Historic Capitol Hill Neighborhood In D.C. Shines

James and I stayed in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood while recently visiting Washington, D.C.  Normally the place one stays is not all that interesting.  After all, one is looking for a safe place to sleep and shower.  But the wide swath of homes built in this area from about 1872-1893 and then later in the 1920’s is something most special.  So special, in fact, that it deserves some wider attention.

While the ever-growing boundaries of the Capitol Hill neighborhood are disputed, the historic district is clearly defined. As designated by the District of Columbia’s Historic Preservation Review Board, it touches H Street NE to the north, 14th Street SE to the east, M Street SE to the south and South Capitol Street SE to the west.  This is the area where we stayed for the duration of time on vacation.

At the time the homes were built a developer perhaps would purchase land for five homes and build them all the same and so close that they touched. Each would have two stories, some three, all however with unique and interesting shapes and ornamentation on the tops and along windows. Among the area’s roughly 8,000 buildings are houses with bay fronts, turrets, stepped Flemish parapets, Moorish balconies, gothic arches, dormers and many other features, sometimes in curious combinations. Most of the homes in the area we stayed had 1,300 square feet.

Over time this area went into decline but in the 1970s it turned the corner and people started buying the homes and refurbishing them so that this is now one of the best areas in the city to live.   The homes are often brightly colored and the small lawns are often planted with roses, hosta, and all sorts of flowers. Families abound with small children who live next door to older retired folks. It is a very walking friendly area with restaurants, markets, library and shops galore. One can get to congress in a 20-minute brisk walk.

Everyone—and I mean everyone–was so nice in the city–but especially in this neighborhood. While walking in the neighborhood we commented to a woman in her 70’s about her garden. After about 20 minutes of chatting Ruby said “well since you like older homes come inside and see mine”.

I was surprised an older woman would invite two men she just met to see her home. It was stunning to go inside and see all the touches common to the Federal Style built during parts of the Victorian era. She and her husband had bought the home in 1974 and paid $40,000, but today it is valued at $1 million dollars. Her husband, Mervin, was super nice and gave us some walking tour information of the neighborhood and told about how they each had been a part of the restoration effort of the area decades before.

Only a few blocks away the old D.C. jail had once stood where perhaps its most infamous prisoner was Charles Guiteau who shot President Garfield at a train station in the city.  Guiteau would be executed at that jail for his crime.

We ran into a mother out with her two-year-old daughter and talked about her sale sign on the property.   Her husband got a job in North Carolina and since it was close to her family the move was a happy event.   James inquired gently about the asking price. They had bought for $600,000 and were selling for almost $900,000.   It was all very nice but wow—who would want to sit on that payment book?

We loved the Eastern Market in this neighborhood, which is stationed in a long established brick building dating back to 1873. From the start it was a place for local food to be sold. Even now local vendors sell fresh cheeses, fish and a wide array of seafood freshly caught, homemade pasta, and vegetables. All this fresh food is sold 6 days a week. Each Saturday local vendors who make embroidered drying towels, paintings, or a wide range of other products set up a stand near the market.

It is a wonderfully diverse community with as many business-suited men as baby strollers.  I loved the entire area!

Saudi Arabia’s King Aziz Travels On The Heavy Side–572 Workers Needed For Luggage

And my James thinks I pack too heavy when we travel!

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz is heading to Indonesia this week for a nine-day visit. It will be the first time in 46 years that a Saudi king has visited the world’s largest Muslim nation, and it comes at a time of heightened attention on the economic links between the two nations.

But Salman has come prepared. According to reports in the Indonesian press, the Saudi royal is expected to bring 459 metric tons (506 U.S. tons) of cargo with him on his trip — including two Mercedes-Benz S600 limousines and two electric elevators.

Adji Gunawan of the airfreight company PT Jasa Angkasa Semesta (JAS) told the Antara news agency that his company was appointed to handle the cargo, which has already arrived in the country. Adji said his company was employing a total of 572 workers to deal with the Saudi king’s luggage.

