Do capital cities mirror a nation? (or thoughts on a visit to Washington DC)

1) the Capitol

It’s been three decades since I last visited Washington D.C. during the heady days of Messers Ford and Carter. The US was a global superpower and its capital city reflected it. The Mall was busy with people; the buildings along its stretch were actually shiny and bright like newborn babies, doe-eyed with optimism. The reflecting pool dazzled me with its brilliance and heralded the opportunity of America as a nation seemingly most favoured by the Gods. I was, literally, awed.

G and I had the pleasure of hanging out in Washington for several days last/this week and I was immediately struck by how different the city felt and appeared. Sure, I acknowledge 30 years is a long time so it is only natural some weathering would occur, but that vibrant spirit of the city I so vividly remembered was gone. I found a city deflated, if you will. A city that feels out of step, or no, lost. As if it knows its best days are behind it and now is adrift trying to find itself again but only halfheartedly. The‘shine’ is absent; the reflecting pool a muddy construction zone, the ponds around it a grotesque green. The people remain for sure – busloads of overweight Midwesterners attired alike in florescent t-shirts emblazoned with “Capitol Tour 2011” move in solemn masses amid the local joggers (does anyone work in DC anymore?) and tired monuments looking for answers to further their Tea Party perspectives. And sadly but quite rightly the city’s spectacles are post-911 fortresses of security.

On Tuesday we walked from the hotel out to the Jefferson Memorial. Standing there beside this nation’s 3rd President I wondered what he would think of this city and his nation as he stands there stoically bronzed gazing out over the Tidal Basin?   

Do capital cities, I wonder, mirror the state and health of their nations? Gosh, therein lies a doctorate dissertation me thinks.

Anyhow, we split our time in the city spending a few nights firstly at the Park Hyatt Washington on the fringes of Georgetown. The Park Hyatt remains a beacon of class and the Georgetown area proper seems to have weathered the storms of age very well – it is hip and happening and moneyed with great shopping along M street west of where Pennsylvania Ave crosses it.

2) home number one whilst in Washington; a wee gift from the management for us upon arrival

3 & 4) we had a stunning suite up on the top floor with the longest sofa I’ve seen in some time

5) the bedroom; 6) and bathroom

7) it had a gorgeous sanctuary style shower and tub; 8) and the biggest closet I’ve seen in a while

We were truly honoured to spend Saturday afternoon and evening hanging out with aaron. Thanks for trekking in from the Ace of Cakes’ hometown to meet us. Thanks for the advice on hat selection, talk of food, talk of runs together, and glad you enjoyed dinner! See you soon.

On Friday evening we dined at the Hyatt’s Blue Duck Tavern which prepares locally-inspired fare with everything sourced from surrounding farmers, fishmongers and butchers. Dinner was good – a minor champagne faux pas aside (we had to request the bottle be iced).

9) the Blue Duck Tavern

10) the restaurant has an open kitchen; 11) one of our many dishes – this was bone marrow

12) a yummy beet salad; 13) scallops

14) “Pee Wee” potato salad (sadly far too over seasoned); 15) and a sort of goat cheese pie with spinach

We then transferred across to the St Regis right downtown for another couple nights. A highlight here was the champagne sabering in the lobby. We duly grilled the sommelier afterward on the secret of success (seems much of the shock and awe is sheer luck) and will be trying this at home soon. The lounge here – attached to Adour restaurant is very good and serves, I must admit, the BEST croque monsieur sandwich I have ever eaten. So good, in fact, I returned twice to enjoy it … and chef knows how to perfectly dress a salad to boot.

We busied ourselves doing the requisite gallery and monument tours and ate well. On Monday we also tried J&G Steakhouse at W Washington.


16) moi with Lincoln;  17) Lincoln’s home

18) the man himself; 19) the non-reflecting, reflecting pool … unless you count muddy reflections

20) honouring those that gave the ultimate price; 21) this is actually the real colour of the water … yuck!

