Wednesday, April 22, 2009

sunday drive

Shortly before I left home I met this guy Mike via another friend. Mike lives in Alexandria, and on Sunday I Metro'd to King Street, piled into the van with his lovely wife and three boys, and went for a Sunday drive. My feet were singing with happiness all day. Mike is well versed in early American, Alexandria, and Civil War history, so he could point out all sorts of fascinating places and things that I would have otherwise missed, including the local crazy Masonic temple. I don't really have an excuse for not seeing this on my own, other than my back was to it when I walked out of the Metro station.

We grabbed breakfast at the local diner, everyone getting some version of eggs and toast, took a short tour of Alexandria, and headed to Teddy Roosevelt Island. TR Island is a small nature preserve and memorial to Teddy, is one of the few undeveloped places left in this area (other than the memorial itself), and I think still has the ecosystem that existed before the cities were developed. When the trees are in full bloom, they hide the defense contractor highrises looming over Arlington. I spotted a cardinal (Virginia state bird), the first time I've seen one in the wild, maybe the first time I've seen one at all. After that it was a drive along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, crossing back to DC, and stopping for lunch in Adams Morgan at Amsterdam Falafel. Amsterdam Falafel is a dinky shop that accepts only cash with a menu of about four items - falafel, frites, beverages, and brownies. They serve plain, piping hot falafel balls in toasty pillowy pitas, which you then load up with whatever you want from an extensive condiment bar that includes raw veggies, roasted veggies, and sauces. So yummy. If your dressings haven't reached the bottom of the pita, you can go back as often as you want to reload. I got a regular sized falafel and small frites, and it was too much food. Strange, because I'm usually able to eat everything in sight. Not here.

Back in the van for a drive down to Chinatown, the Mall, and the Capitol, then a detour through Maryland to find the 495 freeway, and back to Alexandria. The boys were antsy from sitting in the back of the van all day, so we all walked to a park to burn off energy. The falafel and frites had put me in a dozy stupor, so Mike and I stopped off to get coffees along the way, and then at the local fire department to peer through the window at their antique water wagon, and to admire beautiful colonial homes, some more saggy and tilting than others. Mike showed me how the walls of some of the older buildings are around two feet thick, since the Potomac will occasionally flood and rise several meters. And we got to see the aftermath of a police chase that ended in a car crash, which we heard happen from a few blocks away. By the time we showed up on scene what must have been the entire Alexandria police force had showed up. There weren't any casualties, except a few tires and the front end of another car. Evening was coming on, and we wandered back to King Street, which is Old Town's main drag, and runs in a straight shot from the Potomac to the masonic temple. There's a free bus that runs the length of the street from the water to the Metro, but it's also a nice, and not very long stroll. Alexandria has a lot of charm. The town is stuck in bygone eras, obviously with a heavy dose of the colonial, but also the 50s, as evidenced by this wig shop.

On my way back to the Metro I found The Fromagerie - I'd be neglect in my cheese skipper duties if I didn't investigate. I bought a mini baguette, a grapefruit soda, and two sort of local cheeses for dinner - a mini round of strong goat cheese from Maryland and a raw cow's cheese from Virginia, ending the day on a nummy note.

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