Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Capitol Idea!

Hubs settling in at Old Ebbitt Grill
This spring, hubs and I celebrated a landmark anniversary. To mark the occasion, we headed off on a week-long trip to Washington D.C., without little man.

Those of you who have kids will understand what a huge deal it is to go on a vacation without them. You feel, by turns, unbelievably free, inconsolably heartsick, and a wee bit guilty for having so much fun without them.

Hubs and I caught an early, direct flight straight to Reagan International, then took a cab to our sweet English basement apartment, which we rented via Airbnb. The place was two blocks from Union Station, offering easy access to the city. It also boasted a foyer, living room, full kitchen/bar (with a washer/dryer), bedroom, and a decadent bath (big whirlpool tub, giant walk-in shower, etc.). Within a block, there were several great restaurants and a grocery store. We chose wisely!

After dropping off our bags, we headed straight for Old Ebbitt Grill for lunch. We had reservations, and I was glad we did, because two huge groups entered the restaurant right before us. We were seated quickly, and we tucked in to a steak sandwich with fries (him) and a cup of clam chowder (me). The restaurant has a long and storied history, and it's located very close to the White House, so it's popular among tourists. We sated our hunger, then hit the National Mall.

The National Mall
I'd walked the mall before, but hubs hadn't. We took the long loop, starting at the Washington National Monument, walking all the way down to the Lincoln Monument, then circling back around to the Jefferson Memorial. (I love to read the speeches in both the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial to myself when I visit there. There's something so resonant about it for me.) The weather was GORGEOUS, and we took frequent breaks to rest our legs on benches, people-watch, and admire the scenery. The fountains at the WWII Monument were playing, and the scaffolding has all been removed from the Washington National Monument. Plus, I got to see the FDR Memorial, which I'd missed on my previous trip to DC. (I found this memorial particularly moving.) We took our time and snapped some amazing photos during our tour of the mall.

I'd never seen the FDR Memorial before!
We finished up our day at Bistro Bis for dinner. This place was a find! Hubs had the steak frites (no surprise there), and I chose the trout l'ardenaise (fish sauteed in a delicious concoction of caper, lemon, and brown butter, with green beans and potatoes). The food was delicious here. We were famished after being on our feet all day, and we ate. It. UP! Service was impeccable. I washed my food down with a gorgeous glass of Oregon pinot gris, and we shuffled home and to bed!

The next morning, we'd originally planned to rise early and head to Eastern Market for browsing and breakfast. But we slept in! We poked around our neighborhood mid-morning and found what was to become our daily breakfast haunt - Batter Bowl Bakery. They had beautiful pastries, big fruit bowls, and quiche. I think we ended up breakfasting here every day of our trip, just because it was so delicious and convenient. (What can I say? Morning is a tender time. I want things to be easy until 9 a.m. or so, especially on vacation!)

We gobbled the golden puffed pancake, a breakfast sandwich, and big cups of strong coffee, settling into our cafe chairs to plan the day. We decided to start with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

We loved Batter Bowl Bakery!
The great thing about so many of the museums on the National Mall is that admission is FREE. So you can pop in and pop out of them as often as you like. We marveled at the impressive rotunda (which features an 8-ton, 14-foot-tall African elephant), then headed upstairs, straight to the gems. I spent a good amount of time staring into the depths of the Hope Diamond. (I think it was winking at me!) It was early in the day, and there weren't too many people in that part of the museum, so we were able to get very close and be leisurely about it.

Afterwards, we ambled over to the rest of the gem and minerals gallery - brilliant sapphires, diamonds, rubies and more. They were so shiny and pretty! I kept noticing these small, very round smudges on the glass in front of the gems. It took me a while to realize what they were - nose prints! People were so hypnotized by the glittering stones that they kept leaning in closer for a better look, until their noses actually touched the glass!
The Hope Diamond definitely winked at me.

Then we took a quick spin through the insect zoo (sponsored by Orkin - hilarious!), stopping to get up close with a few live tarantulas. We saw some of the dinosaur/fossil collection, but as that part of the museum is currently being remodeled, I don't think we got the full effect.

We got a bit hungry, so we stopped in the museum cafe in the basement for a quick sandwich before moving on to the Ocean Hall (with its blue whale suspended from the ceiling and its GIANT squid laid out in a long glass case) and the mammals (Hippos! Zebras! Lions! Polar bears!) and human origins galleries.

Before we knew it, it was time for dinner! We had reservations at the nearby Zaytinya - a Greek restaurant - so off we went. We loved this place! We tried tons of small plates -  crispy Brussels sprouts, a fish special, tender little keftedes, plus tons of pita bread. I had a glass of Lebanese wine, and we finished with dessert - the Turkish coffee chocolate cake, which was gloriously gooey inside.

We rode the metro back to the apartment. Though we did LOTS of walking while we were in the city (in part because the weather was so lovely while we were there, and in part because we wanted to see everything), we found the metro to be very easy to use. You can buy a Smart Trip card at kiosks in the metro stations, loading them with funds. Then, you just use them until the money runs out. You can re-load the cards with funds as necessary at the kiosks. Easy. If WE can figure it out, anybody can!

More to come . . .

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