Tuesday, January 27, 2009

DC 0.5

On the way to the Capital.

The day started gloriously sunny, as usual, but soon thickened into an English greyness, which is unusual in these parts.

I woke up with a painful lower back for no obvious reason, so I called a taxi to come take me to Penn Station, rather than fighting with stairs and anyway, my suitcase was too heavy for me even at 100%.

The train was quiet, comfortable, peaceful, clean, and felt very safe. The other passengers refrained from talking on the phone, some slept, some stared out the window, did work, read, or listened to their iPods. It almost felt as though I had the car to myself.

There is something retro about the design of the diesel cars, and very similar to American Airlines - both shiny metal tubes with red, white, and blue stripes down the middle. In fact, it did feel like a plane more than a train because there was no clackety clack, it just flew along the track. The interior was very airline-like too, though the seats were the softest I've ever sat in, anywhere. Three and a half hours sitting and I forgot I even had a bum, they were that comfy.

We passed through about 4 states, stopped at two airports, and made stops along the way in New Jersey; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; Baltimore, Maryland; and finally Washington, D.C.

This is what I saw:

The Chesapeake Bay off the Maryland coast.
An abandoned power station near Philadelphia.
Every station we stopped at had a sign that pointed to Boston one way and Washington the other, well I wonder which way I was going?

First I did the crossword in the Amtrak Arrive magazine, then I read it. Gordon Ramsay was being interviewed, and I never knew he was actually nice to people in real life. Then I flipped through the railway version of the Sky Mall magazine. There are things in those magazines you never knew you needed and you go through all the phases of wanting them, envisioning them in the house you will have one day, talking yourself out of it, and then forgetting about them all until the next time you travel and pick up the evil magazine in the back of the seat.

The parts of Philly and Baltimore I saw from the train look like Harlem or the Bronx did 20 years ago: abandoned lots, burnt out boarded up rowhouses, and so on, but this is only following on the boarded up factories and steel plants. They both seem to have more graffiti than NYC. The graffiti cops, having done their job up in Noo Yawk, need to move down there now. You can see the new attempts at revitalization, like many cities nowadays. You know, riverside warehouse condos, etc.

The odd thing about Baltimore is that, even though it is in Maryland,
which is part of the South, it feels like a northern town. And indeed
it did seem as though it is on the border. Maybe this is why these
states (Md, Va, DC) are known as the mid-Atlantic states, because of
the dichotomy between North and South here.

The further south we went, industry began to fall away and it felt less gritty. In Maryland there were extensive swathes of fields, just fields, winding roads along winding rivers, belts of trees, some white picket fence villages, two cows, scattered homesteads, docks on water, and boats. When you live in a city you forget that it is still possible to leave a tract of land unused...

Finally we pulled into Union Station and I got on the Metro to Dupont Circle where my hostess CC picked me up and dropped me off at the house before heading back to work. It was very nice of her to do that.

I am staying in Glover Park, near Georgetown, in one of the cutest houses I have ever stepped foot in. It looks small from the front, but it goes on forever at the back, where the front two levels expands into four because it's built into a hill.

I met the dog Carlye (a thinker with a tail of iron), and the cats Carrot (a silent socializer) and Melly (a talkative recluse).
Carrots looooves me. He purred and slept all over my sweaters all afternoon, then he moved on to my laptop sleeve, followed by my scarf. I had to shove him off so I could put it on to go out later, but at least it was all warmed up for me :)

So as I said, the place is so cute, I can't not show you!

It's very Arts & Crafts, built in the 1920s, much like our old house in London in many ways, even down to the leaded windows and glass doorknobs. But there is a lot more warm wood here. I was pleased to note that the doors are original, as is much of the cabinetry outside the kitchen, and even the floors, which do not creak one bit. Also, there are so many rooms and nooks and crannies - larges spaces mixed with small. But no space too small. I have my own floor in what would normally be the basement although there is a balcony.

This is a proper old marble washstand with modern plumbing.

My bedroom with the bathroom attached. Spot the cat?

The hearth and...spot the cat?

The bed surrounded by stained glass.

