Monday, July 16, 2007

D.C. Dayz

For the past few days we've been in D.C. visiting our older daughter and seeing old friends. Maybe the phrase should be "long-time" friends as I realized that the 13 year old views "old" as implying Webster's first definition which I guess is understandable from her perspective.

As the scene of a past life,Washington is a familiar place but the visit was a reminder of what a fine place it is. With those wide state named boulevards crossing the grid of streets it's a uniquely attractive town. While aware that D.C. has some not insignificant issues,the downtown and northwest areas are lively and easy to navigate. The subway is exceptional. Neighborhoods of townhouses, whether in Georgetown or other adjacent neighborhoods, are historic feeling and everything seems so clean. One could say, perhaps, that Washington D.C. is one of the most accessible cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Down around monument and mall land there were a few false notes. Around the perimeter of the field surrounding the Washington Monument there was a chain link fence, about four feet high and just like something that would be around any ball field or parking lot in the country. It was just out of place and ugly, presumably there for some security reason but it wouldn't stop a slow moving Ford Focus that wanted to go through it. Across the way the new WW II memorial, a first view for us, somehow didn't seem inviting despite the fountain and pool. Maybe it was the circle of metal wreaths on columns, or maybe it was the name of George W. Bush inappropriately carved into the entrance to the monument. Are sitting president's names part of other memorials? I certainly haven't noticed it at the aesthetically well-designed and moving Vietnam war memorial. Apart from those distractions the mall area and its museums are still a wonderful place to stroll and the fact that all of the Smithsonian related museums and galleries are free makes it easy to take a casual approach to popping in and out. Near our hotel we did pay to visit the Phillips Gallery and even with a modern expansion it's still one of the most comfortable museums around.

Our suite hotel was large, reasonable, well located, and had the somewhat uncommon feature of "complimentary" full breakfast buffet and evening cocktails. There were a few business groups with name tags there but the overall feeling was one of a convention of the large people of America club.

There were good restaurants for the evenings. The former Calvert Cafe is no longer invitingly drab, dark and smoke filled, and is now called Mama Ayishas, all dressed up, and the third generation family owners still serve wonderful Middle Eastern food. Washington Harbour is a great place to eat outside overlooking the Potomac on a beautiful night, which we had. That's not to say that Washington didn't live up to its reputation of being an oven in the summer. It was predictably hot and humid during the day but we lucked out compared to the temperatures approaching 100 a few days before.

Good trip.

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