Road Trip Adventures, Stop 1: Alexandria, Virginia

As I mentioned in last month’s post, the Hubs and I took a road trip to Boston for spring break. Now that we’re back and feeling oh-so-refreshed, I wanted to share some trip highlights with you.

I’ve broken our trip into separate posts by location. I’ve sprinkled in travel tips that came in handy for planning our road trip. {PS: I’d love for you to share your travel tips in the comment section at the bottom of this post!}

Today I’m sharing about the first leg of our road trip: our stop in Alexandria, Virginia [with a quick visit to the National Harbor].

On our drive to Boston, we planned a two-day stop in Washington, DC. We booked a room at the Hampon Inn and Suites in Alexandria. The hotel was great! Very friendly staff, clean rooms, comfy bedding – I’d stay there again.

The hotel also offered free parking and a free shuttle to Alexandria/Old Town or the metro. Being that we were going to have plenty of time in the car, we ditched it for two days and utilized the shuttle and the metro.

Friday

We left bright-and-early so we could arrive to DC in the early afternoon.

National Harbor

We had considered staying at the National Harbor (I stayed there when I spoke at Tableau’s conference a few years ago and loved it), but once we factored in paying for daily parking, Alexandria [less than 10 minutes away] won for the budget.

Since we arrived to DC a few hours before hotel check-in, we drove straight to the National Harbor to check that off our “to visit” list.

natl harbor 1

National Harbor

If you’re planning to visit DC, you should definitely plan a quick stroll through the National Harbor! It’s a gorgeous area to walk and there are often neat events going on (none for our dates though). It’s a very family-friendly area.

You can find all kinds of helpful information for planning your visit to the National Harbor here.

  • Where to Eat: Nando’s Peri Peri (flavorful Portugese cuisine. The National Harbor location has great outdoor seating).

Alexandria/Old Town

When we decided to stay in Alexandria, I quickly found a site with information for visitors (here!).

  • Tip: When planning a vacation or a stop on your roadtrip, google:
  1. things to do in [CITY, STATE]” – for bigger cities you can often find some great lists or blogs with ideas of cool places to visit, local events or other ideas for things to do you may not have thought of.
  2. visit [CITY, STATE]” – this will usually take you to a visitor’s site for the area. These are a great resource for tourists! I like to find hotel recommendations there [which I then follow-up with reading reviews from several sites like any trained researcher 😉 ]. I also like to browse the event calendars to see if there are any unique things going on during the time we’ll be there.

Friday we took the hotel shuttle to downtown Alexandria and explored. We walked along the waterfront and through Founders Park – it was gorgeous!

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We loved the walking paths and watching the dogs playing in the park. If we had a blanket, we definitely would have had a picnic here!

You can see downtown DC from the waterfront in Alexandria and if you look close enough you can see the Capitol!

alexandria 3 capital

If you’re visiting Alexandria, take some time to walk along the waterfront before the sun goes down – it’s lovely.

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The cobblestone roads reminded me of Charleston. {Note: don’t wear heals!}

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After we’d had fun wandering around, we started looking for a dinner spot. There are lots of yummy options {you can browse some here}, but I did little research on food in Alexandria so we stumbled upon a pizza place without a long line – Bugsy’s – and went for it. We opened the menu only to find out the restaurant was opened by a former Montreal Canadien‘s hockey player {the Hubs’ favorite hockey team as shown ironically by his attire for the evening!}

alexandria 6 dinner

I spotted a beautiful paper shop across the street as soon as we left the restaurant. Have you ever visited a Paper Source store?! This was my first time. It’s definitely paper heaven.

alexandria 7 paper source

Yes, I admit it: I wish these were fabric. I would’ve bought them all! 😉

We picked up some quirky birthday and mother’s day cards before heading back.

Saturday

We got up bright and early [again] to maximize our day – we had a lot planned!

  • Tip: If your hotel offers free breakfast, take advantage of that! One less meal and coffee to purchase = more souvenir money! If you’re brave, snag an apple/banana/other non-refrigerated snacks to throw in your backpack for the day ahead.

Alexandria’s visitor site has a list of free things to do which was super helpful! I’m much more inclined to do something if it’s free 😉 [again: free events = more souvenir money].

On the list: the Old Town Farmers Market. We took the hotel shuttle to Alexandria early Saturday morning after breakfast. The shuttle dropped us right in front of the market which was full of beautiful flowers, locally grown produce, plants and handmade goodies. It was beautiful!

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Flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market

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More flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market {with festive bunnies for Easter!}

While walking to the King Street metro station from the market, we passed loads of beautiful shops. The area reminds me so much of Charleston with all the colorful buildings.

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If we hadn’t have set out so early, I would’ve loved to explore the Pendleton store!

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I’ve never been to a Pendleton store, but from the window it looked fabulous!

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That dress! And that sweater! #AllTheHeartEyes

After getting an all-day pass for the metro (it was about $15, but with destinations on our list that were spread out this proved to be worth it), we set off for downtown DC!