The guest living room adjoining the bedroom. To the right are stairs up to the main level (kitchen, dining room, parlor).

A screened balcony off the guest living room. To the left, a laundry room as well as stairs to the sub-basement which again is not really a basement because it too overlooks the neighborhood.

Looking inside from the balcony. It's like an outdoor room.


I picked a good week to visit. The region is bracing for its first (very late) snowstorm of the season on Tuesday. Yes, a full inch (2.54 cm) of snow - bringing the city nearly to a halt. NY has had much more than this and just keeps going. But they're all excited down here about their inch of snow.


In the evening, I followed my nose to the Whole Foods we'd passed in the car on the way to the house. The people look normal down here so far and less "inbred" than generational city dwellers tend to do. Probably because they're all from somewhere else, other cities, other coasts, and small towns all across America. In this area especially, the streets seem lined with dollhouses and dollhouse street lamps. There is also a kind of Southern-cum-English (but not London) feel to it.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned.


Christopher said...

Those pictures with the cat are priceless. That is so cute that not even an hour into a place and someone elses pet claimed you for attention and affection...that is so cute that she enjoyed your energy (not to mention your clothes:P ). I know we can count on you to take lots of pictures and tell us of your adventures amidst people who don't look inbred (you killed me when you said that...preaching to the choir sistah) Sending warm thoughts and love your way my dear...


Selba said...

Guess what I love the most from this post? Yes... Bingo!!! The picture of the sleepy cat, hehehe...

Have fun in DC, Livie! Can't wait to see for more pictures....

Carol said...

have fun in DC. the place you are staying is gorgeous, I especially love the stained glass. I'd never leave!

divastar said...

What a shame you can't move in, it looks perfect! That cat had me giggling all the way through the photos! Bless it :o) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

divastar said...

What a shame you can't move in, it looks perfect! That cat had me giggling all the way through the photos! Bless it :o) xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jo said...

That place reminds me of the old house my grandmother lived in! So adorable!

Is the guest bedroom on the other side of the stained glass from the parlor? Or are there two sets of stained-glass windows?

That place is absolutely adorable. Beg her to stay!

Olivia said...

Kissy - hehe! It's true, that cat claimed me while I was opening my suitcase. It's like he knew there was good stuff inside. The suitcase I mean, well, and maybe me too.

CC said later that he doesn't normally attach himself so much to visitors.

*sigh* I am a little stuck today because of the snowstorm, but if it slows down later I may take a crunchy walk and explore the area.

Hehe, I talked to my potential landlady today and she asked me if I had brought my snowboots. I like the way we chat already.



Selby - I know, he popped up everywhere, didn't he?

I can't wait to take more pics. I wish I had packed my thicker gloves. I really hadn't much space to pack much, winter clothing is so bulky!


Carol / Diva / Jo - gosh I know, I'm tempted, but I gather she only likes to lend it out part time, and her mother has to stay somewhere when she visits.

But you know what? This house is so well preserved, it feels like you're living inside an antique.


Jo - yes, it's the bedroom on the other side of the stained glass. The jewel effects at night are priceless.

Glo said...

How comfy and gorgeous! As I was reading it, I thought you had found a perfect spot to move right into, especially since Carrot says meow-ve in with me!

I know this has nothing to do with this post, but I've been away from the computer for a few days and awhile ago, I fashioned this 'statue' after you'd visited one of your many wonderful sites ~

Hope you get a kick out of it :)


Have a great time in DC and look forward to more :)

Flighty said...

I hope that your week is going well! xx

panda_eyed said...

Loving the photos, especially how the cat seems to pop up in every one of them :) Hope the trip is going well, Livs! I love snow, but I'm rather glad we don't have any here at the moment! xxxxxx

nikkipolani said...

Fantastic post, Liv. I loved seeing the sights through your words. When I saw the Flickr images come up, I noticed the cat right away. Carrots looks like he's got some Turkish Van in him -- same as Nikki, Em, and Sam. And that lovey huggy disposition is exactly right :-) Roomie has been wanting to make a cross-country trip and, though there are limitations to train travel, it sounds relaxing not to worry about routes.

Hope your week goes really well, friend. Hugs.