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.
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.