Welcome to my first ever guest-post on 18 months in DC! This was written for me by my good friend Kate (who also writes a great blog about books, over at http://bloggingaroundmybookcase.com/) about her ‘vacation’ with us last autumn.
“I’ve got friends in low places, where the whisky drowns and the beer chases my blues away” the growling refrain came up on my iTunes recently and I was immediately transported to the back of a car on Skyline Drive with four grown adults giggling uncontrollably and trying to sing along.
But that is, perhaps, getting ahead of myself. Last autumn E and I were very excited to head to DC to visit R and A, two of our best friends, who have decamped from London to live in DC for a few years.
I was unexpectedly charmed by DC. In its own, low-key way it is quite lovely. R&A live in an area called Adams Morgan which is home to a classic American diner, a number of great restaurants and a degenerate bar called Madam’s Organ.
Our first encounter with Madam’s Organ involved a riotous night of karaoke of which one of the highlights was a performance of ‘Friends in Low Places’. I had first come across the piece during a summer spent working on a ranch in Wyoming so when I heard it again it was like rediscovering an old friend. If you aren’t familiar with the song, you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvCgSqPZ4EM and it would be excellent background music for the rest of this blog.
Other highlights of DC were canoeing on the Potomac in the autumn sunshine, watching the Washington Wizards in action, R’s informative and beautiful walking tour of the war memorials and hours spent in DC’s brilliant museums. Watching E scrambling through air ducts in the spy museum will stay with me for a long time.
However, that wasn’t the main point of our trip. After a few days in DC we headed off on a road trip taking in Virginia, Shenandoah and Skyline Drive. We visited the sites of the original English settlers, learnt a lot about Pocohontas and the civil war, talked to lots of people dressed up as settlers and gorged on the fascinating history of this new nation.
I also had grits for the first and last time; collared greens and catfish were much more to my taste.
Then we headed off to Shenandoah, which was the highlight of the trip for me.
Skyline Drive is a road that weaves along the mountaintops through the Shenandoah Forest. It is a stunning drive that we hit at sunset on the first day when the fading sun brought the autumn colours to life in a spectacular, fiery display. We were there on the last week in the season and it was the perfect cold, crisp, clear weather – perfect for hiking.
So we stayed the night in a log cabin and the next day tied up our hiking boots and set off on a spectacular walk that that involved some time on the Appalachian Trail, waterfalls, startled deer and more autumn colours than I’ve ever seen. ‘Beautiful’ doesn’t do autumn in Shenandoah justice. It really is one for your bucket list.
Those of you who have taken my advice and listened to the suggested soundtrack to this blog will have noticed two things a) it is quite long and repetitive and b) that it is an earworm that you will be humming for the rest of the week.
It was after a week of us humming this song, singing snatches here and there and that some members of our merry band couldn’t take any more. So, when halfway up Skyline Drive, another rendition started up, one particular passenger turned the radio on in protest… only then to find that the song they were playing on that radio station at precisely that moment was…Friends in Low Places. At which point we all dissolved into giggles. There is no escape!