Virginia days (21): Departure

On the way to D.C., my BFF, Miss Fairy, and I dropped in at Five Guys and I had a yummy cheeseburger.

We arrived at our hotel in the evening. Entering the guest room, we found everything the same as eight days before. (No wonder! We stayed at the same hotel.) This made me think that the whole trip might have been a dream! Indeed, everything seemed too good to be true. Perhaps, I might have taken a nap in the room eight days before and had a dream of traveling with my BFF and Miss Fairy.

We went to the lounge and had a chat over a cup of tea. We looked back at what we had done during my stay in Virginia. I was surprised at how many things we had done.

The next morning, I found letters on the desk. They were from my BFF. One was for my father and the other was for me. I put them in my bag.

We had breakfast downstairs and went to the airport. We entered a café near the check-in counter and kept chatting until the last minute.

It was really hard to say goodbye to my BFF and Miss Fairy, but I had to. (Even now, just remembering the scene makes me sad.) When I was walking toward the gate, I found a message from Mr. M on my smartphone. Even though I couldn’t see the family, I felt protected by them.

I read the letter from my BFF on the airplane. It was encouraging. I remembered my BFF had always encouraged me since I was a student, and had always been my role model. Her words had always been my treasure.

On the plane, I watched Spiderman movies which Miss Fairy had recommended. The time passed quickly. Before I knew it, I was flying over Hokkaido.

East coast of Hokkaido
The Hidaka mountain range
Funka Bay and Lake Toya
Hakodate was barely visible.

I arrived in Japan. My husband picked me up at the airport. At home, Tiffany was waiting. My husband had prepared dinner for me. During dinner and after that, I was busy talking about all the experiences I had during the trip.

Since the trip, I have always been dreaming of the day when my BFF and her family will come and visit us in Japan. Now I’m enjoying looking for attractive locations and experiences for them!


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Virginia days (20): Meadow Farm

The next morning, while my BFF was away from home doing her volunteer work, Miss Fairy and I watched “Friends” in the living room. We laughed a lot. After that, I asked Mr. M to play the guitar. I remembered him playing the guitar 23 years before. His music was so impressive and unforgettable that I was eager to listen to it again. He played two guitars: an electric guitar and a steel guitar. His music was accurate, cool, and beautiful. Puppy and I loved the little concert. We were his big fans! (Back in Japan, I showed the videos of his performance to my husband, who also plays the guitar. He admired it, too!)

My BFF came back from her volunteer work and we had lunch together, when Luca came to me and said goodbye. Mr. M and Luca were going to a baseball game. I was going to miss them because I knew it was the last time to see them before leaving for Japan.

It was a perfect day for a stroll. My BFF, Miss Fairy, Puppy and I visited a historic site called Meadow Farm. The farm had been owned by seven generations of the Sheppard family since the early 1700s.

Around the mid 19th century, tobacco was grown here and sold at the market in Richmond. This log tobacco barn was built in the early 20th century and relocated to Meadow Farm in 2001. It is similar to those from the 19th century.

On the farm, I saw several kinds of animals living in peace. I was impressed with their loving attitudes.

Afterwards, we went back home. It was about time to leave for Washington D.C. I got ready and took some photos of Puppy on the backyard deck. It was hard to say goodbye to Puppy.

My BFF, Miss Fairy, and I dropped in at the public library. We met one of my BFF’s friends again. She wished me safe travels and I wished her the best of luck on her exam. (Later, I was delighted to hear that she had achieved her goal! Congratulations!)

With a lot of wonderful memories of Virginia, we got in the car and hit the road to D.C.

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (19): Swift Creek Reservoir

In the evening, my BFF, her family and I went to the Swift Creek Reservoir. We met up with Mr. M’s mother, Mrs. M there. The reservoir was built in 1965 as a public water supply for Chesterfield County. It had a scenic view.

We went to a restaurant called the Boathouse Sunday Park by the reservoir. It was just before sunset. So the sky and the water were changing color every second.


My BFF, Miss Fairy, and I went down to the shore and saw a breathtaking view. I liked the gradation of pastel colors. It was the most impressive dusk scenery I had ever seen.


We went back to the restaurant. They gave Luca a coloring set. He colored a sheet of paper with crayons and made a hat of it. It was cool! He has a good sense of color. I ordered shrimp tacos with fresh vegetables. We had a happy time in the nice restaurant.


After dinner we went to Mrs. M’s new home. The moment we entered the apartment, her doggie welcomed us, wagging her tail. She was such a cutie! I was enchanted by the beautiful, immaculate apartment. Mrs. M kindly took me on a house tour. I liked how she decorated the walls with her family photos. I understood how affectionately her children, including Mr. M, had been brought up.

