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Monday, July 25, 2011

My Attempt at Being a City Girl.

I am about as far from the city as a girl can get.  Growing up in the middle of a corn field and moving to the mountains of Vermont is how I've lived my life.  In fact, I ended up in Vermont to begin with because I found the bus system to get to class at the University of Maryland too overwhelming.  Two mile walk or take the gold bus to the purple bus to get to my physics class?  No thank you.  I'll just stick with living in the middle of nowhere.

So I did.

However, my best friends growing up did not.  Shortly after high school graduation they left the rural eastern shore we called home and moved to the big streets run by public transportation and 24 hour restaurants.  Now, almost a decade later, my friend Megan decided I needed to become acquainted with the urban ways of the world before I brought a child into the world and smothered her in backwoodsness.  

She called it "culturing me in city ways"

So early in the morning I headed across the Chesapeake Bay.  Its the great divider between the farms of the Eastern Shore and the urban jungle that is the rest of the state.  I had to park in the only place I was remotely familiar with, a mall parking lot, and hop in her car so she could drive the rest of the way to the city.  There was no way I could have figured out where I was going on my own....  

We didn't even park close to DC, because you don't want to.  Instead we parked somewhere across the Potomac near the Pentagon and took the Metro.  It was from that point on that things got complicated...

From the moment we approached this gadget I was in over my head.  It was some complicated map and payment system to ride the Metro into the city.  Megan did the leg work and sorted out which train to take.  I didn't even understand which side of the tracks I was suppose to be on to determine the right direction into the city.  If it wasn't for her I would have ended up further into the suburbs of Virgina rather than the Capital.  

Being the weird person I am I flooded Megan with questions...  How do I know a train is coming?  How do I know that its my train?  Are all subway tunnels built like a military instillation? Do people actually jump off and commit suicide in front of the train like on Law and Order?  After she told me a horrible story of a woman who fell onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train and crouched in an insanely small space under a ledge at the edge of the tracks narrowly escaping death I decided to not ask any more questions. 

After fifteen minutes spent on the Metro where I consciously avoided touching any surfaces whatsoever after thinking of all the Sci-Fi movies I've seen portraying germ warfare and pandemics we emerged in the middle of The Lawn in the heart of the Capital. 

It was hot, it was dry, and the Reflecting Pool was oddly drained and under construction.  We then proceeded to walk nine thousand miles across the sites of the nation's capital.  Occassionally we stopped for a photo op in front of a couple nostalgic and historic monuments. 

What you can't see in these photos is that I was wearing flip flops, because I am an idiot and am perpetually wearing the incorrect footwear... especially during pregnancy and when one plans to walk several miles.  We traversed one end of the city to the other from the grassy lawn to the cobble stone sidewalks of the city.  At one point Megan brought up calling a cab or even ferrying a ride with this fellow who had some sort of bicycle carriage.  My fear of venturing outside my normal scope of transportation led me to keep walking... and walking... God I should have worn sneakers.

After nearly being devoured by hundreds of Chinese school children near the white house, who were all clamoring for photo ops, Megan and I decided to just head for the Metro and see other parts of the area and grab some lunch since we couldn't get any closer to the White House than in the photo above.  So we walked... again.

One block.  Two Block.  Three blocks... 

We finally reached the Metro station just as I was about to declare a forfeiture and sit on the sidewalk nursing my feet.  That was when we noticed the Metro station was oddly desolate.  Apparently it was a business Metro station and is closed on weekends.  That meant another two block walk to a Metro station.  I put on my big girl panties and trucked it to the next station.  Somehow God blessed my efforts and a train arrived literally the second we hit the platform and I was graces with a comfy subway seat.  

After grabbing lunch, where I discovered how easy it is to ruin a soft shell crab sandwich and hard it is to park anywhere near DC, we set off walking, again.  There was a theme to our afternoon.  Megan was on a mission to find the famous Georgetown Cupcakes that have been featured in a show on TLC.  I personally had never heard of them, but figured any cupcakes worthy of a television show would be worth it.  

While Megan concentrated on getting to the cupcakes I doddled and took photos of the colonial streets.  I looked at it as a way to practice my urban photography where the subjects are oh so very different than landscapes.  It was also a good distraction from the mile journey we took to arrive at the cupcake shop.  

I should have known that any cupcake shop Megan insisted was worth walking a mile to would be packed.  Actually is wasn't just packed... it was crammed to the brim with so many people that it bordered violating a fire code and had a line outside the door a good fifty feet deep.  We sat patiently in line where they gave us a cupcake menu and free water. Forty five minutes later we were finally inside and staring at hundreds of beautifully decorated cupcakes.

After elbowing for a spot at the register and collecting my six cupcakes of varying flavors from carrot cake to red velvet I bolted for fresh air and had utterly had my fill of people.  There were just too many dang people around.  People that stopped right in front of you as you walked.  People that walked three wide on a sidewalk that barely fit two so you are forced into the street.  People that bang into you with their shopping bags or talk loudly on their phones.  Ugh...   I was longing for my life of dirt roads and small towns.  

