Holiday Roundup


Well, blogosphere, I’m back.  While confronting my self-imposed two-month sabbatical, I attempted to adopt a myriad of excuses: holiday obligations, grad school applications, work/life balance, and other fluffy reasons.  Truth is, I’ve been lazy in reporting about my commitment to exploring the District, but have not been lazy in my explorations.  A lot has happened since my last post on the heels of Snowpocalypse Senior and now with the demise of Snowpocalypse Junior (junior in psychological timing, not size).  I’ll try to catch up.

DC is lovely during the holiday season.  From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, you have your pick of special events, menus, concerts, and window-shopping.  Highway and parking garage traffic lessens everyday and garish decorations double everyday.  The attitude on metro and in taxicabs remains the same.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I celebrated by enjoying what the city had to offer in terms of holiday spirit.

Downtown Holiday Market

I ventured to the Downtown Holiday Market, a 5th annual event centered at 8th and F Streets, NW, in front of the National Portrait Gallery.  It features 150 local artisans peddling gift ideas, such as jewelry and paintings.  The most intriguing exhibitor sold handbags converted from aged editions of hardback books.  “No, you can’t borrow my collector’s edition of Pride and Prejudice because the pages have been replaced with three chapsticks.”  I was tempted to buy a handmade cherry wood cutting block, but reconsidered after seeing the $125 price tag.  Most of the booths looked similar to what could be found at Eastern Market and similar fairs.

Daily entertainment consists of an eclectic schedule of musical performances.  No exaggeration, genres ranged from a capella and Andean fusion to boogie woogie and rockalypso.  I didn’t purchase any gifts, but did snack on warm candy-coated pecans and enjoyed listening to this guy rock out.

The market runs for most of December and will surely return for the 2010 shopping season.  Add it to your list of festive, can-cost-nothing DC attractions.

Not Your Typical Office Party

One of the perks of living in an urban setting is the potential for your place of employment to throw an awesome holiday party at an awesome venue.  JP’s office went to the ESPN Zone last year and Lucky Strike bowling alley the year before.  I was fortunate to go to two parties: one at CulinAerie with my team and the other at the Ritz Carlton with the entire company.

First: CulinAerie is a recreational cooking school on 14th and L Streets, NW.  They offer one-time or series of classes including baking and pastry instruction, wine and spirits tastings, knife skills, and cooking technique workshops.  My supervisor called for venue suggestions and yours truly proposed the winning idea!  At last, I thought, I could add a few dishes to my novice-cooking repertoire.  Point of fact, CulinAerie is not where you become an expert in three hours.  It’s where you come to assist in cooking your own meal minimally, as though you were at the Melting Pot, and enjoy eating your meal thoroughly.

Photo Courtesy of The Aardvark

Photo courtesy of The Aardvark

The menu included: Parmagiano and gruyere soufflé, Classic coq au vin OR Roast leg of lamb with a gratin of tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, and for dessert, Torta caprese.  We each had a station with a hot plate, relevant utensils, and ingredients.  The group follows along, watching flat screen televisions from an overhead camera, as the lead instructor first demonstrates every step.  It sounds impressive that we made all of this challenging food, but the instructors assisted by preparing many of the ingredients in advance (as you may know, coq au vin requires marinating in a wine mixture for not less than one day).  Even with the help, my table managed to mess up the coq au vin by removing the meat from the pan for too long and we had to take from another table’s entrée.  Evidently, we incorrectly relied on the written directions for take-home preparation put in front of us instead of paying attention to the live instructor – oops!

Our souffles, on the other hand, baked perfectly!

Photo courtesy of euqus

Everyone then eats dinner at the same time in another common room at a large, family-style table.  It’s an ideal private party venue because you leave having learned a couple of things – even if it’s to pay attention when a teacher is teaching – and having had the fun group experience of preparing and eating a meal.

Second: How can one criticize an evening at the Ritz?  A seated meal, dancing, and cocktail attire.  It’s like a wedding without the requisite ceremony.  DC, of course, has many luxury hotels that would be beautiful holiday party venues.

