Autumn Visit to USA by Leela Soma

house washington dc

Fall in Washington DC

As my friends in Glasgow are getting into their Autumn woolies, here in the Fall in DC it is still 90 degrees during the day and humid. Shorts and flimsy tops are de riguer. My summer has been extended by a few more weeks and I am relishing it, in air conditioned comfort.

This is our third visit to DC. During our first two visits, we did the tourist trails of the fabulous museums and iconic buildings like the White House and the Capitol. DC is a beautiful city. The cherry blossom festival in Spring makes it a vision in pale pink. There are so many festivals during summer that it is hard to keep up with all of them.

carlyle house

National Book Festival 2017

Last year we were at the huge National Book Festival, and were lucky to see Condoleeza Rice interviewed by David Rubenstein and the prize winning authors Jesmyn Ward and Colm Toibin, whose book Brooklyn, I had just read. I was determined to be at the book fair again if possible at all.  Like Edinburgh Book Festival it is one of the literary highlights of this wonderful city. America’s greatest writers are there and the whole day with numerous events are totally free. Incredible to see thousands attending the festival and great to get a lot of freebies too.

“Scottish Whisky. I know Irish whiskey but not Scotch… did you say?”
The young volunteer in the line asked me. The crowds were mind boggling. The ballroom ( main stage ) could hold 2300 people and the queue was way longer.

“What kind of meat do you eat there? Blood sausage? “ she asked again.
“Black pudding an Haggis” says me , a veggie without batting an eyelid.
“Whoa… she says what’s that”?
I explain, leaving her looking dazed as the queue snakes forward and she keeps shaking her head.

This year I was fortunate to see Amy Tan, Doris Kearns Goodwin, a wonderful historian, Jon Meacham another Pulitzer Prize winning author. I missed Tracy Smith the Poet Laureate as the queues were so big that it was impossible to get there.


This visit I delved into the rich history of little towns in Virginia, where we stay with our daughter. As always I look for connections either Scottish or Indian wherever I travel to. The old town of Alexandria is fascinating in its connections to Scotland. Enriched by two Scots, John Carlyle and William Ramsey who arrived in 1699, from Dumfries in VA and bought plots of land near the waterfront and the Main Street, these intrepid men played a huge role in making the little town a centre for tobacco and cotton trade by building ports that took the produce of the colony to Europe and England.  Do check out the full history

silver whatever

Alexandria also has the infamous connection to slavery as many other states in USA do. The dark underbelly of that era is never far away. George Washington called it his home, there is a historic district, King Street a walkable mile full of interesting buildings, cobblestone streets, and red brick ‘sidewalks.’There is a free King Street Trolley and a Museum pass for 8 historic sites. We loved the Potomac River waterfront with great eateries, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center with war memorabilia and modern art too.What a lot Scots have given to the world.

There is so much to see and take in whenever we visit the United States. Forget what is happening in the White House and enjoy the kindness, friendly American people and the trip is always one to savour and enjoy. The added bonus is of course to be with my only child, whom I love and miss so very much when I am back in dear old Glasgow.

Leela Soma, September, 2018


Plum Stone Throat a poem by Jenne Gray
Lochwinnoch – a poem by Lindsey Stewart

This section: Leela Soma writing and blogging, stories and poems

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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