More Problems In Alaska Due To Global Warming

Still there are those who want to wish that climate change is not taking place.


For seven decades, the Alaska Highway has mesmerized adventure-seeking travelers. In one breathtaking stretch through the Yukon, glacier lakes and rivers snake through aspen forests and rugged mountains that climb into the clouds.

In recent years, though, a new sight has been drawing motorists’ attention, too, one they can spot just a few feet from their cars’ tires. Bumps and cracks have scarred huge swathes of the road, with some fissures so deep a grown man can jump in and walk through them. Scientists say they’re the crystal-clear manifestation that permafrost — slabs of ice and sediment just beneath the Earth’s surface in colder climes — is thawing as global temperatures keep rising.

In some parts of the 1,387-mile (2,232 kilometer) highway, the shifting is so pronounced, it has buckled parts of the asphalt. Caution flags warn drivers to slow down, while engineers are hard at work concocting seemingly improbable solutions: inserting plastic cooling tubes or insulation sheets, using lighter-colored asphalt or adding layers of soccer-ball sized rocks — fixes that are financially and logistically daunting.

At the time of its construction, the highway was a show of American ingenuity and determination during World War II. In March 1942, just months after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army hastily began to build a road linking Alaska, another exposed Pacific outpost, through Canada to the lower 48 states. Seven months later it was opened, providing a key supply line in case of invasion.

Today the highway serves as the main artery connecting the “Last Frontier” with Canada and the northwestern U.S., bringing tourists to Alaska cruise ships; food, supplies and medicine to remote towns; and equipment to oil fields and mines that are the region’s lifeblood.

Going East To West In Maine Might Get Better With Private Toll Road

There is no way that an east-west highway across Maine can be anything but a positive one for economic and logistical reasons.  How it has been this long for such a road to be placed in Maine is a political story for a book.

The problem in Maine is that most of its major roads run north-south. Very few run east-west, which makes traversing the state one long, slow slog.

Peter Vigue, the chairman and chief executive of the Cianbro Corporation, a large engineering and construction company based in Maine, is hoping to change that. He has proposed a $2 billion private toll road running 220 miles across the state.

He says it could make Maine a vital link in the global economy, speeding commerce across the Northeastern United States to markets in the Midwest, as well as help revitalize the lagging local economy.

The expansions of the Panama and Suez Canals make this highway even more urgent, he said in an interview last week. Bigger ships from around the world, carrying more cargo containers, will be looking for bigger, less congested ports on the East Coast, he said, and Maine already has one in Eastport.

The idea of an east-west highway has been kicking around for decades. But Mr. Vigue’s proposal stands a good chance of becoming reality. As such, it has struck a raw nerve within the Maine psyche and has prompted a fierce debate over the state’s brand, character and future.

Opponents say a major thoroughfare slicing through the state would destroy the very qualities of peacefulness, natural beauty and remoteness that make this region desirable in the first place.

“It would just completely change ‘the way life should be,’ ” said Chris Buchanan, referring to the state’s unofficial slogan. Ms. Buchanan is the statewide coordinator for Stop the Corridor, a coalition opposing the highway.

“Maine is a rural state,” she said, “and this is a businessman who is trying to make it the Northeast trade gateway.”

That is exactly what others hope Mr. Vigue (pronounced VIG-you) can achieve.


This Is The Way To Write A Travel Article

I read the following travel piece this past week, and marveled at how much I loved the writing.  The topic is one that we are musing over too.  Since CP is nothing if not eclectic, I offer the first part of Neil Genzlinger’s Full Steam On The Mississippi for your consideration.  This is just a grand story.

FEW who survived it — and, in truth, we all survived it — will soon forget the Great Yazoo Steamboat Wreck of 2012. For one thing, it seemed briefly as if it might disrupt our 5 p.m. dinner seating, which would have raised a howl loud enough to send a hog to church. For another, it was the most exciting thing that happened during our pleasantly lazy six days on the American Queen, a grand steamboat that made a much anticipated return to river cruising this spring after several years at rest.