I really loved her home. It was a dreamlike place. Everything was sophisticated. I liked the colors of the walls, which were pale blue, and the fabrics. Indeed, she had chosen yellow fabrics and made curtains herself. The colors and textures of the antique furniture perfectly matched the home. The furniture was what she and her family had long cherished.

After coming back to the living room, I gave her some origami paper as a souvenir from Japan and tried to show her how to make an origami crane. However, it slipped my mind because I had not made origami for ages. The first one I made by accident was not a crane but Pacman the Muncher, which I had never expected. I wanted to show her a crane and tried again and again. I finally made one, but with a lot of wrinkles on it. I was embarrassed. Fortunately, Mrs. M and the spectators (my BFF and Mr. M) were kind enough to laugh it off.

After the origami demonstration, we sat at a large table and had delicious pumpkin cake together. The table was decorated for Halloween. We had a peaceful, relaxing time.

As is often the case with me, when I get inspired by a beautiful home, I feel like rushing to my apartment to clean it up and decorate it! Back in Japan, I am still thinking about home decors.

A scene from Mrs. M’s home

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (18): Bird’s eye views

After leaving Capitol Square, Mr. M and I went to the new city hall. The building has an observation deck which commands splendid views of Richmond and its surrounding areas. We went up to the 18th floor and enjoyed unobstructed views in all directions.

City Hall
The tallest building in Richmond, James Monroe Building
Capitol Square

After leaving the City Hall, we got in the car and drove to Shockoe Bottom. We went through a historic neighborhood on East Main Street, which showcased colorful buildings standing neatly in a row.


We saw the Craig House. It is said to be the second oldest structure in Richmond, built between 1784 and 1787.


We also found the oldest stone house in Richmond, reportedly built in 1737. As the plaque says, this building has been serving as the Edgar Allan Poe Museum since 1924.

Plaque on the stone wall
Entrance to the Poe Museum
Beautiful yard

I enjoyed exploring both the center of Richmond and the historic districts around it. I was fascinated about the architecture and townscape of Richmond. I want to go back and learn more about Richmond.

Finally, we went to Hollywood Cemetery, which is the resting place of two U.S. Presidents. The cemetery is in quiet and serene woods on a hill. Overlooking the gentle flow of the James River and feeling the soft breeze on the hill, I felt as if I were in a different world where time passed more slowly.

Thanks to Mr. M’s perfect itinerary and navigation, the trip to Richmond was a superb experience!

The James River
The James River and downtown

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (17): Capitol Square

Mr. M and I came to the very center of Richmond.


We parked the car near the John Marshall House. This building used to be the home of John Marshall (1755-1835), who was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He resided here for 45 years, during which Lafayette visited him in 1824.


We walked to Old City Hall. The building was built in 1894 and served as the city hall from that year through the 1970s. The architecture is magnificent in every detail inside and out. It is featured by its High Victorian Gothic design.


Old City Hall leads to an area called Capitol Square. It includes historically and architecturally important buildings. Near Old City Hall, there is an elegant building called Morson’s Row, a set of three rowhouses built in 1853.


After Morson’s Row, we saw Virginia Executive Mansion designed by Alexander Parris in 1811. The residence has served as the home of Virginia’s governors. It has also hosted many renowned people as guests.


Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services


U.S. Court of Appeals


Above all, I was impressed with the beauty of the Virginia State Capitol. It sits on the top of the hill in a dignified manner. The building was co-designed by Thomas Jefferson and the French architect Charles-Louis Clerisseau. It was modeled after an ancient Roman temple. Reportedly, that was because Thomas Jefferson wanted their architecture to be “independent” from the British colonial style, which was prevalent in those days.

State Capitol built in 1788
Lovely fountain near the capitol

Another Founding Father, George Washington is on the Virginia Washington Monument (unveiled in 1869).


Across the monument stands St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Greek Revival style, which was established in 1845.


This is the back of Old City Hall, which looked as solemn and magnificent as its front.


(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (16): Church Hill

After leaving Carytown, Mr. M and I headed toward Church Hill. However, since we were kind of hungry, we went to lunch first. Unfortunately, the restaurant we were going to was closed. The building was once an old powerplant which provided electricity to old trolley cars, but now it is an amazing restaurant. Situated on the bank of the James River, it commands a fine view of downtown Richmond.


We went to another restaurant nearby, Conch Republic Rocketts. Everything on the menu looked delicious. Because I had already eaten a lot of sandwiches until then, I decided to try a salad this time. And I got this (in the picture below). To my surprise, it was a sandwich, NOT a salad! (Now I understand that if the dish contains a lot of fresh vegetables, they call it a salad.) Anyway, my “salad sandwich” was delicious! I confirmed how much I loved American sandwiches regardless of the ingredients.


