I recently spent five days in our nation’s capital, Washington DC for a conference, and had the interesting experience of staying in nearby Crystal City an “urban village” as it is called on Wikipedia that is located south of Washington DC in Arlington, Virginia.

I had spent some time there at a week-long conference years ago and that trip did not leave me with good impressions of the urban-suburban-feeling place. In fact, I hated it. Fast-forward ten years and I could not believe how much it has changed.

Restaurants, coffee shops and shopping malls have popped up everywhere (yet mostly chains) and it felt more like an actual city than just a strip of hotels. What really surprised me more than anything however was the contrast between art and carts. Every single piece of ugly concrete wall along the highway and underpasses was covered in beautiful, unique artwork. I could hardly believe it.  Obviously the city has spent some serious time and money trying to beautify the area and it has worked to some extent.

For me, it was hard to ignore the abandoned shopping carts, one after another, just hanging out along the sidewalks, parking lots and streets. I thought it was such an ironic contrast between the beautiful, refreshing art and the ugly reality of poverty and demise.

I remember the comment I received when I saw my first abandoned shopping cart. I stopped, looked at it in dismay than reached for my camera. It was early morning and the sun was already beating strong. A woman ran by and noticed me taking a picture of an ugly, dirty cart. Her words to me were: “Welcome to DC!“.

I showed my husband these photos and he observantly pointed out that the carts were empty. So who knows who were the users of these shopping carts and why on earth they left them there on the sidewalks of Crystal City?


  1. The Art Wall is tremendous, Nicole – some of the paintings are really fantastic, and it must make such a difference to have all that colour, and movement to enliven the concrete jungle. How long has it been there, do you know? Will it be cared for and cleaned, I wonder?

    The shopping carts look ominously like they’ve been abandoned by lazy shoppers, don’t they? I guess, not being a normal suburban centre, the markets aren’t employing cart retrievers. Such a shame – they look like urban litter of the worst type!

    1. I’m not really sure when the art came up. It seems relatively new and there are plaques everywhere describing the artwork but I was always in such a hurry to get to the conference that I never had time to read them, just snap pictures. Yes, strange how odd it is to leave carts like that in the middle of the sidewalk!

  2. I really enjoyed the tour, your descriptive words and the photographs are great! Having spent some time there myself your post is right on the money! Excellent! 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.