After Sunday's gorgeous weather, it was a bit of a shock to the system to wake up to cold, grey mist yesterday morning. My run along the Mall was somewhat less pretty, but I rewarded myself with a Balinese pourover from Compass, a fab coffee shop and roastery on 7th Street, just east of Logan Circle. I also treated myself to a sticky, sugary brioche-like pastry—most of the food they sell is from local producers or suppliers and the pastries are made by a woman who is a lawyer by day and a pastry chef by night. Impressive, or what?
For the past 18 months, every time I'm having a bad day at work, I've clicked over briefly to the Smithsonian National Zoo's panda cam and then all is right with the world again. I couldn't go to DC, then, without saying hello to baby Bao Bao and her mother Mei Xiang. When I arrived, Bao Bao was napping in her favourite tree, but after about 15 or 20 minutes, her mother wandered outside to see what was going on and Bao Bao decided to come down.
I then spent the next 45 minutes or so trying to leave the pandas, but it's really difficult when they are so darn cute! I got to see them cuddling, going for a wander and feeding, and I also got to see mission control for panda-cam (how much do I want that job?). The Smithsonian zoo is free and there are plenty of other animals to see but by that point, I was frozen and just had a quick stroll through the Asian and African sections before heading out.
I even made a brief panda-cam video of my own (one of many currently filling up the memory on my iPhone!).
I walked back down the hill through Adams Morgan—a funky neighbourhood, with plenty of interesting restaurants and bars—and then along U Street, where I stopped for lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl. I ordered one of their famous chili dogs and a lemonade and relaxed in one of the leather booths. Ben's has been around for over 50 years and has a number of famous fans, including President Obama. The chili is delicious so it's easy to see why.
The chili warmed me up a little but not enough to fend off the chilly weather, so I got the metro back downtown and paid a visit to the National Museum of American History. There is probably more culture than history inside, although there is a good section on war and I also enjoyed the exhibit on the country's presidents. I had hoped to visit the National Archives too but I ran out of time, so walked up to Chinatown instead and had a coffee at Chinatown Coffee Co. on H Street. I had an excellent Colombian Chemex, which was chocolatey and rich, but if you're in the mood for something more fun, they also serve beer and absinthe! It's a cool little place to hang out and I enjoyed the '90s and '00s indie rock on the sound system.
For dinner, I went to Plan B, although let's be clear: it was always my plan A! Plan B specialises in burgers, beer and bourbon—two out of three isn't bad, right? I sat down in a sleek red-leather booth and perused the huge, mainly burger-centric menu. Eventually, I decided on the bacon cheeseburger on a pretzel bun, which was a good choice. The burgers, like the bathrooms, are designated pink and no-pink, and mine was delicious: juicy and flavoursome. The soft pretzel bun, doused in wholegrain mustard, was a nice addition. I also had a Benjamin Button cocktail (Buffalo Trace, honey and lemon), a sort of cough-medicine, I suppose, although much tasty and not entirely inapt on such a cold day.
I walked back to my new hotel (today, sadly, I am working) and got my first full-frontal glimpse of the White House. It does look very impressive by night, even in the rain.