Photo courtesy of KHA

Ugly Sweater Party

My friends held their 3rd annual Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl in mid-December.  This might not be particular to DC, but it was my first one anyway.  We had an ambitious crawl designed that would take us to Front Page, Lucky Bar, Public, and Sign of the Whale.  Due to freezing weather, unprecedented crowds, and competing ugly sweater crawls, we stayed at Lucky Bar for most of the night.  That night was also the first time that I had to wait in a 20+ minute line to get into Lucky Bar of all places.  During my wait, I overheard the bouncer complaining about all the weird people in ugly Christmas sweaters who were not leaving.  It was then that I put down my camera, so sorry for the lack of pictures from this event.

Photo courtesy of RM

Finding my ugly sweater and holiday flair took more effort than I expected.  Goodwill had nothing holiday-ish and I didn’t have time to order anything online.  I picked up my “costume” from Kohl’s; however, to date I have seen two different women wearing my identical ugly sweater in public without irony.  Where can I go in the city to find something colorful, noisy, and especially annoying for next year?

Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  With a baguette.

To get into the spirit, I saw A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater.

Charles Dickens’ magical story was brought to life in an imaginative retelling, with more children and an affable actress playing the traditionally male role of Ghost of Christmas Present.  The theater is a very intimate and there were not many set changes.

I love that story in almost all formats from The Muppet Christmas Carol with Kermit as Bob Cratchit to the Bill Murray classic, Scrooged.  This show is a Washington tradition held at many local venues every year, and I have never been to a single stage performance.

We sat not too far from the infamous box where President Lincoln was assassinated.

I also had never been inside Ford’s Theater, a national historic site, which has free entrance and a museum below the performance hall.

Honest Abe and dishonest Monica.

Before the show, I went to Bistro d’Oc across the street for the pre-theater menu.  The stretch of road between the theater and restaurant, 10th and E Streets, NW, is one of my favorite spots in the city.  The road is anachronistically cobble stoned and always so quiet compared to the bustle of Constitution Avenue down the block.

My expectations of the restaurant were low after reading lackluster reviews on the Post and Yelp; however, those reviews did not give it nearly as much credit as it deserves.  For $23.95, you get three courses plus a glass of wine.

I had never tried Languedoc cuisine from Southern France, and it seemed to have heartier flavors and simpler sauces than most French meals.  One flaw, though, is that despite the robust taste, the portions were too small.  I was amused by how the wait staff shifted this one white board listing the house specials around the restaurant, eventually getting to every table.

For location and price, I would certainly return to Bistro d’Oc if I have tickets to another performance at Ford’s.  Further, I would recommend this very same evening – dinner and the show – to others when the holidays roll around again.

Holiday Plans for Next Year, which is now This Year

2009 will be remembered for many things.  Among them, for me, will be that it was the first year in recent memory that I did not visit the White House Christmas tree.  I used to visit the holiday scene every year with my family and then continued the tradition once I was in college since it was such a short walk.  For the first time, tickets to the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse were distributed by an online lottery.  Unfortunately, I did not get tickets and neither did any of my friends.  In addition to viewing the tree next season, I plan to make it to Union Station and the Botanic Garden to see the holiday displays for the first time.  Who knows what else will come to mind between now and then, convincing me to love DC or move my affection along?

Snowpocalypse, snowmageddon, snowmygawd, bunch of snow, blizzard of 2009.  Whatever you called it, whatever claustrophobia-inducing grocery store you visited, 22” of fluffy snow made itself known this past weekend in multitude and disruption.  My Saturday afternoon plans consisted of: using my expiring Newseum passes (50% off the normal $20 entrance fee, otherwise known as discounted robbery); seeing the holiday exhibits at the Botanic Garden and Union Station; and shopping at the Downtown Holiday Market.  Ambitious schedule, I know, which is why it was destined to fail.  But I was not about to let my Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears football tickets on Sunday encumber the same fate.  I was going to that game.

I got season-ticket holder seats through Stubhub as an early Christmas gift to JP, a rabid Bears fan.  The tickets were marked up, of course, but affordable.  We sat in the lower deck to the left behind a goal post.  Great views, and we were fortuitously shielded from the remnants of snow falling from the upper decks. Someone (with a gifted arm) chucked a snowball from the upper deck and narrowly missed two referees on the field.  JP reminded me of the Philadelphia Eagles incident where fans expressed discontent by pelting Santa Claus with ice balls.  DC/Baltimore fans are much more dignified than that!

