One Sizzling Day in Washington DC

If only there were two Tuesdays in a week, I would have been here more often banging on about my thoughts. But we steal what moments we can from life, and here I am,  words fuelled by the mellow gorgeousness of a red wine spreading itself slowly but surely through my senses (written last night). Enough has happened in the last few weeks. In reverse, my in-laws left yesterday, we did a random day trip or two into the American countryside, walked around the city with our noses in the air, primed for the scent of good food, earned myself a second-degree burn while baking eggs (I mean the ignominy of it, it was not even a big beautiful cake), ran almost everyday in the early hours of the morning, met new people at dinners and lunches (more than we usually do, recluses that we are), played hours and hours of poker with the in-laws, lost more than I should have.

Then, we were in Washington DC for a scant day and a half. Adi’s parents were staying at his maternal uncle’s, so we sneaked in a day at a neat hotel downtown, The Darcy, which we booked using our stash of hotel points.

Now it was hot. So hot. Our faces started melting as soon as we finished breakfast in a large coffeehouse-cum-bar called The Commissary and headed towards The White House, a few minutes away from the hotel. Trump loitered with a large black umbrella outside The White House, and there were people standing outside with placards about his immigration policies. But it was rather underwhelming. The famous official residence of the president. At least, going by our experiences of just swinging by it. You need to book ahead for a tour.

We inched towards the Washington Monument instead, passing by grand buildings with plenty of classical colonnades and carvings of gods and goddesses. All along we were struck by this niggling sense of déjà vu. A summer’s day of moving desultorily about Vienna two summers ago, walking across the vast grounds of the Schönbrunn Palace which seemed to reflect heat, and subsequently dissolving into a stupor back in the delicious air conditioning of the hotel room.

In the shadow of the tall obelisk, the sun beating down mercilessly above our heads, we scuttled to a museum where we sniggered at modern inventions such as the first Macintosh 128K. It looked the part of an antiquated box. There were the costumes of the  first ladies to arrest the attention too. You will see photos of them by and by.

Outside in the sultry embrace of the sun, we gawped at the Smithsonian Castle. An elaborate concoction with its towers and turrets of red sandstone, wondering at the incongruity of it all. The nationality of the man who had founded it. John Smithson was a British subject. But most importantly, he was a great traveller, chemist and mineralogist. He studied studied everything that incited his curiosity. Count in the dynamics behind the nature of electricity,  a lady’s tear, volcanoes, better ways of brewing coffee, and the discovery of a mineral that was named Smithsonite for him. But what percolated to this traveller as she drank of the fountains of knowledge installed through this man’s vast donations to a place he had never visited, is the legacy of his philosophy. Smithson believed that knowledge has the power to bring man greatness and happiness.

When we could take take the heat no more, we dragged ourselves to Capitol Hill, and then the Library of Congress, gawped more at its lavish interiors of frieze, murals and high dome; in between, realising that my newly acquired watch had slipped off my wrists at some point during our walks about the city. Yet exhaustion had done a bang-up number on us. All we could think of was the hotel room, where we proceeded to collapse on the bed in an unsightly heap.

Such were our experiences in DC, but it was redeemed by a whirl through it during the evening when its lit-up beauty did us in. The reflection of the obelisk in the Potomac as a man fished in the river and the statuesque memorial to Mr. Jefferson. Ah, it was one of those moments during our travels when everything acquired a shimmering aura, as of the liquid mercury I swirled with fascination during Chemistry lab classes in high school.

It was an oddly satisfying day, even though we had missed most of the museums and to-do things on my list. We knew the city needed time and this knowledge set us free to mark the finale with an exorbitant but sumptuous seafood repast at an Italian restaurant on the Potomac. It was a strange evening that, at Fiola Mare. We tend to gravitate towards intimate places where people don’t carry the mantle of pretension. Inside this fine-dining restaurant’s darkly lit bar, I found women with smoky black eyes and men with silver hair and craggy faces cast flinty stares around them. It was almost as if they wore masks. It might as well have been the reflections of an evening of sparkling wine. Who knows, but we culled a few stories of the rich and famous who are patrons of Fiola Mare. The Ukrainian girl who served us was chatty. She talked about many things. About life in a city far, far away from her small hometown near Kiev, the difficulty of her mother ever visiting her because of visa restrictions, the professional highs of serving Michelle Obama ‘just the other day’, the busy charm of NYC, and the like. Conversations — randomly chanced upon — are often the best souvenirs of any holiday.

