DC Tourist

Mild regret: even though Washington, DC was ‘the city’ where I grew up, and an easy 20 minute drive from my childhood home, I never actually lived in the city and never really got to know it. It’s confusing enough in its layout that I always got lost when I drove there. (I thought it was just me being bad at directions, but then I moved to Baltimore and had that city down in two weeks.) I’ve also noted, from my trips to Williamsburg, that my adult brain ‘maps areas now in a way that my adolescent brain never did. For instance, I now have a clear picture in my head of the DC mall and how it’s laid out, with the Washington Monument in the middle, the Lincoln Memorial on one end and the Capitol on the other, with the White House off to the side. I’ve been visiting the Mall since I was a child, but that basic map didn’t exist in my head until two weeks ago. Anyway…

The day after the reunion, I had specific plans involving spending the day (and night) in the city – thrown a bit by Bunthorne Boy inviting me first to a brunch in NW DC, and then to dinner at his sister’s house out in Clifton. I felt bad, but ended up declining both invites, as I couldn’t make it work without torpedoing the my own plans. So, woke up leisurely, struggled a bit with the coffee machine (had to hit the reset button on the outlet), but got myself up enough for breakfast. The hotel provided a decent free breakfast, but Sandy had said it wasn’t particularly good, and I’d seen a diner right next to the hotel when we’d pulled in the night before. So I went off to the Silver Diner and had a Oaxaca omelet and it was really tasty.

Back to the hotel to leisurely clean up and pack, then another Uber to the train station. (Poor uber driver was a tad lost, wanted to make a left out of Porter Road, when I was 99% sure it was a right. I never understand when uber drivers get lost. They have GPS like everyone else. The guy who took me to PJ Skiddoo’s was very uncertain, too.) Back on the train, where I see a message from BB telling me they could actually pick me up at the hotel and drive me to brunch if I liked. I laughed and declined, “Just got on the train!”. (In this little tale, BB is clearly the nicest friend in the world and I am the most awful.) Apologies, and back into the city.

Again, I had bad luck with my planning, which means I just didn’t do it very well. I had it in my head that my DC hotel for Sunday night was right by a Metro Station (it was) and by Union Station (it wasn’t). So I went all the way to Union Station and then realized I had a significant walk ahead of me. (Typical travel hindsight – I now know I could have gotten right back on the Metro, gone two stops and would have been right there.) So schlepped with my rolling suitcase through largely empty streets to Chinatown, where I arrived at the Motto hotel.

Despite it being early October, it was already a warm day, gonna get warmer and I was already sweaty from schlepping. I expected to use Plan B, leave my luggage at the hotel and set off on my adventures, but much to my surprise, they had a room available at 11:00 am! So I checked in and did some minor room setup. (Motto is kind of a micro hotel and the room was basically the bed and not much else, but that was fine.) Check-in ladies were super-nice and gave me a bottle of water unprompted, there were also more in the room. So geared up, put on sunscreen etc. and headed out.

The plan was to take a cab (Uber, actually) to the Jefferson Memorial – which I couldn’t remember ever having visited, and do a loop around to see all the memorials that had been created and installed since I’d left the city long ago. This was the route.

And that’s exactly what I did!

  • The Jefferson memorial is beautiful and classic. (it’s funny, you can see the Jefferson Memorial from all the other hot spots on the DC mall, but it’s not easy to get to, which is why I took a cab there to start.)
  • The George Mason memorial, which I didn’t know about until I came across it, was a little unkempt, but is a nice memorial nonetheless.
  • The Roosevelt memorial is … thorough. It’s quite large and in several sections, with a lot of interesting water features and some great statuary.
  • The MLK memorial is quite beautiful. My reaction to his statue, which is sort of him ’emerging’ from a block of stone, was that ‘oh, he’s unfinished because his work is unfinished.
  • The Korean War veteran’s memorial was under some sort of renovation, but you could still see it.
  • (I then stopped and had a tuna sandwich and a diet coke before proceeding to the …)
  • The Lincoln Memorial, iconic and astonishing. (and crowded) The view up the mall is spectacular.
  • The Vietnam Veterans memorial is lovely and heartbreaking. (I’d seen it before.) There was a guy there shouting “Hoo-ah” and offering to help people find names on the wall, reminded me of his counterpart at Pierre LaChasse cemetery in Paris. They do it for tips. There are also two little Vietnam memorials which are new (to me): the Vietnam Women’s Memorial and The Three Soldiers.
  • The World War II memorial was new to me and is absolutely spectacular – reminded me of memorials and palaces we’ve seen in Europe.
  • I didn’t go up the Washington Monument (I don’t think I ever have), but I did go up to the base. From here, you had a clear view of the field of COVID flags, heartbreaking.

I then walked back to my hotel, mildly pleased that I wasn’t exhausted by this point (I probably walked about 5 miles total.) Got an iced mocha and chilled out in the room. There were vague thoughts of going to explore Georgetown for dinner, or going to one of the Bars of My People, but I ended up just local for dinner. It was odd – the block I was on (the one with the Chinatown arch) was kind of skeevy, with a lot of dodgy-looking people just lurking around. But we were just a couple of blocks from some very fancy shopping and super-nice restaurants. After getting cleaned up, I went to explore the restaurant possibilities, but ended up at one of the hotel’s recommendations, Zantinya, a José Andrés restaurant. I think that Andrés is a prince among men, with his amazing charity work, feeding thousands of people after earthquakes and hurricanes and so on, and he’s so nice and frankly, pretty hot… So I was happy to finally get a chance to go to one of his places.

As a singleton with no reservation, they routed me to the bar. I could have sat at a high-top table, but sat at the bar instead, and this turned out to be a mistake. The ambience at the bar was pretty blah– I spent a fair amount of time staring at dishwasher racks. I had a cocktail and a glass of wine, neither of which I should’ve ordered, but they were worth it. They rushed me through my meal, which I never appreciate. But… the food was really great, although I couldn’t order what I wanted to because I’m on a diet. I had a green salad and grilled octopus, both delicious. Everything was pretty pricey. So… I wouldn’t sit at the bar again, I would absolutely go back with a charming companion.

Headed back to the hotel, where I fell asleep at about 8:15 watching “Clue” on the TV.


Woke up at 5:45 am: very loud garbage truck beeping right outside my window. I’d been asked when I checked in whether I wanted a lower or an upper floor and I said I didn’t care. I ended up on 3. Clearly, this was a mistake. The room had no coffeemaker (sadface), but the cafe downstairs opened at 7:00, so I just rolled out of bed and got cleaned up right away. Went down at 7:15, had a fancy coffee and a not-too-bad breakfast burrito, finished packing and checked out. Bought one last one-way fare on the metro to bring me two stops to Union Station. (I realized at some point that I could have done my weekend Metro trips for $2.00 a day rather than the $6.50 or whatever I spent for a daily unlimited pass. Ah well, don’t care, I turn the meter off in my head when I’m on vacation.)

And then I got on the train and spent the morning Acela-rating up the east coast and doing what work I could over the iffy Wifi, and there was nothing panicky happening at work and it was all fine, so rather than going to the office when I got to NYC, I just went straight home and worked from home the rest of the day. THE END

(it was a great trip, so glad I went!)

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