In Search of Friendly Coffee Shops (in Fredericksburg, VA)


So far, this is one of my favorites. The Hyperion, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is just at the limit of being too far to go to just for a few hours’ work on my day off. 50 miles each way is a little far for a half day. Gotta save this one for the whole-day excursions. When you work from home, however, you realize the value of having a change of scenery. No matter how nice the view from your window (and let’s face it, most views aren’t that great, although I’m lucky that way) it gets a little monotonous after a while. Go to a café, on the other hand, and you can people-watch when you need a break from looking at the screen. Go to one café often enough and you start recognizing the regulars, exchanging nods of greeting with them when you come and go… kind of like when you work in a large office. The other patrons and the staff take the place of the colleagues you’d otherwise exchange a few friendly words with every once in a while. Plus, call me strange if you like, but I sometimes find total silence more distracting than a pleasant background buzz of music and conversation.

Of course, a café has to meet certain prerequisites if one is to comfortably work there. Most importantly, it has to have an atmosphere that’s friendly to patrons who come there to work. In other words, not every café owner wants quiet people with laptops camped out for hours, taking up space and not spending that much money over the course of the day. These types generally make it pretty clear by doing things like not making power outlets available to their customers or not providing free WiFi. It’s understandable and I can’t blame them for it. There should be different kinds of cafés, and some should be more conducive to socializing than working. In some countries there are no cafés where you feel comfortable pulling out a computer. Indeed, that’s one of the things I missed most when I lived in Italy – being able to go someplace and sit for a few hours out of the weather, reading a book, writing or just relaxing. Such a thing is a true boon, especially when you are traveling and need a place other than a hotel room to relax in for a little while.

The Hyperion offers the best of both worlds. The front room is furnished with big, communal tables and full of the noise of conversation and music. Once you go into the back room, however, you discover that the sound system hasn’t even been wired to reach there (I love that!). Even the largest tables there are small enough that you don’t feel rude taking a whole one for yourself, and nearly each one is equipped with its own power outlet. Ah! This is café-writer bliss, indeed. What makes it even better is that the coffee is actually really good. IMG_9615

I know, despite all that, you may think I’m nuts to make a round trip of a hundred miles just for a quiet day in a coffee shop with a cup of joe. This is why I’ve begun doing some exploratory excursions to find others closer to home. Don’t worry. I’ll be sharing my findings with you.

I’ll meet you back here for a cup of coffee soon.

Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by.

– Jennifer

Here is a link I stumbled across while writing this post. It’s to a post by a blogger in Singapore. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who has made the quest for ideal cafés into an international pursuit.

What to Do When It’s Raining (or Snowing) in Fredericksburg, Virginia

IMG_6791Anyone who knows me knows that two of life’s greatest pleasures for me are books and coffee – and I have a definite weak spot for any place that can combine both. Whether they be neighborhood coffee shops with shelves of second-hand books for customers or bookshops with couches and caffeine on demand, be they big or small, sophisticated or down-to-earth, it’ll be hard to drag me back out of the door once I find them. In any town I’ve ever visited or city I’ve ever lived in, I generally found them all within a matter of days or even hours. And what better and cozier thing is there to do on a snowy (or rainy) day?

Sidewalk temptation

Sidewalk temptation

As you can see, when I first discovered the Griffin Bookshop and Coffee Bar, we were at the tail end of summer. The trees were still cloaked in brilliant, living green and, if anything, I was looking for a place to escape the heat of the late-August sun. Still, on this snowy March day, I would love to be curled up in a corner of the Griffin with a steaming cup of coffee, surrounded by its seemingly endless shelves of books. The front room has tables devoted to subjects ranging from new fiction to local interest. In the back, behind the coffee-bar, a further two rooms are stuffed to the ceiling with shelves where books are arranged alphabetically and by subject-matter, as neatly as in any library.

Yours Truly enjoys two of her favorite things in the world: a cup of coffee and a nearly endless supply of reading material.

Yours Truly enjoys two of her favorite things in the world: a cup of coffee and a nearly endless supply of reading material.

The feeling, however, is more as if I’d wandered into the private reading rooms of some wealthy intellectual who has, inexplicably, given me the run of his home for the day.

The smallest reading room at the Griffin looks more like a private sitting room than the back room of a coffee shop,

The smallest reading room at the Griffin looks more like a private sitting room than the back room of a coffee shop

A garden for fair-weather reading, a most excellent pastime

A garden for fair-weather reading, a most excellent pastime

They also have a little, brightly colored and carpeted nook of a room off the main reading room where everything – from the decor to the size of the furniture to the choice of reading material – has been chosen for the very youngest of readers. Seeing it was enough to make we wish I’d had a chance to be a kid in Fredericksburg. And the Griffin’s not just a welcome refuge when the weather’s bad, either. Their tables out front and the marvelous back garden make this a perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon in the springtime. A soon as this snow melts, I think I’m going to have to head back for a day. Call me strange, but I’ll drive an hour and a half for a good coffee shop any day…

Here’s wishing you all somewhere as cozy to wait out these last days of winter.

Until next time, stay warm and keep a good book close to hand!

– Jennifer

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