Stay tuned: I’ll share the details of our DC exploration this Friday. 

Follow along on our Road Trip with these posts: 

Melly Sews Favorite Purse {and mine too!}

In July I visited Baltimore for work. The trip snuck up on me and backed right up to our annual trip to Asheville.

As usual, I had about a bajillion sewing projects running through my head that I was determined to make before leaving. At the top of the list was Melly Sews’ Favorite Purse. I knew this would be the perfect travel bag – it has ample pockets and is larger than my usual cross-body pattern.

And so, I spent the Friday evening before leaving for Baltimore cutting out and taping the paper pattern pieces followed by cutting the fabric. Since I wasn’t going to sew until Saturday, I pinned the paper pattern pieces to the fabric pieces so I could easily locate pieces for construction.

I had bought the pattern when Melly was running a killer sale for Memorial Day weekend (you should sign up for her newsletter so you can get in on those and see all the free patterns & tutorials she offers – and check out her blog).

I was feeling a little intimidated with all the zippers involved with constructing the Favorite Purse, but I’ve been practicing with simple zipper clutches lately (here’s my favorite tutorial!) and was feeling more confident.

Melly includes great instructions in her pattern with lots of helpful pictures.

I even learned how to make my own bias tape which was very exciting after I had looked at fabric shops to see if I could find a cute package of patterned bias tape a few weeks ago (in an effort to save time) and was super bummed to discover only solid colors 😦 I knew I wanted the main fabric to be solid for versatility, but wanted the bias tape to add a little pizzazz. So, I taught myself! It was much easier than I thought.

I’m really excited at how my bag turned out AND how it perfectly matches my Noodle Head Super Tote (which I used as my carry on bag).

favpurse

matching handmade bags for the WIN!

One thing to note about my version of the Favorite Purse is that I excluded the oval shaped side tabs. I had originally cut out the pieces and fully intended to add them (because they looked so cute!), but attaching the bias tape around the curved edges almost killed me. I had little time to spare so I just nixed them from my design (since they weren’t essential) and it turned out okay! 🙂

I also added a magnetic clasp to the front pocket (behind my label on the interior). I did not add a magnetic clasp to the back pocket (which looks the same as the front without a label) because it would be lying flat against me so would likely stay shut (and it did). I appreciated the back pocket not having a clasp because it actually made it more convenient for holding my plane tickets.

My zippers are a bit mismatched because I decided late Friday night that I’d spend the whole day Saturday constructing the purse. I knew if I went to the craft store for matching zippers in the morning, I’d be there for hours buying all sorts of other things and lose precious construction time. {I needed to be up early Sunday morning to drive to Charlotte to catch my flight. And I still hadn’t packed. Time was of the essence.}

The black zipper at the top is from The Zipper Shop on Etsy, the interior zipper (I used a 6 inch zipper and added fabric zipper tabs on each end so it fit the area I’d cut in the interior to attach) is from The Zipper Stop on Etsy, and the light blue zipper that you see on the front is a vintage zipper I picked up at an estate sale (never underestimate the goodies you can find at a garage or estate sale!).

On similar note, I recently ordered zippers from The Zipper Shop on Etsy. I love the selection and the quality of these zippers. The shop is located in North Carolina which also makes me happy (we Carolinas like to stick together 😉 #GeographyJoke) and the shop owner is super fast with shipping!

I just ordered these beauties and can’t wait to use them!

zipper

[Click the image to be taken to these zippers on Etsy]

I skipped making my own removable strap. Thanks to my obsession with vintage purses and the fact that many of them have removable straps (and my friend Emily who brings me straps she finds while thrifting!), I had a few on hand so I knew one was sure to work. I had a shorter leather luggage strap that Emily found a few months ago that worked perfect (thanks Emily!)! Since the bag is a good bit deeper than my usual cross-body bags + I’m a good bit shorter than the average person, this shorter strap was a life saver (because I couldn’t find an adjustable strap in my stash to match!).

Excluding the time it took to cut out and piece together the paper pieces (which wasn’t too bad) and cut the fabric pieces, the bag took a full day to construct (if you eliminate my coffee reheating breaks and a dinner break [yes, I forgot about lunch], it was probably close to 6-ish hours). That being said, it was totally worth it! I know I am going to get a lot of use out of this bag – it’s by far my most useful yet (because of all the pockets and the depth! It’s got the storage of a shoulder bag, but the comfortable wear and functionality of a cross-body bag…win!).

From the airport to the streets of the Inner Harbor (shopping, dining, sight seeing and wandering), this bag was perfect. It easily held all my necessities and even a few small souvenirs. It kept my plane tickets, room key, conference badge and other essentials organized and easily accessible so I wasn’t awkwardly digging around trying to find something when I needed it.

Oh, and here I am taking shameless elevator selfies after arriving to Baltimore {I just had to get an “in action” shot so you could see how fabulous this bag is!}:

travel bags

Matching handmade bags & my weirdest wolf shirt make for great travel attire 😉

Interested in making your own version of Melly Sews‘ Favorite Purse? Find the pattern here.