But I’ll tell more about the wreck by and by. Let’s have this odyssey of history, economics and gastro-economics start where it begins, in New Orleans, city of the curious and the wicked.

Many in that town took time out from their curious wickedness on a Thursday in April to come down to the waterfront and get an eyeful of the American Queen as it sat alongside the Riverwalk Marketplace preparing for its first paying passengers in four years. Anyone who says he wouldn’t want to pass a few minutes staring at the American Queen is either a liar or cross-eyed. It’s the biggest steamboat ever built, people who know about such things swear, and when it’s floating on the Mississippi, one of the biggest rivers ever built, something just feels right about the world.

Most sources list the boat at 418 feet long. A few say 419. Me, I’ve presided over enough laundry mishaps to know that where there’s water there’s shrinkage, and I own enough sponges to know that where there’s water there’s also expansion, so I believe that the length of the American Queen depends on when you measure it. For the purposes of this tale, just accept that it is a very large boat and that fish from Minnesota to Louisiana warn their grandchildren about the formidable red paddle wheel on the back.

The American Queen’s history has been short but eventful, and lovers of the gentle, genteel pastime of steamboat cruising have been watching to see if that history would have any new chapters. The boat, built in 1995 by the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, had some fine years on the Mississippi and elsewhere. But no craft made can outrun hard times, and in 2008 the Majestic America Line, which had come to own the American Queen, faltered.


Travel In An Easy Chair With “In The Footsteps Of Marco Polo”

Travelogues are not my favorite form of reading.  So I was very surprised and greatly impressed with the text and photographs that I have come to love in the latest book to come home with me.  “In The Footsteps Of Marco Polo” is the companion book to the much acclaimed PBS series.   Denis Belliveau and Francis O’Donnell in the 1990’s set out on a fascinating and gutsy two-year epic journey to retrace the famed trip of Marco Polo.   With snippets from the book Polo authored about his travels, which are interspersed with  the current adventurer’s encounters, it is clear that many of the same sights, sounds, and smells that awaited Polo in the 1200’s have remained timeless.

One of the paragraphs that I read and then re-read was from the chapter where the two modern-day Polo’s are in the Taklamakan Desert in Central Asia.  It is there that the two travelers, along with local guides for this point of the journey are traveling over endless sand dunes.  Encountering a shattered tree that would benefit them for heat that night came the following words that sums up so much of the tone and style of the book. 

“….I brought my camel to its knees and ran my hand over the wood’s  finely sanded grain. Maybe a child climbed this tree thousands of years ago when it was alive,  I mused.  Maybe a monk mediated under its leaves when it stood in the courtyard of a Buddhist monastery or perhaps a mad Tibetan marauder was put to death and hung from it limbs”  The text continues about the guide’s boys “hacking at the bleached trunk, and I reflected on the tree’s final demise.  Tonight it would heat my bed and cook my food, completing its journey as it helped me on mine.”

The text is rich and delicious all the way through and one that I found most rewarding.

As a side note on living in the desert, the local guides would dig large holes in the sand and line them with burning embers from the wood they found during the day.  Then placing sand over the embers followed by the blankets and sleeping bags made for more comfortable nights of rest.

Living and eating as the locals did on the journey allows for every chapter of this fast-paced and colorful read to give dimension and detail to a very large segment of the world that is not in our everyday frame of reference.  I must say though that the thought of eating lamb lungs filled with milk and then boiled, making it all have the texture of cheese, and the fragrance of strong cheese did not make me yearn for that particular meal.  At other times I think eating, as described by the authors would have been a fun adventure.

There is a continuous treasure trove of trivia and insight that makes this book highly readable and throughly enjoyable.  From knowing the same Muslim family from the time of Marco Polo to the present-era holds the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to the way Afghan men urinate by never standing, or how others after washing hands never shake them dry but always wring them, or to the reasons Uighurs have deformed ears all make for plenty of reasons to read and devour this book.

A winner of a read!