Sunday, January 21, 2018

MLK Day Weekend | Richmond Originals + the Terracotta Army

January 13-15, 2018

Over the Christmas holiday as I was talking to my grandparents about my then upcoming move to Washington D.C., my nana remarked that the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond was temporarily hosting an exhibit of the famed Terracotta Army and that we should go visit it together. I agreed, we set a date, and fast forward a few weeks, we met up in Richmond on a cold Saturday morning.

The last time I visited Richmond was with my family years ago - possibly middle school - and we were there for a conference so there was no time to explore the city. This time, I took the opportunity to do a little sightseeing, and by sightseeing, I mean eating. I stopped in at the original Sugar Shack, ordering more donuts than was probably necessary, then hopped over Lamplighter Coffee Roasters by VCU for a coffee. The area around VCU is gorgeous, with rows and rows of beautiful homes, and I wish I had planned my time better to be able to roam the streets (next time!).

I met up with my grandparents right as VMFA opened for the day, which we'd planned so we could buy tickets before the line got too long. As we stepped up to the front of the line, the man behind the counter asked, "Any military? Students?" to see if he could discount us the tickets. My nana mentioned that my grandfather was retired military, to which the man rather regretfully said, "Oh sorry, it has to be active duty," then deliberated a few seconds and changed his mind, saying, "Oh actually it's fine," handing us three free tickets. We were stunned - even an active duty discount only dropped the price $5 - but he waved us on quickly and said, "Just go, keep going," and so we walked on, surprised by our turn of luck.

We spent the next hour or so walking around the Terracotta Army exhibit - after getting a free audio guide, because apparently it was our day - and marveled at how much the First Emperor of China was able to accomplish in his reign. Often people think of ancient times as unsophisticated and the people who lived in them unintelligent, but time and time again it's been seen that people in ancient times had the potential to be just as smart and capable as people are today. In his reign, the First Emperor unified all the separate regions of China, introduced a single currency, standardised units of measurement, expanded the Great Wall, and constructed a massive national road system.  Ancient history isn't really my thing, but I found the exhibit fascinating.

We spent the next couple of hours walking around the museum - I had never been before but had wanted to visit for a couple of years. The museum currently has a temporary exhibit of Steilen's cats, which I loved, and their permanent collection is incredible. We didn't see everything but we did walk through the modern art, Faberge, art deco, and Tiffany lamps & glass sections. I've been to enough art museums to know what I'll actually enjoy and remember afterwards, and so while we skipped entire sections we didn't miss anything I wanted to see.

We had thought the museum would take longer to walk through, so my grandparents booked a hotel in Richmond for the night. Even though we were done by early afternoon, we went through with our original plan, trying to find something to do in the afternoon and settling on visiting a local mall - a dead one, as it turned out - before staying closer to the hotel for the rest of the evening. The next morning I was back up to D.C. and they were back down to their home, and I spent the rest of my day visiting some old summer haunts in Del Rey.

Monday was MLK Day, which meant I had Monday off work. I spent it doing everything I can't normally do on a work day - primarily, sleeping in later and wearing leggings all day (comfort is everything). After spending the first half of the weekend doing more exciting things, it was a good chance to slow down a little and relax the rest of the time, the way I would an ordinary weekend. There's something about a holiday weekend that makes the shortened work week somehow seem even longer than a normal one, but even so, I was happy to get a long weekend off so soon after moving to the area.

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