22 & 23) the Exorcist steps from the movie … G and aaron enjoyed – in particular – watching the big beefy lad (in picture on right) doing his chin ups and going up and down the stairs – boys will be boys I suppose

24 & 25) the view from the top of the Washington Monument … on a VERY hot and VERY humid day

26) the Washington Metro … once you’ve seen one station, you’ve seen them all

27) heading out to explore the market; 28) the Capitol but of course

29) a wannabe politician? … not!; 30) ironically Capital Pride was on as we visited … these lad were practicing a line dance [rolls eyes] how fey

31) the stage was set, we did not visit; 32) the FABULOUS croque monsieur at the St. Regis

33) if at first you don’t succeed … keep trying … and trying

34 & 35) the secret is a heavy dull knife and finding the seam on the bottle

36) our second home in Washington; 37) the bathroom

38 & 39) the bedroom and sitting room – a world away in style from the Park Hyatt yes

40) the National Art Gallery

41) the Smithsonian; 42) the White House

43) the modern wing of the National Gallery (we loved it here); 44) inside the Air and Space museum

45) this was actually in space; 46) which are you an ass or an elephant?

Wednesday night we found ourselves staying at the Park Hyatt Chicago as we passed through for dinner at Quartino’s with dear friends Paul & Karen … thanks for the conversation and dinner as always, and sorry about the parking ticket!

47 & 48) our room at the Park Hyatt in Chicago

49) mini gifts from the management; 50) a better gift from the management

51) for lunch we ate at Giordano’s; 52) our tapas platter at Quartino’s

53) Karen, Paul and moi outside Quartino’s

Last night we’ve landed at W Minneapolis – and enjoyed hanging out at Prohibition, the hotel’s lounge up on the 27th floor of the historical Foshay Building. We had a real urge to watch the classic movie Fargo while in Minneapolis and borrowed it from the front desk which then set us on a quest to visit Fargo (even noting the film was largely filmed elsewhere).

We enjoyed touring the Guthrie Center and then made an obligatory stop at the Mall of America.

54) where’s the cheese?; 55) our room at W Minneapolis

56 & 57) more of our room

58( the funky lobby of W; 59) the memorial plaque from the building which went up in late August 1939

60) the beautiful original elevator doors in the lobby of W; 61) the hotel exterior – there is an observation deck up there on the 30th floor and just below is the lounge, Prohibition – where you see the balcony

62) G heads to our room; 63) the ahi tuna tacos at Prohibition

64) the snack tary at Prohibition; 65) me enjoying the food and drinks on high

66) and then back to the room to watch Fargo

67) the view from the observation deck

68) the MacPhail Center; 69) G gazes on the Mississippi at the Guthrie Center

70) a very funky building indeed … well worth exploring if you ever visit

71) inside the Guthrie Center upon the 9th floor

72) me jumping in the Yellow Box; 73) the view from up there of the city

74) here’s the box from the outside

75) you’ll need a mirror but that does say Mall of America; 76) where to go?…

77) to the amusement rides of course

But still the lure of Fargo tugged at us and tonight I find myself in – of all places – the Best Western in, yes, Fargo. Go figure. The front desk staff tell me the state of North Dakota is the ‘wettest’ in the States … and no doubt has the happiest people as a result of all that drinking.

78) G explores downtown Fargo this afternoon; 79) here’s the original copy of the film’s script

80) Fargo … a state of mind for sure; 81) and that’s no bull

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3 Responses to Do capital cities mirror a nation? (or thoughts on a visit to Washington DC)

  1. tomatoboi says:

    Your pics of DC are quite nice! I had a great time there when I went in January, albeit the cold.I’ve never been to Minneapolis though, but it seems like a very nice city to visit too!I’m assuming you did send me postcards from these great cities? hehe Too bad Canada Post is on strike right now! *Grrr*

  2. christao408 says:

    One has to wonder if we see in a city that which we look for.  I recently spoke with someone who had revisited DC after several decades and she was commenting how much more vibrant it now seems!  =D

  3. Fatcat723 says:

    Talk about squeezing a lot into a short time! I have not been to DC in mmm over 10 years and even then I noted a city building walls around itself. It seemed as usual overrun by tourist but there was something missing from 35 years ago when I lived there for a time. Georgetown was not a vibrant. I agree the grounds seemed less kept. It was an atmosphere which I did not really prefer. However, you did manage to find the good places to eat and the best part met Aaron, good man.

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