I credit the stadium staff with meticulously clearing the snow in time for the game.  I guess they were expecting lots of no-shows (not the case in any way – my attempt to move forward a few rows was thwarted when the rightful seat owners appeared) and offered discounted concession stand items ($4 for french fries rather than $6 – woo hoo!) in gratitude.

It was both my first NFL game and first experience with die-hard local fans.  I’m neither a Redskins fan nor a Ravens fan – I’m apathetic.  I posed as a Redskins fan for a brief time in 1992 when they were actually decent and went to the Super Bowl.  Selecting just the right gaudy Redskins Super Bowl t-shirt is one of my fondest childhood memories.  Hasn’t happened again since.  I do know that Redskins fans like to paint their faces; I didn’t see any painted faces in Baltimore.  Maybe spectators feared they would need to chip it off like icicles later due to the sub-freezing temperatures.

Highways and exit ramps were clear and safe to travel on.  The on-ramps, conversely, were a mess as there was a line of cars waiting for their turn to get stuck in snowy mush at practically every entrance.

(Message to DC/VA/MD Drivers: please, please clear your rear window, the car hood, and at least the driver’s side windows of debris.  You’ve just spent the entire previous day sitting on your couch, watching Food Network, and eating frozen pizza because there’s nothing else to do, that surely you can summon enough energy to thoroughly clean your car and not just the dashboard.  Sure it feels cool to play like you’re in a traveling igloo, but DC is technically still part of the South.  Science (and common sense) says snow melts and things in motion tend to stay in motion.  The flying snow endangers yourself, and most of all, it endangers me.  Kthanxbye, Convince Me DC.)

Lines for the women’s restroom are ubiquitously disproportionately long compared to our lineless counterparts.  Likewise, the security and ticket entrance lines were divided by gender, and were unbelievably disproportionately few in number for females.  Of the 14 entrances at one gate, only 4 queues were for women.  Though I was cheering for the opposing team and the female home team fans outnumbered me in line, we were all on par in irritation.

See the unfair number of male entry queues??

My inebriated, neighboring spectator was telling nobody in particular in the crowd about how tailgaters were playing homeless and lighting fires in the parking lot trash cans in order to stay warm.  He was also wearing mascara in place of any winter weather gear, so his report is suspect.

Ravens fans are dedicated.  They dress in all purple, the team’s color: purple wigs, purple camouflage pants, purple jerseys.  JP and I donned Bears ski and Santa hats, along with shirts concealed below layers of coats and scarves.  It was intimidating to enter an elevator or row of seats of all Ravens fans and hear silence fall, glares rise.  Since the score ended in a 31-7 slaughter of the Bears, most in the crowd turned their taunts into encouragement.  Things like, “it’s ok, it’s just not their season.”  We, along with a slew of other defeated fans, left the stadium with 10 minutes to spare in the game.

It.was.cold.  My feet thumped like square bricks on the walk back to the parking garage.  You could have poked them with needles and I wouldn’t have felt a thing.  As I said, DC is technically in the South, but with the weather this past weekend it could have been mistaken for Boston, Chicago, or New York.

I’ve now been a spectator at professional football, basketball, hockey, and soccer games in the District and environs.  By no means am I sports fan, but I appreciate the sense of community that these events inspire.  It’s rumored that Giro d’Italia, one of professional cycling’s biggest events, may come to DC during an opening stage in 2011. See you there – if DC can continue to convince me ‘til then!

The contest?  “All you have to do is tell me who the biggest reality TV show trainwreck is and why.”  The winningest reply?  “Dustin “Screech” Diamond couldn’t even gain the public’s irrational sympathy on Celebrity Fit Club.”  And that’s how I went to my first after-hours lecture in DC and saw Project Runway’s Nick Verreos.

Partly a museum and partly a school, the Corcoran Gallery of Art hosts occasional educational programs and performances.  I won tickets for Nick Verreos’ lecture via local arts website Brightest Young Things a.k.a. the cool artsy kids.

