us right around the park’s perimeter. Once we had finished the train ride we walked through more of the different themed areas of the park before catching an ice skating show. At this point it was getting pretty late so we headed back to the trams to take us to the Scotland parking lot (so far away!) We had a couple of hours to get back and we made some food at the house.
Sun 30 Dec ’18
Today we went for a Chipotle lunch before having a walk around Crump Park. It was quite a relaxed day and after going to Busch Gardens until late the night before it was much needed! The park was really lovely and there were some animals there too.
On the way back we stopped again at Sugar Shack. We sat in this time and ordered more doughnuts. I had a coffee and ate one of my selection there and left the rest for later. After that we headed back to the house before getting ready for dinner at P.F. Changs that evening. It was a little bit of a later meal today as we had been for doughnuts mid-afternoon.
Mon 31 Dec ’18
New Years Eve! I went to Lamplighter Coffee for breakfast with Adam today as Michael was working. We also went shopping after breakfast to Short Pump and I resisted buying an iPad Pro which I am very proud of myself for! We met Michael for lunch and headed over to Chipotle so he could get back to work fairly quickly.
After that, Adam and I headed to Regal Cinemas where we watched Wreck It Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet. It was such a good movie and with such a busy couple of months before Xmas I hadn’t had the chance to see it beforehand. There were lots of clever references as well and so many companies they had featured on the internet section of the film!
We headed to Ellwood Thompson’s Market after the cinema to pick up some food for the evening as well as picking up a pizza for Adam and Michael. I just fancied snacking on a few different things so picked up hummus, cheese, bread and potato salad etc.
We had a pretty relaxed evening and watched the fireworks around the world on live streams on YouTube. It was really weird watching the London display at midnight in the UK knowing we had another five hours until it was New Years Day with us! We watched Taylor Swift’s Reputation World Tour on Netflix and some other TV through the evening and then saw the Ball Drop in NYC at midnight. Gotta say it’s not as impressive as London’s display or countdown at all. It was all a bit whack if I’m honest (and it was pouring down so I didn’t envy them at all!)
Tues 01 Jan ’19
We spent the morning at the house with Michael before heading to Washington D.C. I packed my suitcase in the morning and got myself ready so I didn’t have to rush after breakfast/lunch.
Adam dropped me off at the airport late afternoon for my overnight flight back to London Heathrow. We had a Starbucks in the airport once I had dropped off my luggage before I headed to security. We had made good time on the drive up to IAD so had plenty of time to spare.
Weds 02 Jan ’19
Today consisted of landing in Heathrow at about 6:45am before picking up my luggage and heading back on the Heathrow Express to London Paddington. Once there I had to wait a couple of hours as my ticket was invalid until 10:10am (it was a super off-peak return). I ended up having breakfast in Pret A Manger before jumping on the 10:15am to Cardiff Central and changing further down the line. I was exhausted after the overnight flight as I struggle to sleep on planes. I got back to Kilgetty around 3:30pm and slept as much as I could before work Thursday!
I had such a lovely time in the USA for Christmas and New Years. It was the first time I had been away from the UK for the holidays as well. Such a relaxing couple of weeks and I would have stayed longer if I could have!
As mentioned at the start of this post, I will be featuring all of the food and restaurants etc. from the trip in a separate blog post – keep an eye out for that one or sign up to my email newsletter to be notified. Thanks for reading!