Destination: Washington, DC

Museums have always been appealing to me, even as a boy. While other children were more interested in going to baseball games, my younger geek self was fascinated by looking into a window to the past, gazing at Indian arrowheads under a glass plate and hundred-year-old kitchen artifacts that showed how my grandmother must have prepared dinner.

I always enjoyed looking at displays of historical characters in period clothing, imagining what it would be like to, instead of blue jeans and sneakers, wear a waist coast and a top hat.

So it was natural for my wife and I to choose Washington DC for our annual long weekend trip, and to spend most of that time in the Smithsonian. One full day was devoted to the National Gallery of Art, where the artwork takes on that window-into-the-past quality I love so much. The high point was seeing da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci, the only da Vinci in the United States on public display. I was especially looking forward to that one, having already seen da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine at the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow several years back.

We took hours to stroll through the impressionist exhibit and then enjoyed a late lunch at the museum’s Garden Café. I usually find museum cafes to be a little boring, with limited food selections that usually include burgers which have been under the heat lamp too long. But the Garden Café offered something a little more inspired than that. We sat at pleasant café tables instead of the usual hard plastic, right in the middle of the museum. I don’t know about anybody else, but when I’m at a café I like to have something to look at other than a checkout counter and a cooler full of drinks, and the Garden Café doesn’t disappoint.

A wonderful thing about vacations is that it gives us a chance to experience new restaurants – I’ve never understood the compulsion some people have to go out of town to an exciting destination, and then eat at the same fast-casual chains they eat at back home! Washington DC is a restaurant town, and there is every type of ethnicity imaginable in terms of restaurant cuisine on offer. Our favorite restaurant experience was right at our hotel – we stayed at The George on E Street, walking distance to the Smithsonian complex, and the Bistro Bis there offered a truly wonderful French dining experience, with perfectly prepared confit de canard for me, and boeuf bourguignon for my wife. As we always do, we sampled each others’ dinners, which makes it even more fun.

The George, besides being a great place for humans, is also a great place for dogs, and they had a special doggy treat bag ready and waiting for our Boston Terrier – who enjoyed, in what was perhaps his own little political statement, going for a walk and pooping at the same spot in front of the Capitol building every morning.

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