First off, Go Cubs! They are en route to Cleveland and it’s do or die for them! Now, onto our ‘take’ on DC…
Welcome to the first post for our DC adventure! We are now living in Alexandria VA, a few blocks away from Old Town, the historic heart of the city with old brick sidewalks, a pretty Potomac waterfront with a view of the Capitol, shops and restaurants, and a plethora of historic colonial homes. We are very happy with our choice of location and with our place. We almost went back to Charleston instead given the outrageous rental prices, but were lucky to find our new pad!
This destination has another unique benefit in that we have friends and family close by – and we’ve been enjoying getting together with them! Of course the election makes this area an interesting place to be – surprisingly though there’s hardly any lawn signs around us – guess people are keeping their votes to themselves!
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the DC area, most of it in the early 90s when I was staffed on a Freddie Mac project in Northern Virginia with Andersen Consulting (while I wrote manuals for mortgage-backed securities, I had NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with the financial crisis that would unfold many years later :)!! I was so lucky to see DC before 9/11 with my Mom, when life was a little more carefree – we did the White House tour (which was more extensive then), we got special tickets for us to sit in on a session of Congress (tort reform was the topic – how can I remember that and not remember things from last week?!) I also was able to attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, go to the National Press Club, visit the major monuments, and tour many of the big Smithsonian museums. I’ve been back quite a few times to visit my college friend Trish and the DC Beatos. I look forward to exploring some of the smaller, less famous, and new sites (Museum of African American History) DC has to offer. Our stay here so far has reminded me of what a very special area this is. No matter what you think of our government, presidential candidates, and the current state of our nation, you can’t resist some awe seeing the White House, Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial. This is it, this is the US, something I appreciate even more after spending a few months in Canada!
I arrived late the evening of Sat, Oct 1, after spending a record # of hours at the Montreal airport working on the blog. Dave had been out at the local bar/restaurant Thiesman’s making friends and getting tips from the locals! We spent the rest of the weekend exploring King Street and buying provisions for our place.
Great Falls: Billy Goat Trail (Sun, Oct 9)
Enjoyed the outdoors, exercise, and some incredible views with the DC Beatos (Drew, Ngoc, Julia, and Sophia)! This was a treat for Dave and me who are used to ‘urban hiking’ in our ‘concrete jungles’!
Local Alexandria Touring (Sat, Oct 15) – decided to stay local and check out historic Alexandria – there is quite a bit to do and see around here, including hanging out at George Washington’s watering hole (which we have yet to do)!
Torpedo Factory Art Center
Yes you read right – the building was a torpedo plant in 1920. Ironically the building was planned in Aug of 1918 and construction began on Nov 12, 1918, 1 day after Armistice Day (ruh roh.) They did still create torpedos for testing off a river barge in MD, but only for 4 years.
In 1974 it became home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof.
You can find a huge variety of art here – lucite, pottery, glass tapestries, jewelry, clothing, sustainable art, sculpture. 85 working studios, 7 galleries, the Alexandria Archeology Museum. It was cool to watch some of the artists at work in their studio/shops – nothing like wheel throwing right in your store! Made me miss my Tues night pottery classes at the Jane Adams Center in Chicago. Wheel throwing was definitely not my speciality – but kind of rocked the hand-building (which is much easier)!
Glass Harp (Jamey Turner)
This was magical. Gracie Lou Freebush from Miss Congeniality has nothing on this guy! But seriously, he has played the Kennedy Center, on numerous TV shows, including Tonight with Johnny, and has traveled the world, performing with orchestras, and sharing his talents for many years. He travels with all these glasses (I thought my suitcases were tough to manage!) and has had a breakage here and there, requiring a quick purchase of Hungarian glassware (Bsharp please!) from a local vendor! Note the ‘bagpipes’ in the 2nd video!
Just walking into the church, you feel like you are stepping back in time. You’ll get to sit in the same pew that George and Martha Washington owned (at a cost of 36 British pounds), as this was ‘their’ church when they were in the area. They didn’t spend much time here as they lived in New York, our first capitol during his first term, then Philadelphia for his second. Remember Phillie is where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution were written. The White House was not built and Washington DC was not our capitol until 1800.
Robert E Lee was confirmed here and had his own pew (looked like his signature was on the metal plackard.) He freed his slaves before the Civil War. You can see his portrait and Grant’s below in my National Portrait Gallery post.
This church is well worth a visit, so is the 15-20 min chat with the very knowledgeable docent. She was from West Virginia originally and I learned that the state split from Virginia during the Civil War in 1863.
- Church was opened in 1773, it was oriignally Church of England, then became Episopalian after the Revolutionary War.
- The church was likely built with help from slaves.
- The church was occupied throughout the Revolutionary War to protect it (we know from visiting Charleston that their church steeples were Civil War bomb targets for the Union arm.)
- All Anglican churches have the 10 commandments and the Lord Prayer flanking each side of the ‘wine glass’ pulpit. An acousting ‘sounding board’ is found above the pulpit to help amplify the sermon.
- Some windows are original, as is some of the interior window trim.
DC (Sun, Oct 16)
En route to the National Portrait Gallery – Chinatown – check out this crosswalk!
National Portrait Gallery:
I’ve never been to the National Portrait Gallery (or at least I don’t remember it :)) so decided to check it out!
- Built in 1868, has been described as the “noblest of Washington buildings’ by Walt Whitman and considered one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the country.
- Site of Lincoln’s inaugural ball in March 1865.
- Museum opened in 1968.
- The Smithsonian Museum of American Art is on the west side of the building with the Portrait Gallery on the east. You really could spend all day visiting both sides, even though the building is not huge like the ones on the National Mall. I hope to be able to make it to the other side soon!
I highly recommend a visit, especially during the week when you may see some art restoration in action on the 3rd floor. They conserve frames (think of how incredible some frames are!), paper, paintings, and objects. Makes me think of the hero of the latest book series I’m reading by Daniel Silva: Gabriel Allon, an Israeli super spy whose day job is restoring famous paintings… Highly recommend his books – well written, attention grabbing – I’m shocked they haven’t been made into movies yet. I digress…
The headliner is on the 2nd floor: American President’s (and family)
Great Hall & 20th Century Americans: “Momma said knock you out!!”, LL Cool J
Struggle for Justice & The Outwin – American portraiture today:
About our place
We are really liking our new place here – it’s newly remodeled, immacutely clean, and is in such a convenient location – just a few hundred yards to the Metro (2 stops to DCA!) and King St (the thoroughfare of Alexandria.)
The pictures from airbnb don’t really do it justice! The kitchen is miniaturized, but appliances are brand new and has everything we need. We love the couch – super comfortable and luxurious, room for 2 to lounge!
It’s also a fun building where I’ve gotten to hang out with some of the other residents, have some wine and snacks outside – it’s a cool mix of people in different life stages, a good representation of Europeans too (the owner and 2 tenants are Swedish – we are hoping to have some homemade swedish meatballs soon!) Dave has missed some of the fun, but we’re planning on sharing some of our Williams Selyem pinot with the owners soon!
Next up – Beato adventures with a visit from Aunt Mary & Jane!