Posts Tagged ‘Washington DC’

Last weekend, my litter sister, Kelly, flew to DC and completely surprised me for my birthday. She and Dan had been in cahoots. I am amazed by how many people were able to keep it a surprise. I came out of my building after work on Friday expecting to see Dan and was shocked by the gorgeous tall woman standing next to him, who I soon realized was my little sis. Friday night we grabbed appetizers in Dupont and then Kelly went off to surprise another one of her friends at Georgetown University.

Saturday, we walked through Eastern Market and joined my friends for dinner in Georgetown followed by a piano bar in Barracks Row. Sunday we walked the Mall a bit, saw the Capitol and the Washington Monument and went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum — allowing Dan and I to check yet another place off our DC tourist map. I found the museum to be more of a memorial than a museum, and it didn’t teach me much I didn’t already know — though as Dan pointed out, I was a history major, so maybe most people don’t have the same knowledge of the time period. I was searching for a greater understanding of “how” — how an entire population, an entire world, could know what was happening and do very little to stop it, how a people can allow themselves to be interned. I know about the horrors, but I understand less about how. Maybe Rwanada and Darfur help explain how. The museum is powerful as a memorial, and an important one. One of my friends commented on the shoes — an exhibit showing rows and rows of shoes piled on top of one another — shoes that were abandoned outside a gas chamber. And though I am aware of differences, my mind flashed back to what another friend, who was living in NYC at the time, had said about 9/11 — “it was the shoes, the shoes outside the buildings.”

Kelly and I finished our weekend with a movie at home on Sunday night. It was wonderful to get to see her and catch up on some of that sister stuff that is sometimes tough to share over 2,000 miles.

In somewhat related news, Dan, who has a genuine gift for such writing, has updated his Yelp profile to include reviews of some of the restaurants we have visited in DC, funny and insightful. If you are looking for a place to eat in DC, or just want to know more about what we have been eating since we got here, check out the reviews.

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We are emerging from our second once-in-a-lifetime blizzard in DC this year. Obama dubbed the storm snowmageddon, though snowpocalypse2, after the snowpocalypse1 storm on December 19, and snowtorious B.I.G. remain popular. Officially 17.8″ fell at National Airport, the fourth largest snowfall since the National Weather Service began keeping records, but 26″ fell in the district. It stopped snowing in the early evening yesterday and the sun is out today. People are approaching their cars on the side of the roads, shovels in hand, but usually start laughing out loud at the enormity of the task before they even get their first scoop of snow into their shovel. Once they have the snow in the shovel, they look around and laugh again, because there is absolutely no where to put it.

Other than being completely snowed in, life in the district has continued fairly normally. We never lost power (though more than 100,000 people in the area have) and the metro continued serving the underground stations (which includes ours), though trains were only running every 30 minutes and they stopped service early last night. Despite its unofficial motto, (“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,”) the Postal Service was not able to make its rounds Saturday, for the first time in 30 years. Streets were practically devoid of cars for more than 24 hours and there was something surreal about being able to frolic down the middle of the streets, Spot running free. Spot is in her dog bed snoring after spending so much time playing in the snow yesterday. The Mayor says that he is trying to have the city ready for business by Monday morning, but where the snow is cleared from the sidewalks, it comes up past my knees and past Spot’s head, so we’ll see.

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check, check

Dan and I have been making the rounds on some of the tourist destinations in DC. We started getting a feel for our neighborhood early on — which took us to the (outside of) the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. Since then, we have been trying to hit a few more sites every couple of weeks. We have been doing a far better job than I did at seeing the sites in NYC. So far, we have been to the National Museum of American History, the U.S. National Arboretum, The National Building Museum, the National Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Art (West Building), The National Air and Space Museum, the Christmas display at the U.S. Botanical Garden, the (outside of) the White House, the Ellipse to see the National Christmas Tree, the Japanese Lantern and First Cherry Tree Planting, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and the National Zoo.

