One of the best things about living near DC is the access to some amazing places without having to drive for two days, like you do if you want to escape Texas. On the east coast the states are so close together that you can easily visit four of them in a single day (or more, if you don’t, you know, actually stop to SEE them.)

Since it was the weekend, I decided it was high time I played tourist. We’ve been here since October, and while I’ve seen plenty of grocery stores and, of course, Rockville Town Square, I haven’t seen much of anything else. Hubby had to be in Tyson’s Corner on Saturday so I went with him, dropped him off at his event, and went on a photo safari in Old Town Alexandria.

If you’ve never been, I hope you get a chance to walk up and down King Street. It has that old time feel of a place steeped in history. The street is lined with shops and restaurants (you will not go hungry anywhere near this street), and it gently slopes down to the water of the Potomac. I get the feeling that when it’s warmer, it’s packed with tourists. As it was, there were plenty of people around and I heard at least five languages I didn’t recognize. I snapped pictures of everything that caught my eye, and then saw this sign:P3160920

How can you not go inside after a sign like that? It made me laugh, and I needed a break, so I ventured in.

Behind the counter stood a barrista with a beautiful smile and so much happiness it beamed off of her and onto me. I smiled back, taking in the beautiful tattoo on her shoulder and the calm nature-child like demeanor she exuded. To me, she seemed surrounded by an almost visible aura. It was a combination of the tattoo, her outfit, the surroundings, the way she did her hair, and her attitude. The heavenly smell of coffee beans didn’t hurt.

In my head, the words “can I take your picture” rolled around, but I’m not one for approaching strangers with that sort of thing and I thought it might sound like I was a stalker or perhaps a pervert there to entice her with promises of fame and fortune in the modeling world (as if I could deliver any of those things) if she’d only follow me down a dark alley. I probably watch too much crime tv.

At any rate, she asked me for my order and I was instantly tongue tied. My heart, it seemed, didn’t care what my brain thought and the words that came out had nothing to do with mocha latte. Instead I said “that tattoo is amazingly beautiful on you.” She beamed at me and gushed about the artist who’d done it, and how happy she was with it, and if I was interested exactly where to locate him. I shook my head and told her I hadn’t been that brave yet, because I couldn’t figure out exactly what image I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. She nodded, wisdom there in her eyes, and told me yes, it’s an important decision and I should wait until I knew for sure.

At this point, my heart shoved words out of my mouth again. “Would it sound creepy if I asked to take your picture?”

I even winced as I said them. I felt so shy, but I also knew that standing there in front of me was a muse and if I didn’t take the picture I’d lose her forever. You just don’t walk away from a muse, not when you’re a writer. Something about her that day told me I needed her. So I blurted the words out despite my better judgment about stalker-ish-ness.

She smiled, and said “not at all” and then turned so I could get a good shot of her shoulder and that amazing tattoo.

P3160940-2I only took one picture, but I’m so glad I did. There’s just something about her that sparks story ideas in me that I can’t let go. When inspiration comes up and smacks me in the face and offers me coffee, I try to stand up and take note.

I thanked her, then she told me she loves photography too, and suggested that I go check out the cobblestone alleys. I hadn’t even heard of them, so she gave me directions, and the mocha latte. I sat in that little coffee shop and simply soaked in the moment. When I left, she waved and called out: “Make sure you go see that alley. It’s magical.”

Magical indeed.