After our island holiday, we returned to Washington DC for a few days. Kiera and James went back to work and Peter, Alex and I explored the city, using the metro to get around. We visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum which, despite the fact that I have never been all that interested in aviation, I found incredibly interesting. Mind you, I do own the Wonders of the Solar System DVD set, partly because I find Prof Brian Cox infinitely worth watching but also because I’m fascinated by our galaxy and frustrated that I know so little about it.
We also spent a morning pottering around Old Town Alexandria, a quaint historic town on the banks of the Potomac, before Alex dragged us off to see Georgetown (he doesn’t do pottering for too long). I brightened up when we crossed the bridge into Georgetown because, lo and behold, the first shop we spotted was the fabulous Pie Sisters – Susannah and Mike had ruinously introduced me to their pies when we first arrived. This is definitely a must-go-to if ever you find yourself in Washington. After coffee and the most delicious key lime pie, my flagging spirits were lifted and we took a stroll through the beautiful streets of Georgetown University, enjoying the occasional whiffs of dope wafting out of some of the students’ quarters.
I had offered to cook supper that evening so we caught a bus (that stops at all the metro stations) back to Arlington to meet James after work at the Wholefoods store. And this is what I love about America: when we boarded the bus, I phoned James to let him know that we were on our way and we had a conversation, within earshot of the driver, about where to meet. James gave me the name of the metro station nearest to Wholefoods where the bus would stop and directions on how to walk to Wholefoods from there. Peter then asked the driver to stop at the metro station, but he, having heard my conversation with James, told us that he would save us the walk and drop us at Wholefoods instead, which he did. That pretty much sums up just how friendly and helpful most Americans are. And of course, I loved shopping at Wholefoods.
We arranged to meet Kiera at lunchtime on Wednesday at her office at Dupont Circle before catching a train to New York City for a long weekend. Our hotel, called the Sanctuary, was slap bang in the middle of everything. The location could not have been better; it was close to Central Park, the Rockefeller Centre, 5th avenue and Times Square. The rooms were small but modern with really nice bathrooms, the staff were exceptionally helpful and friendly and we got a really good complimentary breakfast each morning. It cost just over R1500 per night for each room. Peter and I stayed at the O.R. Tambo City Lodge on our way home. The room cost R1450, it was dated, the shower leaked all over the bathroom floor and breakfast, if we wanted it (which we didn’t) was an additional R120 each. Go figure.
Ah! New York – I loved it, we all loved it, it was great. Washington is a beautiful well-oiled city, Miami is a lovely laid-back kinda place but NY has an energy that’s like an electrical current. On our first day there we decided to get all the shopping out of the way, and boy did we shop ‘till we dropped. The post-Christmas sales were in full swing and if we mentioned that we were tourists we got additional discounts. After we got that out of the way we enjoyed the museums.
We dragged Alex, kicking and screaming, off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and before my very eyes, he became an art aficionado. Who would’ve thought? We had a lot of fun in that museum.
On the Friday night Kiera found us an authentic Chinese restaurant just around the corner from the hotel. She ordered, in Mandarin, from a mightily impressed waiter, a brinjal dish (remind me to give you the recipe for this at the end of this post) and a green bean dish, both of which I had eaten for the first time when I visited her in Fuzhou, as well as two very tasty meat dishes. This was the only reasonably priced meal we had in NY; everywhere else we ate was frighteningly expensive for us because of our really bad rand dollar exchange rate. But, it’s only money and, as me old dad used to say, “You can’t take it with you”.
James joined us in NY late on Friday night and on Saturday we all headed off to Greenwich Village for a potter around – and I fantasized about all my heroes “that got their start in the Village’s nightclub, theatre, and coffeehouse scene during the 1960s, and early 1970s, notably besides Bob Dylan, there were Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Joan Baez, The Velvet Underground, Carly Simon, Tom Paxton, Joni Mitchell and Nina Simone among others” (Wikipedia). Nowadays it’s a trendy neighbourhood for yuppies and gays.
We got back to the hotel in the late afternoon and James, Kiera and I went to queue for discounted theatre tickets at the TKTS booth on Times Square. Our first choice was Jersey Boys but the cheapest tickets were R1200 a pop and so our next pick was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Alex’s choice and guess why). It turned out to be thoroughly entertaining, funny and clever, like a bedtime story where you hang on to every word and you don’t want it to end, and yes, Scarlett Johansson was brilliant.
The next day Alex left us to fly off to Cleveland to visit a school friend of his. After a tearful farewell (on my part) we took a leisurely stroll down 5th Avenue to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Well, I do declare, this is the best place in the whole world to spend a Sunday morning, and I’m not exaggerating.
Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul ……
.Now I understand
What you tried to say to me.
We caught the train back to Washington that afternoon and a few days later we had to say goodbye.
And this is where I falter. The goodbyes are still like wounds right now. Will I ever get better at it? I doubt it. Kiera, my wish is that:
….. you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you left,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get.