Continue reading if you want to learn more about our touristy adventures.

We hit the first four sites — the (outside of) the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial — at night. The Monuments are open late and make great evening stops if you want to avoid the crowds of the day and don’t mind missing out on riding the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument (which, I have heard is pretty cool and gives you a great feel for the layout of downtown.)

We went to the National Museum of American History with my Mom, and it made a pleasant afternoon with a parental unit. The museum provides an good overview of American wars. Dan and I enjoyed learning more about the history of birth control in this country and Dan also liked the exhibit on the history of robots.

DC Arboretum

DC Arboretum

The National Arboretum has become one of our favorite places to spend a sunny afternoon. In the fall, the place was not crowded and provided an excellent location for a hike with a pup along well-maintained trails. It is one place that Dan and I consider underrated overall and we recommend that anyone visiting the city make the Arboretum one of their stops. The trick is that the Arboretum is located relatively far Northeast in the District and getting there pretty much requires a car — so if you are dependent on public transportation, it can be tough to get out there. So far we have seen the Administrative Building, Fern valley (one of our favorite areas), the Azalea collection (which provides a beautiful hike), the National Capitol columns, and the National Herb Garden, which Dan and I both like because of all of the different beautiful peppers that grow in the fall.

We went to the National Building Museum to see their haunted tour. The tour was led by a volunteer, in costume and speaking in first person, which provided an interesting historical story. The after-hours tour also allowed us onto the fourth floor, which is usually closed to visitors. With only our tour group for company, the building had some mystical qualities with only the emergency lights casting shadows.

We walked through the Sculpture Garden on our way to the National Gallery of Art. One of my favorite things about the National Gallery was the West Building Highlights page that is available in case you only have an hour to visit the museum. Despite living in DC and being a history nerd, I often find that hour in a museum is about the right amount of time. And one of the luxuries of living here among the free Smithsonian museums is that we can come back to see parts of the museums over several days. The Highlights page directs you to some of the most famous works in the museum including Gievra de’ Benci, the only piece by Leonardo da Vinci in the Western Hemisphere, The Alba Madonna by Raphael, A Lady in Waiting by Johannes Vermeer, Allies Day, May 1917 by Childe Hassam, Rouen Cathedral, West Facade, Sunlight by Monet, and Self-Portrait by Vincent Van Gogh.

We only had about 45 minutes in the National Air and Space museum before closing, but we got a lighting tour of some parts of the museum and I seriously doubt that my tech-loving boyfriend will let me leave DC without spending another afternoon at the museum and catching a show at the IMAX or the planetarium. One of our favorite parts was walking through a replica of the first U.S. Space Station.

The Capitol Building at U.S. Botanical Gardens

The Capitol Building at U.S. Botanical Gardens

The holiday display at the Botanical Gardens is magical in that holiday way — the kind of place that makes you wish you had kids to take with you. There are lighted replicas of famous buildings around capitol hill made entirely of plant material and surrounded by poinsettias. It took more than 600 hours to create the replica of the U. S. Capitol. There is also a train room full of miniature trains surrounded by a fairy village. The gardens are open late on certain weeknights through December and have live musical performances in the main room with the large Christmas tree. One of the coolest part about the late nights is that relatively few people visit the gardens during after-hours and not only are the holiday displays open, but you can walk around the rest of the indoor areas of the gardens with relatively few other visitors. My friend and I enjoyed walking around the second floor of the rain forest and exploring the desert and Hawaii rooms.

National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

We saw the National Christmas Tree at the Ellipse.

FDR Memorial

FDR Memorial

We passed the Japanese lantern and First Cherry Tree planting on our way to the FDR and Thomas Jefferson Memorials on the opposite side of the Tidal Basin from The Mall. I am sure it is a breathtaking area in early spring. The FDR memorial is my favorite memorial in DC so far. It feels built into the natural surroundings, rather than imposed on them. The quotes illustrate FDR’s desires to ensure full employment, preserve the natural world, and bring peace to all countries. While I recognize his imperfections, and I felt Dan’s eyes role as we walked across the part of the memorial that signified the beginning of his fourth term, FDR is my favorite president.



