Spain, revisited

We just returned from many adventures in Spain and I’d love to tell you all about them! We spent six nights in Málaga then three nights in Madrid.  It was magical and frustrating and beautiful and all of these things.  This was our fourth trip to Málaga and we got to explore the city further and visit new places like the automobile museum and the Jardín Botánico and we finally got to Gibralfaro, the castle at the top of the hill above the alcazaba.

It was sunny and in the mid to upper 80s every. single. day.  Hubby was in heaven, it was a tad too hot for me. But you put your hair up and just make sure you’re hydrated and take lots of refresco breaks. Because of the heat we did not go to the Alcazaba as planned and ended up paying for it but not using the ticket. We took the bus to Gibralfaro then walked down and we thought it was the trail that lets you into the alcazaba. Nope. By then we’d already climbed in the heat and we’d have had to climb up into the alcazaba. No. Time for a refresco at Pimpi. That’s the huge restaurant right next to the teatro romano. They have a nice patio and after climbing around up at the castle, the timing was good and we sat right down, ah……

We had a variety of meals and tried different breakfast items this time and made time for two of our favorite churros places.  Of course we had tapas many times and several boquerones en vinagre as that is hubby’s favorite. I tried several ensaladas mixtas (mixed salad) and my favorite, hands down, is Cafe Varela’s in Madrid. We saw a fantastic flamenco show in Málaga and it included a sampler of tapas and the food was great!! So was the flamenco. I’m so glad we did that.

We saw lots of art.  We love art. I read about and saw photos of urban art in the Lagunillas area of Málaga, to the east of Plaza de la Merced. Not the best neighborhood but they didn’t seem to mind us taking photos of the art. We naturally went to the Picasso museum in Málaga. We always go there. We love that museum! We also went to the Pompidou in Málaga, then the Reina Sofia and the Prado in Madrid. Lots of art!!

We were celebrating hubby’s retirement with this trip and we wanted to see if we could tell if we’d like living in Málaga. I do still love the city but I am no longer sure that I want to retire here.  We are rethinking our retirement plans and perhaps we spend 3 months in Málaga each year then do something else the rest of the year.  We’re able to stay for 90 days with our passports whereas if we retired there we’d have a lengthy retirement visa process. So, more to think about.

I’m going to create other posts of our trip but for now, I thought I’d share some highlights of our 10 day adventure in Spain. Be on the lookout for some more posts about España!

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Summit Avenue Walking Tour, St. Paul, MN, June 2019

Last weekend my friend Ruth and I went on a Summit Avenue walking tour in St. Paul and I wanted to share photos and what I remember. It’s a 90 minute tour of some of the biggest and oldest homes on Summit Avenue that starts at the James J. Hill house.  We walked maybe a mile total and heard histories of several homes.

We learned the James J. Hill house was the most expensive house on the Avenue at the time.  The enormous mansion cost $1,000,000 to build in 1891, about $2.7 million today. Throughout the tour our guide would tell us how much each of the houses cost to build and the James J. Hill house far surpassed every other house we viewed.  One can’t help but notice the dark stones on this house. It was due to coal being used to heat the homes at the time. Our guide spoke of an attempt to clean the stones using a sandblaster and how that damaged the stone, so they stopped doing that. It sounded like cleaning these stones was low on the priority list of upkeep for this house.

James J. Hill was the guy who created the Great Northern Railway between St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington.  He made a fortune in the railroad business and was able to build the home of his dreams.  The tour of his ornate mansion is also worth a visit. I took the tour shortly after I arrived in Minnesota 27 years ago.  I think it might be time to take that tour again. These two photos were taken at the same time but I lightened up the second one:

One of the themes of this tour was money because all of the houses on the tour were owned by the wealthiest people in St. Paul.  Our guide told us how much it cost to build each of the houses on our tour. It’s so interesting especially in today’s market.  Towards the end of the tour we saw Hill’s carriage house(260 Maiden Lane) for the mansion across the street. It’s been converted into condos and one of them sold for $800k recently. We all wondered what Hill might think of this, that one third of his carriage house is worth nearly as much as he paid to build that huge mansion across the street.

