Subject: Recent Washington D.C. Trip
Hello Travelziners, Here's a quick recap of this last week's trip to Washington D.C. It was a business trip for my wife Sara on which I was able to tag along. I managed to get a credit card promotional fare on Continental which totaled out at $140 into Baltimore. Flying into Reagan-National would be preferred but the flights are limited and the costs are still too high. So, Baltimore it was (by way of Newark) and the long cab ride into D.C. on a beautiful Sat. evening.

We stayed at The Jefferson Hotel just off Scott Circle about 4 blocks north of the White House. We always stay in this area because the University of California's D.C. campus is located there. That's right, UC has a DC campus. Originally they just had offices for the contingent of lobbyists. But the nine campuses would be sending so many interns to DC that it evolved into a campus of its own. A new building which includes classrooms, dorms, and offices was built near Scott Circle a few years ago. I think they have several hundred students working and attending classes at any one time.

Saturday evening was absolutely gorgeous. We headed out north towards Dupont Circle to grab a bite to eat at Bistro du Coin. Immediately we ran into the Gay Pride parade coming down 17th St. We walked along the parade route for awhile. Big turnout but not that impressive an event. San Diego's parade is much larger with greater crowds. I was a bit surprised. Bistro du Coin had an hour wait so we headed back south on Connecticut Ave. looking for a Lebanese restaurant Sara recalled. Found Bacchus around M St. a stroll down Memory Lane for Sara who lived in DC for seven years back in the 1980's.

Sunday was Sara's only free day and some early research had us heading to three museums and three memorials. Walking from our hotel to the Mall we passed by evidence of the decor remaining from Reagan's funeral on Friday. In particular the Reagan Building and International Trade Center was bedecked with black bunting and huge banners imprinted with various black and white photos of the recently deceased former president. We headed straight to the Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian for an exhibit called "Caliphs and Kings: The art and Influence of Islamic Spain". Sara and I are suckers for art works from Moorish Spain (or Al-Andalus as the Arabs call it) and the resulting Mudejar works that continued to be created after the Reconquest. Some absolutely gorgeous textiles, tableware, and other interesting pieces.

Next we headed to the National Gallery of Art for an exhibition on the Maya, "The Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya". This was the main focus of the day and we weren't disappointed. Several friends had told us how impressed they were with this exhibit. I've been following the progress of research on the Maya ever since I visited my first Mayan city back in 1979. The advances and discoveries made in the last ten years are incredible. And now the opportunity to see a collection gathered from so many different sources could not be missed. The detail on many of the pieces was mind-boggling. Certainly sparks a desire to head down to Palenque or Bonampak.

While at the National Gallery we also took in two other exhibits "American Masters from Bingham to Eakins: The John Wilmerding Collection" and "The Cubist Paintings of Diego Rivera: Memory, Politics, Place"

Next we headed west on the Mall to a museum affiliated with the O.A.S. (Organization of American States). As we passed the ellipse of the White House Bush came thundering in on Marine Corps 1 (the presidential helicopter) and landed on the South Lawn. Didn't see him and didn't even look but just headed straight on to the museum. The exhibit was a photographic show on Mexico City. Very evocative of fond memories of that megalopolis.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent visiting the new WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. Sara had never seen the latter two. The WWII Memorial was packed and amongst the crowds were many obvious veterans of that war. I couldn't help but get emotional a couple of times. Either from being in the presence of these aged warriors, or looking over the remembrances left by family members, or recalling my deceased uncle who managed to survive through the hell at The Battle of the Bulge. Despite the controversy about the memorial I don't find that it detracts from the Mall at all. In fact, I think it is an appropriate addition. One way of looking at it is that it pays tribute to those involved in the defining event of the 20th century. Just as the Washington Monument acknowledges an individual who embodies the defining moment in the 18th century and the Lincoln Memorial does the same for the 19th century. All of this refers to American history, of course. Ironically, the style of the WWII Monument recalls Weimar architecture.

That night we dined at Cashion's Eat Place up in the Adams-Morgan district. I had a charcuterie of rabbit terrine and pork pate followed by soft shell crabs with a sweet and sour Vietnamese dipping sauce. Sara started with gumbo and finished with a rabbit confit. Mmmm-mmmm!! Just can't get enough of those bunnies.

Next few days Sara worked and I played. The highlights included seeing Julia Child's kitchen at the American History Museum. I could have spent a couple of hours just checking out all the gadgets she had.

The National Building Museum was a surprise in how interesting the tour of the building itself was. I definitely recommend it for any future trips to D.C. And an exhibit about the ironworkers who built the Walt Disney Hall in LA (Frank Gehry's) was fascinating.

I stopped in for the shrimp dumpling soup at Full Kee Restaurant in Chinatown. That's become a regular stop for me. Cheap delicious lunch.

Tuesday I went for a six mile walk into some neighborhoods I hadn't visited. North through Adams-Morgan into the Mt. Pleasant District. Very multicultural. Mostly Latino with some remaining African-American presence as well as newer African immigrants from west Africa and Ethiopia. Stumbled upon Heller's Bakery (since 1928) where I was able to get a piece of tres leches cake. I actually was struck by the increase in the Latino presence all throughout the city. In both tourists and inhabitants. Makes me feel at home hearing Spanish spoken on the street. I continued on through Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo and back to the hotel.

The weather had heated up so I decided to spend the rest of the day back at the nicely air-conditioned National Gallery of Art. I took a tour about American artists (in the West Building, so they were 18th-early 20th century artists) which highlighted Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, and Winslow Homer. Then I just meandered through the permanent collection.

That evening we headed into northern Virginia to have dinner with old friends. Lebanese food once again.

Another interesting trip to Washington D.C. I don't think I'll ever get tired of visiting that city.

John in San Diego