Lastly, we went to the National Zoo for ZooLights. I highly recommend ZooLights. Not only were the lights fun, but we were also able to get in to view several of the animals, especially those that tend to be very popular during regular business hours, such as the monkeys and pandas. Tai Shan, the four-year old panda that was born in the U.S. will be headed to China early next year, and it was an excellent opportunity to watch him eat some bamboo. Tai Shan is on loan to the U.S. from the Chinese government and must be sent back to China as part of the agreement, likely to enter their breeding program to aid their species conservation efforts.

Happy Holidays to you and yours; we’ll be hitting some more of the sites in the New Year.

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snow! (an official blizzard in DC)

I am a naturally cynical person — a quality professors have alternately admired and found impossible.

I chuckled out loud on the metro when I read on twitter, “Winter storm watch. If you’re new to DC, protocol is to wreck your car while racing out to buy bottled water & canned canned goods.”

Yesterday, as my friend and I walked down the streets of downtown DC we commented, “Man, it is way too warm for as much snow as they are predicting. People are probably exaggerating this; nothing ups news ratings like reports of a major storm headed your way. Maybe we’ll get some wintry mix, a whole lotta slop falling out of the sky.” We giggled about the people skipping the company holiday party to start driving towards their holiday destinations early.

But, before Dan and I had even been seated for dinner on H street, the snow began to fall.

What can I say? I guess I was wrong.

A record December snowfall for DC seems imminent. It’s my first real northeaster, and it’s impressive. I haven’t been in a real snowstorm since I left Colorado 3 years ago.

Metro suspended all above ground service (but plans to run underground service until their regularly scheduled 3am closing). Metrobuses stopped running at 1pm. Most flights in and out of DC have been canceled. But, “living up to its credo, the U.S. Postal Service anticipates normal deliveries on Saturday, except where road closures block routes.”

Dan near Mass Ave.

Erin making a snowangel

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Pictures Pictures

People have been clamoring for pictures of our place. We spent weeks ordering furniture and hours building it. But slowly we have emptied our apartment of ALL of the boxes and taken some pictures (though admittedly one box full mostly of duplicated kitchen equipment is just in the car waiting to be taken to a good will.) We finally got some rugs down and the curtains hung. All that’s really left is returning a few extra things to Target. It’s good to be settled in to, because it is finally nearly impossible to deny the coming of winter. I walked home from work in the dark the other day and it has been raining for 3 days straight. I could see my breath when I walked Spot this morning and the radiators are on. Dan and I are cuddled in our hoodies in bed wishing we lived in central America, though the leaves are really quite pretty.

Check out Dan’s blog if you want to see the embedded version and hear more about our apartment and our neighborhood.

Dan spent almost an hour figuring out how best to upload some pictures of our place, and I am going to shamelessly steal his work here.
(or browse these pictures on picasa)

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poco a poco

I spent part of last week on a business trip to Arizona. It is looking like Arizona will be one of the first states to have all of its Local Health Departments complete Project Public Health Ready. My trip was followed by our first weekend in our new apartment that we did not either go to Target (Dan forbid it) or build at least one piece of furniture from Ikea. It was quite liberating. We spent time both Saturday and Sunday sitting in the sun, reading and eating the waffle breakfast special at the nearby coffee shop. Spot enjoyed trying to steal bites off our plate (and anyone’s who was innocent enough to pass close to her). We walked around the fish markets and had an appetizer by the Waterfront. We explored Chinatown, took Spot to the park to play with other dogs (twice) and Dan hooked up our TV to the cable and to the WII. Little by little we are starting to settle in.

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