Homemade Pop-Tarts. I’ll just leave that there for a minute. If you’re wondering why I’m bringing it up, well… I may have indulged in one with my breakfast this morning. Ted’s Bulletin is basically a D.C. area institution. Picture an old-timey, throwback diner-ish place tucked into a nondescript block of Capitol Hill and you’ll have Ted’s (they also have a couple of other locations). The back dining room even has a large screen showing old black and white movies! Well-known for these delectable treats, Ted’s also serves down home comfort food. In addition to a blueberry cheesecake Pop-Tart, I also had the biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs and hash browns. So good, this place deserves two photos in today’s blog post!
The other highlight of my last day on D.C. was a visit to the Newseum. The Newseum was recommended to me by two different friends, so I decided to make it my final stop. It’s not cheap; most D.C. museums are free and this one costs $25. But it was totally worth every penny. The museum is basically a series of exhibits documenting the media’s changing role in history and highlights some of the most notable contributions of news outlets during significant points in history. There are 7 floors of exhibits, including ones dedicated to the Berlin Wall’s collapse, the FBI and cyber crimes, 9/11, and a daily gallery of newspaper front pages from all 50 states and around the world. Seriously, if you’ve never been to the Newseum, put it on your list. It was an incredible museum and I wish I had had more than 3 hours for the visit.
After that, it was back to the hotel to pack up the rest of my stuff and head to the airport. A quick one hour flight and I was back on the ground in Boston and on my way home. It is amazing to me how much can be done in just 2 ½ short days away!
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I was a trouper today. I’m proud to say the cold and miles and miles of walking (I walked about 6 miles today) didn’t keep me from tackling the city head-on. I thought I might just take my time and eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant, but I woke up with a new resolve to be a cold-weather person for the day. It was 15 degrees when I set out from the hotel for the ¾ mile walk to Founding Farmers. Their latest claim to fame is boasting the most Yelp reviews in D.C. And deservedly so… I had a French toast that was basically like a deep fried Twinkie. I kid you not, they literally pipe the custard inside the bread. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. I was simultaneously thinking, “this is amazing” and “how did they come up with this?” the entire meal. Anyway, I obviously had a lot to burn off after that feast (which I couldn’t even finish).
The monuments weren’t a top priority for this trip. I’ve been here before and seen all the monuments multiple times. But after breakfast I decided I would do them again. In the freezing cold (the high temp was about 25°today). So I set off and visited the Vietnam, Lincoln, Korean, Martin Luther King, Jr., Roosevelt, and Jefferson memorials. If that sounds like a lot, it was. Trust me, my legs and back are not happy with me tonight. As cold as it was, I still enjoyed seeing all of them again. But, wow… was that a long walk for a cold morning!
After all that walking, it was time for a change of pace, in the form of a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had been there once before, many years ago when it first opened, when you still needed to stand in line early in the day for timed tickets (they still do that, just not during the “off season”). The museum documents the details of the Holocaust, from Hitler’s rise in power to the liberation of the concentration camps. At the outset, you pick up a small “identification card” that tells the story of a member of one of the concentration camps so you can follow along with his/her journey as you move through the exhibits (mine was Liliana Guzenfiter from Warsaw, who survived multiple concentration camps but lost all the members of her family). Sounds impressive, right? And it was. Just not when you are sharing the cramped space with hundreds of other visitors. Seriously, it was so crowded you could barely see the information boards and look at the artifacts without standing on tip-toes to see over other people. Meanwhile, the people who don’t really care to be there are pushing their way around everyone to get through. So, while impressive, it wasn’t exactly a highlight of the trip.
Next up was a visit to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum. By that point, I was tired and had very little stamina to walk around the museum. I walked through several of the exhibits before calling it quits. I then had the dilemma of it being about 3:30, and needing to decide what, if anything, I felt like doing before dinner. I walked to the World War II monument and then stopped at the Renwick Gallery (very small with eclectic exhibits including one special exhibit of miniature murder scenes) before heading to Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont Circle for dinner. I had been to the one in Georgetown before, and this one was just as good. The pizza and cider were a perfect end to a LONG day.
In other news, I was able to change my flight to an earlier time tomorrow afternoon that will put me home before dinner. It’s not that I’m not having a good time; I’m just tired of the cold and walking and ready to curl up on the couch and catch up on my DVR tomorrow night! 🙂
Lavender hot chocolate, anyone? Yep, that’s how I started my first morning in D.C. Of course, the weather forecast earlier this week was calling for mid-50s today; the reality was 35 degrees and plenty of wind. I hate the cold. I gamely made it through my weekend in NYC in November because it was the first really brutal cold of the season. It’s now 2 months later, and I’ve had my share of cold for the winter. First stop of the day: Open City D.C. for the aforementioned lavender hot chocolate and a stuffed French toast breakfast. Open City is kind of a loft-style diner that manages to be both open and cozy and was only a few blocks from my destination: the National Zoo. A great way to start the day!
