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.

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

What’s Up, Seattle!

It’s September 1st and I’ve maxed out my vacation time for the year, ho hum. Thankfully I used up the last of it on a trip which involved lots of Steve, nature and a quick jaunt to a city I really should have visited by now – Seattle!

We had about 48-ish hours to explore, and picked a lovely B&B as our home base for our trip (check out Gaslight Inn – centrally located in Capitol Hill, with cozy rooms and a nice deck for reading. Also a dog, and ample coffee, croissants and fruit for breakfast – we basically hit the jackpot). Not a lot of time, but just enough to find some favourites: 

1. Safeco Field

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We went to not one, but two baseball games and had a blast. Craft beer (helllooo Fat Tire Amber Ale!), friendly employees (having only been to games at Rogers Centre, I was unaware that one could go to a game and be welcomed in such a manner) and great views of the city skyline – the perfect way to spend a warm summer night. Twice. 

2. The Elliott Bay Book Company

Self of books at Elliott Bay BookstoreOH MY GOODNESS. This shop was my dream bookstore. Enormous stationery selection, picks for book clubs, local hikes and travel guides, zines and an entire section on writing. At the back with the cookbooks there’s a cute little cafe (licensed, should you want to enjoy a beverage with your new purchases). Such a great place, we went back twice (surprising to no one who knows either of us). I…bought a few things. 

3. Coffee

Seattle = coffee. Stumptown and Caffe Vita kept us caffeinated and provided some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. We glanced at the original Starbucks location in Pike Place Market with the ginormous line, and opted instead to get our fix elsewhere. We weren’t disappointed.

4. Easy Street Records

Smaller than Amoeba in LA, but with a great selection, good prices and less pretentious staff (I still love you, Amoeba). Despite our GPS’s attempts to make us drive off a bridge and the rainy weather, this was a definite trap for the two of us. Among my purchases I picked up the soundtrack for Singles, because it seemed rather appropriate and proved a nice ambiance for our drive back to Vancouver.

They also have a small cafe, with craft beer. Because everything in Seattle is simple and easy and awesome and sigh. 

Worth a stop as well – Cupcake Royale across the street. Lunch of champions!

5.  Experience Music Project (EMP)

Milky from the Coffee and TV music videoThe Spectacle: The Music Video and Hendrix Hits London exhibits were well worth the price of admission. Steve may have wanted a refund on said admission after my attempts to play the drums in the Sound Lab, oops. It’s pricey, but a cool spot with a lot of content packed into a small space. 

Bonus Seattle nod: Poquitos. Possibly the best guac I’ve ever had (with watermelon, drool) and yam tacos. YAM TACOS. I would go back to Seattle for this food even if I hated everything about Seattle, which is not the case because I REALLY loved Seattle. I’d like to go back now, please. 

Have you been? Give me tips for next time! 

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.

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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?

How I Nearly Ruined an Honor Flight Ceremony

I went to Washington, DC for work at the end of April for a day – a fly in, work, fly out kind of deal.

My flight inbound was late, and in a mad panic to get to my destination I kept misreading my directions. Cutting across five lanes of traffic. Pulling frantic u-turns, which culminated in a doozy of a turnaround in the road leading into the Pentagon. As I pulled hard on the wheel to spin myself back out, I noticed the giant “NO U-TURNS” sign and gulped nervously. Peeling down the highway, I gulped even MORE nervously thanks to a black SUV that was now in my rearview mirror. For half an hour. Thankfully, I eventually lost my tail and made it to my function.

My return home six hours later seemed uneventful enough. It was a warm, sunny day and the good people of Washington were their usual friendly selves. I entered the terminal to check in for my flight and was surprised at how quiet it was. Too quiet. Like “Was there an apocalypse and I missed the memo?” kind of quiet. No people. I checked myself in and walked through the terminal still not passing anyone, and began to feel a bit anxious.

As I breezed towards security a loud chiming of the elevators rang out and echoed across the terminal. I paused and looked as the doors opened and out spilled what felt like hundreds of seniors. Family members. Small children. Balloons. All of them sporting matching t-shirts or jackets with an airplane blazed across the back (obviously not the balloons. Balloons don’t wear clothing). I blinked in surprise and pondered internally “the HELL?” as I was engulfed by the sea of seniors and pushed towards the security gate.

As I looked around helplessly a security guard happened to pass through the line, who stared at me in scrutiny. “M’am,” he started in a gruff voice, “You’re not supposed to be here, are you?” At this point I thought, “This is my tail from the Pentagon! They found me!” and I stared back, dumbfounded. “Come with me,” he responded as I was herded away from the crowd towards a new entrance point. He spoke in almost a whisper with the guard at the scanner before I was waved forward. As I neared the scanners, he smiled warmly and invited me through the staff entrance to avoid the line-up, and wished me a happy journey.

The sigh of relief that I exhaled was massive.

I picked up my things and walked briskly to the door out to the terminal, and observed the sea of seniors slowly clearing the checkpoint. “Score one for me,” I thought as I pushed through the doors and was greeted by another even more unexpected sight. And sound.

As I cleared the doors an energetic band erupted into song with a sea of American flags. As the band members realized I was, in fact, not a large group of veterans but instead a rather-confused blonde woman the song slowly petered out, ending with an awkward symbol crash as I stopped in front of them. “Erm,” I started, looking around the group, “They’re coming.” I motioned over my shoulder to the swinging doors and awkwardly moved my way around the band as they looked on in surprise. A moment later they erupted again and the rightful recipients cheered with joy, and I smiled as I went to find a quiet corner to read.

And that’s how I nearly ruined (but thankfully didn’t) an honor flight ceremony.

Eight Hours in…Washington

I recently jetted to Washington, DC for a whirlwind blow-through-the-northeast for work. While most of my time was spent hopping between meetings and other work obligations, I was blessed with a morning and afternoon off and man did I make the best of my time. I definitely passed out on my train to Baltimore the next day (that trip is worth a post of its own for various reasons, most of them unpleasant at the time but hilarious now. Stay tuned).

And so, if you ever find yourself in Washington DC with a few hours to kill, I present to you Eight Hours in Washington.

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