US trains proved a bit of a surprise today. Now I have to admit here that they should not have been a surprise – I travelled the same New York to Washington route about 10 years ago. But a wildly successful meeting in Washington lead to many, many business-funded gin and tonics, which in turn led to some seriously flawed memories of the US train experience.
Today we got on the train after ten hours flying from Peru and then four hours waiting about in Newark Airport. That, in some ways, managed to replicate the experience of 10 G&T’s but was a lot less fun. I don’t know why US airports appear to be so soulless; but, believe me, Newark is not a place to hang about for four hours. We tried and discarded three different coffees – this is not civilization!
Anyway the train turned out to be amazingly comfortable. Tons of leg-room, plenty of space for baggage, big windows and lovely, clear announcements. It did run late, but hey we’re not in Switzerland now. The countryside was fascinating on the way down. We passed through Trenton New Jersey with the huge, whiny sign: “Trenton makes, The World takes.”. We passed by, and over, the lovely Delaware River. We passed through Baltimore which, at least by the railway, was just like scenes from The Wire.
Washington’s metro system proved to be modern and easy to navigate and, 23-hours after we left our apartment in Peru, we arrived, rather the worse for wear, in our house in Washington. We’re on a great tree-lined street just South of The Mall: there are squirrels all over the place – and we’ll have to find a local to ask whether that’s as endearing as we find it, or more like seeing rats.
Our first order of business was a trip to the local supermarket. This lived up to all expectations about American supermarkets – being huge and filled with super-sized stuff. You know those packets of assorted breakfast cereals you see? Well, here, the individual packets are half the size of a normal family pack back home. We had a great time finding halfway healthy stuff amongst the bewilderingly huge aisles of goods. But all criticism aside our Safeway became my pedantic friend when I saw the express aisle says “15 items or fewer” instead of “8 items or less”: who says American have bad English?