“Excuse me, but can you take my photo,” a stranger asked me as I was walking to the National Gallery of Art for an impromptu visit with my friends, French Impressionists Degas, Renoir and Monet. Behind her was the immaculate U.S. Capital, shining in a center of white snow.
The sun seemed to have made its way from behind the clouds at the National Mall, despite the major blizzard that had hit a few weeks earlier. Even after a very cold, gray winter, hundreds of people were still making their way to the monument.
The nation’s capital still makes even residents stare in awe. When I step foot on it, I feel a sense of pride. On one side is the capital building, on the other, is the Washington Monument (the tallest structure in the city), and in front, the entrance to many, many worlds.
Being a tourist in Washington D.C. can be fun as well as inexpensive. The variety of exhibits in the museums offer a variety of choices to choose from–whether you a history buff, carry a love for science or an art enthusiast–there is something for you, and it doesn’t cost a penny. Admission to most of the museums are free, and of course, there are no entrance fees to any of the monuments.
Food can get expensive, but if you are looking for a great dining experience in close proximity to the museums and monuments at a reasonable price then the Museum of the American Indian is a must place to dine; it also happens to be one of my favorites. The café inside this museum is not your typical Smithsonian Café. You have a choice of foods indigenous to regions in the Western Hemisphere. I love the corn, yellow tacos, blue tortilla chips and fresh salsa!
After a fabulous lunch at the museum, I spent some time at other museums. Two of my favorite are the National Gallery of Art (obviously) and the National Museum of American History.
Both museums are extremely large and filled with so much to see. Because of this, I have a strategy in place beforehand. At the National Gallery of Art, I viewed paintings from legendary artists like DeGoya, Fragonard, Van Eyck, America’s beloved artist, Gilbert Stuart, and of course, works by France‘s impressionists. Unlike any of the other museums, the National Gallery of Art provides you with a sense of calmness and serenity. The water fountains contribute to the ambiance of the museum. A simple stroll through a few galleries, looking at paintings dating back hundreds of years, made my afternoon perfect.
National Museum of American History, which reopened last summer after a huge renovation is another favorite of mine. There are two particular exhibits that I adore–Julia Child’s Kitchen and the First Ladies Exhibit. I love food and I love fashion, and these two combine both of my passions!
Julia Child is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits, and you can understand why! Julia Child’s is a national treasure. She changed the way we eat turning a monotonous chore into something fun, and the family’s kitchen into a center of entertainment and socializing! Everything in her kitchen is just how she left it. It is an absolute delight, and Julia remains a part of it, even to this day. Videos of her famous cooking shows and personal interviews are played again and again. But, I have to say, though her cooking is what made her famous–one of my favorite stories about her is her marriage to Paul Child. As Paul Child’s says to her in Julie & Julia, “You are the breath to my air” –now that’s romantic!
The First Ladies is exhibit is another favorite of mine. The dresses and jewelry are absolutely gorgeous. Strolling through the exhibit looking at dresses from Martha Washington (our first lady) to Nancy Reagan (a fashion icon herself), you are taken inside the U.S.’s history, the women who defined them and their fashion sense! One of my favorite dresses was Grace Coolidge’s flapper dress, the reigning first lady during the 1920s!
But it’s the stories of the first ladies that capture my heart. Of course, we know the stories about how Dolly Madison saved the portrait of George Washington when the British attacked the White House during the War of 1812, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s famous pearls that John Jr. so fondly grabbed, but what about Frances Cleveland. Cleveland was considered the Jackie Kennedy of her time. She was young, stylish most beloved first ladies and a fashion icon of her time. Who knew!
After a few hours at the national mall, I wandered out into a local neighborhood. The U Street Corridor is my favorite! Chocolate Bar on 14th street is a popular local hang out for many residents. ACKC is D.C.’s premier cocoa bar. The bar offers a menu of chocolate drinks, chocolate desserts and much more. Of course, if you just want a Latte or Cappuccino, you can order one. But, I prefer the Lucy, one of the bar’s diva drinks. The Lucy is hot chocolate with a kick-red pepper. The pairing of chocolate and pepper is indescribable and delicious, and a must try!
Washington D.C. is filled with many activities. It doesn’t matter what your interests are because you will be sure to find anything that interests you. For me, it’s obvious–food, art and fashion!!
Sherrie Bakshi is freelance writer. A Southern girl at heart and a native of Charleston, S.C., Bakshi currently resides in Washington D.C. She has written for a number of publications, including Audrey Magazine, Charleston Magazine, and Tango Diva.com. She is also writes for her own blog, Sherinthecity.wordpress.com, highlighting her own adventures.