I was in DC for the weekend thanks to a generous invite from my sister-in-law C (T’s sister), who was in from Seattle for a conference and came a few days prior so we could spend the weekend together. I took the train down from Newark, a pleasant civilized way to travel, where I sat and read and looked out the window and ate the avocado toast I packed for breakfast. It’s a lovely way to spend the morning and I arrived to a bustling beautiful Union Station where I maneuvered noonday crowds to get to the metro, another civilized way to travel. Much cleaner and more modern feeling than the NYC subway I’m used to. I got out and walked a few blocks to the hotel, lugging my luggage through streets filled with blooming magnolias. I read that the cherry blossoms were starting to bloom too – everything is early this year thanks to the mild winter courtesy of global warming.
I met C at the hotel, a nice room in a good location. It’s so great to see her and I’m on vacation! Yay! That’s how I felt as I put down my bags and headed out for the day. We walked to Dupont Circle where we went out for a wonderful leisurely lunch at an Italian bistro that is a favorite of C’s, then to the Phillips Collection, a favorite place of mine. It’s this country’s first museum of modern art, opened in 1921 by collector and philanthropist Duncan Phillips and it has a stellar collection of modern art, including half of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series (which documents in paintings the movement of black people from the south to the north, where they went for better job opportunities and freedoms), and a Mark Rothko room. The docents were friendly and helpful and it really felt like being in someone’s home, albeit someone very wealthy and with great taste in art.
Back at the hotel I check in with T – they’ve had an easy afternoon and V is in a great mood, so I’m relieved. I don’t want to feel guilty for having this time away. I rested for awhile and C caught up on emails, and then we went out for arepas, heated corn cakes with various fillings (we choose vegetarian options that included black beans, cheese and fried plantains), gluten free and delicious. By 930 I was ready for bed since I got up so early in anticipation of my travels.
Saturday we’ve made reservations for the Museum of African American Culture and History and we headed up late morning to wait in line for entry and then again to start in the museum’s basement which began its journey in the 1400s with the first slave ships and worked its way through to the present time (although we only made it to 1968 – after several engrossing hours we went to use the bathroom and get some water and they wouldn’t let us back in to the exhibit which was too bad, but then, we had covered over five centuries…: ) The place is jam packed with a truly diverse audience of all ages and races, and history comes to life with clear concise narrative and artifacts and photos to accompany them. I came away with a feeling that places like this really should be required viewing. As cliched and idealistic as it sounds I think we’d all be better off if we took the time to stop and learn about other people’s stories and experience. Knowledge can be life-altering.
After the museum and all that standing and being enlightened to the injustices of the world we left and walked to a vegan restaurant where we had delicious gluten free pizza with cashew cheese and looked up at cheerful Chinese lanterns suspended in the alleyway. Then more walking back to the hotel to rest. Resting is part of travel these days. Resting is a good thing whatever your age, just more essential as one grows older. A small price to pay for the privilege of aging.
Sunday morning, Daylight savings time will mean it’s lighter later and I sleep in past 7. I always look forward to that change. After breakfast we head up to the Portrait Gallery which is great – more varied and interesting than I expected – with a lot of lovely paintings of people I admire, and others I’ve never heard about but am happy to learn their stories.
Then we head down to the tidal basin with its many famous monuments. The cherry blossom watch says the blooms are at stage four which means that they are budding, although when we get there I am disappointed in the lack of color – they are just starting to bloom, still not close to peak blossoms, and it’s grey and drizzly. Still, it’s wonderful to be there, with lots of school groups and families everywhere we turn.
When I used to travel a lot part of the goal would be to do untouristy things, to blend in to whatever city and country I was in, being as close to a native as possible. But this whole weekend has been one tourist site after another and it’s a pleasure. There’s a reason these museums and monuments are popular, that people just like us plan visits to the same places.
On our way back to the hotel from our memorial walk (Lincoln, Vietnam veterans, MLK and FDR) we catch a cab – it’s raining at this point and we don’t want to wait for an Uber or walk to the metro – and get into a political discussion with the driver, who has very different views from ours. Except for seeing our last disgraced president’s image in the portrait gallery – I couldn’t bear to look yet caught him out of the corner of my eye – it’s the first time the darker side of our political reality has reared its ugly head during this weekend in our nation’s capital. I’ve steered clear of any of the contentiousness that stimies progress there, steeping myself instead in art and culture that is illuminating and uplifting.
There will be plenty of time to catch up on the state of the world on the train ride home, I tell myself, although I chose to just skim the more depressing headlines, focusing on the Oscars and other lighter fare. I’ve had a break from my normal reality and I want to keep my sense of optimism as long as I can, to relish the camaraderie and fun of a girls’ weekend away. It’s been so lovely to have a few days with C, who I don’t get to see as much as I’d like. I take turns reading and writing this while looking out the window as the world goes by, rejuvenated from a welcome break.
4 thoughts on “DC-turismo”
You covered a lot of ground! Your photos brought feelings of awe, appreciation and…a challenge to be more aware! Thanks!
Always nice to hear from you : )
What a spectacular weekend… beautifully planned and richly executed. Thanks for making DC culture, art, food and colors come alive.
Thanks Abby : )