Thursday, April 22, 2010

Part two

Cassie, Cassie's off-again boyfriend Shawn, Cassie's quiet and introverted and I-think-he-liked-me friend Nate, and me. To our nation's capital for an extended weekend.

We arrived in Baltimore in true fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants fashion: with no plans for much of anything, including a place to stay. Strike that -- we did have a plan and that was that for the first night, we would sleep in the airport terminal. Oh yes, the airport. And the plan for after that was to descend upon some merciful members of our church, somewhere, somehow, in the greater DC area who wanted to house some BYU students with absolutely no advanced warning. I can't imagine who wouldn't jump at that chance! Cassie had on her the phone number of a Relief Society president who someone had told her might be able to hook us up with someone to take us in. We were students, remember, and poor, and I'm quite sure the thought of getting a hotel room never occurred to us. I had spent more money than I had to buy a plane ticket. Po-o-o-or. Quite so.

On the airplane I had had the foresight to ask the flight attendant if I could keep my blanket and pillow. "Sure," she said, "keep them. They were sewn by homeless people. Isn't that cool?" "Yes, that is cool, and very apropos, for for the next 4 nights, I will be homeless myself."

We explored the terminal for the most comfortable sleeping spot possible, and came up very short. There was not a flat bench to be found. The best we could find was a row of seats at an uncrowded gate with a few of the lights turned off, so we set up camp. I lay down across the bumpy low armrests on the hard plastic chairs and settled in for 5 hours of "Welcome to Baltimore International Airport. Please do not leave your baggage unattended." Every. two. minutes. That night heretofore has served as my primary motivation for honoring my mother and my father and not bearing false witness and the like, because, I tell you, if hell is anything like the Baltimore airport, I don't wanna go.

More to come. (Thanks for acting like you care what is going to happen.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

My pivotal trip to DC, in which I name names

I was 21, I had spent the previous summer in Africa and had come home and broken up with a guy. Nathan was his name, and potstickers were his game. (Because they're good.)

My future husband, long the object of my suppressed affections, had just returned from a lengthy stint in Chile and promptly encouraged his friend James to pursue me, because he himself was most certainly not interested in Emily Godfrey; he had his sights elsewhere. I was crushed, but in a suppressed sort of way. I began to dig James, and we dated. James stayed in Phoenix while Steve and I went back to the motherland for school. This was January 1997.

I was in Students for International Development on campus, and when my comrade from my Namibia trip, Cassie, suggested we go to a SID conference in DC, I decided to go along. There was a group of us going, they'd find us a place to stay, they said.

And now, because I was eating homemade french fries and dodging my daughter's greasy kisses while trying to type this and these three paragraphs took longer than you might think, my threshold for blogging has been reached (it's a pretty short threshold), and My Pivotal Trip to DC shall now be serialized. Stay tuned for: the second-worst night of sleep of my life and disappearances in the night.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Why is it called District of Columbia?

Thank you for all the suggestions of things to see in DC. I'm excited to try them all out. Amy suggested I ask her brother for ideas, so I did, and boy howdy, the man is thorough. I want something like this for every city I will ever visit. I am posting it for all to reference for future trips to our nation's capital. Thank you, Pepper!

I've been a lot of places in the world, and Washington is my favorite city. It seems to have everything. I'll give you some suggestions based on my lifestyle and my interests. Let me know if you have specific questions about anything I leave off the list, or if you have a specific set of interests/hobbies you would like to cater to.

I think the number one thing to do in Washington DC is attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court. It is a great experience for anyone - no matter the age, education level, or personal interest in constitutional law of the attendee. Unfortunately, oral arguments will not be in session in June; I only mention it so you will keep it in your back pocket for the next trip.

Looks like you are getting into town on a Friday. Is it a late arrival? My favorite thing to do on Fridays during the summer is a picnic at the Sculpture Garden. They do free jazz concerts every Friday evening - I think from 5 until 8. (The great thing about DC is that nearly everything is free) You can get food at the little cafe inside the garden (my favorite is the spinach & artichoke bread bowl - but the best thing is to bring your own food, lay out a blanket on the grass, and sit/lay down listening to music and relaxing. Wine & cheese is a popular item for other families/picnics. Obviously substitute your drink of choice, but there is a really good cheese creamery (Cowgirl Creamery) just a few blocks from the Garden. I'll give you the specifics at your request. The garden has some great art, the centerpiece is a large fountain to sit around, but the music and atmosphere is fun. It's a great place to spend some time before seeing the monuments.

Go see the monuments at night. The sculpture garden is right on the mall so you can take a nice walk after the jazz concert. Go see the Washington monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Jefferson Memorial. Friday night would be perfect - it's a fitting introduction to the city. Also see the war memorials (Vietnam and WWII).

