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Published: July 16th 2018
Don't judge us :)
WASHINGTON D.C. is not that far from us but at times with traffic it can be a pretty long haul. That said we try and make it down there once in a while because it is one of those places where you can just always find something to do. Right before the little guy came there was a stretch where we went down there 2 or 3 times in a six month period. It usually involves leaving Friday night, spending the night close to DC, spend most of Saturday in DC, have brunch Sunday and ht the road again. So generally there is not much time to do a lot.
THE U.S. CAPITOL is a fascinating building full of history, hidden nuances, art, architecture, a crypt and story after story. One of our good friends is in politics and has special access so on one of our trips he gave us a TOUR OF THE U.S. CAPITOL BUILDING. We started at the newly built (at the time) CAPITOL VISITOR CENTER where anybody and everybody gets in (I am sure there are special entrances for the really special people). The CRYPT is right under the ROTUNDA and was built to support
One if the many statues
the weight of the rotunda and was meant as the burial place for Mr. Lincoln (the Mr. Abraham Lincoln) which also never ended up happening so despite the name there is no one buried there. The MURALS IN THE CAPITOL is a pretty neat aspect of the history and they are literally everywhere. We kept walking and were able to visit some off-limit areas because of our friend. The lighting was pretty cool as some areas had windows with the light coming through and no one else in sight which created a pretty neat experience. Combine this with the linoleum floors and it sometimes feels like you are walking back in time considering the inscriptions, chandeliers, artwork and incredible detail of everything around you. All the quotes on the walls was especially neat. We eventually made our way to the rotunda. As with most other rotundas this one is pretty special. The APOTHEOSIS OF WASHINGTON FRESCO BY CONSTANTINO BRUMIDI is a pretty amazing piece considering the size and location of the fresco - on the ceiling. We kept going and hit the NATIONAL STATUARY HALL FOR FIGURES which is a really cool area. Having had our friend it was pretty
Long hallways with sunlight coming from the front and no-one else around.
special because he had many little insights, tales, stories, facts, and interesting tid-bits. A truly interesting place. Walking the halls and seeing plaques, plates and quotes from famous people is probably one of the more interesting aspects of this place. Worth a visit and worth it to set aside a good amount of time.
Close by is a couple restaurants we visited on our trips to Washington D.C. BISTRO BIS
is first. One of those classic and nice places often visited by the local dignitaries for meetings. We had the:
- Onion soup Les Halles w/ a rich beef broth, caramelized onions, sourdough croutons, and Gruyere cheese (really good)
- Salad Panache w/ Mesclun greens, Marcona almonds, dried apricots, Manchego, and a banyuls vinaigrette (ok)
- Fricassee d'Escargots w/ Burgundy snails in puff pastry w/ garlic confit, sunchoke, beech mushroom, zucchini, and saffron beurre blanc (this was an awesome dish)
- Sweetbreads w/ pan roasted veal sweetbreads, trumpet mushrooms, veal tongue, jambon, tomato concasse, celery root puree, and a truffle-madeira jus (ok and if anything definitely almost felt a little undercooked)
- Pistachio Gateau w/ pistachio financier, medjool date crémeux, mandarin bavarian, armagnac sauce (awesome)
A really good meal
Huge chandelier as you make your way to the rotunda.
and definitely recommended. The sweetbreads was a disappointment, but otherwise a good meal. The Dubliner
is a little pub type place right around the corner from the Capitol. We stopped here a couple times because we were in the area and hungry. Pretty typical Irish pub food i.e. potato soup (ok), beer, and beef stew (good w/ tender meat). We also tried the spinach and artichoke dip w/ chips (good) and chicken fingers (good). A decent little place for some Irish fare and a beer.
DC is packed with museums and yet every time we go it seems we run out of time before we get the chance to visit any of them. This time around we made it to the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
and only got a glimpse of the vast collection on display. As with most museums here in DC it is completely free so that is always a bonus. There is a HUMAN EVOLUTION HALL with some CAVEMAN exhibits with interesting reads. The HALL OF MAMMALS has a bunch of stuffed animals in different situations/ environments i.e. a leopard in a tree with a kill. To me the big draw here is probably the JANET ANNENBERG HOOKER HALL
OF GEOLOGY which contains the HOPE DIAMOND which has a pretty fascinating story and is one of the great gems. So much more to see here and so little time.
