We began our first full day in the capital city fortified with a magnificent breakfast in the hotel dining room. In addition to the customary eggs, bacon, waffles, cereal, and grits, there were other tasty treats such as salmon, capers, and a nice variety of fruit, including my personal favorite, the sweetest, plumpest, most succulent blackberries I’ve ever tasted. Plus, each day we were there, our server brought complimentary strawberry smoothies to us, and I can still taste the rich twang of the fruit. Nice!

Armed with directions, Tilara led our little band of tourists towards the Holocaust Museum. Walking briskly to stay warm, we nonetheless managed to take in the many interesting sights around us. As we stopped at a stoplight, I noticed a lovely young woman with a beautiful smile looking at us. I had begun to wonder if we looked weird or something when she asked, “Do you ladies need some directions?”

After about ten seconds of hesitation, we told her of our destination. She assured us that we were headed in the right direction and then began to fill us in on some inside information, the kind of stuff that residents know. Turns out she was a graduate student at Gallaudet University who was taking the day off to do the tourist thing. Alyssa was missing her mother, and we were missing our daughters, so we five banded together for a splendid day of sightseeing.

After crossing the street, we walked through a beautiful park filled with art work and sculpture. I took several photographs and am including two of my favorites. I love trees, even stark wintry ones, so I was captivated by this silver one whose branches were bereft of foliage. And the headless people? I can’t explain its appeal. Maybe I liked it because of its uniqueness. In my hometown (dear as it is), we have statues of heroes (all male), not a gallery of headless, sexless human creatures.

Alyssa led us across the mall and pointed out the various Smithsonian museums. Continuing our walk, we soon crossed another street and found ourselves at the entry of the Holocaust Museum. Four hours later, we emerged, sobered and vowing to “never forget.” Of all the things I saw and heard there, I think the hundreds of black and white photographs of children, family units, couples, brothers, sisters, and friends affected me the most. Here were people just like me enjoying the sunshine and the fellowship of loved ones, and then there was nothing. While in the gift shop, I reread portions of Elie Weisel’s Night. I immediately remembered reading this on the beach one summer, sure that the bright sun and lapping waves would lessen the horror. They didn’t.

I didn’t take any photographs at this museum. No one did.

Our next stop was the Old Post Office Pavilion on Pennsylvania Avenue, an attraction that Connie had read about online. It has a huge statue of Benjamin Franklin, founder of the United States Post Office, out front so we seized the opportunity for a photo op with him.  While there, we had snacks and enjoyed the beautiful architecture before going  up to the bell tower atop the building. It was freezing! Still, our time there was worthwhile, not only because of all the bells but also because of the fabulous views of the city. The woman working in the tower was kind enough to come out of her warm little cubicle to take this picture.

We told Alyssa that one of our goals was to eat ethnic food while we were in the capital city, and she recommended a restaurant called the Thiatantic. Catchy, huh? On the way to the metro, we walked by the Navy Memorial and took some cool pictures of us with the tall, handsome sailor standing with his duffel bag. As our knowledgeable young tour guide pointed out, he stands overlooking a map of the world.

The metro ride was interesting, and we were all happy to have experienced this as part of our trip. As soon as we walked into the restaurant, we were captivated by its charm. The menu was extensive, the décor was simple yet eloquent, the service was outstanding, and the food was delicious. Interestingly, one of Alyssa’s friends and her beau were also dining there, and she agreed to take our picture.  I enjoyed the evening so much that on our way home, we made a stop in Target so that I could purchase a scarf like Alyssa’s friend was wearing as a momento.

Back on the metro, Alyssa gave us instructions on what to do once we got back in Chinatown and the metro stop that was just a few blocks from our hotel. We all hugged Alyssa good-bye (for now), and Tilara extracted a promise from her that she’d call once she was back in her apartment safe and sound. You’d think four “mature” women would get it right, right? But no, we took a little detour before finally getting on the right train that was going in our direction.

Back at the Renaissance, we chatted about our experiences, all of them made better because of meeting our young friend who was kind enough to share her knowledge of the city. She also taught us some sign language, and one of my favorite expressions is, “Think for yourself.”

Day Two and the Smithsonian to follow….

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