A Few days in Museums


Dec 10th, 2017, 06:55 PM
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A Few days in Museums

We just spent a week in DC for the hell of it. We went to the new African American Museum, the Holocaust Museum and the National Gallery, to see among other things the Vermeer exhibit and then we went to sleep.

The African American Museum is more one of education than artifacts. But it does a few outstanding pieces including Nat Turner’s Bible, Chuck Berry’s red convertible Cadillac and the dress Marion Anderson wore when she sang in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.

The information that accompanies exhibitions is often incomplete and heads scratching. For example there were samples of movies that were important for various reasons and while they had the name of the stars, they did not have the name of the movie of the clip being shown. In another area, they had shackles worn by slaves. And while the accompanying explanation, spoke of Sally Hemmings and Jefferson, there was a clear disclaimer, the shackles had nothing to do with either. There were numerous duplications of photos and historical description. If you are familiar with American and Black American history, there is little that is new. But despite that, it is an emotional and draining experience and a necessary visit for anyone who does not know the depths of origins of American bigotry and the celebration of the African American successes and culture.

The Holocaust Museum also is more educational than one of artifacts. It starts with the rise of Hitler, shows the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany, the death camps, and the immediate aftermath. Similar to the African American Museum there is little that added to the body of history but it too is a most draining experience. We have been to Auschwitz, and although most of our family was in the US before Hitler, we too lost distant cousins. The most moving moments at Auschwitz were not the trains siding, the ovens, or the hellholes where they stayed, but the glass cases of glasses of eyeglasses, combs, and suitcases that once belonged to the victims. The Museum took a cue from that has a large display of shoes of Jews who were exterminated. Like the African American history it is important for people to understand the horrors humans are capable of.

We also went to the National Gallery to see the Vermeer exhibition and others of his era. The price of admission was that you had to be older than Vermeer. Quite an elderly group until a gaggle of school children interrupted the peace and canes. It was a well done exhibit but it was the only place that was remotely crowded. The other exhibit of sketches by Brueghel and his contemporaries was empty. The museum supplied tiny plastic magnifying glasses to the see the pen strokes better. An insight into 500 year old thinking. The National Gallery has a serene atmosphere with fountains and seats which break up large expenses of galleries.

We ate at Jaleo, which is owned by José Andrés. We usually shun celebrity chef restaurants but wanted to go because of the work he has done in Puerto Rico and his refusal to open a restaurant in Trump's new DC hotel. Actually it was some of the best tapas we have had. We had Lomo ibérico de bellota Fermín with pimentón and garlic. Spectacular. Andrea had Aceitunas 'Ferran Adrià' which is a spoonful of the essence that almost explodes in your mouth. Patatas bravas with both an aloili and spicy tomato sauce. Slightly different but very good. Pulpo a la gallega, very tender. And most airy flan for dessert. It a cavernous establishment and we were frankly surprised at the quality and the professional level of service for its size. Go if you are in DC.

We heard that DC was known for its Ethiopian restaurants. As we are totally ignorant of that cuisine, we are not sure whether we did not like good Ethiopian cooking or wasn’t that good. The dishes were accompanied by teff injera. This is a flexible bread that has a tan hue made from an Ethiopian grass, teff, one side looks like a sponge and the other a rubber mat.

For breakfast we found a place called Lincoln’s Waffle House, across from Ford’s Theater. It is owned by Chinese people and they specialize in breakfasts. It was fine but when you pay the bill, the pater familias who oversees the till, tells you would look good in Lincoln Waffle House baseball cap.
The restaurant is also near the FBI building. One morning two guys in sweatshirts sat at the next both discussed business, including the fact that of one their operatives in a foreign country had been kidnapped.

We liked the fact that DC apparently prohibits any business or residential structure of more than 12 stories. We also liked the neo-Classical architecture that dominates the tourist and many of the governmental buildings. And if a new structure was added, the design and materials were chosen to make it fit the character of the area.

We saw one minor celebrity-Grover Norquist. For policy wonks, he is the anti-tax guy who omnipresent on the talking head shows. In person he looks like he does on TV, as if he hadn’t had sex since 1956.
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Dec 10th, 2017, 08:35 PM
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There are reasons that many of us recommend Jaleo! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 05:14 AM
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Sounds like a great trip. Thanks for reporting.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 05:35 AM
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Yes thank you. We had a most interesting trip,
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Dec 11th, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Thanks for the good trip report. I'm surprised the African American history museum wasn't crowded as it is still very difficult to get tickets, you have to pounce on the computer at about 9 am sharp each month when they put them out. But maybe because it is limited, it isn't that crowded?

I don't like Ethiopian cuisine, either, and I've eaten it in places that were supposedly the best. Just dull to me, and I personally dislike that injera "bread" a lot, the texture, etc.

I also like the building ht limitation, and lack of industry, which makes it a cleaner and prettier city. The limit isn't exactly 12 stories, it is feet and depends on the width of the street, actually. In fact, there are buildings higher than 12 stories already, the limit is effectively about 200 ft. The Watergate complex has about 14 stories, for example, and the Renaissance Hotel on K St has about 15, and so does the Wash Gas building near Metro Center.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 08:36 AM
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My wife got up at 6:30 AM to secure tickets on-line for the African American Museum. Everyone who worked there was surprised at the lack of visitors the day we went.

Thanks for the clarification on the heights of the buildings. I guess that is one advantage of being a company town.

We shall definitely return some day but stay in a different section of DC, just to stay elsewhere.
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Dec 12th, 2017, 03:58 AM
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Enjoyed your report -- thanks!
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Dec 12th, 2017, 05:07 AM
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Thanks Bach
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Dec 12th, 2017, 10:23 AM
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Liked your report! Bit disappointing to hear that about the AA museum- I feel like that is one that they should have been able to make as near as perfect as any museum could be. I’ve yet to get tickets; keep forgetting about the deadline.

The Holocaust museum shoes display is something that hit me hard as a teen and still sticks with me. A very, very powerful exhibit.
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Dec 12th, 2017, 02:07 PM
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Thank you

The AA Museum is still a very emotional experience.

There is so much to cover, that they chose the basics.
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Dec 13th, 2017, 12:26 PM
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Thanks. Heading down in a month and will stop in at Jaleo.

We were unable to get tickets for the AA museum, and had seen the holocaust museum previously. I thought the architecture there was brilliant -- everything off-kilter and disorienting. Very moving, of course.

Next time you go visit the American Indian Museum for yet another guilt trip.

Best -- FD
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Dec 18th, 2017, 06:41 AM
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I love Jaleo's. Mostly their patatas bravas.

There is an Ethiopian restaurant in Adams Morgan, right on the Georgetown border, that's sort of a cult classic. I've been multiple times, because my friends love it, and I HATE IT. All over the country, when I tell people I hate Ethiopian food, tell me I must go to that restaurant in Adams Morgan and "try the beef tips."

I still don't like Ethiopian food. And I hate eating with my fingers.
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Dec 18th, 2017, 06:54 AM
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Thanks Fra and EM.

I used to work in Indian Country, so I was often reminded of past transgressions. I was a member of the Indian Museum in NY which was woefully lacking in artifacts and exhibitions, but that was 10 years ago. But the DC museum is on the itinerary for the next visit. (Whenever that is.)
I have no trouble eating with my hands, I just did not enjoy the cuisine.
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