Travelogue: Washington DC (May 2009)

To celebrate our second wedding anniversary, we thought a trip to Montreal would be lovely. However, it was supposed to be rainy and cold there (something we’d had just about enough of by this point, thank you very much) so we decided to change our plans and opt for a more southerly spot. But, for the weekend, every place within a five hour drive was expecting heavy rain and thunderstorms. By the looks of it, there wasn’t a single destination within driving distance that wouldn’t be soaking wet. We figured DC would be a good destination in the case that this happened to be true (lots of indoor sights). DC also had the advantage of being a business city, which means the rates on the hotels actually go down on the weekends. Should we spend a lot of time in the room, it could be in a nicer one. The last time we were in DC together was when I was interviewing for medical school at Georgetown, and neither of us had been there as tourists in many years–so we started making plans–with lots of good suggestions from friends who had lived there.

It just so happens that we lucked out! The forecast was completely wrong and we had wonderfully warm, sunny weather throughout our stay. It was if we had traveled into another season! (Exactly what we were hoping for.)

I came home after an overnight shift (on which, mercifully, I got some sleep) and we picked up our rental car and dashed off. Ashley kept the peonies I bought her that week for her office at her feet, not wanting to miss their blooms. We decided to take a more scenic path to DC, detouring through Maryland to drive along the Eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay before crossing at Annapolis.
On our way, we stopped for strawberries at a roadside stand–which reminded us of the strawberries we bought as we drove up from Los Angeles to Los Olivos on the weekend of our wedding.

{May 2007}

We drove on, spying the first of the many 18th-century homes we would encounter (in Chestertown), and stopping for crab at one of the many crab shacks (I’m afraid we can’t recall the name but I believe it was along the Kent Narrows).  It was so nice to sit outside where the boats tie up and enjoy the warm sun by the water.

In DC, we stayed at the Normandy Hotel, which was just a short walk from Dupont Circle on a quiet, residential side street–apparently Embassy Row. The boutique hotel was just what I was hoping for. It was really well-priced, with parking available, and had a great style. (Ashley was especially thrilled by the Chinoiserie wallpaper.) I requested that a bottle of Champagne be waiting for us, and one was on ice when we arrived. It was wonderful surprising Ashley.
That night, we had 9:30 dinner reservations at Proof (near the Portrait Gallery). We really enjoyed everything: they serve delicious small plates and it reminded us a bit of an old favorite in Los Angeles, AOC.
With our hotel so near to Dupont circle, it was easy to take the Metro around the city. But we started Saturday at nearby Kramer’s books for breakfast, and then chose to walk down to the mall, making our way around the Washington and Lincoln memorials and other various civic monuments before checking out the National Building Museum. Unfortunately, some of their exhibits were closed, but the lobby alone was pretty great–arcaded galleries surrounding a huge inner courtyard–and we found some cute little books for our nephew in the gift store.
We were walking past the Holocaust Memorial Museum and were intrigued by the special exhibit on propaganda. It was really fascinating–and disturbing. Disturbing not only to see once again the role that propaganda played in the Holocaust, but to see how the same techniques are constantly employed today, even if for different (and often benevolent?) causes.

One of the best things about DC is that so many of its museums are free (generally with optional donations). It makes stopping in and sampling just a bit of a museum a possibility–such a nice opportunity. This visit was less about seeing the collections at the Smithsonian or other institutions, but I look forward to dipping in and out on future visits. (On a side note, one of our favorite stops on our last trip, many years ago, was the International Spy Museum–which I do recall being expensive.)

For lunch, we stopped in at Cowgirl Creamery and brought a picnic of Mimolette and Grayson cheese out to the Mall. Cowgirl Creamery (in Northern California) is a favorite–especially their Red Hawk (which we had at our wedding).

Walking around the Tidal Basin, en route to the Jefferson memorial, we were inspired to rent a paddle boat.

That night we wanted to find something further away from downtown, and we settled on Black Salt Fish Market for dinner. The seafood there came highly recommended–and was wonderful and was certainly among the best we’ve had. The cocktails were good too; I had a Negroni, a new favorite for me–I love its bitterness. (By the way, the White House Correspondent’s Dinner was being held around the corner from our hotel–we passed by on our way to catch a cab, but we didn’t linger long enough to catch a glimpse of the President.)

We had grand plans for brunch on Sunday at Brasserie Beck, but were so fooded-out from the previous day, that we canceled and instead had something lighter (emphasis on the –er): Krispy Kremes. We hadn’t had fresh, hot ones in so long (they’re not available fresh in NY) and just couldn’t help ourselves.

Still, it wasn’t long before we stopped again–drawn into a creperie that shared its name with a Berkeley favorite (Crepes-a-go-go).

We decided we had better walk to our next destination–Georgetown.

We passed through a greenmarket with great looking ramps and asparagus (ah, spring!) and looked around the shopping district of Georgetown before walking up into Rock Creek Park (lovely and green).


From there, we made our way back into the Adams-Morgan district. This neighborhood seems to be overflowing with wonderful food options, so we were happy to have some suggestions in hand. We shared a falafel at Amsterdam Falafelshop. It was seriously good, and gave Ashley a new interest in falafels.

We felt we couldn’t leave DC without walking past the White House to check out Michelle’s garden (just barely visible from the gates) before we got back in our car and headed back to New York. It was exciting to see the White House so up-close again; I had underestimated that.
We had followed the recommendations of our friend, Erin, who really helped us to see the city from a local’s perspective. It was great to see more than just the (amazing) museums and to instead get better look at the neighborhoods and local eateries.

… a fantastic getaway–a wonderful way to celebrate our second anniversary!

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