I was never really a fan of zoos until I went to the Los Angeles Zoo several years ago and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. The National Zoological Park is part of the Smithsonian and has over 1,800 animals from around the world. It was cold, overcast, and windy, and not really my cup of tea weather-wise, but I managed to fill a couple of hours visiting the gorillas, orangutans, giant pandas, and miscellaneous reptiles and amphibians.
Then it was off to the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. The museums share one building and sort of alternate sides of the building by floor. I visited here on my last trip to D.C. a few years ago and loved it. I’m not usually an art museum person, but as soon as I entered, I was reminded of why I love both of these museums so much. There’s something for everyone. The floor plan is centered around an enormous indoor courtyard and the rooms are laid out in such a way that you can look in from the hall and decide whether you want to see more or keep moving. My favorite exhibits were “Experience America” and a special exhibit called “The Sweat of Their Face” about American workers. All told, I probably spent an hour and a half wandering around the various galleries and exhibits before calling it a day.
I headed back to the hotel to go for a swim in the pool and relax before heading to Alexandria for dinner. (Oh, I may have done a little shopping on the way back to the hotel… support the local economy and all that. 🙂 ) Dinner tonight was at Il Porto in Old Town Alexandria. My stepmother and I stumbled upon this tiny Italian restaurant many years ago, and I’ve made it a point to have dinner here on every visit since. I had a cozy table by the window tonight to enjoy my chicken parmesan and tiramisu. As always, it was delicious to the very last bite! I had originally planned to walk around some of the monuments after dinner, but I just couldn’t handle the cold anymore and decided to call it a night. The temperature isn’t supposed to get out of the 20s tomorrow, but thankfully I have all indoor activities planned for the day!
Continuing (or “officially beginning”) the “Year of Travel”, this weekend I’m hitting up our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. I’ve been to D.C. several times, so there’s no pressure to see and do everything in three short days. D.C. is close enough for an easy long weekend trip, yet far enough away to feel like a mini-vacation.
My travel didn’t exactly start off easily. My first clue that this day might not go as planned came in the form of an email from American Airlines (sent last night; I didn’t see it until this morning) alerting me that there was a travel advisory for Logan Airport and I was welcome to change or cancel my flight without penalty today. I had booked the flight with points and already tried unsuccessfully to change to an earlier flight. But this morning there was a seat available on the flight an hour earlier, so I made the change. I watched the flight tracker all day as flight after flight from Boston to Reagan National was delayed, diverted, or cancelled. But somehow when I left home my new flight was miraculously still listed as on time. Luck was not on my side, however, as the flight was soon delayed. In fact, the plane hadn’t even left Washington by 5:00PM, our scheduled departure time from Boston (it’s a shuttle flight that just goes back and forth between the two airports).
Fast forward 5+ hours, and I am finally settled into my hotel in downtown Washington and ready to collapse into bed. I’ve been fighting a “mini-cold” all week that hasn’t really gotten me down but has managed to settle into my sinuses and generally be a nuisance. Hopefully a good night’s sleep will help to refresh me so I’m ready to take on the city in the morning!
Clinton Street Baking Company: So I gave in and actually waited until 9AM for breakfast this morning, and stood outside in the cold for 30 minutes, all to have what have been called the “best pancakes in New York City”. Since they are also the only pancakes I’ve had here, they lived up to their reputation. They were also some of the best pancakes I’ve had anywhere. With my sweet tooth for breakfast, that’s saying a lot. They were perfectly crispy on the outside and perfectly fluffy inside. And they were served with… wait for it… maple butter syrup. I had mine with blueberries, which not only had blueberries baked in but also had a hearty ladleful of blueberry compote on top. Scrumptious!
The Tenement Museum: This museum would probably not have made the cut were it not for the recommendation of a friend and some persuasive online reviews. It’s just a few blocks from the Clinton St. Baking Co. in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. As soon as I stepped out of the subway, it was obvious this was a much different part of the city. Not worse, just grittier and more raw. This is where the immigrants landed in droves, and where many second and third generation immigrant families still make their home.
You can only visit the museum with a guide, but there are several different tours to choose from, each lasting about an hour. The tours take place inside 97 Orchard Street, a tenement building housing 20 tiny apartments on five floors. The building was abandoned in the 1930s and vacant (except for businesses on the first floor) until it was discovered and turned into a museum in 1988. The first tour I took, “Hard Times”, explored the lives of a German-Jewish family (the Gumpertz family) in the 1870s and an Italian-Catholic family (the Baldizzi family) living there in the 1930s, while the second tour, “Irish Outsiders” told the story of the Moore family in the 1860s. Both tours visited parts of the building that were left exactly as they were found along with parts restored to look like they would during the times when the various families were living there. It was a great way to learn about what life was like for immigrant families coming to New York City.
