My busted foot has opened up a new world of Washington DC by bike (which is easier on my foot than walking). Noah was a great tour guide, eager to show us his discoveries in and around Capitol Hill, his favorite houses, alleys, parks, hidden bike trails and even more hidden breweries.
After a good bagel brunch for Mother’s Day with takeout from Call Your Mother, in the Barracks area (near a cocktail bar called Betsy), we set off peddling to Union Market, which seems to have exploded with neighboring high rise developments since I was last there a few years ago. We took the MBT (metropolitan branch trail) through an urban landscape that I would not have pegged as DC had I seen it in photos alone. Next stop Navy Yard and more glass and steel high rises near the Nats ballpark but Noah took us to Bardo biergarten, a surprisingly rustic and bohemian outdoor spot, vaguely reminiscent of a homeless encampment on the riverbank, scattered with worn diner booths and rough wood plank tables in a wooded area. It felt like a lost world, beside the gleaming developments.
Dinner was takeout upscale Indian from Rasika. (The spinach chat was especially delicious.) This morning we picked up pricy but delicious sandwiches with precious names (Pippa, Hermione) at a nearby corner shop Wine & Butter Cafe, which beat the Subway fare available on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The weather gradually cleared and we had blue sunny skies punctuated by the occasional slow moving dark cloud filled with showers and wind, nothing that kept us from bike riding all over with Noah. We started the morning at Eastern Market which is a block away from our well-situated and well-appointed Airbnb on 8th street near Independence (Noah’s street.) I fell for a delicious French pastry I’d never heard of, a kouign-amann ( “queen a-man) “a cross between a croissant and a palmier, with layer after layer of buttery, flaky pastry on the inside, yet caramelized with ever-so-slightly-burnt sugar on the outside,” according to Wikipedia.
We rode in Noah’s lovely CapitolHill neighborhood, admiring the spring blossoms and old architecture. How strange to have the US Capitol as part of your neighborhood. I couldn’t help but think about the Trump rioters and the Shanksville 9/11 heroes as we passed that august building, now surrounded by a black fence and concrete Jersey barriers. So many threats. Next we glided onto the mall, past the smithsonian museums, the Washington monument and American U. college graduates in their robes posing by the Lincoln Memorial. We rode onto the Jefferson Memorial, covered in scaffolding and looked across the water at the MLK Memorial. We rode around Hains Point or some such which has a golf course and then over to the Wharf development that felt very un- DC, with high rises and trendy restaurants along the riverfront. We had Cuban coffee at Colada Cuban cafe.
After biking,dirck and I drove to Georgetown for a quick stop and purchase st the Allbirds (shoes) store, not far from a good burger place we got food from our first night called Good stuff Eatery. Dinner Was take out from a Chinese Korean place in Noah’s neighborhood called Chi Ko.
A day later…still in DC. Turns out the pop-up storm on Wednesday eve while I was at National Airport screwed up flights and now I am flying to…Chicago. (I was going to Chicago on Saturday morning. Post-storm on Wednesday, I couldn’t get another flight to Des Moines until Friday p.m. so I decided to fly early to Chicago Thursday and went back to the DC hotel Wednesday night, where D was staying one more night. Of course later I found out I could have gotten to DSM very late Wednesday because my connecting flight from St. Louis was delayed in departing…earlier in the night it was first delayed and then back on time just as I was planning to leave DC, meaning I would have missed my connection. Mine was one of many sob stories. Lots of airport confusion.)
From last night: It’s pouring outside the floor to ceiling windows of National Airport so hoping my Southwest flight is not delayed. I spent much of my day at the elegant Library of Congress, where I met with a very nice and interesting archivist who specializes in women’s manuscripts. I walked around the imposing and ornate library feeling a bit intimidated, which I think is the idea, and visited an exhibit comparing British and American suffragettes. Also heard a short lecture on the topic presented by the archivist I later interviewed.
We ended up walking through a long underground tunnel to the Dunkin’ Donuts in the bowels of the Madison Building. Quite the contrast with the above ground library. Felt like I was in the guts of the place.
It was blazing hot when I left around 3 pm and I hadn’t eaten lunch so I went to the cafe in the American Indian museum, which had slim pickings’ but I got some vegetarian chili and fry bread and enjoyed the view of running water over stones out the window.
I made a mistake en route to the airport, by taking the blue line Metro from L’enfant Plaza, which was 13 stops/28 minutes vs 4 stops/14 minutes on the Yellow line. Fortunately I had plenty of time. The sky appears to be clearing!
The National Portrait Gallery knew what I was looking for…
Thanks to a Washington Post story about good dining options near the National Mall (and, as it happens, the Holiday Inn Capital, where we are bunking), I ended up at the chic coffee bar in the lobby of the Hirshhorn, drinking an Americano over ice (it’s blazing hot here) and eavesdropping on a docent greeting a large group of very cute summer campers visiting the museum. Kids also were entranced by a kid-size talking robot holding an iPad that greeted them in the lobby. Kids young and teen tapped prompts on the iPad that allowed them to, among other things, take a selfie with the robot. Very interactive.