Verreos was a contestant on Season 2 of Project Runway, before it moved to Lifetime and when I still watched the show, and now manages his own clothing line.  During his talk, a slideshow projected images of Hollywood starlets he has dressed including Heidi Klum and Marlee Matlin.

Many DCers can relate to his pre-reality TV celebrity experiences.  Verreos’ father was a diplomat, so his family split their time internationally and in the District, and Verreos studied political science in college before pursuing design.  On the other hand, I cannot relate to the fact that he was invited to Inauguration this year.  “I raved to friends about how I was going to attend the Inauguration ball.  That was the word I used, ‘ball,’ to make myself feel better because seriously what kind of event starts at 10:30 in the morning!”

Verreos listed some of his fashion pet peeves, such as pleated pants, leggings, and those notorious crocs.  He expressed excitement that Washington is now inviting fashion in and being influenced by fashion.  Michelle Obama is an example of a woman with strong fashion sense, he said.  While the streets of DC can be both trendy and original, fashion is still functional in my government office.  Women match their beaded ID lanyards as accessories to outfits, which means that red and green dominate around this season.  The worst is the lanyard with bells.

Verreos conveyed how people have offered him sympathy since he arrived in the city due to the sloppy weather.  He exclaimed, “Are you kidding me?!  I love it!  I get to wear all the winter fashions here.  In California it’s flip-flops and board shorts everyday, and some of it ain’t pretty.”  The audience groaned in that be-careful-what-you-wish-for way.

The lecture was thinly veiled as a two-hour advertising event by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in California.  School representatives were on hand to meet interested students and call out alumni in the audience, introduce Verreos as he took stage, and pass out literature at the front door.  True, Verreos credits the school with his success because he was a graduate of FIDM and currently is an instructor there.  I would have preferred more anecdotes about the fashion world (and what Project Runway mentor, Tim Gunn, is really like in person) rather than why he chose to attend FIDM.  His lecture and Q&A time were interrupted to play the school’s marketing video of FIDM’s Debut 2009, the equivalent of a senior thesis as interpreted through a highly produced fashion show.

A wine and appetizer reception followed the lecture in the grand foyer of the museum.  Verreos displayed a few of his evening gowns (shielded from touch behind a velvet rope) and autographed and posed for photos.  I skipped the long meet-and-greet line and focused on the olive tapenade instead.

With Verreos’ upcoming QVC business deal, I’m sure we will see more of him in general.  In DC in particular, I hope we’ll see more lectures and events from figures in the fashion world.

All you can eat brunch with a side of humiliation is served every Sunday at Perry’s in Adams Morgan.

The Perry’s drag queen brunch experience is one of those events that I’ve heard about and been urged to attend for years, but never found the motivation to go.  Perry’s is located at 1811 Columbia Road, near Calvert Street.  The restaurant’s name isn’t visible from the street; instead, 1811 on the awning and a line down the sidewalk are the indicators.  It’s a considerable time commitment with time spent walking across Duke Ellington bridge from the Woodley Park metro, waiting to be seated, and then enduring a long brunch and show.

Perry’s doesn’t accept reservations for brunch because they clearly don’t need to.  The line usually forms at 9:45 am for a 10:30 am seating.  Sunday when I went – the day after DC’s first snowfall – was brisk and windy.  Thankfully, I was with a group determined to have brunch so they arrived extra early to wait in line. Perry’s would make so much extra money if they allowed guests to wait inside at the bar and defrost.

Brunch runs from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, with two seatings and two shows. If you’re unable to arrive that early, wait for the second showing at 1:00 pm.  The line for the next group was fortunately permitted to wait indoors on the stairwell.  Perry’s doesn’t seat incomplete parties so be certain that you don’t wait in vain and instead use the 45 minutes until doors open to assemble your party.

I haven’t been to many drag queen events (in fact, I reported about my second experience ever on this blog), but Perry’s was by far the most interactive and amusing.

Come hungry – pre fixe brunch is steep at $23 for two underwhelming buffet-sized tables.  A pitcher of mimosas sets you back $30.  In addition, the performers remind you to tip them well “so we don’t have to resort to prostitution.”

