Thursday, 10 November 2011

Claire's big America trip - day nine

What I learned:

Georgetown is not as far as I thought it was (and it's still gorgeous). My overwhelming memory of it last year was of sore feet, but this was chiefly because of the Sketchers Tone Ups I'd bought in New York. Bad, bad idea.

Also, if you are eating alone in a restaurant, and you want to take in the atmosphere and eavesdop on conversations for later inclusion in novels, you need to ask to be seated appropriately.

Where I ate:

Breakfast was a cupcake in Baked and Wired, a trendy, well, cupcake place on the same street as the soon-to-be-closed (sniff) Barnes and Noble. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not much of an American cupcake person - they're too, well, too something for me - too sweet seems odd to say, but maybe that's it. Or maybe it's the sheer amount of icing. After much deliberation, I opted for the Tessita - vanilla with dulce de leche filling and "satin hazelnut" icing. Exhausted from that decision, I found myself with another one to make - which coffee? So many options - even for a basic cappuccino. The problem with choices, I've realised this week, is that I invariably feel I made the wrong one. The coffee wasn't quite what I needed. But it was a nice experience nonetheless; they write your name in pink pen on the mug (cue new profile pic on Facebook) and I can tick Baked and Wired off in my guide book now. Ultimately, it's a little too trendy for me - and I like my seats to have backs - but I can certainly see the appeal, and I love the idea of having a whole wall covered with messages and drawings from previous customers, many of them on serviettes.

I splashed out on food today, all in all. Both lunch and dinner were in posh places, and oddly at both I chose some kind of fish with some kind of fennel. The first was Cafe Milano - where Anthony Wiener was spotted just the other day. The food was delicious but I made an error of judgement by asking for a table outside (the weather was gorgeous): I ended up alone on the patio like some kind of naughty schoolchild wanting to be let in to play with the grown-ups and it all got a bit awkward when I asked to move then change my mind and I'm sure the waitress rolled her eyes.

In the evening, I went to the Monocle, a classic DC establishment and worth it just for the picture of a very young and handsome Bill Clinton on the wall - along with dozens of other frames, signed pictures of important politicos past and present (most of whom, sadly, I did not recognise). Also, there were some great quotes on the wall - "if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog" and my waiter was super-friendly and very helpful with suggestions about DC sights (a little late, since tomorrow is my last day). But I had a similar experience where they put me in a corner by myself - though some of the conversations were loud enough that I could hear them anyway. They also topped up my wine glass on the house - twice - after checking I was over 21, which made my day.

Where I wrote:

I scribbled a few words down before my lunch in Cafe Milano arrived, but the bulk of today's writing was done in the Starbucks at Barnes and Noble in Georgetown. It was actually a perfect spot - I had a nice view, a comfortable chair (with a back!) and a wide surface. And of course coffee.

One of the best things about NaNoWriMo (although not in Belgium, unless you're Dutch-speaking) is the idea of write-ins: you basically let people know through the website: "I'll be in such and such a place writing, feel free to join me". It's good for moral support and also for meeting people. I've been to a couple of these now, and I went to my third in Panera Bread on Dupont Circle (where the barista and I had considerable trouble understanding each other). I got my word quota down, but I found it hard to concentrate - the people at the write-in were very chatty, and just behind us was a Spanish tutor teaching a group the basics of numbers and days of the week - always interesting to listen to. As a result, the whole Aaron/Louisa "I can't go out with you because you're not a Christian" conversation did not go well. In fact, she put it off till another day. He is very good-looking though, so I understand that.

DC experiences of the day:

Shopping for books in the Lantern in Georgetown - a second-hand bookshop that seems to be run by three elderly but very friendly ladies. I hadn't meant to buy anything (okay, I can hear you all laughing) but on the first bookshelf as you walk in they clevely put "latest books" - and they included two that I wanted to read: "Game Change" (yes, another political one) and "The Ninth Wife", which I'd looked at longingly in Politics and Prose the other day because it's set in DC, although possibly a little chick litty for me.

Attending a cultural event at the Sixth and I synagogue. Umberto Eco was speaking about his new book, and I had no idea he was so funny. More on that at some stage. I didn't buy, and, let's face it, probably won't read, "The Prague Cemetary", but I might well pick up "The Name of the Rose". A few minutes after I had this thought, he said that sales of his first book always go up when a new one comes out - presumably, he thought, because people realised "oh, but I haven't read the first one yet, and that one is cheaper". Ahem.

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