So from this briefest of city explorations, I present to you D.C. in its black and white avataar. There will be another post with more photos as well — since you know I am not a woman of few words or photos.

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Four men at a bus stop. In the humidity of that August Saturday, the sight of the old man with his shock of chalk-white hair, suited up for the day, made me smile.
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The Commissary


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One hungry soul at The Commissary
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The Nat Geo Museum
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Nineteenth-century Greek Revival Episcopal churches in Lafayette Square. St. John’s Episcopal Church.
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The White House. In the forefront is the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson, the first bronze statue cast in the country.
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Museums along the National Mall
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National Museum of African American History and Culture
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National Museum of American History
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The Star-Spangled Banner inside the National Museum of American History
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Classically sculpted George Washington as a leader during war and peace, at the National Museum of American History.
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National Museum of Natural History

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Capitol Hill
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It’s not too bad, eh?
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Because I like different angles on a place

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The Library of Congress
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Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress
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Modish Fiola Mare, in Georgetown.
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Platter of gorgeously grilled seafood
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An evening by the Potomac

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Jefferson Memorial

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Jefferson Memorial
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Thomas Jefferson

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Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

62 thoughts on “One Sizzling Day in Washington DC

  1. Love the black and white photographs! You’ve taken better photos of the memorials than I’ve seen in books. George Washington bare chested was quite the looker wasn’t he? 😉 Hope the weather gets cooler for you! – Neek


    1. Why thank you Neek! That is all too generous. I am grinning ear to ear and beyond. You get the bare-chested glory of Georgie there. He clearly had the pecs in this one 😛 The temperature keeps fluctuating. Hope you two are keeping cool too. xx


  2. I love the fact that you ortet for black and white photography here, it just fits so perfectly to Washington for some reason. It sounds like you had a splendid time, I’d like to visit Washington myself one day, it seems like such an interesting place, especially for a history buff like me!


    1. To that day then, my lovely! Thank you for the sweet words. It was short, hot and splendid time, so you said it 🙂 I cannot wait to get back on to its wide avenues. xx


  3. It looks great, but the thought of slogging round such a big city in the burning heat, makes me glad I’m sitting here on the sofa with a cat stretched out beside me! I admire your stamina.


    1. Oh well Tracey, I think I am in the process of learning the art of cherishing whatever comes my way! I am done with wandering in the cruel summer sun for some time now. It is all about letting ourselves be, right? 🙂 xx


  4. My husband is a Director of Smithsonian Institution 😉

    I’m glad you had such a good time with your in-laws … I think that when one has family staying it is impossible to do anything but devote oneself to them. And cake. Always devotion at the alter of cake … so sorry your burn was so nasty and even sorrier that it was earned from an egg-pan – I always think of eggs as such gentle things but I shall clearly have to rethink that notion in future xxxx


    1. Oh my, and here I thought he was probably an architect!!!

      There was no time for cake around this time though :-/ Even though they Love Cake. Instead there were macarons and pastries. Thanks for the empathy F. It was one of those oven grills that inflicted the nasty burn. And not to be entirely superficial — but it looks ugly. Sigh. Battle marks from the kitchen are an albatross around my neck given that my mind is floating around in distant places. Hugs xx


      1. I empathise …. on the floating mind and love of the kitchen – not always a match made in heaven. I should write a post about oven gloves one of these days. Scratch that. I should write a post, period 😂.

        He’s a boffin in Astronomy and Astrophysics. I just smile and nod 😉

        Many hugs to you dear DD xx


      2. Not ever the perfect match 😛 Osyth, I need arm gloves while dealing with the oven. Just got a fresh burn just like the last time, a few inches above the last one! *sniff. And again while retrieving a bowl of baked eggs. I think I have to impose a ban on them now.

