Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Dash to D.C.: I took a weekend in DC for two reasons. One to see the Hopper exhibit at the National Gallery, and two, to accompany Miss Kate and Miss Anna and Anna's current beau to a high-falutin' French restaurant that everyone raves about. Some notes in brief:
  • The Hopper exhibit is fabulous. If it travels to a museum near you, go see it. Hopper's goal (achieved) was to make normalcy interesting, to find a pleasing aesthetic in the mundane. I would love to be able to do with a camera what he did with paints.

  • Also at the National Gallery is an exhibit of J.M.W. Turner, who painted in the very late 18th century and the early 19th. He was a true original and his stunning landscapes were very much ahead of their time. You can consider him the start of impressionism although no one had any idea of such in his day.

  • The National Gallery is free, just in case you were wondering. Well, as free as any tax sponsored institution can be. I always try to have lunch there when I go just to give them a bit of revenue.

  • I made a quick stop in the relatively new Museum of the American Indian. I expected it to be a full-on Wounded-Knee-weep-for-my-people affair, but it wasn't quite that. I gather that they are still fleshing the place out a bit, but my guess is that it stands pretty well as a catalog of what is known about Native Americans of all sorts -- history, habits, present status. I realize it makes me something of a bigot, but I don't see what the big deal is about Native American culture. To my eyes, there isn't much there. I find the simple stories and creation myths rather childish. The primitive survival skills are fine and all, but is that really culture or simply craft? And the dubious and vague claims of being in tune with nature are downright foolish. I tend to think most people get worked up about it because it validates their need to feel culturally aware or empathetic, something which I am too cold-hearted to worry about. Good food in the cafe‚ though -- tasty buffalo chili and flatbread.

  • I stayed at the Hotel Helix, one of the many DC properties of my beloved Kimpton Hotels. It had all the usual trappings -- free wine happy hour, nicely styled (and good-sized) rooms, top-notch staff. The only downside to Helix is its location. It's in the Logan Circle area of DC which is sort of caught in the middle of nowhere, although it's growing. It's healthy hike from the Helix to the Mall or Dupont Circle. In fact it's a half dozen blocks or so just to the nearest Metro station. Because of that I can't really recommend the Helix in winter or if you are not inclined to do a good deal of walking. You're probably better off with one of the other Kimpton properties in the area.

  • The fancy-schmancy restaurant was L'Auberge Chez Francois. Situated in what could easily be mistaken for a private home is the very upscale suburb or Great Falls, VA, you'll need a coat and tie to try this full-on formal six-course Alsatian dinner joint. The food is rich and tasty and excellently prepared. In true Alsatian tradition you can get your game fix here -- four legged mammals of all sorts are available as are a variety of our feathered friends. It was as good as any meal I've ever had. Is any dinner worth in excess of $100 a piece (once you add in drinks and souffles)? Probably not, but that's why you don't do it every day.

  • Lastly, a travel tip. If you do a lot of two-three day trips it might behoove you to pick up a SkyRoll. It conveniently carries a suit and a change or two of shirts and slacks without much wrinkling. There are compartments inside the core of the roll for a pair of shoes, travel kit, socks and underwear and so forth. It was all I needed for two nights in DC, including dress-up dinnerwear. Nifty.