The eclectic buffet goes from breakfast, lunch, and dinner with granola, home fries, various breakfast meats, and fruits then switching to sushi, dumplings, meat soups, and macaroni.  The scrambled eggs – usually the worst pick at buffets – and blueberry muffins were my favorites. Getting promptly through the buffet line for warm food is another reason to get in line early.  Since my group was the second in line to be seated, we had the best choices from the buffet.  By the time we were done eating and contemplating the next round, some people were still in line awaiting their chance at a first plate.

But Perry’s isn’t special to DC for the food, it’s special for the show.

Three queens make a stage out of narrow space between tables, becoming characters and kissing, mocking, groping, dancing on, or serenading guests.  I knew that someone’s hand had been shockingly guided south by the shrieks and nervous laughter.  One of the drag queens removed a straight guy’s shirt and sweater and waved them around the restaurant like a victorious flag (He retrieved it at the end of the song wearing a woman’s fleece jacket).

Their costumes were outrageous in size, either oversized skirts and teased wigs or skimpy beaded skirts and bandage-sized nipple pasties.  The ladies strutted in 5” heels and lip-synched to pop music, eliciting gasps with each grand entrance.  Lady Gaga – aptly rumored to be a sexually confused – was worthy of imitation twice.  Jennifer Lopez’s infamous green Versace dress made an appearance.  Some of the boobs were “real,” some were fake, all the legs were enviously toned.

Like DC, the crowd’s demographic was mixed: gay men, straight men, college students, middle-aged women, Hispanics and South Asians.  My table of five, nicely dressed, nondescript women must have been too boring for the DQ’s because we barely got any attention.  Instead, they swarmed toward the long table of attractive young men, the attractive straight men in groups of all women, and the loudest table of spunky women.  We schemed practical jokes of bringing trusting friends here for brunch and withholding details of the scheduled drag show.

What is it about a drag queen brunch that draws birthday celebrations?  About nine people, all women, came to the front when the queen bee called out for all the celebrants.  She asked each person for their birthday wishes, telling those who wanted cars/jewelry/money to get herself a rich boyfriend fast and suggesting that an embarrassed birthday girl who said that she was just happy to be visiting from Canada should instead wish for a boob enhancement like her own.

One dimension of authentic DC might be in line here at Perry’s in Adams Morgan.  Locals and visitors, standing in line outside in the cold weather sipping coffee to stay warm before getting inside to drink more coffee, in an effort to eat an overpriced breakfast and see one of the most entertaining local acts.  Is DC home to any other drag brunches?

I went to the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue this week for the first time to see an Imogen Heap concert, also for the first time.

I didn’t know that a beautiful site like the Synagogue existed in such an improbable location between Wok and Roll Restaurant and the Chinatown bus depot, only a block from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro.  From the outside it does not appear to be a music venue.  I’m curious whether any other holy sites in DC or elsewhere also host public performances.

It was one of the most comfortable and intimate music venues that I have ever been to.   The seats are the wood-backed padded pews of a place of worship and seating capacity is less than 450 people.  Seating is General Admission and I arrived 20 minutes after doors opened to find open pews only in the side balconies.  The stage is quite small and limits distractions from the music such as dancing and stage sets.  Imogen walked through the audience to reach the stage because I don’t think there is a rear entrance.  The venue is lit by electric candelabras and chandeliers, further adding to the cozy feel.  There is not a concession stand or bar, so no food or beverages are permitted.

I became a fan of the musician when I first discovered the band Frou Frou, which gained recognition because of the song “Let Go” on the Garden State movie soundtrack.  I later learned that Imogen was the lead singer of that group and did some research into her solo albums.  She performed one of my favorites, Just For Now, without any instrumental accompaniments and instructed the entire audience to sing along with her.  The effect of her direction was a orchestrated fading in and out of sound, and it highlighted her strong vocal talent.

Ticket prices were reasonable at $25 each excluding the standard 40% Ticketmaster tariff.

Imogen is practically a one-woman show: she plays the piano; constructs instruments from unlikely objects such as a pastry brush, saw, and plastic cord; manages the sound board; and leads with her ethereal vocals.  The show opened with her dipping a finger into a water-filled crystal wine glass and rubbing it along the rim, then repeating and adding to that one sound.  She used a technique that I’ve never seen before of taping microphones to her wrists to capture all of the sounds created and then loop them on a sound board.  It’s fascinating to see how music produced by layers of improbable sounds comes together.  This is probably why I enjoy seeing DC-based Thievery Corporation- another group that layers sounds – perform live.