Although I was completely out of my element in the city for three days, it was a great long weekend getaway. And despite the hustle and bustle all around me, I still found some quiet spots in the city to avoid the crowds. Now back to reality…
The Met Cloisters: The Cloisters has been on my NYC bucket list since I first saw pictures of it a few years ago. The reconstructed cloisters were originally from French monasteries and abbeys. The museum contains hundreds of decorative arts and sculptures from medieval Europe. It was one of those places where a picture can never do it justice. I stopped several times to just sit and enjoy the surroundings. If you want to feel like you’re in Europe right in New York City, this is the place. It was definitely a highlight of not just the day, but the whole trip, and well worth the 30 minute subway ride and walk across Fort Tyron Park to get to.
“Come From Away”: “Come From Away” is a musical about Gander, Newfoundland in the days following 9/11, when 38 planes were forced to land there from all over the world. It’s hard to imagine a small town nearly doubling in size with over 7,000 visitors, but the cast does a remarkable job of bringing the events to life with both emotion and lightheartedness. I would see it again and again. Considering I hadn’t even heard of it prior to a few weeks ago, that’s saying a lot. It’s easy to see why it had so many Tony award nominations!
Bibble and Sip: A midday snack was in order before the theater. I had read about Bibble and Sip before coming here, and the Earl Grey cream puff I had was out of this world, both in terms of size and flavor. Coupled with a warm hot chocolate, it was a perfect pre-theater treat.
Ribalta: If you ever find yourself in New York City, run – don’t walk – to this incredible Italian restaurant in the Village. I can’t think of enough superlatives to describe the Neapolitan style pizza. A super thin crust with mozzarella, provolone, gorgonzola, and parmesan topped with prosciutto. No offense to the traditional New York pizza, but that didn’t hold a candle to this! And the dessert… I was already completely stuffed, and clearly already had my share of carbs and sugar for the day, but the Babamisud was out of this world. Layers of Neapolitan sponge cake, mascarpone, and Nutella. Need I say more? Just take my word for it and go there. You can thank me later.
Aside from the highlights, I ate a famous New York bagel for breakfast, took an early morning walk around Central Park (I love being out and about before the rest of the world wakes up!), visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, walked a little around Greenwich Village, and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (I was way too tired and full from dinner to appreciate it; definitely worth another visit one day). Another great day, but my legs are protesting all of the walking and stair climbing of the last two days!
First things first… it’s COLD in New York City this weekend! After weeks and weeks of abnormally warm temperatures in the northeast this fall, the weathermen have been warning of the oncoming arctic blast for days. And of course, today was the day I planned all of my outdoor activities. But the cold didn’t prevent me from enjoying the sites.
Let’s back up for a minute. Last night was not a great night for sleeping. Between the cacophony of horns and sirens sounding 17 floors below me and a strange bed, I took a series of naps rather than one long sleep. And while we’re in rewind mode, it’s probably a good time to talk about one other “issue”… I find myself in a bit of a dilemma when it comes to the first (and my favorite) meal of the day here in Manhattan. You see, Manhattanites seem to enjoy putting breakfast off til mid-morning. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I am up with the birds (it’s a rare day that I can “sleep in” past 5:00AM). And unfortunately, the “good” breakfast places here don’t open until 8:00 AM during the week and 9:00 AM on the weekends. Who eats breakfast that late in the day?? If you’re worried that I had to forgo breakfast altogether, you can relax. I had a delicious pain perdu at Maison Kayser just a few blocks from my hotel.
After breakfast, it was off to visit two iconic New York tourist attractions – the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Did I mention how cold it is today? Perfect weather for a boat trip (or not!). I switched my 9AM ticket to 10AM so I could climb up as far as the pedestal in the Statue (tickets for the crown are sold out months in advance). It was freezing and the wind was whipping, but what an experience! The view over the Manhattan skyline was incredible! A short boat ride from Liberty Island is Ellis Island. I really wish there were about half as many people at Ellis Island as there were. It’s pretty hard to read everything with hoards of people blocking the view. Still, it was a memorable experience learning about the millions who first set foot in America on that island.
After the boat ride back, I walked a few blocks to the 9/11 Memorial. I read a lot about the museum before coming here and decided it sounded too intense/emotional for what is supposed to be a fun weekend away. The memorial was impressive, but I thought seeing FDNY Ten House (the closest station to the twin towers and the one which suffered the most loss – both in lives lost and the firehouse itself – on 9/11) was much more moving.
My last tourist activity of the day was a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I was well aware of the potential crowds on the bridge, but I was still able to snap a few good pictures. Once I got to Brooklyn, I meandered through some side streets to Brooklyn Bridge Park for photos of the Manhattan skyline before heading to Grimaldi’s for some authentic NY style pizza. Truthfully, I’d be hard pressed to pick it, or any other NY style pizza I guess, out of a lineup of pizzas. But it definitely hit the spot! I snapped a few more photos of Manhattan at dusk before heading back to midtown. A quick stroll through Times Square, and a stop at Magnolia Bakery for a sinfully delicious red velvet cupcake, and I was back at my hotel before 7 o’clock. Time to rest up for tomorrow’s cultural adventures!