July 26 – August 4, 2014: Detroit was not high on my places to visit list. In fact, it wasn’t on the list at all, especially in August! But the reason my elder sister was visiting the US for the first (although not, she says, the last) time, was because my younger sister’s son was marrying his American fiancee. In Detroit (well, Dearborn, but still). Washington is also not a place I’m keen to visit in August, but it seemed a reasonable stop on the way north. We took Amtrak to Washington and would fly from BWI to Detroit. I’d stop off again in Washington on the way home, and my sister would go on to Boston. (She professed complete disinterest in New York.) I booked us into one of the Crystal City Marriotts, and sent my sister a list of possible sights, which is how come we spent the first day visiting the National History Museum and the Portrait Gallery. Actually, I enjoyed these more than I expected, as I stopped off to visit the gems and rocks at the Natural History Museum on the way, and took a look at Julia Child’s kitchen and the First Ladies’ gowns, neither of which I’d seen before. In between we ate lunch at the American Indian Museum, always a good stop.
I planned for us to spend the whole of the second day at the east end of the mall. We started out with a tour of the Capitol, which I hadn’t visited since well before 9-11, followed by the Jefferson building at the Library of Congress, which I actually enjoy more. Lunch at the Madison building, next door and recommended in one of my guidebooks, involved a long trek through subterranean tunnels (no, I wasn’t going outside in the heat and humidity if I didn’t have to!) and the promised view wasn’t of the mall. Food was good and cheap, though.
I had got us gallery passes, intending to go back to the Capitol building for some end of session action, but an unattended parcel scare put a stop to that and we arrived early at the Folger Shakespeare, lucking into an excellent docent-led tour. Coffee at the always popular Cascades Cafe at the National Gallery of Art and a couple of exhibitions was followed by an indifferent meal at the Union Station food court as we waited for our evening coach tour. I am convinced that the coach tour, although not cheap, is the best way to see the memorials. Otherwise, a great deal of walking is required, plus I like to see Washington lit up. This time the tour lasted longer than I expected though, as I think some sites were added – I don’t remember seeing the Iwo Jima statue before.
A late start the next day, plus a non-appearing bus, took the National Cathedral off the agenda. Instead, we visited Kramer Books, not just a truly magnificent independent book store, but also an excellent cafe. The crab cakes were so good I went back for a second helping on my return to Washington. Then we visited the Anderson House, once home to a diplomat, and now belonging to the Cincinnati Society. I had never heard of the Society before my first visit to the house, but learned there that it was formed by the officers in Washington’s army, and one (male) person in each succeeding generation may belong. Regardless of how you may feel about the Society, the house is well worth seeing if you’re in the Dupont Circle area.
My first night back in Washington I met up with a fellow Fodor’s poster, with whom I had often been in agreement. We dined at Zaytinya, and both the food and the conversation were great. I had one full day in DC, and started, as I often do, at the Asian galleries. As usual, despite the crowds outside, the Sackler and the Freer were virtually deserted, despite two excellent exhibitions, one on China and one on Iran. It never fails, these galleries are always quiet oases. While I value the peace, it does seem a shame that they are overlooked. After my second lunch at Kramer Books (and a book purchase) I returned to the National Gallery of Art and the Cascades Cafe. Here, too, Asian artifacts were ignored – I found a good porcelain exhibit – but so were the decorative arts rooms.
The next day I took Amtrak home. And once again, the train ran late.
Oh, the wedding? That went off well. The chapel was small but historic and the bride was beautiful and beautifully dressed. I enjoyed meeting up with family. Detroit/Dearborn, however, is an area I don’t need to revisit, although I did find the Detroit Art Museum and the Henry Ford Museum worthwhile stops, since I was there anyway.