In order to personally interact with every city on the tour schedule, she held web auditions for a cellist to accompany a couple of her songs.  The cellist for this performance lived about 20 minutes away.  This is great approach to personally connect with the audience base, even though I lack all musical talent.

Imogen explained how earlier in the day she toured the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with one of her DC friends and that the visit inspired her set list.  She said, “We visited NASA today, how cool is that?  Sort of a spacey place, so it will be a spacey set tonight.”

Imogen Heap originates from the UK and it shows.  British English is ostensibly the same as American English, except for some curious spelling customs, but I had such difficulty understanding her comments in between songs.  It didn’t help that she had an idiosyncratic tendency to mumble and talk to herself about what she was or wasn’t doing.  She has a bubbly, eccentric personality, evidenced by her excited rants and childlike stage outfit of a ballet tutu and birds nest hair piece.  While I really like her music overall, the individual songs blend together and I can’t identify songs by name.  Perhaps Imogen feels the same way because she asked what the next song was on her set list and started a song with the wrong lyrics and admitted to the error more than once.

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue has a full calendar of events, from music performances to lectures.  Actress Mayim Bialik from the TV show Blossom will be discussing Jewish women and Hollywood stardom on December 7th.  Imogen Heap returns to DC in April next year.

For the one-month birthday of Convince Me DC, I checked “Tour the U.S. Capitol” off my project to-do list.

My public school took us on many field trips, including Gettysburg and the very educational Kings Dominion several times, yet oddly never arranged an excursion to some of the most recognizable landmarks of the city such as the Capitol and Library of Congress (or Supreme Court or White House).  My parents have lived in the DC area for over 30 years and they had also never toured the Capitol.  To rectify this, I scheduled a Saturday afternoon tour for all eight of my family members who were in town to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Free tour tickets can be reserved through the office of your representative or senator, and you will need to implement this method should you wish to visit either the House or Senate, but tours can also be arranged directly through the U.S. Capitol Visitor Services using their online reservation system.  Tours run every ten minutes beginning at 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, from Monday through Saturday except for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Inauguration Day.  It’s also possible to pick up same-day passes from the Visitor’s kiosk when available.

Taking metro is certainly the easiest way to reach the Capitol.  The Capitol South and Union Station stops are only a few blocks away.  Instead of metro, however, we unwisely drove to Capitol Hill and spent a significant amount of time searching for parking.

Like a true out-of-towner, I went to the front of the Capitol by the reflecting pool and futilely looked for the visitor’s entrance.  I approached one of the security guards to ask where to pick up my visitor tickets and he pointed to the rear of the building (I’m confident that I was the first person to have ever asked him this question).  I eventually did see the couple signs with arrows pointing to the visitor’s entrance, but I was annoyed by the inconspicuous signage.

The new Visitor Center extension manages to simultaneously mimic the look of the original legislative branch while appearing modern, but the security screening remains inefficient.  Two lines form on either side of the entrance to process groups in waves.  We waited outside in line for about 30 minutes which is why they recommend that you arrive well in advance of your scheduled tour.

Thankfully, it was a pleasantly temperate day to be standing around.

I feel sorry for tourists who confine their visit to the National Mall because of the dearth of food options in sight.  The Capitol has a cafeteria restaurant with different stations; I paid $2.50 for a decent cup of Dunkin Donuts drip coffee.

I was a real tourist!  The informative guided group tour lasts approximately 40 minutes and includes a short film.

The Capitol is both a museum and a seat of government.  There is one statue donated by every state, as well as statues and paintings of historic figures significant to the birth of the country.

Freedom, the statue crowning the Capitol dome, is visible through some window angles along the tour (to the left).

The plaster model of Freedom has been restored and is displayed inside the Vistor Center.

The diamond of the rotunda marks the geographical center of the Capitol and divides the city into four quadrants.  Further, the crypt below this space was intended to house George Washington’s tomb rather than his current resting place at Mount Vernon.