After lunch, we went back to our exploration. We saw several historic sites related to the American Revolution and the Civil War.

This is St. John’s Episcopal Church. It was built in 1741. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry delivered the famous “Liberty or Death” speech, calling for the independence of America.

Brick fence and wooden wall

In the graveyard, Edgar Allan Poe’s mother is buried.


During the Civil War, much of the city of Richmond was on fire, so there are not so many old buildings remaining in the city. However, away from the center, you can find old buildings that were used as hospitals during the Civil War here and there. The building in the first picture below used to be a tobacco factory, which was used as a civil war hospital called Third Alabama Hospital. The second picture also used to be a civil war hospital, which is now an apartment building.


In this way, old buildings have been restored and modernized for current use. I learned some history of Richmond and the U.S. through those buildings.

I enjoyed looking at buildings in the Church Hill area. There were beautiful houses in a variety of styles.

Over 200-year-old building
Houses with lacy decorations

I liked the townscape. I noticed most of the utility poles were made of wood. They looked natural, blending with the surroundings.


We reached the top of the hill and saw a magnificent view of downtown Richmond. The tallest building is the James Monroe Building. The structure with a long black roof is Richmond Station. After breathing some fresh air, we went down the hill toward downtown Richmond.


(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (15): Carytown

My BFF’s husband, Mr. M drove me to downtown Richmond. He was a wonderful guide! Our first destination was Carytown. We walked along W Cary Street. There were attractive businesses on the street, including formal dress and vintage clothing shops. We dropped by some specialty shops. In one of them, we found a funny doll, which made us laugh. In a chocolate shop, which was full of mouth-watering smells, we found our favorite European chocolates. We stopped by a fair trade store, too.

It was fun to stroll along the street, while looking at the colorful, charming facades, humorous posters on the store windows, and cute graffiti on the sidewalk.

Colorful facades

We passed by the Byrd Theatre, which is Richmond’s oldest movie theater built in 1928. Carytown is a fabulous place to get to know old and contemporary American cultures.


(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (14): Halloween decorations

My BFF took me to a restaurant called “SB’s Lakeside Love Shack”, which is located in Hub Shopping Center, the oldest shopping center in Henrico County. The shop was decorated with Halloween ornaments inside and out. The BLT sandwich I ordered was out-of-this-world delicious! I love American sandwiches! Geez, how many sandwiches have I eaten since I arrived in the U.S.?

Hub Shopping Center
Popular restaurant, Love Shack
Yummy BLT

After lunch, I went to a public library to do some research. I spent the whole afternoon there. There was a fireplace in the room. It was a very comfortable place to study. In the late afternoon, my BFF picked me up at the library and went home.


In the evening, we had dinner and decorated the house with Halloween decorations – a lot of pumpkins, not scary but cute ghosts, witches, spiders… We also put the pumpkins we had gotten at the pumpkin patch on the porch. The house looked very different from the day before!


I slept in the next morning. I got up late and went to the kitchen to find a note on the kitchen counter. My BFF had already gone to work. I ate raspberry yogurt, corn grits, and some fruit for breakfast. Now that I was full, I was ready for a trip to downtown Richmond.

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (13): Back to botanical garden

The next morning began with a leisurely breakfast. My BFF and I talked about our old memories back in Europe 23 years ago. We confirmed how the experiences we had gained there influenced our careers and lives in each of our countries. For both of us, the experiences have special importance. As for me, they not only made me what I am, but also nurtured the great friendship with my BFF.

After breakfast, we went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden again. I was introduced to some staff members. They were all kind and supportive. I had a chance to see the interior of a beautiful historic building called Bloemendaal House. I loved the architecture and decorations. I especially liked the warmth of the wood.


I liked the contrast between the light green walls and the white frameworks.

I also liked this room. It is used as the bride’s room at weddings.

What a fancy vanity table!
I was attracted to this corner. It looked like a good place for writing.

On that day, a TV show was being taped in the conservatory. It was about how to grow cacti. I respect horticulturists and gardeners who grow plants and keep them healthy. They must be patient and loving. After seeing the taping, I went back to the rose garden to take some pictures. The morning roses looked different from those I had last seen. They looked fresh and pretty.

I felt a bit chilly, so I went to the library in the garden. I sat in an armchair in front of the fireplace which was already on. It felt warm and cozy. I spent some time reading a book there.

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (12): At home and bookstores

After coming home from the garden, my BFF cooked a delicious dinner. Her freshly baked bread, spicy pork, and sweet potatoes with cinnamon were exquisite! I only helped with a salad. She is really good at roasting and baking in the oven. What is more, she is well-organized and cooks quickly!

