Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Capitol Idea! (cont.)

This is Martha Washington's tea set! And in the
background, you can see one of the few surviving
camp chairs commissioned for George Washington
during the Revolutionary War.
On day 5, we headed for Georgetown after breakfast. We had reservations to tour the house and gardens at Tudor Place, the home of Martha Washington's granddaughter. I learned all kinds of cool things about George and Martha Washington and their descendants during this visit!

The house, which is stately without being ostentatious, sits on about six acres. There are beautiful landscaped gardens all around it, featuring a small tea house, some lovely fountains and the family's garage (complete with a 1919 Pierce Arrow Roadster on display). The tour of the gardens is self-guided (using a map provided by the attraction). After we'd lounged around a bit, taking in the air, we proceeded to the house for our tour of the interior.

Our very knowledgeable guide started in the conservatory, and from there, we poked through American history in the kitchen, sitting rooms and bedrooms. We learned that the Peters family was related to the Lee family, and from a high window in the house, one could see a high window at Arlington House (across the river, on land that is now Arlington National Cemetery). The children of both families would hang colored banners out of the top windows to communicate with one another.

The herbaceous border at Dumbarton
Oaks makes a good hiding spot!
You can also see lots of Washington-related artifacts in the home, including Martha Washington's tea set and one of only a few surviving camp chairs created for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Really interesting stuff!

After our visit to Tudor Place, we headed to Cafe Bonaparte for lunch. I could have eaten at this snug little creperie nearly every day (and would have, if it had been closer to our apartment). I chose a cheesy mushroom crepe and a lovely, fresh salad. The food is soooooo good here! Tables are quite close together, and the eat-in space is tight, but it's totally worth it for the delicious food and reasonable price point. I couldn't leave without trying the nutella strawberry crepe, which was just as good as it sounds.

After lunch, we set our sights on Dumbarton Oaks, which we'd heard is one of the most gorgeous gardens in the DC area. We weren't disappointed! At more than 50 acres, the grounds are sprawling, and they are planned and planted so thoughtfully that it's complete joy to walk through them. Think gorgeous rose terraces aflame with blooms; hidden fountains and plinths; benches and pools placed so as to encourage quite reflection; and vistas that surprise you.

There are all kinds of pockets to explore. I loved the pebble garden from the terrace above almost as much as I loved walking through it. A grand ellipse features a ring of trees around a truly gorgeous fountain, and the herbaceous borders provide a good spot for hiding! Even the kitchen garden was beautiful and well-tended.

Dinner at Ethiopic! Yum!
Touring the house/museum at Dumbarton Oaks is completely free, but I never even got in there. I was too busy strolling along flower-soaked paths, sidling up to statues for a closer look and just enjoying. Oh, how places like that make me wish I were rich! Give me flowers!

After hours playing in the garden, we caught the metro back to our little apartment. We decided to stay close to home for dinner. A local place, Ethiopic, looked adventurous. Plus, online reviewers raved about it. In we went.

What fun! We ordered the lamb and the small vegetarian sampler. The lamb came in a little crucible, piping hot and tender. The vegetarian sampler featured four delicious treats, plus lots of spongy, pliable bread. I loved this place! We were careful not to order anything too spicy. The food was delicious, and the servers were very knowledgeable about the menu. I sipped a glass of spicy red Ethiopian wine and happily ate with my hands!

The next morning, I grabbed a quick breakfast and headed straight for the Library of Congress. I was hoping that I might be allowed in the Reading Room, but they don't allow casual visitors in there. I contented myself with soaking up the history in front of the Gutenberg Bible, marveling at the fancy main hall, and snooping through the free exhibits on display. (One of the tour guides, touring an adult group of visitors in front of the Gutenberg Bible, asked them what Gutenberg was famous for. Crickets. I weep for humanity.)

The Library of Congress. Man, everything they
have is better  . . . 
Then, it was off to the Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. We communed with Rodin in the sculpture garden, later poking our heads inside to see the contemporary work on display. Interesting things to see everywhere you look here. I loved the Belief + Doubt piece in the basement. Amazing. Couldn't leave until I'd read every word. And Dan Flavin's neon-based installations. So cool to look at and bounce shadows from. I had to walk in under The Dangerous Logic of Wooing, which anyone (even someone with NO art history classes) can tell is just plain dirty!! Hubs and I hooted and hollered and probably embarrassed the poor docent who was there to make sure we didn't damage the art!

On one of the days of our trip (and I, sadly, can't remember which one), we also spent some time at the National Air and Space Museum. I almost held my breath when I saw Orville and Wilbur Wright's first operational plane. I mean, I traveled to DC on a direct flight. It's hard to wrap your head around that contraption of wood and canvas as the first father of the pressurized aluminum tube you rode in on, kwim?

I also loved seeing Amelia Earhart's little red Lockheed Vega, Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and some of the exhibits on commercial flight through the years. Hubs was completely enchanted with the space flight part of the museum. (I could NOT get over some of the exhibits on life in space. In the section on Russian astronauts, there was a dusty little can of "beef tongue with jelly" on display. All I could think of was those astronauts loading that onto the shuttle, carefully avoiding eating it during their entire time in space, and bringing that can back, unapologetically, unopened.)

This place is massive, and we didn't spend nearly enough time here. We'll be back next time!
There are all kinds of cool contemporary installations
at the Hirshorn.

We grabbed a quick lunch at a sushi spot, then headed for the U.S. Capitol. We had tour reservations! FYI - Right now, they're doing some restoration work on the Capitol dome. There's scaffolding all around the outside of it, and a big white donut on the inside, blocking your interior view of the dome as well. As a result, this tour ended up being something of a disappointment. The whole place was packed, and our tour guide pretty much rushed us through the whole experience. (I did learn some cool things, though. There's a crypt underneath the center of the Capitol. It was originally intended to be the final resting place of George Washington. However, he died before the building was finished, and his family buried him at Mount Vernon. They declined to move his body once the Capitol was complete, so the single crypt underneath is empty.)

Look who I found at the U.S.
Capitol! It's Rosa Parks!
While we did see some neat things, if I were to tour the Capitol again, I'd arrange it through my Congress person's office. I bet you'd get a less harried experience that way.

After our tour of the Capitol, we hopped a cab to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I'd really wanted to see at least one performance here. However, the headliners the week we were in town were an opera and a ballet, and I didn't think hubs would be too excited about that. As a result, I'd booked us tickets to Shear Madness, which they billed as a comedy. It ended up being an interactive murder mystery show, with very broad humor. While not unenjoyable, we were clearly not the target audience. (There were LOTS of teen aged school groups there.) Though I wouldn't go see this show again, I did love poking around the Kennedy Center. Views are gorgeous, and we had a nice pre-show snack in one of the on-site cafes.

The Kennedy Center is beautiful,
inside and out.
Afterwards, we decamped to District Commons for dinner and enjoyed one of the tastiest meals of our trip! We decided to get a variety of small plates, starting with the hot pretzel baguette, served with spicy mustard for dipping. We also got the roasted mushroom flatbread, the shrimp cocktail, and the pig board (an amazing meat and cheese board). We finished with the Boston cream pie (drizzled with a delicious salted caramel sauce). Heavenly. Prices here weren't cheap, but the food was so good that I didn't care!

Bellies full and happy, we took a cab ride back to the apartment.

More to come . . .

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