Washington, D.C. 2018: Day 1

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Lavender Hot Chocolate at Open City D.C.

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.

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Mei Xiang taking a nap at the National Zoo

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.

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Electronic Superhighway (Nam June Paik) – American Art Museum

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!

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Il Porto Ristorante – Alexandria, Virginia