Brain Dump: DC Day 1

In an effort to ride out this wave of blogging, today I share some thoughts on my last trip of the year. While my friend Marina was home from Hokkaido, I flew down to DC from Providence for a quick visit and to see some places that have been on my list during my free time. The flight is a quick hop down, and I was in the city by 9 AM, which was perfect for getting me to the International Spy Museum before the crowds.

The only shows I watch these days are American Horror Story and The Americans. This, coupled with all of the times I pretended to be a spy as a child meant I was primed to to pore over every placard. As a result, didn’t take many pictures in order to better enjoy the museum. When guests enter, they choose a cover that they remember as they walk through the exhibits, learning about bugs, signals, and disguises. There’s an air duct to climb through and several fantastic interactive components. Other exhibits cover the history of spying in the US, celebrity spies, and James Bond. Though several of DC’s museums are free, the Spy Museum is ticketed and pricy. Knowing I also wanted to visit the Newseum and Mt. Vernon, I found a DC Explorer ticket which saved me some money on all three tickets.

I ducked inside of Compass Coffee, a good DC chain, to warm up and then scarfed down a quick lunch at Shake Shack. Before heading into Bethesda to meet Marina, I visited the National Portrait Gallery, one of DC’s free museums. Walking the halls of the American Origins Gallery, I was surrounded by paintings I’d seen in my high school American history textbook. Special exhibits covered Sylvia Plath and America on the Road, which was seemingly fitting because I’d started reading On the Road on the plane. I sped through Hudson River School paintings, remembering that I still need to visit the Cropsey Museum in Hastings, and reached the presidential portraits. At one point I got caught in a guided tour of the exhibit and enjoyed the commentary on JFK’s and Nixon’s vastly different portraits and the painters’ experiences while working on them.

A quick ride on the metro brought me to Bethesda where I met Marina. At one station along the way, people kept the doors from closing and the subway operator threatened to make everyone get off if we couldn’t get our act together and stay out of the way. When the doors opened once again, I held my breath but within a few minutes we continued on our way. I couldn’t help but think that maybe this was the metro that Marina had talked about in Japan: the one with dirty carpets and spotty service. Be that as it may, I got around DC on public transit just fine my whole trip.

In Bethesda, Marina showed me some of her high school haunts and all of the new businesses and those that have disappeared since high school and since being in Japan. The cold had us hide in a Starbucks for a bit (but not a Starbucks, the Barnes and Noble Starbucks barista firmly reminded us when we tried to use the Starbucks app to pay).

We went back to Georgetown, and Marina showed me around her alma mater. We made a stop at the Exorcist Steps, and Marina mentioned that Georgetown athletes hated them for all the morning workouts that would make them run the steps’ full length. We walked one of the main streets and stopped for a cupcake appetizer at Baked and Wired (much better than Georgetown Cupcakes) before dinner at Curry and Pie (a cheaper option in the neighborhood).

We went our separate ways, Marina to Bethesda and me to my hostel for the night. The night was cold and I talked about the temperature when I checked in.


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