Location: Alexandria, Virginia
Last week, I returned home from my first business trip: Alexandria, VA.
One of my biggest problems for this trip was that I simultaneously over- and under-packed. As you can see by my suitcase, I brought a suit and some dress shoes. I brought a bunch of dress shirts. And, of course, the attire after the first day reverted to business casual. When it warmed up, people wore shorts and t-shirts. I felt like the lawyer for a startup.
Outside of that, there was little to complain about. The weather was moderate, maybe even nice. The hotel staff were obsequious and went out of their way to make us comfortable. The rooms were excellent, and I didn’t have to share with anyone else (a first!). Almost every meal was free, and fine cuisine abounded. I should have devoted some of these photos to food photography. Alas.
But there were a few days when we had free time. On those days, I made sure to go out on the town. Our hotel was located in the most bleak, brutalist area around—the government institution sector of Alexandria.
I had to walk about a mile down to the water to actually see the city. Boy, I found it. small-town America incarnate. Where it’s always a summertime spectacle.Walking around in one of the oldest parts of the United States makes you think about permanence. Many of the houses in this area have had the same facades since D.C. was burned by the British. Or landlords that are pretty negligent.
200 years doesn’t hold a candle to some of the stuff we saw in Cambodia or China, but both of those cultures have different conceptualizations of age than Americans do. We’re about keeping things the same, rather than maintaining the idea and allowing the material aspects of a thing to change.
And that’s the most highfalutin’ way to introduce my primary point: that Alexandria is on top of its doorknocker game. Since they can’t repaint their houses or add a porch or swing or whatever, they ostensibly end up adding strange accoutrements like pineapples or eagles to their doors. There were more elaborate ones out there, but I got stuck on the charm of these.
While I was walking around King Street, I happened upon some great Greek restaurants. They became quite popular with the faculty when things were winding down at the end of the conference. They’re both great, but split the difference: go to Taverna Cretekou for the food Vaso’s Mediteranean Bistro for the cocktails. I had my first rusty nail there, at the behest of a Brazilian anthropologist. She was not mistaken.
Continuing further down King, you’ll find a torpedo factory-cum-artist space. It’s called the Torpedo Factory Art Center. If you’re lucky, there will be some people working on stuff when you’re there. When I went, it was close to closing time so the action had died down, but I suspect that there’d be quite a bit of fun to be had on the weekend.
This is part 1111. Stay tuned for part 2222!