I, like a lot of people, travel too much on business and like a lot of people I complain about it a lot. But sometimes not; recently I needed to get from downtown Baltimore home to Vancouver; the hitch was I was flying not out of Baltimore's own BWI airport but out of National down in DC, a 4:37PM departure. It's a fair distance from Baltimore to Washington.
The trip started with a nice taxi ride to Baltimore's Penn Station, which is a charming if a perhaps a bit shabby little old thing; I bypassed the ticket lineup and a machine sold me a machine on an Amtrak leaving in just a few minutes, which left time to buy a magazine and a decent sandwich at a decent price.
The train was smooth, comfortable, had 120 volts at the seat for my computer, a nice big wheelchair-sized toilet. The nice ticket lady informed me that this was a no-cellphone car; I approved because train-time, I think, is thinking time, and the 50-minute trip was way too short.
Except for, it disgorged me at Washington's Union Station, which is an altogether wonderful and beautiful place, it really ought to be on every Washington tourist's itinerary. I did some Christmas shopping for my wife, picked up a couple of Rex Stouts for the plane ride at the excellent bookstore, and got my shoes shined at the insanely-busy shoeshine stand, three chairs and always someone waiting for the next.
I felt terribly cosmopolitan in the middle chair when I had really sharp-dressed black dudes getting their shines either side of me, one with sculpted dreadlocks and a kind of upscale Eddie Bauer look, the other in a really good conservative suit with what I assume was a fake diamond earring, if it was real he would be buying the station not getting his shoes shined there. Also the shoeshine was really outstanding.
Then onto the always-efficient Washington Metro for two quick trains to the airport, a decent draught Sam Adams and a burger, then onto the plane, and of course all downhill from there.