I ended up wandering a bit around the museum, which I haven’t been to in years and enjoyed the contemporary art including an installation by a Thai artist rirkrit tiravanija, that includes black and white protest murals covering the four walls of a boxy room with hot plates on a table in the middle of the room where word has it red, yellow and green curry are served on some days. Not sure what the message is but again, interactive.
On to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Obama portraits but there was so much more to see there too. I ended up on a docent-led highlights tour full of great information about the grand building’s history and the portraits of presidents and famous Americans through the years. The building is also home to the National Museum of American Art which has a broad collection of art through the ages and a spectacular atrium with a cafe. Thoroughly enjoyed my visit.
Dirck had early release from work so he joined me for lunch at the Red Apron, which specializes in cured meats. We had a good charcuterie board and excellent fries cooked in duck fat, followed a few hours later by refreshing fruit (rhubarb!) sorbet at nearby Pitango.
After lots of walking in the heat, a plunge in the hotel’s rooftop pool was great, even with the tepid water temp. Next stop Adams Morgan for middle eastern fare at Mama Ayesha’s with Noah, Rachel and Laurie and a drink at a little cafe called Tryst. We walked thru the shabby chic Line Hotel, a revived 1912 former Neoclassical church with high columns, that seems to be more bars than hotel. ￼(“The 220 guest rooms are located in a contextual addition behind the original building,” as one report put it.)
Despite indications to the contrary, we easily entered the fantastic new (to us) National Museum of African American History and Culture on a Monday in June at 11:30 am. So glad. I had found getting passes via the museum ‘s website frustrating. At 6:30 am on the dot I tried to get same day online passes, with no luck. I tried again at 9:30 am and they were still unavailable so we walked over to the museum at 11:30 and a nice young greeter showed us how to get passes and we were in (even though walk-ins technically can’t get in until 1 pm.)
As warned, the museum is hard to do in a day. There is so much to see. We were there for 3.5 hours and saw maybe half. Our visit included lunch of fried chicken at the museum cafeteria-style restaurant. We did the history part first, which starts underground and rises up 2 more floors. It was packed with people, especially the early bits and apparently cramped and claustrophobic by design. I would have liked to spend more time in the 1950 ‘s exhibits and onward because that’s the history I like best, I think because I lived it and, as a result, it’s fascinating to see how it is chronicled and depicted.
There were several moving moments but what made me cry quietly was the procession we took past Emmet Till’s casket with the devastating photos of his grief-stricken, furious and brave mother. One of the most memorable sites from a drive around the Mississippi countryside with Dirck was the old storefront, now abandoned and covered with vines, on a country road where young Emmet got into trouble, allegedly, that led to his murder.
It was also very moving to see the history exhibit end with Obama’s inauguration, all the more so given the poisonous climate cultivated by his shockingly race-baiting successor in the White House. It will be interesting to see what the museum makes of the Trump Administration. Shame.
The fountain in the National Gallery Sculpture Park, after getting ice tea at the pavilion cafe
After lunch at the museum, we went to the culture exhibit on the top floor, which was my favorite area because I love “black” music, tv, movies, art and pop culture. I could have spent another hour there but my back was starting to ache.
I have been to civil rights museums/memorials/landmarks (in Memphis, Birmingham, Money, Mississippi) music museums highlighting black musicians (stax records and sun records in Memphis; Motown in Detroit; Jazz in Davenport Iowa and the Rock n roll hall of fame in Cleveland; the blues museum in clarksdale, Ms.) I’ve even been on the new plantation in NOLA that focuses entirely on slavery. So I have seen some of the artifacts and displays found at the new DC museum. But the difference is seeing it all together in one place, and what a place. The building is very striking inside and out, with fantastic art, artifacts, displays and city views. I also felt like a minority, which is an unusual experience and probably good to have. The place felt like it belonged to African-Americans and I am guessing (or hoping) they feel a real sense of belonging and pride there. I didn’t feel unwelcome but it’s not my place or my story.
Sisters in The Palisades
Last night, Noah and I had good innovative Indian food at Rasika West. I later discovered a Rasika nearer to our hotel, the conveniently located holiday inn Capital near the national air and space museum on the National Mall. The hotel also has a rooftop outdoor pool with a view of the US Capitol. Not Cayuga Lake but good place to cool off.
Plunged right into the thick of things here, soon after arriving in DC, by joining a gathering next to the impenetrable-looking White House to protest the current occupant’s harsh treatment of asylum seekers and migrants at the southern border, including the separation of children from their families and their placement in detention camps. The lights for Liberty rally wasn’t the Women’s March but a decent turnout and some good signs and impassioned speeches. Will it have any impact?
Noah, Rachel and I went to a nearby Peruvian restaurant, Pisco Y Nazca, for an excellent late night meal (causa sampler, ceviche, arroz con mariscos, aji de gallina) sitting outside in the still somewhat steamy weather.
