We started out quite perkily this morning, stepping out over the road to grab a hot drink and a bite to eat. We returned somewhat heavier of foot later in the day, weary and footsore but what a great day we’d had.
The forecast had predicted unseasonably warm temperatures today, so we left several layers of clothing in the hotel and set out with just T shirt and jacket. Sure enough, as soon as we were outdoors, we recognised that we were not going to need the jackets for long – even at this time of the morning, men were walking around in shirtsleeves. So strange.
We were heading for Georgetown and caught the metro to Foggy Bottom, by Washington Circle, there just below the centre of the map. From there, we’d walk a few blocks, we thought.
Would it be quicker to cross the centre of the circle or to walk around it? We chose to walk across the middle and soon decided that it had been a mistake! No worries, we weren’t in a hurry because places in this part of the city don’t open until 10 and we had ooodles of time.
As in many American cities, the same street names keep cropping up in different areas and it can be rather confusing.
But we persevered and shortly before ten, we were arriving in Georgetown, a smart historical district.
Suddenly, we weren’t in a large American city any more but a small English market town, it seemed.
M Street NW had the feel of Upper Street, Islington though, with smart individual shops, bars and cafes targeting young, affluent singles and families.
Some parts felt very much like home – the Stone House is the oldest building in Washington DC having been built in 1765. Now run by the National Parks, the house and adjacent garden were a bit out of place, really.
The big names were here too, of course, but tucked into small, individual buldings like this one. I’d been looking out for Anthropologie so was pleased to step inside and see what’s what, but really, it was too small and tightly packed and I couldn’t find the thing I’d been looking for. Never mind.
Across the road was Paper Source and though they seemed to be stocked with the same old same old seasonal goodies as previous years, nevertheless, I was glad to have a mooch around and find a couple of things for my December Daily journal.
One great thing about Paper Source shops is that they are always well stocked and neatly organised, unlike the cheapy “warehouse” style of Michaels et al.
Mission accomplished and Georgetown ticked off, we jumped on a bus to Farragut Square, from where we could catch a metro train back downtown.
By this time, we were both carrying our coats – what a pain!
It was so good to sit on the train though and rather cooler down there in the tunnels.
We arrived at the Gallery-Chinatown station and were heading for the American Art Gallery across the road.
Guess what time it opens? Bingo! Perfect timing!!
The doors were opened as we climbed the steps to go in. We were so pleased to be able to stash our bags and coats in a locker and wander freely around those cool corridors for a while!
It’s not a huge museum and divided into two: the Gallery of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. We’d really come to see the portraits, so made a start with them.
Here were familiar faces – Benjamin Franklin was one of the first to greet us.
Louisa May Alcott was in the next room – not that I’d have recognised her, but isn’t it interesting to put a face to such a familiar name?
Further down the corridor, what on earth is this doing here – a sewing machine?
The answer was on the wall alongside – here is Isaac Singer, actor and inventor, whose scandalous private life forced him to live abroad in Europe but who nevertheless found time to pose for this rather extravagant portrait!
Alongside him was a rather quieter gentleman, from the look of his portrait at any rate. Thomas Edison looks a bit more ordinary and somewhat younger than I’d have guessed.
Whilst we were looking at those two gentleman, a very familiar face was looking across at us – here for the umpteenth time this year is our friend Frederick Douglass, one of the stand out characters of our road trip earlier in the year.
There nearby was his good friend, Susan B Anthony and just across on an adjacent wall, Elizabeth Cady Stantion, whose home we’d visited in Seneca Falls, too.
Seeing portraits like this is a very effective means of learning about American history for non-historians like me!
But even I was familiar with this couple, once I’d read their name. This is Mr and Mrs Ghirardelli, Italian chocolatiers in Lima, Peru before they chose to emigrate to California in 1849 and start trading there.
There was a jar of their wares in the coffee shop next door, too!
We decided it was time for a sit down, then, and found a space in the atrium for a while. When the time came for us to get up and get going again though, we wondered if it had been a good idea?!
No photographs were allowed in the next exhibit, but both of us loved Richard Este’s hyperrealistic paintings. Not normally either of our things, these very detailed paintings captured street life in New York amongst other places so well and made for really good viewing!
As we left the exhibition though, what greeted us was quite an eyeful! Had the museum stripped out a cathedral or something? What was all of this glitz and glitter?
It’s not what you (or we) thought. I’ll tell you about it in the next post!