2 Days in DC during Cherry Blossom Season


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Every year in early March, I start tracking the cherry blossom bloom forecasts in giddy anticipation. The National Park service is predicting the 2015 peak bloom to be April 10-14, so I’m already planning how to soak in the fresh color in the nation’s capitol.

I created this 2 day guide with all my favorite local spots for budget-minded travelers coming to DC.

Because of all the visitors to the region during this special time of year, I DON”T recommend driving and parking in DC.

We’ve tried it in the past, and the parking is severely limited! This year, we’ll do a combination of metro and UBER ride service to get to our favorite places. At the end of the post, I offer a special UBER discount code to use.

Day 1

Start off the morning right with brunch at Ted’s Bulletin in the Capitol area. This fun diner is decorated like a retro newspaper office. All the food is great here, especially the breakfast burritos. The pop tarts are also good. This year, I’m going to try the peanut butter and bacon version.

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From there, we’ll take a quick UBER ride to the Tidal Basin for 360 degree views of cherry blossoms framing the Jefferson memorial, the National Monument, and even the Smithsonian museums. This year, we’re going to take a paddle boat out on the water, and see the trees from a different perspective on the water.

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After walking around the basin and taking loads of photos, we’re planning to pop into one of the Smithsonian museums since they’re right there. Next, I’ll head over to Lafayette Square across the street from the White House to take more photographs of the most beautiful trees.

Our yearly tradition is to make a pit stop at the Willard Hotel Intercontinental for a cocktail as the afternoon turns into evening. The patio tables, which have been stored away all winter, come out and it’s the most relaxing time to people watch and welcome spring. While you’re there, take a peek inside the historic lobby to admire the carpets, marble columns, and chandelier.

For dinner, we’ll head over to the nearby Old Ebbet’s Grill, a DC landmark with a very famous bar that has welcomed famous Washingtonians since 1856.

After dinner, there are plenty of other bars to pop into in the area… you could even easily walk over to the National Monument to admire it at night.

Day 2

We’ll start the day by taking the metro to Georgetown for brunch at Leopold’s Cafe. They have an outdoor patio and serve the most delicious rich coffee, Austrian style. I got the almond croissant in addition to a savory quiche the last time, but this year, I’m going to try one of the beautiful Austrian desserts from the long glass case in the center of the restaurant.

After eating, we’ll wander around the Georgetown neighborhood to admire the historic brick town homes and take a quick walk with our dog along the C & O canal.

Next up, we’ll take an UBER ride to the National Arboretum, which has acres of hills, trees, and wildlife. During cherry blossom season, there are miles and miles of pink and white trees to admire, and you can even do a 3 mile self-guided walking tour.

During other times of year, this is a great destination for having a picnic, admiring seasonal plants and flowers, and attending local festivals such as the bonzai, ikebana, and azaleas festivals during spring and summer. There is even a moon-lit hike that sells out every month. One of the best things is that it’s dog friendly too.

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After exploring the National Arboretum for a few hours, we’ll take an UBER to our FAVORITE pizza place, Menomale for some authentic brick oven pizza. There is an outdoor patio, so our dog can sit with us.

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Cherry blossom season is a really special time of year in Washington DC and Northern Virginia. Visiting all the national monuments and landmarks with a back drop of pink and white trees is lovely, but colorful trees are growing everywhere, in different neighborhoods and along major roads.

If you’re planning a trip to DC for cherry blossom viewing or anytime of year, take advantage of the convenience of UBER. The company  is offering this special promotion code, good for the rest of 2015.

Enjoy!


Scenes Around Key West

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We had a lot of fun lazily strolling around the streets of Key West. I fell in love with all the old houses, the lush greenery, and the offbeat street scenes, of course. (Hello, a trash can for coconuts only!)

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Hemingway’s casa is right there in the middle of the historic district of downtown Key West, and around the corner from our hotel. This house was so enchanting… big wrap around verandah, large open windows to let the ocean breeze through, and unique mementos from his travels around the world.

I would absolutely love to live at this estate and have my own personal writing room (pictured above). That’s where the magic happened, folks.

Hemingway was so focused on his writing that he built this work area in a separate adjacent building to his house. So that he absolutely could not be disturbed by anyone, he had a wire suspension bridge built between his bedroom and the workroom, which was the only way in.

In its day, this estate was considered so luxurious and expensive… I especially enjoyed the custom gold and black decorative tile in the bathroom.

I was actually somewhat surprised that the Hemingway house was so charming. I didn’t expect to love it, as I’ve read tons of Hemingway in my life and formed all these negative opinions about him and his relationship with women. I also read The Paris Wife a while back and really hated him after that. Of course, I know that has nothing to do with his home, but I sort of thought his home would be like a man cave or bachelor pad, but it was a lovely oasis. (he only lived there for 13 years while he was married to his second wife) Once he left, he never returned, which is a real shame.

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The next post is all about food… I’m still thinking about that frozen key lime pie on a stick!


Weekend in Key West

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Last weekend, we escaped the snow and cold in DC and headed to sunny tropical Key West.

