It’s been a long time coming, but I finally visited Washington, DC. Back in November during VeganMofo I planned out a little trip for myself, and I actually used some of my own advice while I was there, but DC is rather easy to wander, and once you get to the National Mall, there is something to do at every turn. Guess what though, I’m not going to talk much about food, so you can skip to the very bottom if that’s all you want to hear about! It was a long long day of exploring the educational sites around the area.
I got in extra early on Monday morning, and most of the sights (especially the ones at the various Smithsonian museums) are closed. I walked over to Union Station (2 Massachusetts Ave NE Washington, DC or get out at Union Station on the Red Line Metro) which is both a sight in and of itself, and a good place to drop off luggage if you aren’t checking into a hotel. There is a baggage service (for a fee, in my case I paid 20$ for a medium sized bag for the day) near Gate A on the Amtrak Concourse. It’s a beautiful station, and always buzzing, so it’s worth a visit.
Next stop was the Capitol Building, or rather, standing outside of it. It was about 7 am at this point, so everything was still closed, but I kept walking toward the Washington Memorial. If there is anything I appreciate about Washington DC, and there are many things, the landmarks making it easy to find my way around, might be at the top of my list. (Since I tend to get a little lost.)
I considered doing a memorial circuit before the Smithsonian Institutes opened, but before that there was a helpful sign saying that the Smithsonian Castle/Information Center was open at 8:30am. Perfect. With WiFi, and maps, I could get my bearings a little bit better. (or really, it was the perfect excuse to check in on FourSquare). Unsurprisingly, the easiest way to get there by the metro is to get out at Smithsonian Station.
After killing only 15 minutes at the Castle, which was full of people because of a fire across the street in the National Natural History Museum, I opted to try and visit at least a couple memorials. There was a line up outside of the Washington one, but I couldn’t quite figure out where to get tickets (which you can easily get online if you pay $1.50, worth it.), and in the distance I saw a big monument in the distance with columns (aka, the Lincoln Memorial).
Then a beautiful domed building in the distance caught my eye. The Jefferson Memorial. Because of it’s size, it looks much closer than it actually is. But it’s not so bad, it was a little under a mile. The interior is a fascinating and condensed look at a piece of American history, and of course, the life of Thomas Jefferson.
After soaking as much knowledge as I could from the Memorial building, it was time to start my museum exploration. First stop, by nature of location was the Holocaust Memorial Museum. First note: Be prepared to cry. There is this intensity in that building that might be exacerbated by familial connections and losses during that period of time, but it really is almost palpable. When I went in, they had a survivor answering questions and telling stories. Again, lots of crying. The exhibits are detailed, organized, and informative. I suggest easing into the learning with the children’s exhibit on the main floor, though still walking through there, I cried. Bring tissues.
I lost myself in the Freer and Sackler Gallery and The African Art Galleries for hours. I loved the Art Within Reach/Healing Power of Art exhibit at the African Art Gallery was one of my favourites, but I think it must be closed by now. It’s a great space if you have kids (or even if you don’t), I sat down and practiced my French and wrote a little note to the Artists/Children of Plas Timoun, and a few kids were sitting down drawing pictures to send to the students in Haiti. I thought it was a lovely idea.
Another exhibit that was visually spectacular was the Artists in Dialogue 2, also in the National Museum of African Art. It was kind of cool, because they were taking photos with one of the artists (Henrique Oliveira) when I wandered through. This exhibit was very modern and appealed to the science/biology/anatomy nerd within me. It’s worth checking out in person if you can, but even taking a look at the website gives you an idea of whether you’d be interested.
Next stop was Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Just wandering through all the different sculptures was good enough for me on this visit. The very creepy but awesome Puellae sculptures from Magdalena Abakanowicz are probably my favourite in this garden. The story behind them brings me back to sadville (you can read more about that by clicking on the Puellae link), but they are still an amazing collection of work. Each one is individually worked on, as opposed to just a bronze casting. I will be going back, but next time, I’ll make sure to actually head into the Hirshhorn Museum for more then ten minutes.
Now, I’ve made no secret of being a nerd, but the excitement of being in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum is beyond description. The depth of history and technology explored in this facility were really impressive, while still being comprehensible. I think there is something for everyone, and I will be going back there on my next visit to DC.
We took a quick walk over to the White House, how could I not go take a peek at such a famous building? I honestly expected it to be bigger, but it’s still a huge property.
Then it was time to eat! My friend is a gluten intolerant dairy free non-vegan but I was really excited to show her Cafe Green (513 17th Street NW (17th St. btw. P + Q St.) (Unfortunately they’re closed) Washington, DC. Nearest Metro: Dupont Circle (North)) because of all their great gluten free options. She LOVED it. I was so happy to hear about all of her repeat visits afterwards. We started off with the mung bean pancakes (gluten free) and a plate of Nachos con Queso (for me.) They were both such great options, though I would skip the mung bean pancakes in the future.
We also ordered a “side dish” of cheesy macaroni. The decent salt balance, and rich creamy texture made for something totally delicious.
And finally, one of the tastiest dishes I’ve eaten, the gluten free gnocchi. Just heavenly. Basil, green onions and a savory sauce, with little flavourful gnocchi… it was hard not to totally stuff ourselves with it.
After all of that, we shared a peanut butter chocolate banana smoothie. Totally yummy, but very rich.
But, as usual there is always room for dessert, so after dinner we went over to Sticky Fingers Bakery (1370 Park Road Northwest, Washington D.C. Near Metro Stop: Columbia Heights Station) which I had thought had more gluten free options, but when we went in, they were quite limited. I picked up a giant cinnamon bun, and a cookie.
Then it was time to go to sleep and rest up for the day ahead!