Other than this the CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL is probably one of our favorite things and times in the area. The biggest concentration of CHERRY BLOSSOM TREES outside of Japan creates the CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN APRIL spectacle where the basin area is lit up in white for a couple weeks a year. Take a walk around the basin area to take it all in and pay a visit to the MLK memorial/tribute with a larger than life statue (literally). A short distance away is the FDR monument which is one of the cooler memorials with a lot of quotes and water features. The Jefferson memorial is on the way as well with the ever-present WASHINGTON MONUMENT
in the distance. Just watch out for all the people as you try and make your way around.
For entertainment we have been to a Washington Wizards
game where we literally sat in the nosebleeds (there were little guys running around below us even though these little guys are all 6 foot 6 or taller).
Some decent entertainment, but have to say that the food was probably the worst event food we ever had.
As far as hotels goes DC is always a tough place. You can find some cheaper hotels (not the greatest quality), but generally expect to pay at least $150 for a somewhat decent hotel. And if you have a car you better add another $50 per night for parking. We have generally been fairly lucky and found parking on the street (I guess you do park at your own risk and so far so good). The Liaison Capitol Hill DC
is a nice option and the Phoenix Park Hotel
is right next to the Capitol - it is definitely on the older side but there is tons of history here so definitely worth a stay. I always say that the best and cheapest option is right across the river in Virginia, but people get scared off by the "distance". It is barely a couple miles and generally it is fairly easy to find a decent hotel for a $100 or so.
And last but not least a couple food spots of which there are plenty here. The OLD EBBIT GRILL
is a legend in town where
it could be tough at times to get a seat, but definitely worth the wait if you have to. We went for brunch and had:
- Peach French toast w/ honey pecan butter, maple syrup and breakfast sausage (really good)
- shrimp and grits w/ stone ground Cheddar cheese grits, Swiss chard, Andouille sausage, and a smoked red pepper emulsion (really good)
- bloody mary (it was ok and not very spicy which is a prerequisite of a bloody mary for me).
BRUNCH AT THE RESTAURANT AT HOTEL TABARD INN
should definitely be on your list. Room after room of tables that always seems packed. We loved this place and was very surprised how good everything was. We had the:
- Tabard cheese grits w/ fried oysters, poached eggs, crispy pork belly, and spicy beurre blanc (really good)
- Qatayef w/ Syrian style stuffed pancakes, ricotta and orange zest and walnuts w/ rose water syrup (not what we expected and really nothing like a pancake but more like an empanada)
- the mimosa and bloody mary was really good
- Tabard Inn donuts w/ cinnamon, sugar, vanilla whipped cream (really good as they were freshly made, still hot and delicious)
with the brunch theme we also ate at Ambar
in the Capitol Hill area. A really lively area that seemed like a good choice for Sunday brunch. All in all a very big menu and some decent food. We had the:
- mango mimosa (too sweet) and bloody mary (not great, weak tomato juice w/ chipotle)
- salmon benedict w/ muffin cream fraiche, and kajmak sauce (good)
- roasted mushroom crepe w/ red pepper emulsion, thyme veloute, and gouda (good)
- strawberry waffle w/ nutella and whipped cream (good)
On another occasion we were in DC with friends and really had nowhere to eat so we whipped out Traveladvisor or Yelp or one of those apps and Article One
kept popping up as really, really good. So off we went with high expectations only to end up in front of the Hyatt Regency (yep - it was the hotel's restaurant). All disappointed we were too hungry to keep going. We did the breakfast buffet which was decent and the steel cut oatmeal that was actually really good so not really a bad experience, but more just the thought that we ate at a hotel restaurant on our trip. Georgetown cupcakes
very, very popular cupcake place with lines that generally stretch around the block. We have been to some locations more in the suburbs where it is a little easier to get them and got to say they are pretty good. Good
- there is monument after monument after monument (and this does not even include the museums so this is like history heaven)
- the city is very walkable and you can get pretty much anywhere on foot Bad
- especially over the holiday and summer stretches this place can get extremely crowded so not the greatest experience Advice
- never pay the hotel parking. There are plenty of apps that can get you cheaper parking
- the hotels within the city can get very, very expensive so we always suggest staying either across the river in Virginia (it is really close) or even a suburb like
Rockville which is an easy train ride away
And that concludes the last of the state blogs for a while. Crossing off only the U.S. Capitol during this multi-year period so 296 down and 5,485 to go.
Til' next time from museum city
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