Next door to the Hill house was the home he built for his son Louis, apparently the favorite son.  Along the way our guide mentioned the many styles of the houses and you could see that each owner selected styles that appealed to them.  I don’t remember all of the styles mentioned but Richardsonian Romanesque was one that was repeated a few times. The Hill house is in this style. Others mentioned were Queen Anne and Italianate.  The following gallery contains the first several homes that we looked at, including the oldest standing structure on Summit Avenue built in 1858 at 312 Summit.

There’s a bit of a story about these next homes. They are called the Leitner and the Leitner-Young homes. These two owners were lawyers together and our guide joked that they must have liked each other so much they lived in a double house together(322 Summit). Some years later, Mr. Leitner had another home built right next door. Had enough of Mr. Young and family? Hmmm.  There is also a tunnel between the houses.

The following gallery contains photos of the next homes that we viewed.  Our guide pointed out that on the left side of the large red stone house the carriage area had been converted to a garage.  She pointed out the white house across the street(365 Summit) as this one’s her favorite on Summit Avenue. She likes that it’s the only white house on Summit and that it’s the first house on Summit Avenue that was owned by a female, Martha Bass.

We rested a little bit at “Lookout” Park, or Summit Overlook Park, which offers a nice view of the Mississippi river valley below as well as The University Club, a very exclusive club. It was even more exclusive during the time all the mansions on Summit Avenue were being built. In order to become a member you had to be a white male with an Ivy League education. So James J. Hill, who had only an 8th grade education but was one of the wealthiest men in St. Paul, could not become a member. But his son Louis, who went to Yale because his father wanted him to have the best education, could become a member.  Irony of ironies that.

After our short rest in Overlook Park we crossed Summit and our guide took us down Maiden Avenue(parallel to Summit), so named because the female servants for the wealthy people along Summit Avenue lived in row houses here.  We passed the building named The Commodore  where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda resided when their daughter Scottie was born. This was also where many gangsters lived during Fitzgerald’s time. Check out this interesting article about those gangsters that I found on MinnPost. I had never heard of The Commodore before but Ruth had been there for a wedding reception and said it was very nice. I think I may have to check out the restaurant soon!

The tour ends at the St. Paul Cathedral which was designed by Cass Gilbert, a prolific architect who also designed the Minnesota State Capitol as well as the William Leitner house at 318 Summit noted above. Both Ruth and I really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys architecture and/or the history of  some of the wealthiest people of St. Paul.  While doing research for this post I came across several interesting articles that I’m going to link here for anyone that would like to do further reading. Within the first link there is a photo of the oldest house on Summit (at 312 Summit) covered in ivy, quite the contrast to how it looks today.

Summit Avenue History: The Story of Saint Paul’s Famous Street

Another Summit Avenue walking tour

 

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Rest in peace my beautiful mother

Here we are a week away from the one year anniversary of my mother’s death as I start this blog post.  I haven’t done anything to create the post all year that I intended to do long before now. I remember that last year at this time we were on “death watch”. Mom had a catastrophic fall the day before Thanksgiving from which she did not recover. She died December 15, 2017. What follows is what I read at the memorial that we had for her near my sister’s house in northern Virginia. I’m also including the recap of her life that we included in the program for her memorial. And finally, some photos from her life as well as a link to the slide show that my brother-in-law created and played at her memorial.

Most people know that I’m a carbon copy of my mother. I look and sound just like her. So, I wanted to share some of those stories as well as others from my mother’s life. When I was growing up Mom’s friend Jean Fagan would call periodically. And every time that I answered she would always say “Hi Goldie, how are you?” And I would inevitably say “Hi Jean. It’s Toby.” And Jean would always say “Oh!! You sound just like your mother!” You don’t say!! Every time I would visit my Aunt Lilah and Uncle Roy, Aunt Lilah would always tell me how much I looked like my mother. One time I visited close to my birthday and Aunt Lilah wanted to buy me a birthday gift and asked what I needed.  I happened to need white shoes so she took me shopping. As I tried on the first pair and started walking around Aunt Lilah said “you even walk like your mother!!” That was one I had never heard before.

My favorite look-alike story happened at my cousin Lou’s wedding in Phoenix years ago. Most of the out-of-towners stayed at the same motel. I knew that my Uncle Roy had one brother but I don’t believe I had ever met him before. If I did, I was young and didn’t remember him. As I was walking along a corridor at the motel a man who resembled Uncle Roy was walking towards me. So I said “you must be Roy’s brother.” And without missing a beat he said “and you must be Goldie’s daughter.” Such fun memories.