Spicy pork
Sweet potato with cinnamon
Salad, the only dish which I helped with

The next morning, I ate corn grits for breakfast. I loved them with cheese and pepper added, as my BFF recommended.

Corn grits

On that day, I spent a whole day at a bookstore, Barnes & Noble. I entered the store as soon as it opened. I spent a lot of time in the business, science, and education sections. Luckily, I found some good books for my research. I was so excited to be surrounded by a whole bunch of books in the store that I totally forgot about the time. Before I knew it, it was mid-afternoon. I took a rest at Starbucks Coffee inside the bookstore. I had a bagel and chai tea. After the break, I continued to search for more books upstairs.

Bagel and chai tea

I left the bookstore early in the evening. My BFF picked me up. I showed her the books I had bought and explained excitedly how they were interesting to me.

After arriving home, I was with Miss Fairy and observed how a high school student studied at home. As a teacher, I was interested in school education in the U.S. She was studying world history, and it was definitely  in a Gen Z way! She showed how she used her computer to complete and submit her homework and to contact teachers. In addition, she kindly showed me how to create quizzes online, so that I could develop good educational materials. She was tech-savvy.

Afterwards, my BFF, Mr. M, and I started cooking. My BFF cooked black beans, I cut vegetables, and Mr. M. grilled shrimp. The dinner was colorful and delicious!

Black beans
Grilled shrimp
Grilled shrimp tacos (if you wrap them up!)

There were two more exciting events that evening.

First, my BFF’s neighbor, Ms. L visited us along with her friend and dog. She gave me some pine cone flowers of her own making, which were very heart-warming and pretty. We sat in the living room and enjoyed chatting. How nice it was being with such nice people and their sweet dog!

Second, my BFF’s family and I went to 2nd & Charles, which sells used books and other interesting items such as toys and old postcards. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the books I had wanted. However, it was intriguing to see American culture there.

What a fulfilling day it was!

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (11): Botanical garden 2

In the botanical garden, I enjoyed a scenic walk on a winding path in the lush woods. I saw some squirrels nimbly running around and woodpeckers busily pecking. There were benches here and there. How wonderful it would be to read a book sitting on a bench under a tree!


The path led me to a pretty garden, where the garden staff were planting young pansies. Near this garden, I found an elegant hand-carved gazebo built as early as the 19th century.

Hand-carved gazebo

I found autumn decorations made of natural materials around the carriage house. The last time I came here in December 2017, it was freezing cold. I remember drinking hot chocolate, which warmed me up, and having a nice conversation with a staff member there. In autumn, the atmosphere was very different with colored leaves. The garden in autumn was warm, pleasant, and graceful.

Cute graffiti

It was also nice to walk around the lake. The lake was picturesque from any viewpoint, but I especially liked the view with a tree house. There was also a Japanese garden by the lake. I imagined how wonderful it would be if my BFF visited Japan someday and we could explore Japanese gardens together.

Lake and tree house
Japanese garden

(To be continued…)

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Virginia days (10): Botanical garden 1

That evening, my BFF and I visited her friend’s home. She welcomed us in a very friendly and warm-hearted manner. I met her sweet children, too. While I was staying with them, I learned many important things, which would influence my view of life and career in the future. I will never forget her warm hospitality.

The next morning, I wanted to bring stuff back to my friends in Japan, so I went on a shopping spree at Kroger, a US grocery store. I bought some soap bars, wax melts, scent bags, as well as some Halloween and Thanksgiving cards. The soap smelled like shea butter and vanilla; and the wax melts and scent bags had vanilla and cinnamon scents. I really like spicy American fragrances, so I wanted to take them back home. No wonder my suitcase was full of American fragrances!

Pumpkins on sale at supermarket

After that, I went to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. First, I had a salad out on the patio of the café. The weather was nice and perfect for an outdoor lunch.

Garden Café
Garden salad with fresh vegetables

After lunch, I enjoyed strolling around the garden and taking pictures of flowers. I explored, while looking at the map. I liked walking through the rose garden, the serene woods, and along the lake. I saw some schoolchildren led by their teachers. In some areas, I saw older people once in a while, and we said hello to each other. I could tell how much the botanical garden was loved by people of all ages. In other areas, I was alone. I sometimes felt as if I had the garden to myself. What a luxurious time it was!


The way leading to the conservatory was full of pink and purple flowers.


I finally reached the conservatory. At the entrance, there was a small lotus pond. Inside the building, there were various cacti and orchids, which were all well maintained.


Walking through the conservatory door, I stepped onto a walkway where some inspiring words were engraved. I liked every word. These were words I really wanted to cherish in my life.


Now I came to a rose garden. It had more than 1,500 roses. They were just in full bloom!


(To be continued…)

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