A Weekend of Culture

I tend to get stressed out whenever my parents are in town to visit me, mostly because they complain that they never see me at home and I feel like I ahve to entertain them 24/7 when they do make the trip down.  It is a given when they visit they A) fret about me being single and ask why I “haven’t found a nice girl” B) try to clean up my apt, no matter how clean I make it before they arrive C) unload tons of Ikea stuff they bought on trip over D) take me shopping and make me delicious meals.  Usually I fail in getting us to stick to our agenda, but this weekend went really smoothly.

I met my parents after work at Circa At Dupont, a new restaurant that opened on the corner of Connecticut and Q.  The food was only ok, but it was nice to sit outside on the street and peoplewatch as I caught up with my parents…

I was supposed to go to a going away gathering for a friend that night, which happened to be on the rooftop of an apartment nearby off of Dupont Circle.  After sending my parents back to my apt I headed up there and met up with my friends, but they immediately demanded I invite my parents and ensured it would be okay.  So I brought them up to the roof to meet everyone, which actually was really great.  They were offered beer from the keg, immediately qualifying to my German parents that the beer would be, in fact, crap, but they were welcome to it anyway.  They obliged, and we ahd some beers as I took them around to meet everyone…probably the first (and last) time I have shared keg beer with my parents.  I played some flip cup, which they did not partake in, although I think they found the concept of beer and games amusing.  The rooftop also had spectacular 360 degree views of the city, which was really neat (DC seemed really small).  We headed out for Bar Pilar a bit later, without the parents…

Saturday we woke up early and headed to the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on the Mall.  The festival takes place over two weeks and includes crafts, food, dance, and exhibits from one state, region, and country.  This year it is Virginia, the Mekong River, and Northern Ireland.  I didn’t think the festival would be that interesting, but we spent five hours wandering, and it was really cool.

Highlights included:

– Vietnamese women using a loom and creating traditional cloth, which looked painfully slow but the results were impressive and beautiful to look at.

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– A collie, which would herd sheep around the mall at the command of an old guy, who would use  a whistle or just speak softly.  The dog would move like it was remote controlled, taking four steps left, right, crouching, rounding them up, etc.  I felt bad for the sheep, who had to go a hundred different directions during the demonstration, and probably were dizzy and wondered what the hell was going on.

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– $35,000 rocking horses.  At least that is the going price for some of the exquisitely carved rocking horses on display.  One was commissioned by the Queen herself, and had the mane, saddle, and horseshoes of national winners.

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– Live performances.  From Asian boys imitating dragons fighting to the beat of drums,

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to a bluegrass band,

to gospel singers, to a blues duo, to line singing (a form of worship back in the day, when slaves could not read the bible, and they would sing back chanted lines by a leader).  I also learned some Irish dancing.

– Irish sports.  Most of the Northern Ireland exhibit wasn’t so much traditional as about present day, which included a field set off for sports.  I watched a demonstration of Gaelic football and hurling, which has to be one of the stranger sports out there.

– This truck:

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– Cool craft activities, such as watching this woman from Senegal making pottery (apparently Virginia has its roots in Kent, England, and Senegal – seems like a reach, but oh well…)

 – Plus tons of random facts and activities.  Anything from the first Germans settled by Jamestown in 1608 to pelts to how to make sailing rope to claymation

Anyway, my parents and I had a really good time, and I highly recommend going.

Saturday night we went out to Bistrot du Coin, which, despite it being quite loud, my parents really like, probably because of the hearty dishes.  My mom ordered the moules, I had a blanquette de veau, my dad some sausage dish, and my brother the boeuf bourgiognon.  Nothing is better than Belgium beer (one trip to Bruges taught me that much) and I had a really good Leffe Brune.  I always want to try the rabbitt, but my mom didn’t let me (…something about her pet rabbit being served for dinner when she was a kid?)

 Sunday we decided on my suggestion to do the Mount Veronon trail and bike down to Alexandria.  The weather was perfect, and I always forget how great the views are along the river.  We locked up our bikes at the waterfront and looked for a good place for lunch. 

My parents wanted to sit outside, but we settled for a restuarant specializing in fish dishes  – I don’t eat fish but the dishes looked tasty.  But the best thing was the schooners of beer they served (I got a Blue Moon):

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Needless to say, the bike ride home was interesting:)

We followed a guide up the streets nearby and checked out the historic sites.  Probably most interesting was Christ Church, the church of General Robert E. Lee and George Washington.  Washington was the biggest whiskey manufacturer in the East, and would often travel between Mount Vernon and DC to the wharf to do business.  He attended this church regularly and even bought his own pew for permanent use.  During the Civil War churches were converted into hospitals and the graveyards into pastures for horse grazing, but out of respect to Washington this church survived such a dismantling.  Unfortuantely, most of its congregation was on the Confederate side, and when Alexandria was immediately occupied by the Union to preserve the railway depot, the families took many of the old church records and left.  Robert E. Lee was also confirmed here, and has a plaque exactly where he knelt.  Winston Churchill has visited, though he was placed in a seat with a column obstructing his view, which he was irate about (nevertheless he has a plaque at this seat as well).  Past sitting presidents also are said to visit the church, although when I asked about George W., the guide said “No, perhaps security is too much of a concern.” …I doubt that is the reason though. 

My ass hurt the next day and I was sunburnt, but my parents and I enjoyed the excursion.

Sunday night we whipped out the Weber grill I bought at Target a couple of weekends ago and gave it a dry run.  My dad and mom had given me a quick lesson on how to marinate a steak and cook it, and the results (if I may so so myself) were quite delicious.  The only issue was I forgot to get something to stir the charcoal with, so we had to use a candleholder, and apparently I didn’t have a tablecloth, so we used a sheet.  I had a couple of friends over on the back deck, and had a nice relaxing dinner…

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