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VivreCITIES: Washington D.C.

June 1,  2022

Washington D.C is our nation’s capital, the hub of our country, and our political center. But there’s a lot more to Washington DC than just vessels of one ideology to another, halls of power and striking marble slabs ... like cherry blossoms, eclectic food, amazing art, museums ... lots of them, containing all the lessons we need to be reminded of histories we shall not repeat. And history itself. DC is a living history book of American history, the ground where so many stories of presidents and their wives ... and girlfriends and family dramas were told. It is quite an eccentric state, or district I should say. 

You always start DC touring the monuments. Tourists or not ... monuments first. You go, you pay respect because you love this country, you read the histories and you get on with your day. Or otherwise, it's always a beautiful walkaround where the monuments are. A nice way to reset, to clear your head. I always love a stroll from the Lincoln Memorial which I find monumental everytime, then along the reflection pool to the Obelisk, which always stops me for a moment. It's just standing there, so tall and erect. If you drown out the tourists all around, you'd find a solitary moment there. Sometimes I walk over to the Vietnam Memorial nearby, I always see old vets visiting. I would think how lucky they are to be alive today. And I would look at the seemingly endless amount of names engraved on the black marble and think, how many families have empty chairs during the holidays. How many children have cried because their fathers never returned home ... 

A quick Uber ride takes you to Georgetown and the Canals. That has become my favorite DC hangout. Georgetown has evolved so much in the last decade, from a cafe filled collegetown to now a bustling waterside community with more cupcake shops than you can count. Of course, first stop, Georgetown Cupcakes. I'm not a fan of cupcakes, but when in Georgetown ... then I make way to Clyde's, an American-Irish pub. During warm weather months, sit outside, its great for people watching and their food, is delicious. Try their crab tower. Just trust me. Then you have Levain Bakery and a few quaint coffee shops. But always, always find Ben's Chili Bowl. Ben's Chili Bowl is a landmark restaurant in DC and it fulfills both food and history. Known for its chili dogs, half-smokes, and milkshakes, and has been an integral part of the neighborhood's history since its founding in 1958. They have several locations, but the Georgetown location is their original. 

Take a stroll down the side streets to the waterside, you'd pass the canals. Definitely a great neighborhood to spend the day with lots of fun shops to dip in and out of. And somewhere along the 

way, in between neighborhood, a walk down Embassy Row is quite fascinating. A mix of mansions and apartment-like buildings ... some well-preserved Gilded Age estates and townhouses, while some newly built and acquired, it is both historic and multicultural. 

Besides patriotic pride, when in DC, a museum or two is a must. There is the collective of museums called Smithsonians. This group of world-renowned museum and research complex consists of 17 museums, galleries and a zoo. The National Zoo in that collection was quite impressive. I can actually spend the day there. And then there is the Museum of American History. it's not as boring as it may sound to some of you, it's a pretty fun museum to walk through, but you don't need an entire day. It is all about the evolution of time. Each era has its own space, and everyone will find a piece of memory in there from their childhood days. It's a walk through time capsules after time capsules of various themes from the glamour of first ladies to the changes of fast foods. Outside of the Smithsonian, there are a ton of museums. As a Renaissance & Neoclassic art lover, I was thoroughly surprised at the beauty of all the original work of art hung in the Museum of the Bible. It's certainly not so much of a kids museum unless they have some understanding of the bible. But if you have an appreciation for the bible, the real lives behind the bible, Renaissance, Neoclassic or Baroque art ... this museum is for you.

After all the shopping, the foods, the museum hopping, time for another landmark destination and my favorite: Arlington Cemetery. Arlington Cemetery is the home where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies. Catch the somber changing of the guards which happens every hour. This takes place rain or shine, around the clock 24 hours a day. Find where the fallen astronauts from the Challenger rest. And there, perched high on the hill is the final resting place of President John F. Kennedy, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, their 2 day old child Patrick Kennedy and their stillborn daughter Annabelle ... and there, marked their site is the eternal flame. That eternal flame is symbolic of a chapter in history that will live on forever.