Megan and I headed back to my car utterly exhausted.  Both of us had exerted way more calories than we intended.  While I may never be a city person or even prefer to visit the city at least I've had a thorough education on urban survival!


Kristin said...

:-) I moved from a town of 6000 people to DC when my husband was stationed there. It's overwhelming, but it grows on you. You know, enough that when my husband gets stationed there again next year that I'm excited enough to have already started looking at apartments. Eventually, when you live in the chaos, you just get one of those SmarTrip cards and keep it loaded up to pay for the Metro. Compared to driving there? The Metro is heaven.

And the people who live there? They curse the tourists and learn to run over them when they do that stop on the sidewalk thing. People who actually live in DC never seem to stop moving LOL.

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

Wow these are some great pictures! There is just nothing like the country life!!

Erin @ Brownie Bites said...

I had the same problem when facing the ticket machine for the subway in NYC. Yikes!

Shari said...

Aww, that's so cute! I can't believe you braved DC in this heat, though, and pregnant, no less. What a trooper!

Which Metro station were you at that was closed on weekends? I'm guessing you were at Judiciary Square and just happened to hit on the entrance that is closed on weekends. There is another entrance though, so it's not closed entirely.

As for Georgetown Cupcakes, they really are delicious. My favorite is Chocolate2. We hit up the location in Bethesda instead of the Georgetown original and while they have those little ropes for people to line up, we've never seen a line while we were there.

I'm glad you had a good visit to our Nation's Capital. It truly is a great place, especially if you visit it during the spring or fall.

kittyhere said...

So now we now how you left Maryland & ended up in Vermont. Our gain.

Your comments about the Metro and the ticket machines amused me. I married a guy from the Boston suburbs who had to memorize T stops in 2nd grade. I enjoy letting him lead me through mass transit systems whenever we travel because I love the many positive things cities have to offer that rural VT is missing. But I do avoid cities in the summer as I hate hot weather.

Tiffany in Topeka said...

My husband was from Dallas and I'm from Middle-of-Nowhere, KS. We have since compromised and now live in Topeka. It's a big enough city in the middle of farmland. For him - a couple of 24-hour restaurants and grocery stores, a mall, etc. but still small enough for me. A 5 minute drive and I can be in the middle of a wheat field with only a few farm houses in any direction.

R. Roushey said...

I'm glad you had a good time in DC despite wearing flip flops! Those cupcakes look fantastic; we have a wonderful cupcake place near us once we move back to the Twin much so that when some of my girlfriends came to visit me while I was on bed rest they brought me a dozen :) I can't wait.

Renee said...

I went to DC a few years back for the first time. Total culture shock to me.

Misty Dawn said...

You and I are so very much alike! I don't do crowds... no way.

msam said...

Lol...i cracked up at this Jen. We had to get you to loosen up a bit before this baby comes!

Shari, we were at the Farragut West station. And yes, only one entrance was closed. She is exaggerating, the other entrance was only a block and a half! She is also exaggerating about the wait time at Georgetown cupcake. Lol, only like 15 minutes!

Jen, for real....what is on my head in the pic in front of the ticket machine?

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

I think those are your sunglasses on your head Megan... no worries :)

And how was I suppose to know that the other "entrance" to the same darned station is a block and a half away? lol... that makes no sense.

A New England Life said...

Aren't those machines the worst? When we arrived in NYC I had no idea what to do when it was our turn in line! The girls and I managed to figure it out though. I'm definitely NOT a city girl either. Ugh.

Can't believe you walked all that way. OMWord! You captured some great shots though, despite what must have been severely aching feet. Love the shot of the colored buildings.

You definitely earned at least 2 cupcakes after all that walking!

SharleneT said...

DC was my old stomping grounds - pre-Metro. I was one of the reporters for the WMATA hearings when they were trying to decide what to do about the Vienna station and there were only a few lines open. I LOVED the convenience of the subway and would park in Vienna, head to DC, and get home in jiffy time. Driving was horrible and they changed the street directions at 4:30pm, so you had to be out of the city by 4:25, if you were unfamiliar with the streets -- as most people were. The Metro has grown so much, now. I hope you got to see the 10-story high station in Crystal City.

I'm not going to discuss your flip-flops. I'm sure you've learned your lesson. Glad you got to see a great city and discover the joys of DC. Your pictures are fabulous. I mean it. Fabulous. And, you look great. Come visit when you can.

StitchenTigger said...

Welcome to my city and glad you survived. I don't go into the city during the summer, but try to go every other weekend the rest of the year. Don't always succeed, but since I know I won't be living here in a few years, I want to see as much as I can while I'm local. Being a native, I never appreciated DC until I moved away. Back home again, and pretty happy here. Next time, though please remember to wear different shoes. Your feet will be much happier. Come again in the spring while the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom - they make beautiful photos and I know yours would be sooooo much better than the ones I take.

ladylisabear69 said...

I ended up going to college in DC because UMCP and Penn State were too big for me. CUA is a small campus in NE DC with a Metro stop "on campus". Having grown up in the shadow of NYC, I'll take DC any day. It's shorter, calmer, and easier to navigate. Oh, I miss DC. Glad that you survived the trip. But definitely wear sneakers next time!

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