An afternoon at Dumbarton Oaks

Visits to DC are a fairly common occurrence for me. I generally go to visit my sister and brother-in-law and eat great food – hard to come by reservations are on the menu if I’m lucky. But I also do my best to visit a new neighbourhood or museum.

This time I went to Dumbarton Oaks, a hidden treasure in Georgetown. Now, Georgetown is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my favourite place. Oftentimes crowded with obnoxious people, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for when escaping NYC. But the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks are a welcome respite from the noise.

It was the home of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, an American diplomat and his wife. They spent a significant amount of time improving the house and grounds before conveying the property to Harvard University with the intent that it exist as an institute for scholarship and the arts.

Today the building of the main house is a museum, library, and archive.

Pass through the old orangery to get to the back of the house and the grounds.

The property is divided in to a series of terraces and enclosed gardens. The place isn’t overwhelming in size, but there are quite a few steps and slopes along the way.

This is the pebble garden, one of the prettiest parts of Dumbarton Oaks in my opinion. Made up of thousands of pebbles in varying colours and sizes laid in a mosaic resembling a sheaf of wheat.

Winding pathways lead to wonderful flower gardens, pools and shady nooks. There are lots of benches along the way, perfect spots to while away an afternoon reading a book.

This small patch of lawn just outside the orangery, overlooking the pool and the pebble garden was my favourite spot. Just warm enough, a little dappled sunlight coming through the trees. I think I spent a couple of hours here reading peacefully and admiring the beautiful house.

Like a lot of places in DC, Dumbarton Oaks has an interesting story and rich history. They do charge admission for access to the gardens (not for the museum or library) and though there are many wonderful free places to visit in DC I highly recommend going to Dumbarton Oaks if you can.


White House Garden Tour

Our First Lady made a pledge to open up the White House to the public more frequently during her husband’s tenure. One of the ways they have done this is with tours of the gardens.

We were lucky to have gorgeous weather. Plenty of sunshine and barely a cloud in the sky.

As you can see in the picture above there were quite a few people there, but it never really felt crowded.

We approached from the east and first came upon the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden.

The White House is quite unusual in that it looks a lot larger from a distance, which is the opposite of what you would expect. I was surprised by how small it is up close. I first thought that this was one of the sides of the house, not the front.

There he is, the man of the hour, Bo Obama!! I turned around and there he was walking up behind me. My sister was quick enough to get this photo before he went inside.

The Washington Monument to the left and the Jefferson Memorial straight ahead in the distance.

The Rose Garden just outside the Oval Office.

The Oval Office.

The hive where the White House honey comes from. Now famous for being included in the White House honey ale and honey porter.

It was really an amazing experience, not everybody gets to do something like this and I’m so glad I was able to. Now I just have to wait for my brother-in-law to call about the next event…

Travel: DC Cherry Blossoms

Spring has come early to the East Coast this year and I couldn’t be happier about it. My mother’s birthday just passed recently and my sister had planned a weekend in DC to celebrate. Most of her plans went out the window when the cherry blossoms bloomed early. Mum loves flowers and there was no way she was going to skip a look at these gorgeous blooms.

This year is the centennial of the planting of the cherry blossom trees. The trees were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington DC in 1912. Today some 3000 trees surround the Tidal Basin and envelop it in fluffy pink clouds each Spring.

The blooms hang over the path around the Tidal Basin, slightly obscuring your view. Cherry blossom-tinted glasses if you will. Above is the Jefferson Memorial seen through the trees, quite a contrast to the winter.

Saturday was the most beautiful day, almost 80° and perfectly clear skies. Lots of pedal boats out on the water, people bicycling around the city, and of course plenty of ice cream.

Travel: Washington DC

After close to 9 months of studying I finally have my life back. This past weekend I took a long overdue trip to Washington DC to visit my sister and brother-in-law. I can’t believe it had been almost a year since my last trip.

Left work early on Friday afternoon and arrived at Union Station at 8pm. I had never seen the station before as I’d either driven or taken a bus in to another location. The architecture is gorgeous and it’s hard to believe it’s only been around for 100 years or so.  Since they live in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood we were able to walk home. Walking from the Senate side of the Capitol we passed the Supreme Court, and then over to the House side and the Library of Congress. It was so amazing to see all these places with almost nobody else around. I wish I had taken some pictures, but it was freezing and I had no plans to take my hands out of my pockets.

Saturday we went over to Eastern Market for some lunch before heading in to Georgetown for the afternoon to do some shopping. This place is crazy on the weekends, just take a look at this picture of the line outside Georgetown Cupcake, it was this long every time we passed by. They’re just cakes people.


To get away from all the tourists, we stopped in the garden of the Old Stone House – the oldest private residence in Washington DC. Even though the house is right on M Street, the little garden is surprisingly quiet and there were a few people sitting in the sunshine reading.

Sunday we decided to go and see the new MLK memorial. It sits on one side of the Tidal Basin, opposite the Jefferson Memorial and next to FDR’s. I wasn’t really that impressed, I don’t even think the statue looks like him. FDR’s memorial on the other hand, is lovely.  It’s set further back away from the edge of the water and cannot be seen from a distance.  It’s much lower to the ground than the other memorials and far more accessible. You walk from one side to the other (his first term to his fourth), reading quotes, looking at statues and listening to the sound of waterfalls.

We ended the weekend at the National Gallery of Art to see the Chester Dale collection, no pictures unfortunately, even without a flash I don’t feel right taking photographs in a museum.

It was so great to get away from the city, even though it was just for a short weekend.  I need to remember to do this more often.