Sunday, April 12, 2009

Home Sweet Home

We are home sweet home! We had a great time in Washington DC! Here's a post I wrote on the plane ride home last night, to conclude my adventure in the big city:

Day 3 started out great with breakfast at a cute little restaurant down the street from our hotel called Open City. Eggs, sausage, grits, and one of the best lattes I’ve ever had. I love grits for breakfast!

I didn’t have to be anywhere at any time that day, so I just hopped the subway into the city (I had become quite comfortable riding it after a couple days). I started with the Postal Museum, which was a small but very well done little treasure about the history of the postal service and mail. It only took about a half hour, but was worth the trip. From there, I walked through Capitol Hill (humming “I’m a bill, I’m a bill, and I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill…”) I visited the Library of Congress there. Well, one of the buildings that is – there are three huge buildings to contain the Library of Congress. They are mainly libraries, but also consist of special exhibits and the buildings they are in are quite spectacular. I never got over the majesty of the buildings in DC, as I toured from museum to museum. The setting which they are housed is pretty much an attraction of its own.

I enjoyed leisurely cruising by the Capitol building, but didn’t go in. I have done the tour there twice, and didn’t arrange to do it this time. I hopped the subway and made my way to the National Archives, where I hoped to get in on a cancelation on one of the tours. I read in my little tour book that this was sort of a “unknown secret.” Those who were not savvy enough to arrange for ahead of time tickets, ahem, could try showing up at tour time for a cancelation. So, I went to the office there and excitedly inquired about it.... they had no idea what I was talking about. The employees kept passing me around from one entrance to the next for about a half hour and no one had ever heard of what I wanted to do. Getting eager for some answers, I walked right in an exit door to try and talk to someone who knew….and wouldn't you know, five big and very concerned security people descended on me in a millisecond. Oops. They weren't too interested in my question...I think I now know a bit of how Nicolas Cage felt in National Treasure trying to sneak into buildings. Oh well…at least I am able to report to you that you CANNOT get a cancelation! Do not waste your time! Make your tour reservations in advance (4 weeks at least), people. Or, you will find yourself subject to a line that takes 1 ½ hours to get in, or worse yet, lose your mind and try to to sneak into an exit door.

So, a bit discouraged, I made my way to another one of the places on my list, the Daughters of the Revolution (DAR) museum. I walked in, not knowing too much about the DAR, but eager to find out a few nuggets of history. What I thought would be a museum with displays and information was really just DAR headquarters, and I ended up getting lost in a maze of offices! I couldn’t find my way out…so I asked a woman I saw for directions back to the front desk. I finally found out that there was a self-guided tour of about a dozen “period” rooms and was given a little map. The rooms ended up being dark, there was a dangling 3 ring binder that described the furniture in each room (that I could barely see), and oh by the way, you couldn’t go into the rooms at all, but had to peer through the doorway. Disappointed, again, I headed to leave. I stopped in the gift shop, and discovered that was pretty much the best thing about the place. I found a couple gifts, and off I went. The curious thing was, the abovementioned little tour book gave the DAR museum a 4 star review (Mount Vernon got 4 stars – most things were 2-3 stars). Now, I was starting to become very disillusioned with my handy tour book! But that’s OK, it was time to get back for my evening with Rich!

Rich and I went to a delicious sushi dinner and then headed over to Capitol Hill Baptist church for their Good Friday service. We walked in a little early, and the choir was warming up a bit, so we sat down. Someone in the choir asked a question, and I looked up and realized it was my friend Natalie Grubbs’ twin sister, Abigail. She had visited from DC a couple of times to Grace, to see Natalie and Wayne and I had visited a bit with her on both occasions, but had no idea she attended Capitol Hill Baptist. I went and said hello to her, and she ended up giving us a great tip for breakfast for Saturday. Love those insider tips! And, the service was very nice – great to find a body of believers in such a government centered city!

So, today, day 4 (Saturday morning) we checked out, stored our luggage, and grabbed a subway to check out Abigail’s favorite breakfast spot, Market Lunch. It was actually at an indoor farmer’s market. She recommended the “blue bucks” which were buckwheat and blueberry pancakes. We were happy to find her recommendation was a good one! We got there just before a huge lined formed at this darling little walk up eatery. We enjoyed our "blue bucks," some sausage and bacon, and some more grits (happy me).

We really only had a few hours left before we headed to the airport, but were able to squeeze in a visit to the Holocaust Museum and the Building Museum. The Holocaust museum is a DON’T MISS if you are in DC. It is definitely not best for kids under 10 or so, but it is an important place to visit if they are mature enough. The Building Museum, unfortunately, like DAR, was only worth the visit to the gift shop (and the café- their lattes are good!).

Well, that's about it...before I finish this up, here is a summary of my favorite things of this trip (don’t be surprised that food tops my list):

Oceanaire restaurant: BEST crab cake ever, delicious hashed brown side dish, amazing fresh halibut
Open City restaurant: Great vibe, great coffee and scrumptious breakfast menu

Potbelly sandwiches: Puts our sandwich chains to shame. Very good sandwiches that I'll be dreaming of for a long time
Zaytinya restaurant: A very fun eating experience - Greek mezze
Ella’s pizza: We wanted to try Two Amy’s Pizza but ran out of time, liked Ella’s a lot – very hip & innovative menu

Holocaust museum: Very moving, amazing museum
Ford’s theater: Nice slice of history about Abraham Lincoln
American History museum: One of the best museums on earth!
Omni Shoreham hotel: Very safe area, close to subway and trendy Adams Morgan neighborhood. made me feel like I was in a grand hotel of old – very similar to the Waldorf in NY. Bill Clinton even had one of his inaugural balls there – and made history playing the sax that night
Riding the subway: Never thought I’d say this after experiencing the subway in NY, but DC’s subways are clean, easy to figure out, and get you to your destination fast
Mount Vernon: Well worth a half day trip, saw the bed George died on and his false teeth
All the architecture: Truly amazing!
Newseum: A don’t miss, if you are a history buff
The monuments at night: One word: spectacular
The tulips: Blooming everywhere in a rainbow of colors- what a treat for the eyes. Unfortunately, the cherry blossoms bloomed last week, and the wind swept most of the blossoms away

And, even though I didn’t visit any of these on this trip, I would like to recommend the following for future visitors:

National Archives
Bureau of Engraving
Arlington National Cemetary
The Capitol
The White House (I think they only offer a short tour now, but you gotta do it)
Air and Space Museum
Washington Monument

DC is such a wonderful city – so full of history and beauty. It’s a great place for families to experience live history! I will try and put up a picture-filled post tomorrow!

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