There were certain things that got Mom to laugh. One of those was that whenever I visited Mom I would say upon seeing her and giving her a hug “are you my mother?” That was one of my favorite books by Dr. Seuss when I was little. There is one instance of this that really stands out and it’s from the last couple of years. I was visiting Mom at my sister Nina’s house and when I said “are you my mother?” her face lit up and she exclaimed “you always used to say that didn’t you??” That just warmed my heart to know that she remembered that until the end.

Another story is one that my sister just loves to hear. Ha ha! When Nina and I were teenagers Mom took us to Hawaii for vacation. I don’t remember much from that trip but this story is one that has stuck because I could always get a laugh out of Mom. Whenever the three of us were together I would always find a way to work this in at some point. We were heading out one day on that Hawaiian trip and Mom and I were at the elevator in the hotel waiting for Nina. But Nina was not right behind us like we thought. So I called down the hall “Nina, the elevator’s here!!” to try and get her to emerge from the hotel room. Well, that phrase came up many times over the years whenever Nina was dawdling and I would say “Nina, the elevator’s here!!” and Mom would always giggle. Mom and I were always on time. Nina? Not so much.

Lastly I wanted to share that my mother was one of my best friends. We shared so many of the same values and opinions and talked on the phone a lot. We both loved to laugh and I remember watching the series Soap with her and giggling. She visited me the year The Princess Bride was out and we went to see it. We spent most of the time laughing. We loved watching Dodger games and figure skating too. And she was somewhat prescient, or she was good at just plain guessing. When we chatted after Barack Obama gave his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention she blurted out “That man’s going to be president some day!!” Okay, probably many people said that. But I remember being struck by that comment, especially when it came to pass. When I was in my mid 20s and wondering if I was going to get married she said “You will. And it’s going to be someone you already know.” Even that came to pass. My husband and I actually met in the early 80s but didn’t get together until 1988. When I struggled to get pregnant and cried on the phone to her over nearly three years she was always comforting and reassured me that it would happen. And of course she was right.

When her dementia got worse and I could no longer talk to her like I used to, I felt like I lost my best friend. She was still here physically but we could no longer hold a conversation. I have one last memory of the last time I saw her. My daughter and I visited over Labor Day weekend last year. We were all going to go to church that Sunday but I woke up with a headache and decided to skip church and rest. I sat in the living room with Mom and at one point she looked over at me and just stared. I waved and said “Hi Mom!!” and she smiled and said hi. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she stared at me. Did she not remember me? Or was she wondering why I was there since I wasn’t part of her daily routine? I’ll never know but I’m glad I had those moments with her.

I’m so grateful that I had her for as long as I did. I will never forget her love for her entire family, her compassion for her fellow human being and just her pleasant demeanor. She was the best mom a girl could have. Thank you Mom for your loving-kindness and compassion. I love you.

This was in the program for her memorial:

Goldie was born April 30, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Samuel and Pearl Leiderman. She married Israel (Izzy) Nadler on July 24, 1945 in the First Romanian Congregation synagogue in Chicago by Rabbi Tevele Cohen while Izzy was on a 34-day furlough from the U.S. Army. They had three children, Joel in 1947, Nina in 1958, and Toby in 1960. The family moved to southern California in 1969 but two years later Izzy died.

Goldie married Gilbert Katz in 1976 and in 1986 they retired to southern Florida. Goldie became involved in singing groups and played bridge and mah jong regularly. She and 10 of her singing group friends won the Florida lottery in 2010 and she was able to live without financial stress until she moved in with Nina and her family in March 2015.

Nina was Goldie’s primary caregiver until she died in 2017. Goldie had 3 children, 6 grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Goldie lived a long, full and happy life during her 94 years. We are very grateful that we had her for as long as we did.

Click here to view the slide show from her memorial.

What follows is a photo tribute to my mother’s life starting with her on her wedding day in 1945.

A gallery of moments in her life:

I intended to create this post during the year since Mom died. Instead I put it together in the last week so that I could post it on the one year anniversary of her passing. Some of the photos in the gallery here are photos from pages of a scrapbook that I created for her 80th birthday.  That’s why you see some embellishments and photos in colorful frames. I tried to include as much from her life as possible without it being overwhelming. It’s a pretty good overall summary of her life in photos.

