Wednesday, April 6, 2016

DC Sojourns - Art, Flowers and the Daughter

Hi Bill

Yes, I am sending yet another letter about a trip to Washington DC. If it makes you feel any better, this will likely be my last letter about our adventures in DC, unless I suddenly remember some fascinating experience that I haven’t discussed yet. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

Anyway, in 2008 Pat and I made our last trip to DC, and this time we took Rayna with us. I think we had decided that we needed a chaperone to help prevent us from wandering away or becoming lost in the underground Metro system. Well, maybe not so much that, but Rayna had never been to DC and it was nice for Pat to have her as a companion while I was attending some of the conference sessions. Our son, Zeb was living and working in Minneapolis at that time and it just didn’t work out for him to join us.

The view from our hotel room
Rayna, Pat and I flew into Washington DC’s Reagan National Airport and rode the Metro to the Dupont Circle stop on north Connecticut Avenue. Then we walked a few blocks north with our luggage to the Washington Hilton. Luckily, there was some mix up with our hotel reservation, which resulted in us getting an upgrade to a much larger, more posh, room with a balcony. That evening, we walked around the neighborhood and had a nice meal at a nearby restaurant. 

Rayna in our hotel room

We miss this DC neighborhood
The next morning, I went to my conference and Rayna and Pat spent most of that day, and the next, together on Connecticut Avenue and in the National Mall area checking out the shops, restaurants, and museums. Rayna had lived in Minneapolis for a few years so she was fairly comfortable in big cities and she was eager to see some of DC.

The three of us were (and still are) prolific readers. Therefore, we all spent time and money in two of our favorite DC bookstores, Kramer Books and Olsson’s Books and Records. Pat and I were sad to recently discover that Olsson’s had closed all six of its stores for good a few years later.

I will let Pat write about how she and Rayna spent their time while I was at the conference during the first and second full days of our stay:

Hi Bill – I’m just going to give a few details of Rayna and I walking around DC. 

First, in DC, you walk and I mean walk until you drop.  For Rayna and I, we started by walking to the Metro.  The Metro station at Dupont Circle has a steep, very steep, escalator to the trains.  I always feel as if I’m descending into Hell on that ride.  We took the train to the Mall area and walked to the National Art Gallery to see the artwork and have lunch in the café.  The atmosphere in the Gallery café is just splendid.  We also visited the Asian Gallery of Art on the mall area and the Smithsonian where we looked at the gems collection, including the Hope Diamond.  Next day, we decided to hit whatever shops looked interesting along Connecticut Avenue.  Went into Kramer Books and bought some books but also just enjoyed the environment.  Kramers has a small café at the back of the shop where lots of people have lunch or coffee.  The bookstore itself is really unique with all the variety of books they carry.  We moved on to a bead store – Beadazzled.   Always beautiful stuff there and Rayna bought a ring that she is still wearing every day.  We went to the small park at DuPont Circle and we were able to rest our feet.  Then getting hungry we traveled back up Connecticut Avenue to a wonderful café called Tea-ism.  We ordered lunch and got coffee and tea.  Again, the building is an old historic structure with a dining area upstairs overlooking the streets below.  It’s the atmosphere that is so amazing.  Both days were wonderful for the two of us to wander around.

Hope Diamond
In the evenings, Clark would join us for supper.  I remember we went to a seafood restaurant and a delightful older woman was our waitress.  She asked if we wanted wine but we didn’t know what was good.  She stated that she did not particularly care for wine but the staff was required to sample all the different varieties.  She said she usually spit her sample out but there was one she thought was good.  We each had a glass and it was a lovely meal.  Another evening, we went to an Italian restaurant and as the evening was warm, they had opened a wall to the restaurant that was all folding doors, so the restaurant seemed to be spilling out onto the sidewalk.  Lord, I do sound like a tourist from South Dakota but for us (at least for me), it was a great time and we got to experience things that just don’t happen around here.  I really want us to go back again sometime soon. 

Well, bye for now Bill.  I’ll turn this back over to Clark.

After spending two days at the conference, I joined Pat and Rayna for the next two days to visit the National Mall area. We enjoyed those days seeing several fascinating museums. Rayna was an art major in college, so we spent much time in The National Gallery of Art, in the Sculpture Garden, and also visited the Museum of Modern Art.

Pat and Clark

In addition, we toured The U.S. Botanical Garden and Conservatory. It is a living plant museum located on the National Mall across from the U.S. Capitol. Pat and I had not seen the Botanical Garden previously and it turned out to be a wonderful experience. They were having an orchid and quilt show at that time, which added to the pleasure.

Minky Likes Flowers
Rayna and Clark

Pat photographing flowers

Aside: while we were walking past the Capitol Building, a backpack was found on the steps triggering an alert and everyone was sequestered in a certain area for a while.  Turned out that some school children had been touring the Capitol Building and one of them had left their backpack behind.  In DC, that causes chaos.  Later while we were in the Botanical Gardens, another security event was triggered and we had to shelter in place.  This time we were sequestered on the patio of the Botanical Gardens.  These events turned out to be minor, but sadly they did remind us of the ongoing threat concerns in government tourist areas.

We all had a great time both in the National Mall area and in the neighborhood around Dupont Circle on Connecticut Avenue. Pat and I were able to share some of our favorite restaurants, coffee shops, stores, and just the wonderful ambiance of that urban environment with Rayna.

I wish we could do it again sometime with both Rayna and Zeb.

The capitol dome beyond the cherry blossoms

Bill, I am sure that you have visited Washington DC. I would love it if you would share some of your experiences in DC or other locations with me.

Take care.

Sincerely Clark