Amidst a high-stakes election season fraught with hostility, malaise, and apathy, my first visit to Washington D.C. was an unexpected breath of fresh air. I guess sometimes it helps to return to our roots. The surplus of historical monuments and sites may have become mere wallpaper to many who live and frequent D.C., but for me, each location held fresh significance. The story of America’s beginnings.
Boozy, Bougie Brunch
My fiancé EZ and I took a red-eye on a Friday night and arrived in D.C. early in the drizzly Saturday morning of October. After meeting up with friends (a couple living in D.C. and a couple visiting from NY), our group walked beneath the shelter of umbrellas to Ted’s Bulletin.
There was a wait, of course, and so our D.C. friends led us around the corner and down the street to stroll through a nearby farmer’s market. We perused stalls peddling unique jewelry, nostalgic art prints, and other interesting artifacts. Finally, we made our way back to the restaurant.
Ted’s Bulletin struck me as a classic establishment, old-school classy. Distinguished with no frills.
After grabbing a few drinks while waiting some minutes, our group was seated. The food was fantastic. I devoured a short-rib Sammy crafted with Vermont white cheddar, arugula, and horseradish mayo…and also helped myself to some of EZ’s crispy fried chicken and honey-drizzled biscuits. The girls convinced me to try one of the restaurant’s famous “adult shakes” – the White Russian. It was a sweet, frothy concoction of vodka and Kahlua. Yummy.
Our group spent so much time enjoying the food, drinks, and company that we feared we wouldn’t have time to see too many sights that day. Thankfully, we figured wrong.
Given the rain, people were flocking to all of the free museums to seek shelter and entertainment. We didn’t fancy waiting in lines that wrapped around the block, so our group decided to check out The Newseum, where the line was short but tickets clocked in at nearly $25. This museum is a tribute to America’s freedom of expression, particularly the freedom of press.
Outside, at the front of the Newseum, was a gallery displaying front pages of newspapers from all over the country, as well as some from other countries – all for the current day. It was interesting to see all the headlines, all the different and shared experiences. Inside the museum, I found the most memorable exhibit to be the Pulitzer Prize Gallery, which presented compelling photographs that captured defining moments throughout our recent history. The 9/11 Gallery also made an impact, with its haunting debris from the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and its wall of shocking headlines – front pages from newspapers around the world.
The Editorial Cartoons exhibit offered an amusing respite from all of the heavier stuff, while the Berlin Wall Gallery provided a burst of color and an inspirational story of how news helped fight oppression.
An outdoor balcony boasted an awesome view of the Captiol building, along with the surrounding street fair. The street seemed alive, despite the gloomy weather.
We ended our exploration of the Newseum with a 4D interactive film. We felt cool puffs of air, saw objects fly at us from the screen, and rocked in our jolting chairs as we followed Nellie Bly on the screen as she feigned insanity in order to write an exposé on a women’s asylum. Ah, the power of information.
After the Newseum, our group strolled down the street as our D.C. friends pointed out different buildings of interest. EZ and I geeked out as we approached the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building – we had seen it so many times as we binge-watched The X-Files, and now here we were. We wondered – how many hidden cameras were watching us take photos in front the building? Was the cigarette-smoking man watching?
The truth is out there.
Trump International Hotel
Not too far away stood the Trump International Hotel, a redevelopment of the Old Post Office. It was a grand old building from the 1800s, complete with a clock tower. Tourists were taking pictures in front of it. Mostly teenage boys. Curious, our group wandered inside the hotel.
We were besieged with over-the-top extravagance. Ostentatious self-importance. Gilded edges, superfluous chandeliers, and brazen architectural flourishes. Butlers pushing trolley-carts of champagne, high-end whiskey, fine cheeses, and delicate sliced meats. I half expected the restrooms to boast golden toilets.
Unfortunately, I was too overwhelmed to remember to take pictures. So here are some photos off the internet to give you an idea:
Next, we made our way to the Washington Monument. The monument is an imposing stone obelisk, nearly 600 feet tall, dedicated to the memory of George Washington. It is encircled by 50 American flags, one for each state. This is where I could start feeling the weight of history.
“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.” ~George Washington
The clouds gathered in the sky, a brooding gray.
But as we walked away from the monument, due west along the reflecting pool, the sky began to change colors.
By the time we approached the Lincoln Memorial, the setting sun suddenly burst through the clouds, casting a rosy radiance upon the world.
Before we reached the Lincoln Memorial, however, we passed through the World War II Memorial, a collection of pillars and arches surrounding a plaza and fountain. The memorial was situated between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN,
ONE THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FATHER AND THE OTHER THE NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESERVER OF OUR NATION, WE HONOR THOSE TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICANS WHO TOOK UP THE STRUGGLE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND MADE THE SACRIFICES TO PERPETUATE THE GIFT OUR FOREFATHERS ENTRUSTED TO US: A NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.
The WWII Memorial is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces and as civilians during World War II. We took a moment to honor those Americans.
The Lincoln Memorial beckoned from the west end of the National Mall. The memorial, perched at the top of a series of platforms, is in the style of a Greek Doric temple. The statue of Abraham Lincoln peeked out between two of the white columns. Some sort of event was set up in front of the memorial, with a variety of tents lined up and the magnified sound of a speaker wrapping up a speech.
We ascended the steps to reach the brilliant statue, impressive and inspirational. Nearby, within the chamber, were carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address. This place felt steeped with history. Not just the memory of our great 16th president, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation…but also the memory of those who continued to work hard for civil rights. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Dinner – A Balkan Banquet
Despite our generous brunch, our appetite began to catch up with us from all the walking. After freshening up at the home of our D.C. hosts, we went to dinner at Ambar, which serves tapas-style Balkan cuisine.
The Balkans- if you’re not familiar – comprise a peninsula in Southeast Europe. I had no idea what Balkan cuisine entailed, but I was pleasantly surprised. Soon, our table was weighed down with a smorgasbord of tasty bites – smoked meats, distinctive spreads (strawberry-prosciutto-basil, smoked salmon-dill-onion-caper, and smoked trout-pickled jalapeño-cilantro-mayo, among others), mouth-watering meat pies, flaky fried breads, Brussel sprouts with bacon, and other treats. There were so many unexpected pairings of ingredients that burst with delicious flavor. We feasted, sipped on liquor and cocktails, and celebrated the birthday of our hostess with the mostess. The ambiance was chic yet comfortable, the vibe lively yet relaxed.
Late Night Fun
After dinner, we took an Uber to Adams Morgan, a diverse neighborhood with a vibrant nightlife, and met up with more friends at Perry’s Restaurant. We lingered at the rooftop bar, enjoying the nighttime view of the city.
Then we walked through the neighborhood of colorful row houses and buildings to a hookah bar. The night ended with EZ and me, and our D.C. friends BC and YB, walking down the street and singing karaoke in a private room (so fun!) – followed by late-night grub at a Mexican restaurant to help sober up the drunken men.
We didn’t go to sleep until maybe 3:00 in the morning, but it only felt like midnight to EZ and me, since we’re from the West Coast. So we still managed to feel well-rested the next morning, when more D.C. delights awaited us…
Continued – Read Day 2