Rest in peace my darling mother.  I miss you.

In closing, here’s a poem I came across years ago:

Your mother is always with you…
She’s the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street,
She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not well.
Your mother lives inside your laughter,
And she’s crystallized in every tear drop.
She’s the place you came from, your first home,
And she’s the map you follow with every step you take.
She’s your first love and your first heartache,
And nothing on earth can separate you,
No amount of time…and no amount of distance.

~ Author Unknown

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National Gallery of Art and National Portrait Gallery

I’m working my way through my posts about our trip to Washington, D.C.  I did a sum-up of nearly everything we did and another post about the great food that we had,  one political cartoon exhibit , so this time I want to highlight the art that we saw and experienced.

I had been to the National Gallery of Art before but never the east building.  This trip I saw both and what a treat that was!  My first visit was our second day in town.  We had just had a little lunch at the Pavilion Cafe then walked through the sculpture garden en route to the 7th Street entrance of the west building.  As I said in previous posts, the heat was just awful so we ducked into the west building on our way to the east building to avoid said heat. I had read there was a path between the two buildings.  We just followed the signs and voila!  A darkly painted tunnel with lights everywhere made us feel like we were on a ride at Disneyland.

We made it all the way to the east building in that nice, cool air conditioning.  The museum is unique due to its airy and bright atrium in the center.  There are pieces of art along the outer walls as well as hanging from the ceiling in the atrium.  It’s quite calming walking around and visiting the art galleries.  We saw Picasso, Braque, Stieglitz, O’Keeffe and Matisse, to name a handful.  We saw others too but I’m not remembering them now.  At the end we happened upon a piece that contained a mirror so I had hubby stand in front of it while I took that photo.

This first gallery shows some sculptures in the Sculpture Garden and some of my favorites from the East Building:

We visited the National Portrait Gallery with my sister and nephew.  Even after living in the area for a couple of years and my many trips to visit my sister and mother, I had never been to the Portrait Gallery.  When I saw photos and read about the Obamas’ portraits, I knew I had to see them in person so I included this museum on my list of “must sees”. It definitely exceeded my expectations!  The Portrait Gallery has four floors but we only had time for the second and third floors.  We also went to the gift shop on the first floor because you have to visit the gift shop!  Okay **I** have to visit gift shops.

The presidential portraits are on the second floor so we started there.  The portraits are laid out in numerical order in an open floor plan and you weave your way around to see them all.  There were other paintings beyond this area but since we had lunch reservations and I wanted to see Michelle Obama’s portrait, we headed up to the third floor where her portrait resides.  There are many other galleries on both the second and third floors that we didn’t have time to see so I’m hoping to back again.

I am not sure what the theme is or how the artworks on the third floor are chosen, but it was yet another display of fascinating portraits of many important people in American history.  This next gallery contains artworks that I was particularly fond of in the Portrait Gallery.

My last group of photos contains most of my favorites from the West Building of the National Gallery of Art. I have visited this museum many times and it’s one of my favorite art museums.  I never tire of going there to view all my favorites.  This time I went by myself as it was our last day in D.C. and hubby wanted to see the Library of Congress. So we split up and I took my time both viewing the paintings and sculptures that I like as well as spending time in the extensive gift shop.  I think this gift shop might be my favorite museum gift shop.  There are so many things to look at!

But first a little story of when I first entered the building.  I stopped at the information desk to get a map so that I could find all of my favorites.  A nice woman greeted me and asked if I needed help finding anything.  When I said no, she made the most interesting comment:  “you have of course been to the east building.”  This stunned me since I had only just visited the east building a few days ago so I asked her how she knew that.  “You just look like the type of person who visits the east building.” So I told her how I was intent on seeing the east building on this trip and that I just went there for the first time and absolutely loved it.  She agreed and we had a lovely encounter.

On to the last gallery for this post: some of my favorites from the West Building of the National Gallery of Art.

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Minnesota State Fair 2018

We never miss the fair and this year we went three times.  We always go opening day and this year’s crowd was dizzying.  Sure enough, it broke the record for opening day attendance.  I met hubby and Miss M mid morning as I had to work a few hours that morning and I knew the moment I entered the fair that it would be a big crowd, it already felt that way.

