Sole Searching—What Makes a City Livable?

Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN, ACSM
Your Personal Trainer:

I am still here in Virginia.  The same pair of shoes and the same love of fitness that took me on a walk through the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. last week-end, led me this week along some favorite paths in Old Town Alexandria and the unexpected discovery of some new ones.

My day began at 5:00 AM when I dropped my son, a firefighter, at work and drove his car to the VRE (Virginia Railway Express) station in Rippon about five miles away.

I parked the car and rode the early morning train into Alexandria. The train was full of sleepy commuters, eyes closed, dozing the last few miles to work.  Mine were wide open—the difference between going to work and being on vacation!   Half-an-hour later I alighted from the train and began walking north along King Street.  Twittering before breakfast is always on my agenda, even when I’m walking, and that day was no exception.  No, not me, the birds!  Dawn was barely breaking but they were up, doing what they were hatched to do, twitter, and bless us with their songs!

Meanwhile, I ambled briskly in the crisp air towards my first destination of the day:  breakfast at my favorite place in Old Town Alexandria, La Madeleine Bakery, and a cup of the best French Roast coffee in town.  I arrived at 6:40 AM, first in the door, and sat down with a copy of the Washington Times, a delicious breakfast and a day of exploration ahead of me.

I had missed rush hour and its traffic jams.  The only jam that morning was on my toast.  I wrapped myself in the warmth and enjoyment of the moment.  I did not have to worry about driving around to find a parking place.  I was free to roam for the day as far as my feet were willing to take me and I know my feet well…they have a long battery life, and they are rechargeable.   Alexandria is a foot friendly place that makes it easy to get around.  All you need is time and some knowledge of where you are.  Time was not a problem. I had a delicious day all to myself and I knew the area better than most visitors.

Breakfast was followed by a walk to the end of King Street, a left turn at the Potomac River and a loop up to George Washington Parkway where people on bikes and on foot headed to their own destinations.  Through the course of the day my sole searching led me to The Friendship Firehouse Museum, a little winery called Carafe Wine Makers where they bottle and label their own right there in town,   and a re-sale shop where I bought a book on Wild Land Fire Fighting for my son.  When I arrived back at the train station around 3PM I walked across the street to the George Washington Masonic Memorial, a magnificent structure I had seen many times driving by it on past trips but had never stopped to explore.

As you read this today I am jetting my way back to Portland, another outstandingly walkable city.  Did you know that Portland was voted in the top ten most livable cities in the United States by the American Podiatric Medical Association?  So was Washington, D.C.  I concur whole-heartedly.  Both cities share criteria used to measure what makes a community livable—foot friendly walkways, tree-lined streets, bicycle paths, mass transit, quality parks and public squares,  and the underlying philosophy that walkable streets are not only nice to have but are the basic building block of a quality community.  These two cities share all of that plus bridges and walkways on both sides of their rivers, the Potomac and the Willamette.

Well, this is where I came in.  My travels are done for now.  I have explored a little more of our nation’s backyard and am coming home to my own.  Sole searching is a great way to explore no matter where you are.  It’s good for your heart and your soul, too.   You never know, you may discover something that you’ve seen but never knew was there.

Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM

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