Last year, I took the dangerous step of posting pictures of where I went shopping for my wife's Christmas presents. The post, "Tale of shopping two cities," was about my experiences of shopping in Tyson's Corner, Va and Lexington, Va.
The Tyson's area is home to every conceivable store including all of the top end stores. There's even a LL Bean's, an Apple Store, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Company, Gucci and everything in between. A list of the malls in the Fairfax Virginia area confirms that Northern Virginia is shopping utopia.
That is if you can get through crowds. It's possible if you know the area well to shop, get in and out of the malls without too much hassle. My daughter, Erin, once took me on a highly successful holiday dish shopping trip to one of the malls. She knows the area like the back of her hand so it was painless shopping.
However, it can be intimidating for us rural types not from Northern Virginia. That being the case, last year, I reached a tipping point and gave up shopping in Tyson's and headed down Interstate 81 to the quiet streets of Lexington, Va.
In one respect I have been fortunate to travel up and down Interstate 81. Those trips gave me access to Rocky & Brenda's Gold and Silver Shop in Weyer's Cave, Va. I think it must be the only place in Virginia you can find a silver asparagus server in any pattern.
Another year I bought some antique salts in Blacksburg, Va. I have also had great luck tracking down Vera Bradley and other gifts in Mount Airy, NC which happens to be the location of the Sobotta Manor which is the wonderful bed and breakfast now established in our former family home.
The Roanoke area has some interesting shops outside the mall areas. Over the years I have enjoyed shopping in Provisions Gourmet and Countryside Classics in Salem. At one time I was even brave enough to shop in the Roanoke branch of Salem Creek. Last year my wife found "Ladles and Linens" which has some very interesting items.
My friend Stephen pointed out that Middleburg, Va. is a neat spot to shop. Based on my one visit there, "Middleburg, Dog Days, and The Red Fox Inn," I would have to agree.
I guess the reality is that every area has some neat spots. You just have to find them. I know that both Beaufort, NC and Swansboro, NC have plenty of neat stores. Unfortunately my wife has seen them enough this year to know almost every item on the shelves. That left me on the coast of North Carolina looking for interesting and inexpensive gifts.
It did not take the "Holiday traffic headache" article in today's Jacksonville Daily News to convince me that 60,000 cars a day go down Western Boulevard where most of the shopping is located. I was trapped there much earlier in the year one Saturday afternoon. That being the case, Jacksonville was ruled out as a shopping location.
Fortunately my trips to Wilmington led me by the Blue Moon Showcase. I managed to spend some time there, and I think I have hit pay dirt. It is nice to be out of the danger zone since I have found most of those all important Christmas presents for my wife.
Thirty three years and fortunately I still haven't run out of unique spots to buy my wonderful wife a few tokens of my love. Of course she might argue about the gifts she got from the Salem Northern Tool & Equipment one year. Then again she now seems to respond quickly to the annual Christmas gift list request.