I have always wanted for our readers to send us their vacation travel stories — especially when they are fun, interesting or special in some way.
This column is my example of a “vacation show & tell” for you! Next, you write one and send it to us! Send to RayAppen@Gmail.com and in the subject line put: “show & tell.”
Where: Every few years, Christina and I go to Washington D.C., to do the museums. We’ve gone a number of times and it never gets old. We stayed a week, and that was just about the right amount of time.
How: We have started taking Amtrak out of Atlanta to D.C. We get a sleeper car. It’s not cheap and our tickets cost around $350 each — one way — because we are both traveling to other separate destinations after D.C. I am flying back to Atlanta and then out to California for a hike. Christina is continuing on to Charlottesville to visit an old college roommate.
The train leaves Atlanta – or is supposed to leave — around 8 p.m. and arrive at Union Station in D.C., around 10 a.m. the next day. Amtrak was late and didn’t depart Atlanta until around 10 p.m. That is unfortunately not unusual. So we missed having dinner in the dining car that night, which has always been one of the coolest aspects of the trip. We were, however, able to eat in the dining car for breakfast, which we loved. The food is good, and the scenery out the window as the train rolls through the small towns in Virginia is better than a movie. The sleeper room we had was tiny but it just added to the sense of adventure, and it was comfortable enough and fun.
Accommodations & Dining: We stayed at the Hydeaway Bed N Breakfast owned by Gary Hyde (202-462-1886) in the Logan Circle area of D.C. Gary has renovated an old brownstone-like, brick building and filled it with antiques, jazz, great light, white-tablecloth-dining for continental breakfasts and topped it off with a pool in the back courtyard surrounded by exotic foliage, fountains, statuettes and comfortable rockers. After breakfast each morning, we quietly drank our coffee, read and chatted poolside in no hurry to leave for the museums. Most nights we simply walked a few blocks in the vicinity of the B&B and had a wide selection of restaurants, bars and crowded sidewalks that provided the experience and engaging vibe of city life. The environs reminded me of places I have known from the past — Chicago, Miami and Berlin.
Travel in D.C. was so easy. You can get anywhere using the Metro, The U station was 3 blocks from our B&B. When we got tired, we just took Uber.
One night we caught Tad Benoit performing at The Hamilton. Google this amazing Cajun guitarist who easily plays as well as Clapton and who has the sex appeal of any leading man out there. We’ve seen him in New Orleans, Atlanta and a few other places, and we always go out of our way to see one of his shows. Another early evening, we spent a few hours at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, listening to free live jazz while we dipped our feet into the park’s great fountain with 500 other concertgoers.
Sandwiched into our sightseeing, we managed to meet with Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Karen Handel in their offices to encourage them to help defeat the imported newsprint tariff that our president has initiated and which threatens the entire industry. The tariff protects the jobs in a single newsprint mill in Seattle owned by a hedge fund — roughly 250 jobs — and threatens literally thousands of jobs in every newspaper in the country. Sen. Isakson is a co-sponsor of “The Print Act” which is working its way through Congress and can potentially help.
Favorites: Our new favorite museum has to be the Portrait Gallery, which we finally managed to visit on our last day. Many of the portraits were immediately recognizable. Each image, each portrait was accompanied by three or four paragraphs detailing the person’s contribution. The subjects ranged from presidents to musicians to inventors to athletes to writers and conductors. Of note, there were hundreds of portraits in this museum and it was crowded with hundreds of people — maybe several thousand — but we almost never saw a single instance where there were more than four or five people in front of any one image —with two exceptions. There were lines for Michelle Obama’s portrait and an even longer queue with folks waiting to take their picture in front of the portrait of President Obama.
With quiet wonder, Christina and I watched young girls approach Michelle’s portrait, then their mother leaning over to speak quietly to their daughter when they were close. We watched a really old African American man posing with glee in front of President Obama’s portrait as his grandson recorded the frozen moment for posterity on his iPhone.
Watching these visitors in the Portrait Gallery alone would have made the entire trip worthwhile, however, earlier in the week we also stumbled upon a live audience participation play being performed in the Smithsonian American History Museum. It was a reenactment of the 1963 sit-ins in the Greensboro, N.C., Woolworths which eventually led the company to end its policy of racial segregation in the South. What made the performance so special was that a large percentage of the audience were kindergarten-aged African American children whose live unscripted participation in the exchanges and questions from the two actors reminded everyone in that large room that racial bias and prejudice is something learned — not something we are born with — as these children were such testaments to.
Our host at the B&B threw a going-away dinner for us the last day, and we joined a friendly group of local residents exchanging stories, testaments and simply “time” with each other over a lovely dinner. It was the first time Gary had done something like that, but I have a feeling it will not be the last. D.C. can bring out the best in people sometimes I think. Try it.