I was looking forward to this trip like no other… the sun, the warm ocean breeze, the frozen key lime pie on a stick.

It was all so heavenly and this short vacation came at the perfect time, as we had just gotten 7 inches of snow.

When I lived in San Diego for so many years, I actually forgot that weather was cold in other places and I got desensitized to the beautiful weather there. So, one thing I appreciate about living in the DC area with its changing seasons is that I get so excited about nice weather when we endure a long cold winter.

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Pictured above is one of the cats living at Hemingway’s residence and the sign at Fort Zachary Beach.

One morning, we walked over to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. This park has an old stone fort which served the US during the Civil War, World War I and World War II and there’s an area right on the beach. Incidentally, Sean’s family has some very very distant 8 person removed relation to Zachary Taylor and the family even has a silver punch bowl ladle which belonged to the President himself…

We got caught in a cozy morning rain shower on the beach, but after that, it was breezy and sunny.

I guess I was a little too enthusiastic about chattering on about being in Key West on the beach because Sean finally shushed me (“Can you give me a break for a few minutes?!!!”) and then promptly took a nap. Below is a picture of him after that dramatic moment. I finally did doze a little while listening to the ocean, and of course I had to take the obligatory toes in the ocean picture.

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Our hotel during this trip was the Orchid Key Inn, which had sort of a 60s Mad Men vibe. The pool area was especially lovely, lined with palm trees each adorned with colorful orchids.  I found it to be a bit more expensive than we normally spend on hotel, but being spring and all, it was hard to avoid paying higher prices. In any case, I do think this hotel was worth it, being perfectly located off Duval Street and offering nice small touches like breakfast and a free happy hour.

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collage6There’s so much more to say about this trip. Next up will be pictures of food and sights around town… Stay tuned!

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Tasting Menu at Kapnos DC

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As mentioned in the February look back, one highlight of last month was a dinner with our friends Todd and Nili at Kapnos in DC.

This restaurant serves modern Greek food, and one of the owners/chefs was recently a finalist on Top Chef.

Feeling open-minded and adventurous, we splurged on the tasting menu, which overwhelmed us with all the delicious plates of food that arrived on our table.

Without further adieu, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Warm flatbread with dips (feta, eggplant with pomegranate, and sweet potato)

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Tuna tartar served with taro chips

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Stuffed grape leaves

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Spinach and feta pastry

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Duck and cherry pistachio pastry

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Heirloom beet salad with yogurt

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Sauteed shrimp

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Braised lamb

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Rice pudding

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Baklava and chocolate tart desserts

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Our meal also included some other dishes which I didn’t photograph including seared cauliflower, sea bass, halibut, braised goat, suckling pig, and my favorite, grilled octopus.

Overall, I loved how each dish was presented on on a beautiful rustic plate. This was such a memorable meal, and because we tried the tasting menu, I sampled some food I wouldn’t normally order like the grilled octopus.

Are you a fan of tasting menus or do you prefer to order exactly what you want? 


February Look Back

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What happened to February?

Last month flew by so fast… and I don’t even really know where the time went.

Yes, I do …

There was snow. Lots of snow, which kept us hunkered down inside.

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Then the flu happened for both of us at separate times, but thankfully there are no pictures of that.

All was not lost though. Some great meals were eaten too …

Instead of a fancy dinner for Valentine’s Day, we indulged in a scrumptious brunch at Trummer’s on Main in Clifton.

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Those little pillows of heaven above were beignets, and yes, we ate all of them. I also had avocado eggs benedict with pimento cheese, and Sean got chicken and waffles.

We also joined our friends for a great tasting meal at Kapnos, a greek restaurant in DC. We were big fans of George, who made it to down to number 4 on the latest season of Top Chef, so we were excited to actually see him in the kitchen cooking away the night we visited there. I like to imagine that he prepared this braised lamb just for us…

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This meal at Kapnos was so delicious and beautiful that it deserves its own post (coming soon)

On Sean’s side, he did a 50 mile hike one Saturday in February. You read that correctly. 50 miles. He tried to get me involved too, but I did not fall for that. He posted pictures of his blisters to friends on FB, but I’m not going to do that here.

On my side, I’m a little ashamed to admit I broke down and saw Fifty Shades of Gray with some girlfriends on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to be part of the spectacle, I suppose.

But there’s only one word to describe that experience.

REGRET.

As in, how could fall for the hype? I knew better. I really did.

Anyway, March is already in full swing and there are lots of fun things going on this month, which I will be very excited to share later.

Up on the agenda is a Spring Break trip to Key West, and a special food event which features all you can eat bacon.

How was your February? Are you ready for Spring?


Snowy Day in Salzburg

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From Munich, we took the train to Salzburg for a day trip. When our train pulled into the Salzburg station, the sky was clear. But within minutes, a freak snow storm hit. Big chunks of snow and little visibility.

We spent the whole afternoon drinking lattes, slipping and sliding around the historic center of town, and ducking into shops for warmth.

On a positive note, Salzburg has the most beautiful little shops. My favorites were a unique chocolate shop and a shop devoted entirely to painted eggs.

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