Monday, January 09, 2012

Day trip to D.C.

While in Philly we decided to ride the Amtrak train to Washington D.C. for a day sightseeing. We were up early and caught the local train at the Suburban Station for the short ride to 30th Street Station. We booked on the 08:13 Amtrak NE Regional train #131 from Philly to D.C. and splurged on the Acela Express for the return leg ($70 each outward, $104 each return sector).
It was some 30 years since I rode these rails. The approaches to Baltimore were an eye-opener as street after street of rowhouses were all boarded up. The final approach into Union Station was also rather grubby, in no way suggesting arrival in one of the world's great cities. Once off the train however things immediately looked up as we headed for the Capitol Building on foot in bright but cold weather. A quick gander at the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress and we headed up Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. The party was flagging so we stopped in at Starbucks on Indiana, which was more like a drop-in centre with folk taking a nap.
The White House was much changed from years ago - the road to the south being blocked off and security in evidence everywhere. We had already passed the occupy camp at Freedom Plaza. We warmed up in the visitor centre in the Baldridge Building. We then walked south via the Washington monument - a great obelisk - and on to the Smithsonian Institution for a look at the Air-Space Museum. I'd been here before and the exhibits all had a dated feel and in need of a refresh. Across the way we had a quick look in the National Art Gallery.
I felt, what many others have felt before me, that Washington, with its grand scale and lack of industry, has an air of unreality. Far from the rustbelt in a political bubble it is easy for politicians to forget that any healthy economy relies on manufacturing.
We rode the 17:00 Acela Express #2222 back to Philly. The showpiece project of the Amtrak fleet was something of a disappointment as the train juddered and shuddered far too much to sway the doubters. Philadephia is the spiritual home of the American locomotive but here is a railway that has failed to move with the times. I wanted to like it but it is less than it could have been.
On arrival we took the subway to 13th Street for supper at the Banana Leaf, 1009 Arch St (mains $7.50, Singapore noodles recommended).
Pic by Annette.

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