we left san francisco on a very wet and dismal morning, which seemed appropriate,
and took a united airlines flight over the snowy interior
to dulles international airport, virginia. it was dark when we arrived at our hotel, which was the conference hotel, actually not in DC at all but in ‘pentagon city’, basically a big residential centre and shopping mall directly adjacent to the actual pentagon. it was a snazzy hotel
and we were tired and ordered room service
and i got a kick out of watching NCIS on tv. in washington. get it?
(dont laugh, there was a tshirt stall in the mall selling NCIS tshirts. at least i know its just a tv show). the conference had strange registration and program times, so i managed to get quite a lot of spare time. the first thing we did was head across the potomac
to union square station
to buy our train tickets to NY via philadelphia. a very helpful and charming amtrak man made that very simple. we stuck our heads outside for a moment, into a very cold wind,
and then scurried back into the metro
in search of the national mall
we looked at a monument or two,
then walked along all the smithsonians
with all the school groups
to the sculpture garden of the national gallery of art.
there is an ice rink here, but more about that later. we had lunch in the sculpture garden cafe and it was very nice to see a familiar bottle of red on the menu
we met the first of many elusive squirrels along pennsylvania ave,
before we found the very impressive national gallery of art.
we started with the west wing, which has the more classical collection. they had an amazing exhibition from the dale collection, seriously one of the best collections of early modern european portraits ive ever seen. these people had some serious money, and have bequeathed most of their impressive pieces to the gallery. it really was quite breathtaking. they also had one of the best collections of dutch painting ive ever seen, even better than what i saw at the rijksmuseum in amsterdam. the vermeers, oh so beautiful. and such a great building, you go underground to the shop and cafe
and there is a tunnel with a moving walkway and lots of shiny lights that connects the west wing to the east wing.
this was very cool, as was the east wing, which has the modern art collection. lots of o’keefes, lichtensteins
plenty of rothkos (my favourite. i dont know why, i just love him)
a huge salvador dali, and the very cool rothko tower, full of black rothkos.
i loved it here, one of the best galleries ive ever been to, and a real highlight of the trip. when we’d done the art thing, we went back to the sculpture garden and nardine had a go at ice skating, while i watched and knitted
this was really cool, such a great atmosphere, cold but a glorious sunset,
and people out and having fun.
almost enough to make you like christmas. nardine needed a bit of help at first,
but before long, she had no trouble.
i really enjoyed the hour or so we spent here, just sitting and watching people have fun. i will remember DC very fondly because of this experience.
our second outing into DC proper was in search of the white house, we emerged from the metro into the very formal but pretty downtown area
with some very impressive streetscapes (pardon the blurry)
and followed the fence around to the front of the white house.
for some reason i thought you could get closer, but this was the best my camera could do.
an impressive building nonetheless. then we headed off to chinatown
(quite possibly the smallest chinatown in the history of chinatowns) where we saw a movie (the third narnia. good!) and discovered the best dumplings in town.
the place was packed. a sure sign, and it was very good. no ‘bbq king’, but very good.
in between all this there was a conference and it went very well. there was plenty of interest in my papers and the first one went well so that eased my nerves a bit, and then i ran a four paper symposium on sat morning that was standing room only and generated plenty of discussion with some very big whigs in the field, and people wanted to keep talking after, so i think thats a good sign. i have plenty of work to do when i go back in two weeks, but lets not think about that now.
once the conference was over we had our regular breakfast at starbucks across the road
(did i tell you we took a jar of vegemite with us. thank god we did. it saved our arse, a lot). we did a bit of shopping at that nordstrom, it was really nice in there, and my lovely sister bought me a long coveted pair of chanel sunglasses for xmas (love you narsty), then we jumped on the metro again and headed up to dupont circle, just for something different.
nardine went hunting for squirrels again
then we found the amazing kramarbooks,
which had a huge selection,
and i may have bought a few things
(lest you think i am way behind the times, i read ‘the secret history’ years ago and i had a very groovy trade paperback that some idiot friend dropped in the bath, and id wanted to replace it ever since, and here it was, same cover and everything. for only $15 dollars. yes indeed, every single one of these books not a dime over $15. sorry aussie publishing industry, no more support from me).
we saw this guy from the human rights campaign on the street selling tshirts (the prop 8 think was happening again while we were there) and we stopped and talked for a while and nardine got a very cool tshirt (so gay so what!), and we got a recommendation for dinner, so after looped, we wandered a few blocks into the local neighbourhood to annies paramount steak house where we ordered WAY too much food again
(we had left overs for supper at least), and crashed early for our final night.
i really liked DC. its a lot like canberra, low profile buildings, things kind of the same colour, wide open streets, everything very formal and planned, but its got a bit more life in it, in some ways. obviously, more people helps. but it had some interesting moments. i saw a group of young african american and muslim-attired men get harrassed for no apparent reason. i saw four squad cars arrive and cuff someone for jaywalking. there was a strong military presence, with army uniforms in regular view, and ads for lockheed martin jets and carriers in the subway. there was a strong racial element here too, with all of the hotel and restaurant service people being latino, and a lot of the retail staff young african american, and there was a sense of infrastructure starting to crumble as well. there was not one single construction site in the whole of DC, no public works vehicles, no public facilities (bathrooms etc), and regular breakdowns of escalators in the subways. a sense of things fraying at the edges, if you know what i mean. an indication of interesting times ahead.
i probably wont blog again now until after this stupid christmas thing everyone does (at least i have good plans this year with my ex-cousins-in-law), and when i come back i think there will be a few new york posts.
have a safe and happy holiday