Washington DC – Visiting for the First Time

Most people visit Washington D.C. when they are in high school as part of their Government or U.S. History class. Since I never sold enough candy bars for that I decided I should fork over some of my recently hard-earned cash and make a trip to the capital of the United States of America.

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Capitol Prez Pad

We endured a nasty snafu trying to take a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I’ve blocked the fiasco from my memory so I don’t have any juicy tidbits to relay. The reception was welcoming at the Georgetown Inn in, you guessed it, Georgetown. The hotel is centrally located and it shares the ground floor with a Daily Grill, so the room service grub is respectable.

M Street

After a pit stop we walked down to M Street and scouted both sides of the street for cool stores, restaurants and bars. We settled into the dark, wood-paneled interior of Old Glory (3139 M Street N.W.) and ordered up a hearty lunch of roasted pigs and cows with a side of down-home mashed potatoes and salad. This is definitely a must visit if you are a rib fan.  We also enjoyed casual food and drinks at Mr. Smith’s of Georgetown (3104 M Street N.W.) just down the street. The back patio provides cool and calm if you get tired of the loud music and grooving bodies.

M Street is lined with historic buildings and contemporary stores. J. Crew is right next door to Andrew Jackson’s office. The street is also diverse. It’s filled with ethnic cuisine, used bookstores, children’s toys, antiques and clothing. Be sure to check out the Gothic Metropolitan AME Church while you are wandering the street.

We usually walked to other areas of town during the day and then would return to Georgetown to eat at night. So although it looks like we’re food critics, fat slobs or uni-dimensional travelers, it’s actually not the case. Read on for more.

Also in the area – Café Milano (3251 Prospect Street N.W.) – an upscale Italian restaurant with memorable food and amiable service. We especially liked the upstairs dining room since it was cozier compared to downstairs. This is a great date place.

Filomena Ristorante

For Jake’s birthday we descended the stairs into Filomena Ristorante (1063 Wisconsin Avenue N.W.) – a neighborhood favorite for old-world Italian food. Since it was the beginning of the holiday season, a huge, undecorated Christmas tree dominated the middle of the dining room. The window tables looked terrific, with views of the walking path, but we were happily encapsulated in the pine forest instead.

Au Pied du Cochon (1335 Wisconsin Avenue N.W.) became our new home away from home. It is a French bistro by day and a bar that serves bistro food by night. The atmosphere is authentic and the clientele seems mostly local and established. We enjoyed this slice of Georgetown flavor because of the free-flowing beer, the friendly conversation with the owner and the proximity to our hotel – just across the street. Au Pied du Cochon is a great place to hang out because it is unpretentious and eventually, everybody knows your name.

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Little Italy (Filomena’s)

Red Sea – Ethiopian Food

It was Thanksgiving Day and naturally, most establishments were closed. What a perfect time to enjoy cuisine from a different culture since they are usually open on pesky American holidays.

Lunch

So we settled in at the Red Sea (2463 18th Street N.W.) in Adams Morgan for a tempting, tasty treat. The beer was cool and refreshing but I was appalled when the food arrived. Damp, dense chamois cloth that they call bread with texture like a flayed octopus. I couldn’t get past it. Sure, the blobs of food that accompany it were okay and some were even better than okay, but the bread was a complete disaster that I couldn’t get past.

After lunch we wandered up and down the street. The top of the street is definitely sketchier than the bottom. There’s a Latino street market near the church where they sell cheap clothing, CDs, toys and assorted sundries.  There are also tons of bars and tattoo parlors in the area that look like they are happening most days of the year.

Like most visitors, we strolled up and down the Mall and stopped in at most of the museums. The National Gallery of Art and the Air and Space Museum were the most interesting. The Gallery is filled with amazing art and I came away with an added sense of awe for pieces I hadn’t seen before. The Air and Space Museum is a bit dated, but the exhibits are still fun and the IMAX Theater kept us entertained for an entire afternoon.

On a drizzly day, we also visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the expansive Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the marble-filled Jefferson Memorial. We lingered at the Jefferson Memorial because the edifice is simple, stunning, and symmetrical. Plus, the views are terrific.

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Art Gallery

Washington Monument

Monument from Afar

We walked through Dupont Circle on the way downtown. Once downtown, we cruised by the FBI building and thought of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from the “X Files.” This area is kind of a blur, but I do remember eating lunch at Red Sage (605 14th Street). The food was reasonable; more than anything, it seems like a hip place to eat.

Capitol Hill is dominated by the looming curve of the Capitol dome. We toured the grand building that includes history, artwork and architecture. We especially liked the Old Senate Chamber and Statuary Hall, where leaders of the past are immortalized in bronze and stone. Although the building and the interiors are elegant, it is not as grandiose as it looks on television.

The same holds true for the White House. We stood in line for two hours (and experienced some lousy, line-cutting techniques) before passing through the metal detectors in the portiere and continuing into the house. The interior is traditional and sedate. With picketers, bums and urban life churning beyond the gates, the house feels like the eye of the storm.

On our way out, a guy tried to walk down the front lawn and the Secret Service men detained him after he paid no heed to their warnings. A mini-drama was unfolding right before our eyes!

We also checked out the exterior of the Supreme Court and snapped some typical photos.

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Supreme Rules