A few weeks ago, Domenico and I dug out our thin, desert sweaters and scarves and flew across the country to visit Linnea at her new home in the country’s capital. For Domenico, it was the first visit to Washington. I was less of a novice, but it had still been about a decade since I’d been in the city, so we really relied on Linnea to show us around the town. Lucky for us, she was sweet enough to take us to her favorite restaurants and send us out into the world with very thorough metro directions.
We got off a plane on Saturday very hungry and ready for a night out, so Linnea took us to Tryst, a coffeehouse/bar/working space that reminded me of Phoenix’s Lux. We caught up, ate tasty sandwiches, and then wandered next door to a crazy Wonderland of a blues bar where we danced to some old, blues tunes.
We brunched (brunch is big in D.C. – along with beer and jogging) at Open City. After a pretty slow, leisurely morning, we were ready to see the sites, and Linnea took us to all the big ones: the White House, the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. After all that monument-ing, we went to Linnea’s favorite museum, the National Portrait Gallery. This was a stop I hadn’t gotten to on my previous visits to D.C., so it was a new experience for me, and I have to say, I think it was my favorite museum as well. It was so rich with American art, exhibiting everything from Civil War-era photos to pop art that donned the cover of Time magazine. Of course, we had to take a few silly portraits of our own in the museum, especially when we saw the striking similarity between Domenico’s facial hair and that of Rutherford B. Hayes. That night, we enjoyed a fancy, Middle Eastern dinner at Mama Ayesha’s.
Linnea had to work in the morning, so we all got up early for breakfast at Founding Farmers. As a side note, I can’t get enough of all the history-love and plays on words in D.C.; in addition to this place, we also ate at We the Pizza and Busboys and Poets, a bookstore and restaurant named after Langston Hughes and his positions as both a busboy and poet at different points in his life.
Domenico and I were on our own for the rest of the morning, so we took the opportunity to visit the Natural History and American History Museums. So much history, guys. It was starting to get mildly exhausting, but there’s such an insane amount to see there that it seems wasteful to spend any time not touring some monument or museum. Linnea took the afternoon off, and met us for a tour of the U.S. Capitol. We also visited the Library of Congress, a.k.a. the most beautiful building in the city, and sat on the steps of the Supreme Court. This was probably our most American day of the trip, so I wore my most patriotic, vintage dress, of course. We met a friend from college for some tasty Korean food at Mandu and then took a nighttime trip to the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial. They were so beautiful at night, and it was a totally different experience visiting them after most of the crowds had disappeared.
We grabbed some pastries at Paul and headed to a tour at the NPR offices. It ended up being a truly interesting tour, and the offices are housed in a beautifully designed building. Domenico even got to stand behind the famous Tiny Desk with Bob Boilen. After our tour, we ate probably the most decadent meal in history at Astro Donuts – it included fried chicken, a maple-bacon donut, and a fried chicken sandwich on an old bay-spiced donut bun (!). We spent the afternoon at the Holocaust Museum (after which that lunch really seemed like a mistake). The museum was beautifully done and so powerful, but it left us feeling drained and definitely out of D.C.-touring mode. We had a little much-needed downtime at Linnea’s before dinner at Busboys and Poets, where we got to meet one of her closest friends in the city.
Whoa, it’s almost time to go home? That was pretty much the sentiment on our final day. We did manage to squeeze in a trip to the National Archives, where we got to lean over the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. (Sorry, Nicholas Cage – no alarms went off.) We also spent the afternoon at the Newseum, which was full of news-related artifacts, an evocative exhibit on 9/11, and a graffitied section of the Berlin Wall.
Overall, it was a lovely – if brief – trip, and we were able to traverse so much of the city, which is rich with history, incredible museums, and passionate people. Some of our favorite take-aways were:
1. Everyone is on their way somewhere, often late, and they’re not going to be slowed down by your presence. I was almost run down in the metro center a couple of times, and a jogger definitely photo bombed Domenico and I in front of the Library of Congress.
2. Free access to cultural sites is amazing. The only activity we had to pay for was entrance to the Newseum, yet we saw such a wealth of museum exhibits and iconic national treasures.
3. When you walk eight miles a day, I think it means you deserve to eat a donut chicken sandwich, right?
4. Linnea is the best tour guide. She’ll be planning all of my vacations now.