I went right into the grandstand to peruse their wares until I heard when to meet hubby and Miss M.  Right off the bat I found a fair shirt.  The state fair gift shop in the grandstand moved making it more centrally located and it pulled me right in. I bought the shirt on our way out that afternoon.  I also found some great Christmas gift items so I was feeling fairly accomplished!

I met my family near the sky ride outside the Agriculture Building.  I always go into the Ag Building.  I love the flower rooms, the crop art, the scarecrows, U of MN apples, the biggest gourds.  So much to see in the Ag Building! There was a long line for the crop art and it was that way with each of our visits this year.  I did wait in the line on opening day when we went back later.  You don ‘t have to wait in line, but if you want a front row spot to take photos, it works better to wait in line.

We got our buttons at the Admin building, we do that every year too.  They’re free and it’s fun to see the new design every year.  This year it’s a circle of guitars and the wording is Minnesota’s largest music festival.  I never thought of it that way but I can see it now.  Lots of music entertainment options for sure!  From the various free stages all around the fair or the grandstand show, there is something for everyone musically speaking at the fair.

We always tour the art in the art building and there were lots of gems in there again this year.  I usually get a malt from the Kiwanis club next to the art building but Miss M wanted to get one at the dairy building to see her friend who was going to be working there at 3:00.  Well, we could barely breathe with the wall to wall people at the fair that day so we decided to just get the malt earlier than 3:00 at the dairy building.  That turned out to be so fun!! Miss M saw one of her buddies working and he erupted with happiness after she handed him the ticket for the malt and he realized it was her.  It was adorable.

We left shortly after the malt, it was well past time to go.  It was fun but our next visit was even better in terms of a much more subdued crowd.  I met hubby from work the following Thursday afternoon.  As soon as I arrived it also felt different.  It was much calmer with a lot less people.  And the weather was perfect too.  We had so much fun finding things to buy.  We like to visit the international bazaar to check out the music and do some shopping.  Hubby found a new Day of the Dead shirt, I got a new mug both from El Burrito Mercado, a Mexican imports shops.  Hubby found a new silver pinky ring and we got Miss M maple syrup made by Native Americans.  It was a fun shopping year this year!! I don’t usually find that much to buy but this year was different.

We decided to go back a third time this year just because and hubby wanted to see the newspaper museum again. We live 5 miles away and there are many free park and ride buses to the fair that make it easy for us to get there.  We thought there might be less people on Sunday vs. Saturday and we opted for the bus this time, to go in a different gate than when we use my U of MN parking spot.  We were right about there being fewer people but wrong about the weather.  Oh it worked out alright but it wasn’t ideal.  No matter, we still had fun. We hadn’t yet ridden the skyride, something else we usually do, because those lines were too long in previous visits.  But not on our final visit.  Because it was raining, there was virtually no line at the skyride.  Score!!! We did get a little wet but it was better than walking to the grandstand for one last shopping spree.  And I can add riding the skyride in the rain to my list of things I had not done before.

We didn’t find anything at the grandstand but I took the opportunity to finally try a roasted corn on the cob. I’ve been going to this fair since 1992 and I’ve never had a corn. This last trip to the fair the timing was perfect.  And it was excellent and so juicy!!  We got back on the skyride since we’d be leaving from the front gates and went back into the Ag building to see if the flower rooms were open yet. They were both closed temporarily for judging as soon as they opened the building so we had to come back. And we only got to see one room since the other was still closed for judging. I did get to see the room at a distance and the dahlias in the other room were just gorgeous!

I feel so fortunate to be able to go to the great Minnesota get together every year.  I think we’ll go three times next year too.  Why not?

Following are some galleries of fair memorabilia that I hope you will enjoy. First up is a combination of all our visits to the Agriculture Building:

Next is a gallery of our visit to the newspaper museum and the art building:

The remaining gallery are photos of other things at the fair:

 

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Eating our way through Washington, D.C.

