Northern Virginia is a wonderful place to shop. I doubt there are many places where you can find so much shopping so conveniently located. During my career at Apple Computer when I worked out of Reston, I would always try to bring my wife up for a holiday shopping trip.
Some of the trips stick in my mind. One particularly nice visit around 2000 was when our corporate hotel was the Ritz-Carlton in Tyson's II. We had a beautiful room, and we even got some snow and ice to strand us in the Ritz for 24 hours. I think we managed a dinner at Maggiano's and breakfast at one of the food court shops.
Fortunately the weather cleared so my wife could visit Tyson's I which is her favorite mall. There was a time when we would do a lot of holiday shopping, but now that our children are in their twenties and thirties, we only buy stocking presents.
With that in mind and some potential personal shopping for us, we made a visit to Reston just before Halloween this year. It was actually a great time to hit the stores. Our son took a day off from work and escorted us to Tyson's I. As always we were amazed at the variety of stores, and at how many people wander the malls.
Our first stop as always was LL Bean's. I made a quick trip to the men's department, found a pair of jeans, and then visited the sale racks where I found a couple of items. My wife was still checking out the ladies clothes with our son when I took off to visit the Apple Store. I wanted a copy of the newly released Microsoft Office for the Mac, and a firewire adapter cable. After getting those items, I managed to have some hands on time with the new MacBook Air systems.
While I love Apple hardware, even I find it hard to justify their pricing. I did finally buy my first new Mac in four years this fall. It was an I5 iMac, and it is a great machine, but I do have a few bones to pick with Apple over the design.
After my wife finally decided that there were no clothes in LL Bean's that she needed, I got her to swing by the Apple Store for a quick look at the iPad. It took her about one minute to decide that she would rather keep her laptop. She did tell me that if we won the lottery, I could buy her a new MacBook Air.
Our next stop was the Vera Bradley Store. I was pleased that they have a nice sofa for husbands. It is great to have a place to relax while all the patterns are examined and debated. The three ladies in our family are all multiple bag carrying Vera women. When they all end up traveling together it looks like a Vera Bradley convention.
The staff at the Vera Bradley Store even gave bottles of water to my son and me to keep us hydrated during our shopping experience. We managed to get out of the store without any purchases and wandered on through the mall.
I was surprised to see a Lego Store and a Steinway Store. We had lunch at Coastal Flats. I was amazed to find out that no cell phone worked there. According to my son, who is enough of a regular there to be welcomed by the staff, I guess it has something to do with the movie theater being above the restaurant. I am always suspicious in Northern Virginia when my cell phone doesn't work. I end up looking for unlabeled buildings that might be jamming my signal
It was a great lunch, and a nice follow-up to our dinner the night before at their sister restaurant, Sweetwater Taver. As we left the mall we visited a couple of children's stores to look for bargains for our granddaughter, and I made a stop at Levenger's just to look at all the neat things that I don't really need.
My wife made it through Tyson's I without buying anything. I was not surprised. She is a frugal shopper, and she will only buy something when she has found a deal.
She convinced me to drive by our old apartment (now condominium) just north of Tyson's on Chain Bridge Road. I shared the apartment in McLean for a couple of years with my daughter and son just after they got out of college and started working. Of course the road in the area has doubled or tripled in size. It must be ten lanes wide at least. As we passed our old home away from home, we noticed that the southbound lanes of Chain Bridge (Va. 123 or Dolly Madison) were completely stopped. We had planned on turning around and heading south, but we ended up taking Lewinsville Road back to Spring Hill Road so we could get on the Toll Road without sitting in Friday afternoon, grid-locked traffic.
Of course you rarely avoid even stop and go traffic in Northern Virginia. On the Toll Road back to Reston we had to exit at Hunter Mill Road to avoid stop and go rubber necking at an accident site. I guess all the construction for the transit system will make holiday shopping lots of fun.
When we got back to the townhouse, I got to go shopping in my son's closet. Both he and I have lost substantial weight so I was given a number of his outside jackets, a couple pair of jeans, and several short sleeved shirts. He buys great stuff, and it is sort of neat to be able to recycle stuff within the family. If we both keep losing weight, perhaps we can do it again next year.
That evening my wife treated the kids to a home cooked meal which we rustled up from ingredients purchased at the local Whole Foods. While I wouldn't make Whole Foods my only grocery store, it is certainly a treat once in a while. Where else could you find an ostrich egg when you need it?
Our entertainment to close the day was watching the Blueray version of Ironman 2 on my son's giant Sony TV. Saturday morning, our last day in town, we visited for a while, I used my portable, traveling electric blower to clean the leaves off the deck, and then we headed out for lunch at Chicken Out which used to be one of my evening favorites.
During our trip, we managed to hit most of our favorite spots, but we did not get to drive through Town Center or visit Trader Joe's. I was diappointed that the Reston Ritz Camera shop has closed, but I am sure that something will spring up to take it's place.
The Northern Virginia area continues to be a neat spot to visit and to live if the traffic doesn't get to you. We left Reston in early afternoon. In spite of being in stop and go traffic just north of Fredericksburg for twenty minutes on a Saturday afternoon no less, we were at the stoplight just north of the Emerald Isle Bridge only six hours later. It was a reasonable drive considering all things.
While we are headed into a cold spell of weather down here on the coast, I am glad that I will be missing holiday traffic during construction and winter weather on the Toll Road. The Southern Outer Banks feels like home these days, even when we get visited with some cold Canadian air. Things are pretty quiet this time of year along the beach, and it is always a pleasure to get back to pick-up-truck-sized parking spaces instead of the tiny Northern Virginia ones.
I will use the current cold weather as time to work on my HouseVision project and my real estate websites. We have had a busy fall in real estate, but after four years we are due some activity. Still I will look forward to my next trip to Northern Virgina, the shopping mecca of the US.
Spring will be here soon in the South, and when Northern Virginia thaws out in April, it might be time for another visit.