72 Hours in: Washington

Almost three years to the day we first met, Steve and I went back to Washington for a long weekend in April. This time, I didn’t make him carry (most of) my boxes and drive my ass around (how kind of me). It was rather surreal to retrace our steps and reflect on how we randomly crossed paths – for once, my lack of preparedness really paid off quite nicely. While we were saddened to see that the piano bar where we’d first chatted had unfortunately moved, the rest of the weekend was pretty swell. Here are six things I’d recommend checking out if you have some time to putter about in this gem of a city/if you’re mulling over the possibility of striking up a conversation with the attractive individual standing across from you at a work event and want stuff to do after.

Nationals Stadium and the Bullpen
Live music, cheap(ish) beers, food trucks and a great atmosphere – the Bullpen was a grand spot to pre-game before the Nationals clobbered the Phillies. While the beer and food wasn’t as great as Safeco Field, it was still a fun stadium and our cheap seats turned out to have pretty good views of not only the game, but also DC. Look at me reviewing baseball stadiums, who’d have thunk it.

Founding Farmers
This turned out to be a nice surprise – a restaurant dedicated to local, healthy and simple ingredients. Steve had what may have been the most Steve-est of menu items – grilled cheese and tomato soup – with a side of fries. I devoured cauliflower steak risotto. There were no leftovers. We also enjoyed a delicious bottle of Oregon pinot noir which we were delighted to be able to take home and enjoy when we were less exhausted. All in all, great service and delicious food, and nicely located near the White House should you feel inclined to check that out.

Cherry Blossoms
FINALLY (also hello, 32-for-32 item). I’ve missed these every time I’ve visited, so it was nice to catch the last blast before they got scorched in the April heatwave. Head’s up – every visitor to DC wants to look at these suckers. Allow for extra time, pack a lunch (or at least a snack) and practice your best friendly smile as you will accidentally photobomb a lot of people.

Eastern Market
After a sombre visit to the Holocaust Museum, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up and wandered over to the Eastern Market. It’s the city’s oldest continually operated fresh food market, and also has a flea market which was full of doilies. Seriously. Doilie-to-antique ratio was off the charts. If doilies are your thing, beeline here. If tacos are your jam (coughs), you will also find delicious ones just around the corner. Following a wander of the market where I smelled fresh flowers and sampled cheese, I strolled around the Capitol Hill neighbourhood and popped into the quaint shops. There’s some great graffiti to be spotted if you hunt out The Fridge DC, a neat little gallery (wander the alleys near Matchbox Pizza and you’ll find it). When you’re full of graffiti and ready for a snack, be sure to pick up some delicious cupcakes at the Sweet Lobby. Unfortunately, said cupcakes don’t travel well if you’re planning to be all fancy and surprise your manfriend with a sweet treat after a long workday. Instead, you’ll give him a delicious cupcake with a glob of half-melted icing slowly sliding off the side. Ta da…

Duke’s Grocery
Full English breakfasts, simple foods and bottomless mimosas with footie on the TV. A small neighbourhood joint near Dupont Circle, this was an absolute gem with an East London vibe, and a lovely spot to kick off our last day in DC. While the patio gets jammed early, the inside is bright and airy if you don’t mind sliding up to the bar. The coffee was also A+.

Hirshhorn Museum
I thought I’d be museum and gallery’d-out, but the Hirshhorn proved me wrong. Initially I was drawn to it because of the quirky nature of the building itself – it looks a bit like a spaceship plunked down in the middle of the National Mall. Admittedly I didn’t spend a lot of time inside (tacos were calling my name, and I was getting a bit hangry), but I was very impressed with the sculpture garden surrounding the museum (hello Rodin!). Next time I’m in DC I’ll ensure I make a stop here to fully appreciate it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you have a favourite DC recommendation? Leave a comment below!

Advertisements

Reasons Why Portland is Awesome, Part Two

Life is all about embracing weird and wacky opportunities when they come your way. So when I discovered that Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) was leading a 5K run before a book signing in Portland Wednesday night, I signed up.

Thanks to not quite adjusting to the time change and also being inspired by the super healthy lifestyles people embrace in the city, I got up every morning and logged a few miles on the waterfront trail. Running and I have a love-hate relationship, but we were totally in synch. Wednesday would be golden!

Then Wednesday rolled around, along with a colossal amount of rain and The Blerch began to set in. My hotel bed was sooo comfy and warm. The urge to don sweats, scarf a bag of kale chips and crush a bottle of Pinot Noir in bed was strong with this one. But I powered through and trucked over to the Portland Running Company ready to take a leisurely jog through Portland streets.

