Ms. Regan Goes to Washington

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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.

Day 1: 

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.

Day 2: 

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.

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Day 3: 

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.

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Day 4: 

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.

Day 5:

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.

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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.

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Eat Here: Bragg’s Factory Diner

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This weekend, Domenico and I treated ourselves to a little brunch at Bragg’s before his weekend work shift. It’s a vegetarian/vegan diner that was a family-owned pie factory in its first life. It’s quaint and cozy inside, full of homages to Phoenix and good-old Arizona. Between the two of us we shared pancakes, eggplant bacon, biscuits and veggie gravy, and a coconut-curry waffle. Maybe it’s because it’s a pie factory at heart, but the pancakes and waffles were top notch. Bonus points: They had a weekend special in honor of Leslie Knope and her waffle love.

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The weather was perfect, so after breakfast, we briefly explored Grand Avenue, which is full of mosaic-tiled planters, colorful galleries, and trees strung with pompoms and tinsel. I’m serious. It’s a technicolor dream of kitsch. I even found a yarn-bombed palm tree scattered with crocheted granny squares.

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As a side note, on my way to a little hike this morning, I had a super tasty smoothie from 24 Carrots that featured avocado, coconut and lime juice. Plus, I got to visit with my sweet friend Rachel, who works there, briefly. I love how many wonderful and exciting vegetarian/vegan restaurants there are in the Valley. I think my next stop will have to be Nami for some soy ice cream.

Tucson, AZ: Christmas and Cacti

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On Tuesday, Domenico and I decided to take a little day trip to Tucson. It’s just an hour-and-a-half or so southeast of the Valley, and we’ve been wanting to have a short getaway for a while now. Domenico drove, I knitted furiously (now in my pre-Christmas making panic), and we listened to Christmas music (and then non-Christmas music at Domenico’s request).

Our first stop was Sabino Canyon. The plan was to hike to Seven Falls, but after losing the trail a couple of times and coming to a few forks, we decided to turn around. It was still a beautiful, albeit brief, hike, and I’m glad we decided to cut it short rather than spend all day trying to find our car again. We agreed to return, but next time with someone who was a little more familiar with the trail.

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Next stop: a variety of thrift stores and a nearby Eegee’s. Our thrifting love runs deep, so of course, we had to hit up a few Savers and Goodwills. We also stopped for an eegee, which is apparently some big draw in Tucson and Tucson only. It’s pretty much a cross between a slushy and sorbet, so yeah, pretty great. The shops on 4th Avenue were our next destination. This is such a cute little shopping district, mostly consisting of vintage shops, crafty boutiques, and tattoo parlors. The whole street smells like Nag Champa incense. I love the Tucson/Arizona-love going on in Tucson. They really embrace the best parts about living here, and there are cacti everywhere. I especially liked the Christmas-lighted prickly pears and felt saguaro ornaments.

As the sun went down, we headed downtown, where we passed some sweet historic hotels and new shops. We grabbed dinner at The Hub, a swanky, comfort food kind of place. The best part? The restaurant is home to an ice-cream bar. We treated ourselves to a cup of chai and something amazing called drunken brunch. Like Phoenix, Tucson’s downtown area seems to be being reinvigorated by caring, invested residents. It’s a lovely little city, and we’re ready to take a longer trip back soon.

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