My sister has moved to a lovely house in the Palisades, a leafy neighborhood on the Potomac just north of Georgetown and west (I think) of Arlington, Va. Whole different orientation to the city (and required Uber…no metro.) We went over to Rachel and Noah’s apt in Columbia Heights and for light lunch (bun) at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Viet, then tried to find a shady street in the soupy heat to walk down in the pretty mount pleasant neighborhood, with big brick houses, row house with porches and crepe myrtle trees in riotous color (all shades of red and purple). We stopped at a trendy bakery/cafe/bar called Elle and then Uber pooled (with no extra passengers) back to The Palisades.
On a hit and humid Sunday we walked about 15 minutes to the Palisades farmers market which had heirloom tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries and pastries for our brunch and dinner, with two of our former campaign worker/lodgers. Fun!
Well this is weird and kind of nice but it won’t be happening for some time. My southwest flight from DC was almost direct to dsm. the plane stopped at Chicago’s midway airport but is the same plane going to dsm. Never done that before. And sadly won’t again because Southwest is replacing its Des Moines-Chicago flights with dsm-st. Louis flights. Oh well. I will miss the affordable flights to Chicago and to midway (goodbye Manny’s corned beef too) but one good thing: it appears that there will be Sunday flights to DC from dsm via St. Louis (there weren’t any via Chicag0.)
Two more good meals in DC, last night at graffiato, the top chef personality mike Isabella’s inventive Italian small plates and pizza joint near gallery Place. And tonight superb crab cakes at legal seafood in Reagan national airport. Plane is filling up again so signing off.
Back to bitter cold wind but at least it was sunny and after brief rain yesterday pm there was a stunning rainbow out side our sons’ row house on Meridian Place. We started with a morning pastry around the block on 14th st. at Le Caprice and then drove to the FDR Memorial, one of my favorites, where we found a handful of cherry blossoms still hanging on in bloom (a Myra must!) and a statue that seemed to have been added of FDR unambiguously in a wheelchair. Then onto thE MLK memorial, a short walk away. It always impresses me how accessible these memorials are – you just pull-up a short distance away, park for free, and walk a short distance (especially on an unseasonably cold Tuesday in April ), but I am guessing this is by design. This is the people’s city, right? WE were also struck, while reading the quotes at both memorials, how much the quality of our so-called leaders (republicans) oratory and thinking has declined since the era of FDR and MLK.
For lunch we went to Union market and then walked around a. Litteri, an old jam packed Italian market nearby. The area reminded me less of DC and more of detroits eastern market. Quick visit for coffee to Zombie cafe near the Columbia heights metro station and a sad farewell to myra who hit the road to return to Connecticut. Loved our visit!!
Ps tips for dog shedding frimandrea: Sergeants des heeding brush on Amazon and swiffer for dog hair!
Reliving my youth with my college roommate Myra at our sons’ shared house in DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. They have introduced us to more great dining within walking distance of their house. DC Noodles on U street (pad see ew!) and Mi Cuba (Cuban roast pork, fried pork cubes, cassava, plantains, flan, mojito, sangria!) Great company and food. Myra and I had brunch at La Coupe on 11th street (hash brown bowl!) then walked all around the area down 14th street to u street and then over 8th street and the rapidly gentrifying Shaw neighborhood (warby Parker, dodge city, Salina …two Kansas names, no less). Much warmer day than yesterday morning when I watched Noah run in the cherry blossom run on the mall. Sunny but bitter cold wind. Didn’t expect to be that cold. But such a treat to be hear. Sunday the millennial cooked an elaborate and delicious brunch. Three of four house mates moms happened to be on hand, and then a bunch of visiting friends, maybe 15 people total. We drank mimosas, did the Sunday crossword puzzle online on the tv screen and sat around talking for hours. Loved it!
Within the first 20 minutes of my visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC today, I got quite the surprise. During an early display about book banning and burning in Germany, at the start of the Nazi era, several names were etched into the glass in front of some photos and videos and one name jumped out at me because it was my own: Rubiner. The first name was Ludwig. I was stunned. Rubiner is an unusual name and I’ve long assumed that any Rubiners are related to me. I had not heard of Ludwig. My dad seemed to know of him but I don’t know if he is a relative. apparently he was a poet and critic who specialized in expressionism and lived in Berlin, dying in 1920′ according to a man I spoke to in the research area of the museum on the second floor. will have to do some more research. I did use the museums database to find several other Rubiners linked to the holocaust in ways not very clear and some Reibmans (my grama’s maiden name). Some were from Kraków and Poland and Berlin, three places I visited a few years ago.
on a more cheerful note, I visited my son at his new office in the Hart senate building, (not far from my sisters office there),and we had a good Indian meal at Indigo, (Indian to go) a very casual place where you order at a window and are served in paper trays in a small room covered with intentional graffiti. There are a few tables inside and picnic tables outside, which people were sitting at thanks to glorious and surprisingly warm temps. i also stopped briefly in the Native American museum (must try their cafe sometime, which serves food from several regions). Also caught a glimpse of the African American museum rising up near the Washington monument. Really looking forward to that museum, in part because I have heard a lot about the architect. I am now in Baltimore at the hotel Monaco after an easy and pleasant Amtrak train ride.