When you live in one place long enough you start to realize that no matter how much you love it, you occasionally need to explore somewhere beyond the city walls. To be frank, even with some yet unexplored grounds in DC, I’ve grown bored with the same sights and scenes. Even the White House and the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, have become so natural to me that I often forget they are unique and spectacular. Part of this has to do with my antsy quality, my short attention span. But, everyone needs to get out sometimes, and see something new.
One of the biggest benefits I’ve discovered about living on the East Coast is the ability to get from one place to another. I can be in New York in just a matter of hours. Philadelphia is a quick drive. Even Boston is a short flight, a drive or a train trip away. Sometimes though the best experiences are those where you don’t stray too far from home.
Alexandria is often considered part of DC. People frequently commute from Alexandria into the city. It’s just over the river, a ferry trip away if you choose. There’s even a metro stop.
I had heard about Alexandria for 2 years. Roommates and friends were constantly telling me about their ventures into Old Town. Telling me how much they thought I’d love it. The week before I started my junior year, 2009, I finally made the trip with my friend Stephanie. We took the metro, on a particularly hot and humid DC August day.
There are things about Old Town Alexandria that at first glance remind you of Georgetown. The old brick houses. The charming colonial style town houses. The excess on King Street of shops and restaurants. But on when you take a second you start to realize there’s a difference. Though still in an affluent area, Alexandria doesn’t have its nose in the air quite as much as Georgetown. You don’t get furrowed brows and shaken heads for your ripped jeans and non-designer clothing quite as much. In fact, there are a significant number of second-hand stores: for books, for clothing, for music. All are mostly independently run. The prices not outlandish.
Stephanie and I strolled King Street. Stopping in a cute little cheap restaurant, stopping by a yarn store, looking for bookstores. We stopped by one of the oldest churches in the area, strolling through the grave yard, “oooooing” and “ahhhing” at the architecture. We paused at the tourist information center to cool off, and because it was in a charming old building.
By the time we reached the water we had been there about 2 hours. We took the cliché photos of us standing on the marina dock with the boats behind us. Then we sat on a bench and watched the river’s waves crash against the shore. Savoring the cool air the water brought inland.
When we finally walked back to the metro, I realized what made Alexandria more appealing than equally as affluent Georgetown on the other side of the river: Alexandria didn’t seem ashamed or concerned about the people who occupied it. It didn’t appear to define itself or to constrain itself with a type of people, it is ok welcoming in everyone: hippy, preppy, yuppie alike.