Sixth President John Q. Adams’ desk used to sit here.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s desk currently sits inside here.

The frescos inside both the Capitol and Library of Congress reminded me of the opulent art inside many historical European landmarks.  The marble architecture and painted ceilings are beautiful.

We walked through the underground tunnel connecting the Capitol and the Library of the Congress.

More elaborate architecture and art inside the Library.

Soon after walking around the main visitor area of the Library without actually having peered into a stocked library yet, I started to wonder, where do they keep all the books?  There is one wide window where you can look into the reading rooms and rows of bookshelves, but can’t take photos.  To use the library, anyone can apply for a free reader ID card by showing a valid state ID.

Later, we crossed the street to the Supreme Court, another building that I have never toured.  I hope to see the Justices in session there someday soon.

Paired with a beautiful fall day and clear view of the National Mall, I found myself lingering on the Hill and taking “mental photographs”.

Could it be possible – this clichéd and classic DC day convincing me?  Maybe, maybe not, but I certainly appreciate the art and history of this city a little more.

DC streets are deserted the night before Thanksgiving with most Washingtonians traveling to their home states.  For locals like me and those who have chosen to stay behind for the holiday, it’s the perfect evening to explore normally congested destinations.  To take advantage of the quiet social scene, I visited the W Hotel’s Point of View (P.O.V.) Bar and Rooftop Terrace for the first time.

P.O.V. is located at 515 15th Street NW across the street from the White House.  It has stunning views of the Capital skyline, from a unique mid-height perspective of the Washington Monument to the roof of the White House East Wing.  The Lincoln and Jefferson memorials are clearly visible and airplanes regularly circle through Arlington’s horizon as they descend into National Airport.

P.O.V. strives for an exclusive air, and I understand that – it’s part of the appeal.  I had heard rumors about the interminable lines and offensive prices, but that the views are incredible.  I figured Thanksgiving was the right occasion to celebrate at this swanky location.  I called ahead to check whether the bar would be open and gauge if I needed a reservation.  The person who took my reservation lived up to the snobby reputation with her patronizing way of extending “yessss” in response to my questions and informing me that reservations are always required for the terrace.

As you enter the hotel, you follow a velvet-roped carpet to the one elevator that reaches the bar.  The staff is called “The Talent”. A clipboard wielding staff/Talent member checks for your name on the list, radios to a receiving staff member upstairs, and then escorts you on the elevator.  As hoped, the bar was not very crowded and many tables with Reserved table cards were never filled.

White stencil patterned screens divide the reserved sections of plush couches and side tables.  The standing area of the bar does not require reservations and there were several cabaret tables available.  There is another indoor bar area that also has a great view and had a DJ spinning.  During winter when heat lamps warm the terrace and clear plastic window attachments further shield the cold, I don’t see much difference between the indoor area and terrace except for the expansive view.  The terrace is likely more pleasant during summertime when it becomes a true open-air bar.  It’s a very dark bar with red lights and white candles, but I wonder if the dim lighting was aesthetic as well as functional: you can’t see the prices so you can’t object to how egregious they are.  P.O.V. designer cocktails are $15 and warming cocktails are a steal at $10 each.

I considered ordering a wine cocktail and asked the waitress if she recommended it.  She replied, “Well, do you like the ingredients?”  Not encouraging.  I hesitated and she said that I could return it if I didn’t like it, so I went ahead with the order.  The drink was practically just sparkling water with lemon, so I gladly took her up on her offer and ordered a Hot Spiced Pear warming cocktail instead.  She kept the drink on our table anyway without charging us for it and JP used it to cleanse his palate between scotches.  The pear cocktail was such an extreme and better option: pear cider, bourbon, and cinnamon spice blended together in a steaming mug.  It tasted like a warm pear tart – delicious!  We shared a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert that was a little dry, but went well with the pear flavor.

P.O.V. did not change my point of view of living in DC.  A bar of that caliber could only be found in a cosmopolitan metropolis, though there wasn’t anything else special about it except for the view.  As a non-native to DC, JP was enthralled with the skyline.  In contrast, all I could think about was how many iterations of it I had already seen from different vantage points.  There is no question that the city’s skyline is a beautiful sight, but that alone won’t convince me, DC.