|Subject: Five days in Washington D.C.|
A few weeks back you may remember my asking some questions regarding a visit to Washington D.C. Well, the trip went off without a hitch and I'd like to make my report and simultaneously thank all those who offered suggestions.
This was a business trip for my wife Sara on which I tagged along for support (and fun, of course). There were two highlights to the trip; a GTG with Cynthia Morefield and Anne and Kirk Woodyard, and a snowstorm that dropped eight inches of fresh fluffy powder on the city.
Our hotel was the Washington Terrace on Scott Circle. Standard business hotel with small rooms and problematic phone service. It's a decent location but we'll probably opt for a different hotel next time. The Metro is really an outstanding subway and makes transportation in the D.C. area a snap for tourists. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it out to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (or Dulles, for that matter) but a taxi was easy enough to get and ran $70 (inc. tip) to downtown D.C. There are less expensive options for ground transportation such as Super Shuttle (which had a lengthy line at their counter) or a bus shuttle to the closest Metro station. But after a cross-country flight the method of least hassle possible was preferable.
Having been to D.C. on a number of previous trips it wasn't necessary to visit the big ticket items such as the Capitol, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, National Air and Space Museum, etc. Instead I returned to the Phillips Collection and the National Gallery to revisit a couple of my favorite pieces of art. I neglected to review the Phillips Collection's website and was unaware that Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party is on a tour of the U.S. until 2004. The museum is currently offering a special exhibition of Pierre Bonnard. The absence of Renoir's masterpiece afforded me the opportunity to pay more attention to other portions of the permanent collection. And I discovered some gems which I had overlooked before; Kandinsky's Succession, a couple of mobiles by Calder including Only Only Bird, two paintings by Edouard Vuillard, and a gallery specifically designed and lit for several paintings of Mark Rothko. The National Gallery of Art Sara and I visited Thursday afternoon as the snow was letting up. The Sculpture Garden was wonderful to see in a blanket of fresh snow. In particular we loved Typewriter Eraser, Scale X by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Inside the gallery we spent the late afternoon walking amongst the intriguing pieces that make up the special exhibition Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting which will continue to be exhibited until March 2003. Having run out of time I was forced to return the next morning to visit my favorite landscape Morning in the Tropics by Frederic Edwin Church. Although the temperature outside was a chilly 25º F sitting in front of that painting had me feeling the sweltering heat of the jungle.
After having lunch with a friend in Chinatown on my first full day in D.C. I had her drop me off at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. I was very moved by this site. Although I'm too young to remember FDR and the events of his successive administrations this visit brought fond memories of my grandparents flooding back. I also thought of my mother and stories she related to me about growing up during that period. The afternoon was very cold and gray with the water used in the various parts of the memorial frozen into stunning formations. The whole visit gave me a sort of surreal melancholy. I imagine the feelings arose from the vicarious human connection (through older members of my family) with the period of history represented by the memorial. I've experienced these emotions when visiting other more contemporary memorials such as the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial or the memorial for the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne.
Leaving the FDR Memorial I walked on up the National Mall towards the Washington Monument passing construction on the WW II Memorial. Having never been up the Washington Monument I opted to do so in order to take in the best view of D.C. Unfortunately, more stringent security restrictions precluded me from taking my daypack up with me. Earlier in the day I had purchased a bottle of wine and had been toting it around with me. With nowhere to store articles the ranger suggested I take it over to the Holocaust Museum. Their suggestion worked out well but for any of you Ziners visiting D.C. in the future you might want to keep this in mind. By the way, we have visited the Holocaust Museum and I have to say that this should be visited by everyone when they come to D.C. The new elevator up to the top of the Washington Monument has windows which allow the passengers to see examples of the inscribed stones used in the decades-long construction of the monument.
The next day I visited the International Spy Museum which was a real kick. I spent over three hours walking through the exhibits there. This new museum is nicely done and ties together the mythology and reality of the spy trade very well. A note to you Ziners: this is not a part of the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore is not administered by the federal government. Unlike most museums in D.C. it is NOT free and costs $11 for adults. But I thought it was well worth it.
On Friday the 6th Sara and I met with our fellow Travelziners at Bistrot du Coin on Connecticut Ave. for lunch. As always a Travelziner GTG is an enjoyable event offering us the opportunity to venture out of the cyberworld and experience the smiles and warmth of camaraderie in person. If you haven't been to one yet do so soon. At this GTG Cynthia Morefield won the award for longest distance traveled driving into the area from more than three hours away. Cynthia did say that the drive was beautiful, the landscape glistening with snow from the previous day's storm. Kirk and Anne Woodyard regaled us with wonderful stories of their travels leaving Sara and I jealous of their close proximity (relatively speaking) to Europe. Lunch was enjoyed by all and if any of you Ziners are looking for a little bit of France in D.C. you can find it here. An apology to Cynthia, Anne and Kirk, indications are that there was a problem with the film and I may have a blank role. My apologies. That camera has been retired as Sara and I have joined the digital camera world at last.
Afterwards Sara and I quickly ducked into the Phillips Collection again so I could show her my new discoveries (the museum is just around the corner from the Bistrot du Coin in the DuPont Circle area). The remainder of the afternoon we strolled through Embassy Row collecting countries and visited the Textile Museum which currently has an exhibit on Anatolian carpets.
On our last day in town we went out to the National Zoo so I could show Sara the Amazonia exhibit. I love the way the curators have mixed the aquatic and arboreal aspects of the jungle. It is really something to walk along the path with these huge river fish (up to 6 ft. long) in the water below you while monkeys swing from the tree limbs above. It was interesting seeing the various animals (those that were out on exhibit) juxtaposed against the snow. Of course, the pandas are used to colder climes and were fairly active. We had an opportunity to talk at length with a keeper at the panda exhibit. She was interested in our thoughts about their exhibit in comparison with the one we have here in San Diego for the three pandas at the San Diego Zoo.
A final note about dining. In addition to the nice lunch we had at Bistrot du Coin we also enjoyed meals at Full Kee in Chinatown (Chinese; try the Shrimp Dumpling Soup), and Malaysia Kopitiam at 1827 M Street (enjoyed the Roti Canai appetizer and Spicy Tamarind Beef).
Thanks again to all those who offered suggestions. If you didn't see yours here it just means I'm saving them for the next trip (March 2003).
John in San Diego