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Trip Report My 72 hours in Washington, D.C.

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As I got so much helpful advice in my other thread in how to spend the few hours I had in DC that were not blocked by my conference, here's a little summary of what I did.


12/13

Arrive on non-stop flight from Munich at Dulles at 3pm, right on-time.
There were hardly any lines at immigration, and the whole procedure was done in 15 minutes or so. With all that complaining around about unfriendly immigration procedures, I must say that the officer in DC was very friendly and handled the whole matter in more or less one minute.
Bags where already waiting, so I jumped into the cab 45 minutes after we touched down at Dulles. The driver must have seen too many races on TV so just 30 minutes later (thanks to constant lane jumping at 80 mph) and 60 dollars poorer I checked in at the Latham Georgetown Hotel on M Street @ 30 St.

The hotel is a somewhat oddly placed building in the second line of the street, so I doubt that any but a few rooms facing South have a view other than brick walls. But the hotel was okay and staff very nice and helpful.

First time in Georgetown and somewhat jet-lagged I just strolled around and was amazed by the abundance of nice little stores and eateries. And by the the very "Parisien style" of DC driving. If you ever feel afraid of driving in Europe, this town must be good practice (though you probably need a new horn afterwards).

Three "important" discoveries:
1) People dress very differently in Georgetown than at my usual rural US destinations.
2) Things cost a lot in Georgetown.
3) Five Guys is my new favorite burger chain. Awesome stuff, that bacon cheeseburger!


12/14

Conference was on I Street near Franklin Park, so I just hopped on the yellow Circulator bus which was like a door-to-door connection. Really cheap for just $1, but the different fare systems of Metro, Circulator, and metro buses make it somewhat hard to jump from one means of transportation to another unless you have, I guess, one of those plastic smart cards.

As I still had a few minutes left before my conference was about to begin, I had some quick breakfast at (stop reading, those faint of heart) the nearby McDonalds on 13th St @ New York Ave. I am no expert on the location of the franchises, but I guess it's the only McD with a partial view of the White House - from the 2nd floor.

After the first day of the conference was over, I walked the few blocks to our evening dinner venue, Zaytinya on 9th St @ G St. Great Eastern Mediterranean fare (mostly a mix of Libanese and Turkish mezze, small portions of everything to share). Fabulous way to sample a lot without over-eating. The place was packed on a regular weekday evening, and the waiter said that you need to reserve ahead any day of the week.
I almost forgot: Before we had food, I tried their wheat beer (I forgot the name but they only have one micro-brew wheat beer) at the bar. Excellent, tasty stuff!

Walking to the Zaytinya I had a chance to pop in at Macy's for some Christmas shopping and to stroll through the cute Christmas Market in front of the arts museum, and through a bit of Chinatown. I definetely loved how "walkable" DC is, and all that impressive architecture.

After the dinner at Zaytinya, I got "kidnapped" by a bunch of Canadian collegues who wanted to show me their usual watering hole when they get into DC, which is the P.O.V. bar, on the top of the W Hotel on 15th St @ Pennsylvania Ave.
One great view of the White House - but at a less competative price than at the aforementioned McDonalds. I probably had one of my most expensive beers ($ 9 a bottle, and a quite small bottle), but as that went on company expenses, I could have cared less.

Somewhat intoxicated, I decided to get some fresh air and walked back to Georgetown. Even past midnight, I did not encounter any "questionable elements" , still quite many people walking in the streets (I assume others thought that I was one questionable element at that time) and I enjoyed the mere 30 minutes walk from the White House to my hotel.

Another three "important" discoveries:
1) Some people work in indoor offices with no natural light (saw that in the office building where we had the conference).
2) Things cost a lot in DC (except for that Hilfinger down jacket I got for just $ 80 at Macy's!)
3) Small breweries make awesome beer in the US. Just sometimes stronger than expected.


12/15

Day starts as last one with the bus ride to my conference's location.
At 4pm I was off duty and took the Metro to the arts museum & portrait gallery.
Sure, I could have walked those few blocks again, but as I also like trains and subways I wanted to explore the DC Metro.

Thanks to helpful Fodorites, I learned that this place was open late (until 7pm) most days, so I had enough time to walk around the permanent and temporary exhibitions.
While I am not too much a fan of portraits, I liked the exhibition on Americans through the different decades a lot. The arts museum wing was stunning - and the pieces very well selected to get an idea of how the style of painting developed in America through the centuries.

It was just a bit past 6pm when I got out of the museum, so I hopped on the Metro again and got out to Pentagon City to put some more dollars in the economy at the Fashion Center mall. The mall got its own access from the Metro, so could be a good option for bad weather shopping. The line-up of stores is probably not too exciting for any US visitors, but us tourists from overseas find a good range of the well-known brands and chains.

My dining experience for this night was focused on sampling some Mexican cuisine. Okay, I admit it, we don't have Taco Bell over here so I got lured into fast food again.

Back in Georgetown, I had a few beers in the bars on M Street. Both, Mr Smith's and the Rhino Bar & Pumphouse had a nice crowd - the latter also with some decent big screens to watch football.

Just two "important" discoveries today:
1) The DC Metro is probably the darkest and least lit underground public transport system I have ever seen (or barely seen, literally).
2) There are more museums in DC than one could do in 2 weeks.


12/16

My last half day in DC before I have to fly back.

Pack my things, drop bags at the hotel concierge, and take the #32 bus to the Museum of American History.
By the way, aside from the excellent and easy to understand Circulator bus network, I found the regular Metro bus system more complicated. For more or less the same distance, you pay $1 on the Circulator, $1.70 on the Metro bus, and $1.85 on the Metro rail.
Anyway, the history museum would be worth every dollar if you had to pay an entrance fee. But as the best things in life are free, so is this gem of a museum. IMO, the major US museums should run courses in how to plan a museum layout and signpost exhibits.
I did take one of those free "highlight tours" but - with all respect for the nice old lady who volunteered her time - you can easily do the exploring by yourself as you will not get any extra information than what you can read yourself on the excellent explanations at the exhibits.

Nevertheless, the museum was great but all that walking made me hungry so I headed over, across the Mall, to the Mitsitam Cafe inside the Museum of the American Indian - another Fodorite suggestion.

I had some buffalo and a pumpkin soup with sugar-coated (glazed?) walnuts which was just great. For a cafeteria-style self-service and seating the prices are not too cheap, but I could not complain about the food - which is more important IMO. Any time again.

Finally, those few hours in DC came to an end. Back at the hotel in Georgetown, I jumped into my pre-booked cab and off to the airport - via the slightly more expensive ($ 70 with tip) but scenic route along the Potomac river.
Uneventful flight home from DC to Munich, with the usual ghastly pasta in economy, and a 1/2 hour early arrival, with the first snow on the ground here.

Well, that's all folks.
It's been a short but a great time - thanks to all the helpful advice I got here and thanks to the nice and friendly people in DC.

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