Our Trip to D.C., Part One
April 10, 2007
Left last Thursday night and got back last night after Roman’s Whirlwind Tour of Washington, D.C.
We spent Thursday night in Raleigh at Greg Murray’s house, as he gamely agreed to be the Third Wheel on our trip. He helped with the driving (no small contribution, as I discovered on the trip to Williamsburg), but even more important, he arranged for us all to stay at his brother Kieran’s apartment off Connecticut Ave. in northern DC (a couple of blocks from the National Cathedral). We got on the road about 8:30 and made good time; even after lunch on the road we made it to Kieran’s by 1:30. We had coffee with him in a nearby place (not a Starbucks, but there was one across the street, and one apparently on every other street corner in DC). Then we took him to National Airport, where he met his girlfriend Kristen. Since they were flying to her home in Iowa so he could Meet Her Parents, she is apparently a little more than mere ‘girlfriend.’ We rendezvous’d with her, got them off to their plane, and then went hunting for Arlington Cemetary, which seemed like a good late afternoon starting point for sight-seeing, as it is on the same side of the Potomac as the airport.
I found a parking spot very near the Marine Corps monument (Iwo Jima memorial), and then we walked into the cemetery from the north. As I told Roman and Greg, I hadn’t been back there since our family trip of Easter, 1964, when we went there to see President Kennedy’s grave. They’ve recently built a big new visitor’s center, but that’s the only major change. We climbed to the top of the hill first to Arlington House, since Greg professed not to believe that it was Robert E. Lee’s residence before the Civil War. Then we climbed up and down to the next hill on the South, where we saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers and the Changing of the Guard. Very impressive. Roman says the Russian unknown soldier is buried in the Kremlin wall, and they also have a changing of the Guard. Near that was the Battleship Maine memorial, and two memorials for the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles.
While we were there we heard Taps coming from Fort Myer, so we walked back to see JFK and JBK on the way out. The permanent landscaping is nice- rough stone blocks, with thyme or something growing in the cracks- but I still remember the way it was originally, with the eternal flame burning on top of a mound of christmas fir tree branches inside a white picket fence, with the hats of the serviceman honor guard ringing the grave. It’s nice now, with his speeches engraved on the walls, and the view toward the Capitol is very impressive. But there were dozens of people there, and while it was somber, it wasn’t at all intimate. For that, the RFK grave is much more impressive– just his simple marble footstone, with a white wooden cross in the grass. It’s tucked away to the south side of the JFK grave, and is virtually hidden. I was the only one there for several minutes, until a tour bus of Italians came.
When we finally got back to the car, Roman was worried that we might be late for our dinner appointment at 7PM. His friend from Orenburg, Kristina, and her host family, had spent all week in DC and were meeting us for their last night in town. We had agreed to meet at the Russia House (http://www.russiahouselounge.com/), which I’d found on the internet and Roman decided was the best place to introduce us to Russian cuisine. I got lost on the way back to Kieran’s (just to add to Roman’s anxiety), and even though we took showers and upgraded clothes, we still made it on time because the restaurant turned out to be within a mile of the apartment- just two Metro stops down the Red Line subway. The Cleveland Park station is right beside Kieran’s, and the Restaurant is near the Dupont Circle stop. We arrived and were greeted warmly by Kristina (Roman appeared to be greeted VERY warmly). Her host mother is Lisa, a single mother of two daughters in Indianapolis. We had a great evening with them, talking and taking pictures. Roman and Kristina insisted that Lisa, Greg and I start dinner with shots of vodka in the Russian way (Roman picked out Gzehlka, which he said was very good, and it was). Along with the vodka the waiter brought a little glass of pickles, and Roman said that after we chugged the vodka shot, we must ‘smell the cucumber with all your might!” We laughed, but that is evidently the closest many Russians get to having vegetables with dinner!
After that we all tried out dinner “numbers” of the Russian beer, Baltika (number 4, that I had, is their Dark Lager; Greg went with #5, their Golden Lager; and Lisa had #9, the “Extra Lager”, with the 8.0 alcohol content. Roman and I had borscht soup, and there were perogis as an appetizer. I got Beef Stroganov, which was great; Roman got Pelmini, his favorite food, which look very much like stuffed raviolis; Lisa got Chicken Kiev and Greg got a pork chop dish. Everyone tried the chocolate mousse and creme brulee for dessert, and we all had a great time. We had to pry Roman and Kristina apart, as we went our separate ways on the subway.
By the time we got home, we were all exhausted. My plan was to start early Saturday, at the Capitol. More later.