You may have noticed that I recently visited Washington, D.C.  I’ve mentioned some great meals that we experienced so now I want to go into a little more detail and share some photos of most of our meals.  I think you’ll like it :)

I had been perusing the various restaurants near our hotel in the weeks before we departed for D.C. to find a good spot for dinner our first night and there were several to choose from!  That is one reason I chose the Washington Plaza hotel for our stay.  For that first night I chose Estadio because it was within walking distance of our hotel and because it’s a Spanish tapas place. It also gets great ratings on TripAdvisor and is currently #38 of 2,703 restaurants listed on TripAdvisor for the D.C. area. The food was very good even if it was a bit spendy for what you get.  I was a bit disappointed in the tortilla de patatas or as I prefer, tortilla española.  Oh, it was good, but I was expecting the same tortilla española that you get in Spain.  Estadio puts their own stamp on it and they really don’t have to.  It was good, it just wasn’t what I wanted. We also got their jamón variety platter, boquerones, manchego cheese and olives all of which are pictured in the following gallery. The bread that accompanied several dishes was very fresh and quite delicious. There were little slices of sweet breads that came with the cheese, also very yummy. We also ordered shrimp and that was really too much for us. Probably should have skipped the shrimp but it was very tasty!  We took the rest of the ham and manchego as well as the olives back to our hotel’s mini fridge. And that package served as snacks for the next several days.

Another reason I chose our hotel was because it gave me the option to include breakfast with our room.  I did that and I’m so glad!!  The breakfast buffet at the Washington Plaza hotel is one of the best American breakfast buffets I think I’ve ever had.  They had everything you could possibly want for breakfast and that is one of my criteria.  They had an egg station and I chose that every day. I got an egg either over easy with fried veggies or scrambled with veggies. Their hot food choices were great too.  Green beans for breakfast?  Why not?!?! And they were delicious! Most mornings they had roasted potatoes, our last morning the spuds were still good, I just preferred the roasted spuds. One morning there were roasted tomatoes instead of the green beans and those were quite good too!  Photos of the hotel’s breakfast bar and my plates  from two different mornings:

We had some great lunches too, mostly sit down places and one cafe, the Pavilion Cafe located on the mall next to the National Gallery of Art. The food’s pretty good and I just like being amongst the sculptures.  I also ate at one of the newest Cava restaurants and that too was great! It’s similar to the Naf Naf Grill that we have in the twin cities area. Both use the same format as Chipotle where you build a meal. I usually get a salad bowl with hummus and other toppings.   Cava has way more choices than Naf Naf as well as some great tasting teas.

I looked around the area of the Portrait Gallery for a place all four of us (hubby, me, my sister and nephew) would like for lunch and I scored with Zaytinya! Oh my, this place was fabulous!  Truly, if you’re in the area, do check them out. It’s one of the many restaurants run by José Andrés and now I’ve been to three of them.  Each as great as the next.  Zaytinya is billed as serving Greek, Turkish and Lebanese food.  Everything we ordered was so tasty.  I wrote a review for Tripadvisor so feel free to check that out if you like.

We also randomly chose the Chop House Brewery for lunch on our last day.  We visited the National Archives just before lunch so we wandered up 7th Street and checked out what looked like many great spots and then chose the Chop House.  We were greeted warmly and seated immediately.  With our drinks came this warm cornbread in a small skillet and we didn’t eat it all.  My lunch was perfect and hit the spot.  Hubby enjoyed what he had too.

We had two very good dinners in the neighborhood of our hotel.  Hubby discovered P.J. Clarke’s  after exiting the wrong side of our metro station.  He realized his error when he didn’t recognize his surroundings but P.J. Clarke’s caught his eye that day and he stopped in for refreshment.  When he saw that they had an oyster bar happy hour, he knew he wanted to come back. That’s where we dined our third night and again, great food, friendly staff and perfect ambiance. He had his oysters at the bar then we moved to the patio for dinner. It was a perfect night to eat on the patio.  I even indulged in dessert.  A fantastic and rich dessert to end our repast.  Yum, yum!!   I wrote a review on Tripadvisor for P.J. Clarke’s.  Check it out if you’re so inclined.

Our last dinner choice was a bit of a struggle. We were both so tired of walking by our last night so we opted to choose something that was no farther than 5-10 minutes, preferably on the 5 minute side.  I know you’re going to find this shocking but again, we scored!! We chose The Pig of course for the location but it gets great reviews and I can see why. We got there just before the dinner rush and it was nice to have a bit of quiet after our many days of touring the city. Friendly staff once again,  great locally sourced food and most meals contain something pig-related.  One different thing that The Pig does is they offer 3 different sizes of wine glass.  I had never heard of that before but I chose the middle size and it was perfect.