What to do on Saturday? For breakfast, try going to the Eastern Market. There is a place at the indoor market called Market Lunch that is deservedly famous for its blueberry buckwheats. Come back to the mall area and go to the Art Museum. I think the east wing is better, but you will be able to see both. The reason I suggest this museum on Saturday is because the crowds will be large at most other "popular" museums. The African American Art Museum is another interesting place to go that will not have many crowds. You can venture over to the Building Museum and maybe the Police Memorial as well. Those are near judiciary square, and you could eat dinner in Penn Quarter or China Town. Matchbox is a great little restaurant for a burger/sandwich. Ella's Woodfired Pizza is another good place close by. In China Town, my favorite place is Tony Chen's - you can't miss the big front on H Street (try the honey walnut shrimp if you go). Other great restaurants to try in the area are Rosa Mexicana (just for the fresh guacamole) and Jaleo's (Spanish tapas). Jaleo's is very well known and very popular - I'd actually recommend not missing it if you like tapas. It is on the SW corner of the Verizon Center. I know Saturday is sort of jumbled, but I would focus on places that are not too crowded. Another great place might be the Library of Congress. This is the best building to see inside - better than the Capitol Rotunda - but few people go inside to look around. It is a "can't miss" on your trip.

Sunday brunch is the best meal of the week. Unquestionably, the best place in DC for Sunday brunch is the Kennedy Center. You will need reservations in advance, and it is relatively expensive, but it is a great experience. Enjoy the views and the food, and definitely take a look around the Kennedy Center when you are done. Other peaceful places to go on Sunday are the National Cathedral, the National Arboretum, or Roosevelt Island. Let me know if you would like help deciding between any of them.

Monday is the day you should try and get to your "can't miss" museums. I recommend the Holocaust Museum - sobering, but unforgettable and well worth the time. You will need to show up earlier and get "passes" for a later time. They only accommodate a certain amount of visitors each day, and the passes are handed out in the morning for each day. Walking around Georgetown is a fun thing to do as well - just to see the shops and restaurants. Maybe you could do that in the afternoon before meeting Steve in Adam's Morgan for dinner. I prefer Adam's Morgan to Georgetown. It has a very European feel and a good social crowd for our age. You can walk across the bridge from the Woodley Park metro stop and just walk down the sidewalks looking for a good place to eat. There will be patio seating everywhere with menus posted on the sidewalk - lots of different ethnic restaurants. One of my favorites is Meskerem - an Ethiopian restaurant. Remember that dinner time there is about 8:30 or 9:00 so don't get there too early.

Tuesday I would go to the zoo. you are staying right by it (the zoo is free as well). Go see the Pandas. A good place to grab lunch might be Ben's Chili Bowl on the U Street Corridor - lots of history and probably a "can't miss" eating experience. In the afternoon, head over to Arlington National Cemetery. This is also a "can't miss" spot. Go to the Kennedy graves, the Lee House, and the changing of the guard ceremony. The ceremony is another very sacred experience, perhaps rivaled only by the Lincoln Memorial. The Lee House has really interesting history and offers one of the best views of DC. Have Steve meet you over at the Iwo Jima Memorial Tuesday night. It is also a "can't miss," but Tuesday night during the summer is the best time to go because the Marine Corp Band performs a concert from 7:00 until 8:00. Stop by Dupont Circle on your way back to walk around. I recommend a little french bistro there called Bistrot du Coin for dinner. It is one of my favorite little places to eat - and the foie gras is really good.

Here are my rankings for the places I mentioned - as well as things I didn't mention.

Best Restaurants (this is a tough one so I will break it into other categories)

White Tablecloth (more expensive obviously):
1789 (Georgetown)
2941 Restaurant (Falls Church, VA)
Citronelle (Georgetown)
Vidalia (Dupont area)
Blue Duck Tavern

Mid-range (I suppose I could also call this ethnic)
Jaleo's (Penn Quarter - Spanish tapas)
Zaytinya (Penn Quarter - Greek tapas)
Tony Chen's (best in China Town)
Kamlaya (best Thai - also in China Town)
Meskerem (best Ethiopian - Adams Morgan)
Bistrot du Coin (best French - Dupont Circle)

Casual American
Ben's Chili Bowl (U Street Corridor)
Matchbox (China Town - pizza/sandwiches)
Ella's (Penn Quarter - pizza)
Clyde's (Verizon Center or Georgetown - American)

Best Smithsonian Museum:
Natural History
Art (East and West)
National Portrait Gallery

Best Monument:
Tomb of Unknown Soldier (changing of guard/Arlington)
Iwo Jima

Best Thing Most People Miss:
Supreme Court (oral arguments)
Library of Congress
Sculpture garden