Sunday, April 27, 2014

On the Road: Springtime in Washington

As regular visitors already know, I live in Vermont but grew up in suburban Maryland, just a mile or so outside of Washington, DC.  My parents live in the city now and my daughter and I frequently visit during our April school break.  Springtime is easily the best time of year in Washington.  Even if you miss the cherry blossoms, there are dogwoods and others in a season-long succession of flowering trees.  Even better, the temperatures are mild, especially in light of the oppressive, sweltering summer heat everyone knows is coming.  It's an easy city to love this time of year.

My personal feelings about DC are complicated.  In theory, Washington is the city I know best in the world.  I am quite comfortable finding my way around and with the rhythm of the town in general.  And yet, it's not really "home" for me.  I'm a Marylander, not a DC boy, and didn't even fully appreciate that until my parents moved.  And actually, I'm becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that I've now spent almost as much of my life in Vermont, though few natives would consider me a Vermonter.  But DC is home for my parents and for as long as it is, the city will be a part of my life, too. 

Flamingo National Zoo

No matter how long you spend in a city like Washington, there are always new things to explore.  Our first full day in town (Wednesday) was a marathon day at the zoo, our first visit in several years.  Our Girl wanted to see prairie dogs, inspired by a recent grasslands project at school.  For ages, the National Zoo had a big mound for the prairie dogs near the lower, Rock Creek Park entrance.  They now have a new arrangement for them at the small mammal house.  Unfortunately for us, there were none in either place!  The new display isn't ready yet and there aren't any critters left at the mound.  Bummer for us. 

Plenty of other wonders on offer, though.  If I'd ever seen the flamingos before, I don't remember it.  The zoo has an electric pink flock of several dozen and they're a lot of fun to watch.  We got to see the baby panda, too - very cute.  The zoo now has a beautiful carousel with loads of exotic animals.  True to form, Our Girl managed to find the penguin for herself.  Penguins are very big with her right now.  We even had an Easter Penguin rather than a bunny at the house this year.  Much to her disappointment, DC doesn't have any real ones.

On Thursday, the two of us took the subway out to Takoma Park, Maryland to visit an old friend.  We shall call him Game Designer, because he is one.  GD was my best friend in high school and Best Man at our wedding.  It had been nearly ten years since I'd seen him.  In fact, I met his second child, a seven-year-old son, for the first time on Thursday.  Takoma Park isn't really very far from where I grew up in Chevy Chase but I don't know it well at all.  If the DC suburbs have a hippy enclave, Takoma Park is it, the rare suburb that has managed to hang on to a bit of its small town feel.

GD also has a daughter, not quite a year older than ours.  The kids had a grand old time getting to know each other on the playground while we chatted.  For lunch, we went to Roscoe's Pizzeria - highly recommended.  I especially enjoyed the gazpacho and stuffed dates.  Great kids' menu, too.

On Friday, after a trip to Politics & Prose, the city's best book store, I went out for a walk on my own.  I went to The Diner on 18th Street for lunch.  It's way overpriced but my Columbia Road Special, a burger with cream cheese, jalapenos and bacon, was scrumptious.  For dinner, my parents took us to the Little Fountain Cafe, also on 18th Street.  I had the pan seared duck plus bread pudding for dessert - both excellent choices.  The restaurant is struggling, though, as the neighborhood is not as trendy as it used to be (they could use a more eye-catching sign out front, too).  So if you're in town, you should definitely go eat there.  My parents can't keep the place open on their own!

Now back to the long, wet Vermont spring.  It actually snowed a bit this morning - it's nearly May, for crying out loud!  Still, it's good to be home.

22 comments:

  1. OMG You saw the baby panda!!! I've been watching that baby for months!!!!
    I feel like asking if you got its autograph, LOL!!! Did you get pictures? Can I see them? Pleeeeeeeease?

    Sorry...I really do watch the baby everyday. That's not weird or anything, right?

    I'm glad you all had a good time!

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    1. He was asleep in a corner - quite adorable, really, but no I didn't take pictures. I guess I should have!

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  2. Sound like you had a fun time.
    We also had a bit of snow over spring break as well. Not enough to stop the city but more then enough to stick for a few days.

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    1. It melted quickly. Just so ready to be done with winter. Summer here is so glorious compared with everywhere else I've ever lived. Just want to get on with it!

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  3. I had the best hamburger I've ever eaten in DC. Well, it may not have been as good as the ones I make now, but it's definitely the best burger I ever bought anywhere.

    On a school trip to south Louisiana when I was in middle school, we saw a cove where the flamingos were so thick you couldn't see the water. It was just pink.

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    1. It's hard to believe how pink they are. They almost look painted.

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  4. Oh my god that burger sounds good!
    Glad you guys had a good trip!

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    1. It was a good trip. Still, glad to be home.

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  5. What a beautiful zoo! No wonder you guys had a great time.

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    1. It is a great zoo. Our daughter's attention span has increased significantly since our last visit so she was far more inclined to linger over a favorite animal. The carousel is a welcome addition, too.

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  6. This was such a nice post on so many levels. I have a weirdish question, though. What were the dates stuffed with? I almost bought Medjool (sp?) dates the other day, remembering how awesome they were when Stephanie served them to us at her house one lovely spring evening last year.

    Less weird question: do you think you'll ever identify with Vermont the way you do with Maryland?

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    1. Stuffed with marzipan, I think - good stuff.

      I don't know about the Vermont/Maryland thing. As a diplobrat with parents from the Midwest, picking a particular place to identify with as a "hometown" sometimes feels arbitrary. I love where I live now more than any place else I've ever lived before and I don't see that changing - ever. However, I don't think I'll ever be able to bring myself to root for Boston sports teams. It will always be Orioles over Red Sox for me. Some things you can't shake.

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    2. 'I love where I live now more than any place else I've ever lived before and I don't see that changing'

      That. Is awesome. I don't even like that word very much but that is the only way I can describe my reaction to your words. What a great way to describe your current situation.

      And I totally dig marzipan. Though isn't that almond paste? Hello? Allergies?

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    3. Ready for me to blow your mind? An almond is not technically a nut. They don't seem to give me trouble.

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    4. Oh, very good. I couldn't live without almonds. Love 'em. I'm glad you're not allergic. That would be major stinky.

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    5. I don't think I could eat them by the handful but I do enjoy many things that contain almonds.

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  7. I lived in DC when I was little. It isn't really recognizable from those days, in a lot of ways.

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    1. For me, the city itself hasn't changed nearly as much as the suburbs. The transformation of Bethesda, for instance, was ongoing during my teen years. Gentrification has certainly changed the human geography of the city quite a bit.

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  8. I have only been to Washington once but from a tourist standpoint what I saw was exciting on one hand and very sobering on the other.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful trip.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Much of DC is very sobering. The poverty level is still very high.

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  9. Oh my more snow?
    We have not had snow but our temps dropped below 50 F. It seems winter is back.

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    1. No new snow since Sunday. I feel like we've turned the corner but there are still some colder days.

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