We motored up I-95 until we hit the
beltline around Washington D.C. Coming up from the Carolina’s it was as if we found
ourselves smack in the middle of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Made mental note: Never
Ever come to the Washington area before 10:00 am or much after 2:00 PM. Take the
Metro if at all possible!
Despite the traffic, we managed to find Alexandria Virginia with a
minimum of fuss. Our first sight was of the stately George Washington Masonic
National Memorial; a magnificent building perched high on a promontory looking down over
Old Town. This edifice serves as the headquarters of the Alexandria Masons as well as
housing a museum.
Rolling off the superhighway
and down into the Old Town section of Alexandria is like turning back the clock… a
couple of centuries.
Even the new construction blends
into an enchanting architectural treat for the eyes. This section has been restored, all
electrical lines have been run underground and broad sidewalks are paved with bricks. The
area’s trade is a bountiful collection of small shops; individualistic with living
quarters perched above.
Very few franchisees litter the
landscape and the range of restaurants is amazing. The wife was quiet pleased and I,
who had suggested the trip, much relieved.
The main concourse is King Street running to the banks of the Potomac River. This is
like another Great City of the south, Charleston S.C., which also has its main concourse,
named King Street, but that one runs parallel to the ocean. Another similarity is that
both of these cities are restored but functioning. That is to say they are not
artificially maintained like say… Williamsburg Virginia.
The wife was in heaven! Not only was the décor of the
city from a time gone by, but as I said, the shopping district boggled the mind with the
vast number and variety of merchants. The quality of the goods stood out. It
was immediately clear that this was not your normal tourist trinkets made in Taiwan/Mexico
but an assortment of solid goods. The shops were for the most part unique.
This, came as a welcome relief from the scourge of strip malls with their cookie cutter
offerings that seem to grow up over night.
It was sheer delight, as we walked the broad sidewalks, accented
with trees and other floral delights.
Interspersed among the businesses were residential areas, which
provided a cozy warm atmosphere. The cries of children and dogs melded in with the
bustling sounds and yet the great din from Washington D.C. was dramatically absent.
The wife and I meandered on down King Street where it
terminates at the Potomac waterfront and provides another feast for the eyes. There, we
found yet another mix of shops, along with a well-decked area to sit and admire the river.
Moored up to the wharf was a classic stern wheel riverboat, which you can
board for a cruise on the broad Potomac River. This was among many nautical diversions
found at the river edge.
If this was not enough, there was the unexpected pleasure of
Alexander’s cuisine! Restaurants great and small, grills, bakeries…they were
scattered in profusion. We first stopped into the King Henry Corner Deli.
A charming little restaurant that you could sit in the front window and watch the
world go by. I ordered a Philly Steak and was treated to wonderful sandwich
with possibly the best cold slaw I have ever devoured. It purely filled me and I am
no small fellow.
We were just up for the day and so the next time hunger struck we ducked into the New York
Deli. This bistro looked for all the world like it had been plucked out of novel, patrons
included. We sat ourselves down in a booth, adorned with real cloth napkins
and stainless silverware. Looking over the menu, I took a chance on a steak sandwich.
Shortly thereafter the waiter came back with the drinks and asked “how
would I like my steak cooked?” Now I am use to getting a gray puck looking
thing smothered in a bun. It really doesn’t matter how it’s cooked because
it’s going to still be the same.
A little time went by and the meal was served. There, sitting in front of me,
hanging out all around a generous bun was a genuine steak, big as my out stretched hand
and about ˝ inch to 5/8 inch thick! It came with some seasoned fries but I
couldn’t quit looking at that all that beef! I wanted to frame it!
Cautiously I lifted my prized steak and bit into it… Ahhh cooked to perfection!
In this day of styro-food served with all the ambiance of a
bus terminal, this city stands out for it’s gastronomic offerings. A
quick glance down King Street was a virtual cornucopia of cuisines. French, Greek,
Chinese, Thai, Tex-Mex, anything your palate craved. My only regret, and this
is a serious one, is that I could not have taken in more.
Indeed it will take much more than a day just to cover the Old Town district.
Hopefully I can return in the spring and update this saga.
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