Friday, August 27, 2010
August 25, 2010: Washington - Alexandria, Library of Congress, Farmers Fiasco
For my last day in Washington I decided to take the subway out to Alexandria. After driving through it on the way to Mount Vernon I had been more motivated to make the trek.
Alexandria turned out to be bigger than I'd expected - the main street is a quaint historic shopping area, but it goes on forever - furniture stores, antiques, galleries - until ending at a lovely waterfront area with docks and industrial buildings converted to artists studios.
My first visit was to the Lyceum, the town's historical museum. This was a little disappointing - not much to see or read, although it did highlight the fact that Alexandria was occupied territory under martial law during the Civil War, which would have made life very difficult for all those who chose to stay put. Alexandria had actually been part of the District of Columbia, but had voted to rejoin the state of Virginia, since being part of DC hadn't turned out to be as profitable as hoped.
Next was the Apothecary Museum. This was great - an enthusiastic docent led us on tours of both the shop (which went bankrupt in the early 1930s, resulting in the preservation of both the shop and its contents) and a manufacturing area, filled with hundreds of jars, drawers and tins of plants and chemicals. In addition to producing medicines they also produced paints and perfumes, which had similar production processes.
At the waterfront I visited the Archaeology Museum. It was more of a municipal department that was open to the public, but there was some interesting information about finds in the area, and a very knowledgeable volunteer (a retired archaeologist). Oldest find is a Clovis arrowhead; more typical are Civil War era gravesites and military paraphernalia.
On my way back to the subway I walked up to the Washington Masonic monument - a very tall tower with a view down the main street and across the river to Washington DC. If I'd had more time I would have climbed to the top, but I had one more quick stop to make.
In looking over the photos from this trip I realized I hadn't taken many at all at the Library of Congress, in spite of finding the building to be really amazing. It was probably a combination of the heat that day (I definitely lose motivation to photograph when exhausted from the heat), the tour (long and interesting - not much time to photograph), the crowds, and the storm that blew up just at the end of that day. So I went back to spend a little more time looking around the building - it was only open until 5:30, but much less crowded at the end of the day. And without the storm brewing I was able to walk around outside to appreciate the fountain and the dome on top.
For dinner I had made reservations at Farmers & Fishers, a well-known Georgetown restaurant that is owned by a collective of farmers, promotes local, fresh farm produce and was a hot item during DC Restaurant Week. Sadly, I have to conclude that it's a bit of a tourist trap. We had reservations, but still had to wait 30 minutes to be seated. There wasn't any bread or other snack at the table, so we were ravenous by the time our order arrived. I couldn't even get by on the sustenance from my beer, since it didn't show up until after my food. The ingredients were all good, but the flavours competed and overrode any unity. I should have known from the somewhat Florida-esque waterfront fountain in front that this would be all show.
Photos: the Apothecary Museum; a bottle in the window; display case with perfumes; shelves of original bottles; the manufacturing room with paint chips and drawer's of "dragon's blood"; more ingredients storage (still filled with original contents); tobacco grown in the flower beds in front of the Masonic Washington tower (note that someone has already harvested the mature lower leaves); the monument, towering over Alexandria; a panoramic view of Alexandria over the large "G" at the tower's base (which reminds me of the big "S" on Superman's outfit)