I’m amazed that we had such great experiences with just about all of our meals.  It really helps to do research ahead of time.  I typically look at TripAdvisor reviews when seeking places to eat.  You’ll always get a mix of reviews but I try to choose restaurants based on the majority of reviews and so far, that has worked very well.  I would recommend each of the places that I talk about here.  D.C. certainly has no shortage of great restaurants to choose from!

 

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Washington, D.C. revisited

I have been to Washington, D.C. many times. So many that I have lost count.  My first time was in 1973 and the last time was just a few weeks ago.  This trip was unusual for a couple of reasons. One, it was the first vacation that I have taken with just my husband since 2011 when we went to Spain for our 20th anniversary.

While our daughter was in New York learning more about making music with her viola, we took a trip to D.C.  just the two of us.  We succeeded with our intention to not rush anything on this trip.  We had a rough plan of what we wanted to do and naturally that plan changed a little bit.  But that’s okay since nothing ever goes according to plan completely. We adjusted as needed and it worked fine.  The other reason this trip was unusual is that we stayed right in D.C. I have never done that before and it was just great!  We were close to a metro station and used that and walked and even took a couple of cab rides to get around.  And oh, did we walk!!

I’m writing this post in response to my friend Cathy’s Prose invitation so it’s going to be just a rough synopsis of what we did, a few photos of what we saw and the main focus of our plan to not be rushed.  I also plan to create more detailed posts on everything we did.  I hope you’ll come back to check those out!

Our first day started out as planned, however, it was so oppressively hot that day that we changed it up quite a lot. Our first stop was Arlington Cemetery.  Hubby did not want to do a tour so we wandered around on foot and found the things we wanted to see: all the Kennedy family graves and the tomb of the unknown soldiers from the Civil War. We actually had trouble finding this tomb so we asked a park ranger who was stationed outside of what used to be Robert E. Lee’s house, Arlington House. He pointed out that the graves along the perimeter of the house were there specifically to anger General Lee and to make his once grand mansion uninhabitable.

Our intention to walk across the Memorial Bridge to see the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial was interrupted by the aforementioned oppressive heat. Instead we got back on the metro for a different plan. We got off at George Washington University and there waiting for us as we exited was a restaurant with a bar for us to take refreshment and gather our strength for the 15 or so minute walk to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Our original plan was to take our time strolling the mall, eat lunch then end at the National Gallery of Art East Building. Instead we got a cab to take us the nearly two miles to our lunch destination.  And our timing was perfect as we got there before the lunch crowd, had a nice table in the cool Pavilion Cafe next to the window so that we could see some of the National Sculpture Garden.  We viewed some sculptures on our way to the National Gallery of Art’s West Building but our destination was the East Building. I knew there was a pathway underneath between the two buildings but I had no idea that pathway would feel like a ride at Disneyland.

I had never been to the East Building of the National Gallery of Art and we both absolutely loved it. From the bright and airy atrium containing a famous mobile to the rooms emanating from that central atrium, it made for a pleasant visit to see wonderful pieces of art.  We saw Picasso, Braque, Stieglitz, O’Keeffe and Matisse, to name a handful.

Following is a small gallery of some photos from our first day in D.C. that I hope you will enjoy.

Our second day we spent apart as part of the reason for the trip was for my sister and I to go through our mother’s photos and somehow divvy them up between us.  We had taken the metro to Virginia after our first day of touring D.C. to my sister’s 60th birthday party. I spent the night at my sister’s while hubby went back to the hotel and spent the next day touring the Holocaust and Air and Space museums.  I met him back at the hotel that evening and we had a fine meal at P.J. Clarke’s near our hotel.

Moving on to our third day.  I met my sister and nephew at the Metro Center metro stop and the three of us had a grand time shopping the Nordstrom Rack, Zara and H&M.  We stopped at Peet’s coffee shop for refreshment before heading back out into the heat to meet hubby at the National Portrait Gallery. On our way was Ford’s Theatre where Lincoln was shot so we stopped briefly in there to see what we could see.  We discovered that the museum is free but that you need a timed entry ticket to view the theatre.  We didn’t have time for that but my sister took a brochure because she wanted to come back another time.

