One thing I have not done at all for a few years is really make time for adult activities — for a real break from day-to-day schedules and the demands of my life as a parent. In fact, I haven't even really done this when the kid has been off with her mother for a weekend or a week. Instead, my time has been spent doing things related to parenting and daily schedules — errands and thoughts of what I needed to do when the kid came home. For better or for worse, this meant that I never really released myself into the rest of life.
This weekend, L and I made the first step toward changing that. We had a fine evening with two other couples at L's place — something she has wanted to do for a while — and then took off for the rest of the weekend in DC. It's the first time in over a year that we've done something like this, and it was far belated.
We had reservations at the Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle. Since we were arriving a couple hours early, we parked in Georgetown and wandered the neighborhood a bit. It was L's first time and only my second time as an adult. (From now on, I'm declaring childhood recollections of places off limits.) We roamed the drags and perused a few shops, wandered across and along the canal, and generally soaked in the feeling of being in a large city again. The streets were busy and lively, and it reminded me of what i missed from my years in New York. After a bit, we landed in a little Italian place for a refreshment. There were a thousand other restaurants, but this little old-school boîte of a place had the perfect vibe for sitting and sorting out our plan.
After checking in at the Palomar, we relaxed for a bit and then took advantage of the nightly wine reception. The pours were generous, and the snacks staved off a bit of hunger. In general, the vibe of the crowd was lively and urbane, ranging from thirty-ish to mid-sixties, straight and gay, couples and groups. We caught snippets of people comparing notes about other stays at the hotel and its sister hotels — and it was easy to tell why guests quickly become repeat followers.
We changed for a night out, still without a formal plan but with an initial goal of heading over to the Churchkey/Birch and Barley, DC's new beer bar off Logan Circle. Apparently, it was also one of the "places to be." The upstairs (Churchkey) was packed to the gills, but the bartenders navigated the crowd with aplomb. They pulled 4 oz tastes quickly and pints constantly, but were still willing to take the time to talk about the beers and/or where in the area to find hard-to-find items like bottles of Hopslam. The menu was nothing special, though the cheese list had some interesting choices, both regional and international. As for the space and the crowd, we'd recommend slipping in to the downstairs instead if you want quiet. There is a small bar space off the restaurant down there that does not require reservations and is gorgeously appointed. We'll be sitting there next time. In the meantime, the beers and service impressed.
By this time, we were fully hungry and thinking about the rest of the evening. We batted around some options we'd considered and opted to head back to the restaurant at the hotel — Urbana. Far from being your standard hotel restaurant, the place was buzzing with life. Their menu had a mix of interesting small plates and pizzas and a decent wine list, and our zeal for tackling bars, clubs, or blues cafes was waning. At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, the restaurant impressed too. We sat at the bar near the pizza ovens and had stellar service. I compared oysters from Long Island and the Rappahannock and they were among the freshest and best-presented I've had in a long time. Our simple white pie had a nice layering of flavors. The beet salad was split into two plates for us and had a nice helping of local chevre. The kicker were the mussels, fresh and simply done in a garlic/white wine/butter/shallots preparation that had us sopping up the liquid with bread after the mussels were gone. Topped off with a nice bottle of Clif the Climber Red 2006 (a tasty zin blend for $30), the meal couldn't have been a better complement to the rest of the day.
The next morning, we wandered out of the hotel to Le Pain Quotidiene. Though I'll usually opt for the local joint over the chain, LPQ is small enough and unique enough for me to overturn that rule. We opted for a fairly-inexpensive breakfast of brioche and buttermilk scone (with oatmeal and flax seed, perfectly served with whipped ricotta and apricot preserves) and two pots of coffee. It hit the spot, but my complaint with LPQ stands at this: to step up to a more substantial breakfast would have taken us from just under $20(!) to nearly double that — unnecessarily expensive.
We followed the breakfast with a wander through the Dupont Farmers Market — another reminder of what I miss about city life. Though Richmond has developed some nice markets in recent years, I still miss the ability to wander out of my door or hop on a subway and get to a full-service growers market at any time of the year. Nonetheless, we resisted the urge — partly because L was shivering — to stock up on much and only walked away with an excellent ash-covered cheese from Firefly Farms.
We headed down to the mall to roam around a bit more, checking out the National Museum of the American Indian and Capitol City Brewing Company. Time slipped away a bit, though, and we decided to defer the National Gallery stop for a later trip. Time was getting tight for getting back to Richmond and connecting with the kid.
And there's the kicker on the weekend. Though in the past I often spent my time away from my kid plotting for her return home or thinking about what would be different if she was with me, on this visit I was wholly there. I knew the kid would be coming home, but I wasn't thinking about that. This was finally our time. It was a remarkable feeling, and I think I am finally starting to understand how to balance life as a parent with my own needs and desires — and how that plays in with the other people in one's life too.