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Gardens and Graves

..in and around the Capital


A long overdue family visit motivates a two week break to Virginia. We are driving and stopping in Alexandria, for several days. Alexandria, Old Town...a quaint historic city with brick-paved sidewalks, plenty of shopping including unique handmade goods, homemade ice cream, gourmet chocolate... dozens of wonderful restaurants and nightlife galore. Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread) a wonderful choice for breakfast where we share a Paris ham and Gruyere Omlette with fresh parsley accompanied by a mesclun salad, a slice of whole grain bread as well as a slice of baguette and a Belgian waffle with rhubarb compote/fresh whipped cream.. Excellent. We begin our stroll down King Street and meander through town enjoying the shops and the old world atmosphere. The waterfront area has some residual flooding from Hurricane Jacquim but we "puddlejump" and make it into the Torpedo Factory (overlooking the Potomic River) in spite of the flooding. In 1919, this building was a naval munitions plant where torpedoes were produced for WWll. By the end of the war it was used for government storage until it was purchased and converted to studio space and became The Torpedo Factory. Today there are 82 Studios, 6 Galleries and approximately 165 artists. Visitors can meet the artist, watch them work and purchase their original works of art. The Art League is also housed in the building which helps the community through its out-reach programs, art school and art supply store. For more information... www.torpedofactory.com Alexandria is a global kitchen of ethnic food. Something for everyone! Dinner is at a Lebanese restaurant where we share a sampler platter and enjoy a tasting of a variety of delicacies including falafel, baba ghanoush, fool and gyro. We finish with Turkish coffee and the best Baklava we have ever had, followed by a leasurely walk back to the hotel where we call it a day and plan our schedule for tomorrow's visit to Washington, D.C.


Travelling on the Metro is extremely "pedestrian-friendly"....except for getting the metro card. Everything is automated. A machine charges $10, takes only credit cards and $10 bills. That is it. Tourists are leary of using their credit cards and many only have $20 bills which the machine does not accept. So, people are running around looking for change and trying to get answers to questions on how this metro card works. One woman has a husband in a wheelchair that won't fit between the entry but there is nobody to ask how she can get him on the train. Quite a bit of confusion at this point but once we have our cards, the rest is a breeze. The system is color coded, so its a no fail, at least for some. It's about a fifteen minute train ride from the King Street Old Town station in Alexandria to Washington, DC. We need to hop on the blue line and ride to the Metro Center in Washington. I travel with a senior citizen who acts like he's a bored 11 year old. First he says, "did you know this card only has $8.00 on it?! We were charged $2.00 for the card." Ok, well..we don't have much choice here. He continues to inform me of his concern about the card with..."we don't even know how much the fare is one way. We may have to buy another card for the way back." The man already told us it was good both ways but since Rick doesn't understand it EXACTLY...he doesn't trust the mans statement. I tell him we will figure it out on the way back. I would like to sit back and enjoy the ride. Next question is "do you see that guy over there with the yellow tie?" I nod yes. "Are those palms trees on his tie?" Again, I nod yes. "How many palms tress do you think are on that tie?"( I'm sure you know exactly how many palm trees are on the tie). A short while later he says, "See those cards that guy is holding in his left hand?" I say "yes". He says "well, he keeps flipping them". I look, notice that he is indeed flipping them and mention to Rick that he may be learning a new language or studying something. He could be reading affirmations. Who knows! I finally had to tell my inquisitive partner that for me travelling with him is like travelling with an annoying child. He starts laughing, he thinks I'm joking ( I'm not ). Someone is reading a book entitled "Open". Rick says to me, "do you know what I would write on the back cover if I made up that book cover?" I ask "what?".."Closed" he says. ( That was a pretty good one). We arrive at the Metro center, make our way to town and book a trolley tour through Washington. We learn some history while the driver points out the historic sites during his narration. We hop off the trolley at the National Mall and I'm already noticing some beautiful gardens and landscaping, Gardens everywhere around the Smithsonian. Gardens on the way to the Holocaust Museum as well as beautiful gardens around buildings and homes throughout the city. We visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum...very interesting and a must see if you come to Washington. We see all the famous landmarks and decide to stop at Arlington National Cemetery. We visit John F. Kennedy's grave and the eternal flame. We see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Today there were 29 funerals in the cemetery. Lots to see and take in. The visit definitely leaves an impression. Quite a moving experience when you can see how much the fight for freedom costs. Back in Old Town..dinner is fish and chips and a Guiness at Eammons, A Dubln Chipper. The fish was wonderful and the different sauces were just as wonderful. I chose an olive and caper mayo. Rick had a Chesapeake sauce which was mayo, ketchup and Bay seasoning. Hand cut fries, best we've had yet. A walk back to the hotel and a good nights rest for tomorrows adventure. You definitely need good walking shoes for D.C. We tour the American History Museum and the Lincoln Memorial and reflecting pool. There is so much to see that it requires several trips to the National Mall and Washington, D.C. in general to really get to see everything. There is an interesting display (one of many) at the Smithsonian Castle...a display of the layout of the National Mall and Washington, D.C.....in Braille. Also a must-see if you visit the Smithsonian Castle is the Moon Gate garden. In the middle of a city... tranquility exists. There are also great sculptures and artwork throughout the city.


We are exhausted, head back to the Metro and back to our hotel in Alexandria, pack our bags and prepare for the second leg of our trip to Richmond, VA to see the family. We are celebrating a 70th birthday and also bringing some love and laughter to a favorite niece who has a serious medical issue and has been thru the mill (so to speak) as has the rest of the family. We see some sites in Richmond with family members, reminisce, tell stories old and new and have quite a few laughs....Its the best medicine, so they say. I, for one, do believe that. The outlook is good at this point... so... positive energy is flowing!

On a previous trip to China we met a group of six people from India who also live in Virginia. We had a wonderful time and great memories from that trip. We are able to touch base, coordinate our schedules and meet with them for dinner. As it turns out we are invited to their BEAUTIFUL home, we get the VIP tour of the Cultural Center they built, had a delicious Indian breakfast called UPMA and a wonderful visit to say the least.

We leave for New York but not without a visit to Monticello. Thomas Jefferson's home... what a beauty she is. The house and grounds are so beautiful, (I did get the nickel shot), of course the history is very interesting and again...the gardens (I'm into the gardens) are gorgeous. There is no other way to describe it. On the walk back to the car we visit Jefferson's grave at the family cemetery.


We take the scenic ride back to New York through Pennsylvania. It was recommended and certainly worth the trip but next time we plan on staying overnite at some point to break up that long 10 1/2 hour ride to New York!

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 15:42 Archived in USA Tagged street town factory king old le alexandria virginia pain torpedo quotidien

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Alexandria is one of my favorite US cities. I used the Torpedo Factory as a model for the artist's space in my novel Hardscrabble Way.

by teethetrav

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