Michael thought that a trip to the national capital was in order, so we booked tickets on the Amtrak train leaving at 7:45 am this morning. This meant getting out of bed while the sun was still sleeping for the first time in a week. We caught a cab to New York Penn(sylvania) Station at Madison Square Garden arriving a full hour before our departure time. Bit pointless arriving that early as theplatform is only posted and opened 10 minutes before departure time - but still it gave us an opportunity to do some serious people watching. Haven't had too many opportunities this trip to just sit (or stand) and watch!
The City breathes a different life under the lights of night. Less frantic with a slow thumping beat and all sorts of the business that supports a City of this size being the priority - sanitation, deliveries, restocking etc.
We pull away from the underground bastion of New York Station bound for Washington DC via Newark, Trenton (both in New Jersery), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Wilmington, Baltimore (both in Maryland) and finally Union Station in Washington DC.
The day dawns out of New York cool and crisp with a red blush in the morning sky. The City silohette is stunning in the dawn sky - you know - the stuff that postcards are made of - all shades of red, pink, orange and yellow with the black outline of a city skyline in front - with tall buildings, shorter ones, spires, bridges and the like - very stunning. Couldn't get a photo through the double glazing of the train which is surprisingly comfortable and spacious.
As the day breaks into new light, it is the sameness of the urban areas that strike me. There are huge tracts of residential areas that are the same for blocks and blocks - god help the new drunk resident! As we move into the more suburban areas, the housing tracts change, but within them, all the houses are identical! The differences are very subtle - a garden struggling to live in the winter here, a flag proudly flapping in the wind, elaborate lace curtain concoctions at a window. You get a series of attached tenement houses, block after block, then a series of stand alone bungalows (cape cod style quite often) all standing side by side alike.
Then there are the huge depots for trailers and containers lined up like soldiers in a row. There are parking stations that we pass with the odd car abandoned to the emptiness of a station unattended over the holiday season. There is a lot jammed with yellow school buses - obviously on holiday for the week from the job of ferrying lots of busy little bodies.
We pass through industrial areas where huge stacks puff steam and smoke into the sky momentarily obliterating the bright morning sun, and bright stainless steel pipes glean, hiding the dirty business of manufacture.
Philadelphia is the first major city we encounter and it appears to be a cleaner, well planned city that has a number of large civic buildings close to the rail line. Then on to the rural area of Wilmington before we skirt the coast of Maryland, hugging the coves and inlets of the stunning Chesapeake Bay and crossing the Gunpowder River Bridge. The morning is clear and still and the waters are as still as a millpond. For much of this coast there are no buildings present and you can imagine a canoe trip exploring birds and flora. Then there come individual homes sparsely sitting quietly on the waters edge. Finally, there is a peninsula jutting into the waters where there is a settlement of some size - complete with a very full marina ON DRY LAND - after all, in this area of the world the waters can freeze, and no-one wants there multi-million investment crushed in the iced waters.
We creep into Baltimore at around 9:20 am. Baltmore is obviously a working city. The calibre of industry appears dirtier and heavier than what we have seen to date. There is more graffiti and rubbish, more abandoned machinery, vehicles and derelict factories and warehouses. It is eerie. Then as we move further into the city, there are those same adjoined residences - with block after block boarded up, abandoned. There is a desolateness in Baltimore that is depressing. Is it the current economic downturn? Or a longer decline? Hard to tell.
The countryside is stark in the winter - partly frozen, grey and without cover on the ground or green on the trees. Still, there is a definite beauty in that rawness.
Then we arrive in Washington DC. I'll leave it to Michael to tell you the joys of this day - and believe me, there were many. It is a truly beautiful City that we would love to return to some time. Majestic but meek, graceful without arrogance.
I'll close by saying that the return journey in the night was the perfect end to a wonderful day. Tonight is as dark as India Ink and again, the lights of the cities bring bright spots. And those inky waters reflect single spots just so perfectly with waterside towns throwing flawness mirror images.