Thursday, October 13, 2011

D.C. at LAST!

Today, we finally stopped dilly dallying and headed into D.C. I was SOOO very excited to get back to this truly great city. I was here in the early 90s for five days. We walked everywhere that August week, saw a lot, but never stepped foot into National Geographic (one of my goals) nor a Smithsonian. There’s SO much to see and do in Washington, D.C. One could stay here for months and still not see it all.

Our hostess gave us a ride in to the Metro stop on her way to work. Our adventure began with the purchase of our day passes. (Only $9 per person per day for full Metro passes – the best mass transit deal we’ve seen in our travels.) Once I finally got the machine to accept my plastic (no small task), we headed to the train only to learn that the full-day passes don’t include rush hour. We’d either have to wait half an hour, or would have to purchase single-fare tickets. I didn’t want to waste the half hour in the station, so I opted for the single fares. Turns out, however, that you can’t share a fare ticket (I’d put three fares on one ticket), so two out of three of us were locked out. Fortunately, the Metro agent was friendly and helpful (and funny), and helped me parse out our tickets so we could all ride the next train into town.

The train pulled into the station at 9:35…5 minutes after the peak period ended and our day passes would have worked just fine. (sigh)

We hopped off at the Smithsonian stop which put us right in the heart of the nation’s capitol. We walked our feet sore checking out the Mall and its monuments, including the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument. At first I wondered why they left Dr. King’s likeness unfinished – his head and upper torso and crossed arms are complete, but the carving becomes increasingly rough until his legs remain a block of stone. In fact, however, I think it’s particularly appropriate that his likeness remain unfinished, a reminder of the life cut short and his goals of peace and unity not yet met.

With an enthusiastic recommendation from a park ranger, the girls and I ventured back into the Metro and out to the jazz quarter in search of a great Ethiopian restaurant. I wish I could have remembered the name of the restaurant I visited (and greatly enjoyed) so many years ago (if it’s still open at all). Instead, we hit Dukems on U Street. The girls enjoyed eating with their hands, but the table experience was entirely different that the comfortable floor-seating arrangement I had enjoyed, and the food wasn’t really that exciting (except for our appetizer – pastry wrapped spicy vegetables). We all left hungry.

Fortunately, world famous Ben’s Chili is just down the street. We tried to stop in, but major demo work was under way. This restaurant has been in place since the ‘50s and has survived a riot or two that has otherwise entirely decimated the neighborhood. As we turned away, a lovely lady said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry we’re closed. Come back and see us again, will you?” It turns out she’s the owner, and her son own’s the place next door (Ben’s Next Door) which was serving not only its regular higher-end menu, but also mom’s chili and related goodies. So, we stepped in to check it out. V and I split the chili dog, and an order of sweet potato fries while E enjoyed a bowl of (delicious) black bean soup.

We made it back to the Mall in time to watch the monument lights come on, and to return to some of the monuments to check them out under lights. (I, for one, like them better under lights. And they’re open 24 hours a day. For the best, quietest visit, come back near midnight if you have bigger kids, or no kids at all.)

Our feet quite sore, we walked past the Department of State, through George Washington University and hit the Metro again for a ride back to the suburbs, and a warm late-evening greeting from our hostess.

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