        I would love to read that post btw.

        HB2 would be interesting to listen to, I am sure.

        Hugs and a beauteous weekend to you three. xx


      3. Oh no! This is dreadful! We clearly need to get you an astronauts suit to cook in so that you don’t have any exposed limbs that can be burned. Seriously … do be careful and perhaps put the eggs in the oven but get someone else to take them out … after all life without œufs en cocotte is unthinkable, no?

        A gorgeous weekend to you two too …. definitely hanging onto summer for all I’m worth now. Love Autumn as I do I want to milk the last of these heavenly early mornings and late evenings before the days start shortening in earnest 😔 xx


      4. Maybe the oven is having an allergic reaction to my love for œufs en cocotte (it sounds tres chic!). Adi has been demonstrating dish extraction techniques for me 😛 Makes moi titter.

        Thank you…we are having a great time just cooking and chilling, booking holidays and spinning castles in the air, you know. Plus Adi is making dumplings. That means me chipping in as sous chef. What about you?

        I am enjoying the early summer mornings too, and the long days generally, even though I carp so about the heat. The last few days have been delightful. xx


      5. Your days sound delightfully balanced and relaxed. Somewhat similar here … The heat goads me to channel my my inner Maggie Pollitt though in truth most of the time I resemble nothing less than a melted beetroot. I finally begin to feel quite settled and startled myself with the notion that I’m not enthralled by the idea of travelling too much just yet xx


      6. I had forgotten Maggie Pollitt! Had to google her, only to realise that I watched the film a long long time ago. Melted beetroot, tee hee. You have been on your feet before you got here that it must feel delicious to soak in this lovely feeling of settling in slowly. It took me a few seasons to come upon it, yet a part of me refuses to let go of the past. Anyway, till wanderlust strikes again then… 🙂 xx


      7. I’m a fan of Tennessee Williams …. the film was a cracking representation of his play. It’s good to begin to feel settled, that is for sure but I do understand your reluctance to let go of the past. It is hard. Very very hard. And the wanderlust … oh, fear not – it will strike before long chez moi, too! Xx


  5. Beautiful photos!

    I am so glad you survived the heat to share such prettiness. For some reason the black and white photos really help me imagine the sweltering temperatures!


    1. Thank you Josy, I think the four men as we entered DC made me think of it in monochromatic shades 🙂
      P.S.: I might belong to a hot country but I cannot abide its sting. xx


  6. Thank you, Arundhatiji for this B&W trip (back) to DC.
    A city I like despite its deceptively provincial feeling (as compared to NY).
    I see your summer went well.
    (Will come back to catch up)


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read, Brianji. I get what you mean by the provincial atmosphere about it. It is built upon wide boulevards and the sense of space is pronounced.
      The summer has not been too bad though I am missing our frequent European trips.


      1. I’d been to DC once on business. We then went back in 2015 for our daughter’s MA graduation at George Washington. The atmosphere struck me. This IS the centre of world power isn’t it? Soooo. What it means is that all “business” is conducted behind closed doors. A tad frightening. 🙂
        And yes, I can imagine your yearning for European trips. I enjoyed Paris tremendously. A different atmosphere. But… you will have other opportunities. Take good care of yourselves. 🙂


      2. Well observed. The city does have an aura about it, so to say.

        I cannot wait for the end of the year when we land in Paris! Yet just once a year seems just too less of it.


      3. How lovely! Christmas/New year in Paris has its – dark – charm. Yes, once a year is not much, reason why I spend several weeks. 🙂 But then… even a few days is worth it. When and how long are you planning to stay? Surely you will go to the UK?


      4. We are spending a week in Paris. The plan is to soak in the Christmas spirit of towns like Colmar and the like. Then, India.

        We are thinking about the UK for next year, but my heart feels like it shall break to go back as a tourist.


      5. A week in Paris at Christmas? Sounds lovely. Check whether the Klimt expo is still on. (See my last post) In theory it is until November. If it is “prolonged”, it is worth it. Alsace should be interesting. Havent been. Then home. Sounds like a nice programme.
        Now, the UK? You will never be a tourist there. 🙂 Trust me.