Rainy RunnerRunning along Portland Waterfront

Flash forward 27 minutes, to me having just run the fastest 5.3K I’ve ever clocked. People of Portland, you are gazelles, albeit super friendly ones. High fives were dished out en mass and one volunteer paced me the last 2 kilometres. Upon completion, I was handed a piece of delicious chocolate cake and a freshly poured beer. I was soaked through but totally inspired – thanks Portland Running Company for pushing me a little bit further and throwing a great party.

Following the run, I refuelled at Boxer Ramen with a bowl of soup that could feed a family of four. This place is quirky – hip-hop soundtrack, funky illustrations on the walls and a simple menu that will crush your hunger. My colleagues and I capped
off the night at the gorgeous Multnomah Whiskey Library. Imagine your favourite cozy library (if your library happens to have wood panelling, a fireplace, ornate chandeliers and good-looking bartenders in bow ties and flat caps, natch) but replace the books with bottles of top-shelf whiskey, scotch and spirits. It was delightful and helped take the edge off the burning pain in my legs from the run…

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit run down and burnt out. This week (while busy) has certainly helped me start to refocus my perspective. Thanks for the hospitality and adventures, Portland.

Day Trip – Washington, in Pictures

Once or twice a year I’m fortunate enough to swing a quick trip to Washington, DC for work. It’s one of my favourite places to visit for a variety of reasons (for one thing, it introduced me to someone rather awesome), and is full of great things to check out and some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Last fall I had a bit of downtime from work commitments and spent an unusually warm late October day visiting a few memorials and popular attractions. Apologies to my shins for thinking I could keep up with the joggers who were running the Mall, although given the fast speeds they were going, I should really refer to them as gazelles.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’d argue that no one does memorials and monuments quite like Washington – on previous visits I’ve spent hours at the Martin Luther King Jr. and Jefferson memorials – and the Korean War Veterans Memorial is particularly chilling to observe. Park staff also offer hourly tours which I highly recommend attending.

After refuelling for lunch I popped over to the National Portrait Gallery on a whim (hat tip to my awesome someone for that suggestion). Best. Gallery. Ever.

National Portrait Gallery

Ladies (and artists) Love Cool James.
Kehinde Wiley. Ladies (and artists) Love Cool James.

I spent over an hour checking out their current exhibition, “Dancing the Dream”, which profiles those who have made significant contributions to American identity and culture through dance. I wandered the presidential portraits (neat!), the contemporary art section (weird and neat!) and was particularly fond of this:

Nam June Paik: Electronic Superhighway
Nam June Paik: Electronic Superhighway

In Electronic Superhighway, each TV plays something that the artist associates with that particular state (so for example, Kansas was playing The Wizard of Oz).

I was sad to have to cut my visit short, but will definitely check this gallery out again on future visits. Have you been to DC? Have any favourites I should add to my itinerary next time?

Four Days in Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Every morning at sunrise I ran along the boardwalk. Usually when I run, I need music to keep my mind occupied (meaning: distracted from the sounds of me wheezing and my internal monologue of PLEASE STOP THIS) but I kept one ear tuned into my surroundings and the other focused on the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach.

Around 6:45 a.m. a familiar man would appear on my right. Dressed all in black save for a well-worn Santa hat, he sat casually draped across a patio chair, smiling at the world. “There she is!” he’d exclaim as I came along. I would be lying if I didn’t appreciate the chance to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath, and he’d chat about his plans for the day and how excited he was to be alive.

As anyone who knows me can verify (or even if you’ve read a few of these blog posts, such as this one), I travel to California quite a lot. I love the sound and sights of the ocean and mountains, the smell of eucalyptus trees and the copious amounts of vitamin D. But most of all, I really enjoy the warm nature of the people that I encounter, particularly in areas like Venice Beach. While it is gritty in spots (particularly along the boardwalk) and rather eccentric in general, I find residents to be quite friendly. I went just before Christmas for four days and encountered west coast charm at every opportunity – from shop owners on Abbot Kinney and baristas in the local coffee joint, to morning joggers and surfers getting their boards ready for a morning session. People just seem to be really content with life and that spirit is quite infectious – I recommend checking it out.

If a trip to Venice Beach tickles your fancy, here are some favourites of mine:

Continue reading “Four Days in Venice Beach”