Monday, October 24, 2016

Back in DC!

Luncheon of the Boating Party
Earlier this month, I was headed back to Washington DC for a conference. I decided to show up a few days early (on my own dime) and explore a few corners of the city that I'd yet to visit. I took an  EARLY direct flight out, and before lunch, I was on the ground!

First, I checked into the Hyatt Place in Georgetown. I chose this hotel because it was recommended by the conference I was attending, and it was a quick walk to the conference activities. It's not exactly the most central location for tourists, but I found it to be an excellent property to stay in. Even though I was in town early (10:30 a.m. or so), they went ahead and checked me in, which was very nice of them. The property has also recently been renovated, and they serve a delicious, free hot breakfast every morning. Plus, they offer an indoor pool, gym, roof terrace, and on-site restaurant. Very nice!

A piece from The Kin Series
I dropped my bags, freshened up a bit, and looked around for something to eat. Luckily, the Hyatt Place in Georgetown is less than a block away from Bread and Chocolate, a delightful bakery and restaurant. I settled into an al fresco table, ordered the brunch (an entree, plus pastries, plus coffee and juice), and prepared myself for culinary happiness. The food didn't disappoint. A lovely spinach and goat cheese omelet accompanied by some of the best hash browns I've ever tasted. A beautiful basket of three pastries, strong coffee, tangy juice. A little bird kept hopping around my table, shooting me meaningful glances and waiting impatiently for me to "accidentally" drop some pastry. A wonderful way to begin my visit!

After a filling meal, I headed for The Phillips Collection. I'd wanted to visit this museum on my last trip to DC, but I'd missed it. It made for a wonderful morning of discovery! First of all, the collection is impressive, but completely do-able in a morning. I found my Zen in the Rothko room, admired Renoir's soft dream of colors in Luncheon of the Boating Party, tested the acoustics a bit in the music room, and absolutely fell in love with The Kin Series by Whitfield Lovell.  (This temporary exhibit pairs gorgeous drawings based on antique photographs of African Americans. Each drawing is presented with thoughtfully selected objects that speak to deeper meanings about the portraits.) After absorbing the art, I spent a few moments in the museum's back garden, where they display a couple of outdoor art pieces. (You can also order food at the museum cafe and eat it in the outdoor space.) It was a lovely, sunny day, and I turned my face upward in gratitude for a wonderful morning. (For a $12 admission fee, this was a wonderful place to explore. Recommended.)
Mary Pickford cocktail at District Commons

Then, I turned my steps toward Kramerbooks & Afterwords. I love a good bookstore, and I'd heard wonderful things about this one. It wasn't quite as big as I expected, but the space they do have is packed to the gills with treasures. They also have an on-site cafe/restaurant. I found all kinds of must-haves, including my reading for the plane ride back home! Afterward, it was back to the hotel for a rest.

When I ventured out that evening, I started at District Commons for a snack. Hubs and I ate at this restaurant (near the Kennedy Center) during our last trip to DC, and we'd loved it! I got a seat at the bar and indulged in a Mary Pickford cocktail with a fried oyster appetizer. Both were delicious! Sated, I made my way to the Kennedy Center. For my first night in town, I'd booked a ticket to Unelectable You, an improv comedy show based on the dreaded election season. The show is the result of a collaboration between Second City and Slate.com, and I was catching its last performance in town!
The Kennedy Center!

It was a hoot! I can't IMAGINE how many times they've had to re-concept sketches as the election cycle has progressed. They also had moment where they brought Slate.com editors on stage for brief conversation, on which they'd then base the next sketch. But the absolute highlight of the show was near the end, when they brought an unsuspecting audience member onstage to turn them into a viable alternative to Clinton or Trump. Cole was so game and such a good sport about it all that I was rolling in the aisle! Fun!

After the show, it was back to the hotel, where I slept like a rock!

