Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amtrak Adventure - Day 3 - Richmond, Virginia

Our third day of the trip started with a two hour train journey from Washington DC to Richmond, Virginia. Union Station in Washington is akin to an airport terminal with departure gates, shops and restaurants so it was somewhat of a surprise to step off the train in Richmond onto the ground and have to walk across the second track to get to a station building which offered only a waiting area, a ticket office and a small food counter.

Given we were leaving Richmond on the overnight train we needed to store our bags for the day but could see no sign of a left-luggage facility, potentially a huge problem – we only had weekend cases but who wants to cart any case around all day?  Fortunately, a friendly ticket clerk came to our rescue, taking our bags into a locked office space and reassuring us that he would still be around that evening when we needed to get them back.   

According to Google maps a bus from a terminus close to the station would take us downtown.  It turned out that the terminus was a park and ride lot and given it was Sunday looked suspiciously deserted! We had no alternative but to return to the station and take a taxi which given the distance (Amtrak stations are rarely near downtown in smaller cities) was an unexpected expense.  Ironically Richmond does have a downtown Amtrak Station but the trains from New York don’t stop there and there doesn’t seem to be any connecting trains between the two!

The Main station is an impressive building:

 but unfortunately someone decided it was a good idea to build a freeway right in front of it:

Just along from the station stands the ReconciliationStatue. Identical statues are located in Liverpool, England and Benin, West Africa to memorialize the triangular trade route used in the slave trade.


It turned out that Sunday was not the best day to visit Richmond. The city was extremely quiet, the streets all but deserted and many shops and cafes closed. We eventually found an Irish pub SinĂ© (doesn’t matter what day it is, you can guarantee an Irish pub will be open!) with a terrace, offering wonderful relief from the blistering heat.

A stroll along the canal proved to be a lot shorter than suggested in the guide books as a mesh fence blocked off the route so we worked our way up to the street where we found this rather attractive statue.

At this point we were beginning to wonder what we were going to do to fill in the time until our 9.40 pm train when we happened to glimpse what looked like a park. On investigation it turned out to be the grounds of the State Capitol Building. If the building which was designed by Thomas Jefferson looks familiar it’s because it was the model for the White House in DC, hence its nickname “The Original White House”. 

The park-like grounds contain a beautiful fountain:

and, of course, numerous statues and monuments. The most impressive was a four-sided monument, dedicated to a young girl who started the campaign against school segregation.

 We managed to while away some time sitting and strolling in the grounds before heading towards the more built up side of town in search of somewhere to have dinner. 

Graffiato on Broad Street is an Italian restaurant offering a small plate menu. As I have a small appetite one pasta dish turned out to be just right for me, despite the waitress’ suggestion that we order two or more each. The Tortellini with bolognaise, carrots and hazelnuts was absolutely delicious and left just enough room for chocolate cake!

As darkness fell we headed back to the station to wait for our train. True to his word, the ticket clerk was there to help us retrieve our bags. Unfortunately the train was running late, not exactly welcome news at that time of night and it was with relief that we eventually heard the now familiar whistle of the arriving train.

Overall my impression of Richmond was not that great, but perhaps that is unfair given it was Sunday. I’m not sorry that we included it in our itinerary, but was certainly glad that we had only allotted a half day for our visit. 



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