We continue with more eating ... catch Sunday brunch at Teddy and the Bully Bar. This restaurant is beautiful inside, mildly ornate mixed with a little Park Avenue modern glam and it also has a fabulous outdoor space. It is ode to Teddy Roosevelt and his love for American fare like game, steak and oysters. Grab coffee at La Colombe (that was good) and we tried attempting an all pink shop Call Your Mother ... but that morning line wrapped around like it was the most popular Disneyland ride. We decided a line like that is just not worth it for coffee ... DC is a city of its own with its own pulse. And that will always be, the the pulse of our country. 

Shhhhh! Secret Spot  ~  Havana, Havana

On a quiet residential street, beneath a low-storied apartment building, you'd miss this if you don't look, sunken in is Casta's Rum Bar. Upon walking in, it's dark. A long brick walkway guides us past a Cuban flag-framed door, where we’re led into a dimly lit cave. We were there for dinner. Ummm where is the restaurant? A bit mysterious. There a vintage metal safe doubles as the hostess stand, surrounded by chipped and textured nude walls that emulate worn-in bars in Cuba. Then we were taken through this low-ceiling path ... dark but yet sensory overload ... is it a restaurant? A night club, a performing space? It does serve as a brunch spot by day ... Another path of sharp twists and turns unlocks a lively scene straight out of Havana, complete with two bars, murals of Cuban quotes, monuments, and icons, twinkling lights, and the hidden in the back, a room or makeshift alleyway replicating the authenticity of the streets of Cuba. Were we in some movie set?! We sat down and I felt at home. You see, during my teenage years I'd spent many winters in Cuba. From the mélange of noble monuments, spanish colonial architecture and hip-gyrating music to candy colored vintage cars and perfectly chipped aged walls. That was a familiar sound, a familiar sight and even a familiar smell to me. Casta's is home ... well as close as you can get. Don't expect a full menu complete with mofongo, Ropa Vieja or Lechon Asado. The menu is simple: cuban paninis, empanadas, fried pork chunks (really really good) ... they do have "Las Borrachas" and grilled garlic shrimp. Of course, mojitos complete with that street-side sugarcane you so mannerlessly chew on. And yes, I chewed and spit sugarcane. Cuban style. The vibe was amazing. You could be a diner. A clubber. A cigar smoker. A lounger. All in one space but yet they each do not interfere with another. This was indeed, a gem in DC, the best secret find. 

What's in my travel bag ... DC Style ... 

DC has its own style. At any given time, you open your eyes, it is always a bit of suits and jackets mixed with fanny pack, knee socks tourists wear. So one can say anything goes, but I say, Elle Woods! I'm half kidding ... but to me, DC always reminds me of red, white and blue. So that really translates to pink, white and blue. For me, dresses, always. I do pack a set of t-shirt and skinny jeans, just in case it gets chilly.  And no matter what time of year, I find DC can unexpectedly get a bit chilly or windy. So layering clothes, a casual blazer or in my case, a pink leather jacket is important. And DC is all about walking. Yes, I love my taxis and ubers, but DC is just not one of those trips, so comfortable shoes always. I usually pack my Converse or lace sneakers. And because there is so much walking, as much as I am good with wearing my medical grade SPF, sometimes, a baseball cap can be your friend during the day especially when the sun is beating right over your head. And ladies, I wear sunglasses all the time. I even wear sunglasses when it is semi-gloomy ... why?! Eye wrinkles. We do not want eye wrinkles. And while we are playing tourist in DC, always a small, light weight crossbody bag. Lastly, to end my day, everyday the first thing back to the hotel, I have to use the Radiante Tissu skin prep pad to do a swipe on my face. Between dust, dirt and sweat ... I need to make sure my pores are kept squeaky clean. So a trip like this, the Radiante Tissu is my best friend. 

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