Blueberry buckwheat pancakes at The Market Lunch
The next morning was Sunday. I'd heard high praise for DC's Eastern Market, so I hopped in a cab and went to check it out. I'm so glad I did! I started with a short stack of blueberry buckwheat pancakes at The Market Lunch. Delicious! I sat at the long counter aside a group of tourists from Scotland. We talked all about DC and New York City (which was where they were headed next). Then, it was off to explore! Eastern Market is similar to Chelsea Market in NYC, but smaller. The indoor portion of the market is just one medium-sized hall, with purveyors of flowers, fruits and veggies, meats, seafoods and other grocery items. Outside the building, long rows of tents house other merchants, selling everything from produce to coffee to crafts to art. I had such fun browsing! I loved rooting through old political buttons at one booth and laughing over funny handmade greeting cards at the next! I even found a vendor that sold beautiful matted, framed vintage postage stamps! (I bought several of these to give as gifts. Such an inventive idea!) It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, so I took my time, enjoyed the weather, and found some fun souvenirs.
A beautiful day for the market!

After having my fill of the market, I headed towards the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This museum is free, and they have a bag check, so I entered, checked my purchases, and went to the spot where tours begin. There, I was asked to select a booklet. The booklet is formatted like an identification card, and it tells the story of a real person who lived during the Holocaust. My person was Celia Petranker. She was a Polish girl, the youngest of three daughters.

You explore the Holocaust Museum chronologically, in floors. The first floor tells you about the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, their propaganda and political tactics. You learn about the slow but relentless way the Nazis stripped Jews of their citizenship and rights. Next, you learn about the relocation of Jews to ghettos and German aggression. Then, finally, you learn about Hitler's "Final Solution" and the industrialization of murder.

As you can likely guess, young Celia didn't survive the Holocaust. She was put to work cleaning Gestapo headquarters in Stanislav, Poland. From the window of the building, she could see other Jews being held in the courtyard, crying for help. One day, unable to bear their suffering, she tossed them her lunch of bread and cheese through the window. A German officer saw her. She was detained, beaten, and eventually executed. She was 17 years old.

You have to be ready for the emotional weight of this place. It will break your heart and suck the air out of your lungs. Graphic photography and video tells the story of the Holocaust and will haunt you after you leave. The faces of those that perished stare out at you from walls of photos and interpretive videos. Their shoes are piled in a mass near the end of the museum tour. The pile of shoes seems endless, but it's only a tiny, tiny fraction that represents a horrifying whole.

Heartbreaking.
It took me a while to get through this museum. And it was tough. But it was both important and meaningful, and I'm glad I went.

Afterward, I was drained. I decided to stop at Founding Farmers, not far from my hotel, for a quick bite and to collect myself. I had the delicious ham and peas mac and cheese, and I savored every bite! (Wonderfully creamy!) I sat at the bar, and I chatted with two other single ladies who were visiting DC. After a good meal and rollicking conversation, it was back to the hotel for a break!

That evening, I had tickets to Sense and Sensibility at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre. I had LOVED their production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead when hubs and I had visited last year. I was intrigued to see what they'd do with the Austen classic. What I discovered was a new adapted script, wildly inventive staging, and a completely fresh and modern take on an old favorite!

A must-see!!
Most of the set pieces are on casters, allowing furniture, windows, doorways, tables and the like to roll in and about both in between and during scenes. This stroke of genius makes an Austen production, which can be a bit talky and slow, feel fluid and paced. The cast is a mere 10 performers, but several play multiple roles, adding to the kinetic energy of the piece. And then, the performers are a HOOT! As Elinor Dashwood, Maggie McDowell is the heart of the show, with her patience and restraint. Erin Weaver is wonderfully warm as Marianne, and Caroline Clay attacked her role as Mrs. Jennings with visible relish. Jamie Smithson, who played both Edward Ferrars and his rapscallion brother, was by turns earnest and gleefully mad. (At one point, he called me out in the audience. I responded, and he bounded to my seat for a little improv with obvious delight. Just as quickly, he was back on stage, enjoying the hell out of it all. So. Much. FUN!)

Also - theatre patrons have the opportunity to tour the Folger's current exhibit - Will and Jane - prior to shows and during intermission. There are some fascinating items on display in this collection, which examines parallels between Shakespeare and Austen.

After what turned out to be the best show I saw on my trip, it was off to bed!

More to come . . .  


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