I had never been to the National Portrait Gallery and since reading about and viewing the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama online, I made it a point to get there this trip to see them in person.  I had no idea the treasures within the walls of this museum!  Wow, wow and more wow! And we just barely scratched the surface so I would like to go back again.

All of the presidential portraits are worth the time, but two portraits moved me to tears which was very unexpected. I had seen photos online of Barack Obama’s portrait but seeing it in person overwhelmed me.  His portrait is cordoned off as it is very popular and people wait in line to have time to view and take photos.  It is enormous and Obama is a bit bigger than lifelike with a serious look on his face. It felt like he was staring right at me.  I felt a wave of emotions as I stared back at him, from gratefulness for his presidency to sadness that he is no longer leading our nation. He is truly one of our greatest presidents and I’m happy his portrait has great prominence in our National Portrait Gallery.

The other portrait that moved me to tears was of Thurgood Marshall.  He played a major role in the 1940s and 1950s as a leader in the struggle to end racial discrimination in the United States(these words copied from the information next to his portrait).  I have always admired him so it was overwhelming to see his bigger than life portrait looking right at me.  The museum not only houses portraits of all our presidents but other fine artwork as well and I selected just a few of the photos that I took that day to display here.

Afterwards we had a fabulous lunch at Zaytinya then my sister, nephew and I headed off to the United States Botanic Garden.  I had been there only very briefly before so I knew I wanted to go back and my sister and nephew were game for it as well while hubby went off and did his own thing that afternoon.  I still don’t feel like I saw everything. Did I mention the oppressive heat during our entire D.C. trip? It extended to inside the Botanic Garden as well. There are climate controlled rooms but since it’s all under glass, some of the rooms were a bit stifling. Luckily we were able to escape to air conditioning periodically.  As we left we walked past an outdoor garden that is also part of the U.S. Botanic Gardens.  We were too hot and too tired to venture over there so I will have to go back again!

Our last day in D.C. started with an exhibit of political cartoons at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University .  Since I had already created a post of this, I will link it here rather than talk briefly about it in this post.  But I will say what a great exhibit it was and how necessary a free press is to the survival of democracy.  Here is one of the cartoons from the exhibit:

After the cartoons exhibit we were going to get a cab to the National Archives but the clouds rolled in and suddenly that oppressive heat didn’t feel quite as oppressive.  So we walked…….and walked…….and walked.  Uh, it was a little farther than I thought it would be and we were thankful to be in the air conditioning once again at the National Archives.  More wow!  We checked out one of the four surviving copies of the 1297 Magna Carta and some of the history of our nation on the first floor before heading upstairs to view the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  These original documents are all in glass cases in a darkened room to protect them so that future generations of Americans can view them.  It was truly awe inspiring to see our rights as originally written all those years ago.  I recommend this to every U.S. citizen.

Hubby and I wandered up 7th Street to find lunch.  We stopped into Oyamel where I actually dined with Cathy on a previous visit, but the wait was too long so we moved on.  We ended up at the Chop House Brewery and had another delicious meal.  I also highly recommend this restaurant that has great food and ambiance.

Once again we split up as I wanted to go to the West building of the National Gallery of Art and hubby needed to see more of the Library of Congress.  Years ago he travelled with me to D.C. where I was attending a conference for work. During that trip he stopped into the Library of Congress but only had about 10 minutes so that was one on his “to do” list for this trip and he enjoyed his extended visit this time.  I found all my favorites in the National Gallery of Art and I was able to take my time in the gift shop, something I love to do but I sometimes feel rushed when I’m with others. I found some treasures, purchased them and headed back to the hotel once again.

It was such a fabulous trip this time.  It was nice to be able to take our time and see the things we wanted to see.  I think we would have seen more if it wasn’t so awfully hot.  Every day we were there it was over 90 degrees but the worst of it was that morning at Arlington as we only had little bits of shade to rest under to barely escape the heat.  One key to our successful trip was that we decided we would not be rushed.  I only felt a little rushed at the Portrait Gallery. I could have lingered in there a bit longer but we had lunch reservations.  But by the time we sat down at Zaytinya, it was time to rest and take nourishment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini tour of our most recent trip to Washington, D.C.  Please come back again for more detailed posts and more photos of our trip. Coming soon!!

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