      6. That is reassuring. I shall consider it. My husband wants to plan already for the UK. Fingers crossed.

        We have a weakness for those Christmas markets which promise such goodness for the soul. Shivering and sipping on hot chocolate/mulled wine, ah. I will look up the expo and Alsace both — thanks for the recommendation. 🙂


      7. You will never be a tourist in England ever. As I shan’t be one in Paris or NY for that matter. 🙂 But you will enjoy it with different eyes. Both recognition and having seen other things.
        “Vin chaud”? Hmmm.


  7. Those are awesome pictures, A. Sounds like a good time in DC despite the heat. Ouch hope those egg won’t leave big scars. They’re nasty, those eggs, I had oil burns from frying them one time.


    1. Thank you Amour. I just got another one today 😦 Really I have to now design mitts that reach up the arms and stop short of the armpits! Have a great weekend. xx


    1. Hey there, thank you for the generous words. It is a city that leaves an impression, so I would say give it a go. Cheers!


    1. Hello Caroline, thank you. Delighted to hear you like the photos. The first one has my heart. I find it somehow evocative.

      You know right then, when we were in DC walking for miles on that sweltering morning, we would have embraced the freezing climes of March with ardour. xx


  8. Looks like a great time spent in DC Arundhati, despite the heat. A busy one too at that.
    I must agree with you as well. Sometimes those random conversations we have with total strangers mark the significant moments of our travels! Had a few of those 😉


    1. Hey Lorelle, it was a short and hot time but boy it felt like a wonderful introduction to such a famous city. So if you think of the most memorable conversation you would have had with a stranger, which would that be? If you care to share 🙂 xx


      1. Of course. Always happy to share 😊
        The most recent encounter was in Hoi An Vietnam earlier this year. We were sitting by the river waiting for the sunset when the city is lit up with its beautiful lights and lanterns.
        A man with his two little children drove up on his scooter right next to us. No helmets, just two toddlers, one holding the waist of her father, the younger one on a stool carefully positioned on the base of the scooter!! 😲 We sat and talked for about an hour, listening to his life story in Vietnam with his family and how he had siblings in Australia too. Making connections and understanding the locals way of life is an education in itself! I will never forget that conversation…. it’s the little things that mean so much, isn’t it. Xx


      2. I could picture it in my mind’s eye, Lorelle.

        Twilight and stories shared with a stranger. Such connections are to be cherished. Thanks for sharing you story with me. The beauty of such moments are underrated. Hope you are having a relaxed and cosy weekend. xx


  9. The black and white theme goes well with your post.:) The architecture of the museums looks amazing! I don’t like sightseeing in hot days, but this summer it has been crazy everywhere from what I hear! I am ready for autumn, but not ready to see the sun disappear yet 😦


    1. Thank you Pooja, the museums are tempting. I felt cheated out of time at them. But one should always have a reason to go back to places — and I have a veritable list for DC. As for sightseeing in the peak of summer, you have me there. The last couple of days it has felt rather autumnal, so I am loving this brief respite from the oppressive heat. Stay cool and enjoy the weekend. xx


    1. Oh you do! I did not realise that. The wealth of museums and fun you have! I did not even get to scratch the surface of Georgetown :-/


    2. Also, I am trying to see your latest post. When I click on your blog, all I see is the home page. Is there something I am missing?


  10. Gorgeous photos! It’s been 25 years since I was last there. You guys did quite a bit of walking considering it was so hot… not sure I would have lasted!


    1. Thank you Annika. That is more than two decades. I bet you would find a few changes here and there. Like the plethora of new eateries and bakeries. We did not even scratch the surface of Georgetown.

      We walked 7 miles and they weighed heavy on us because of the blasted weather. Next time we intend to plan it sensibly 🙂 xx


    1. Merci & touche, lovely! We used to spend a fair share of ours in pubs too, in the UK. There is nothing like pub grub after all. Sigh. xx


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