Having scratched all the essential items off our DC vacation to-do list during the last two days, Justin and I were entertaining a number of options for our last day in the city. I thought that we should see the National Archives, since Justin has never been, and make a trip to the Library of Congress so that Justin could renew his library card -- something he had mentioned wanting to do while he was in town. I honestly could not believe that in his previous two trips to DC Justin had never been to see our nation's founding documents, but no matter how passionately I tried to convince him of the importance of seeing them as an American, he was unmoved.
Instead, he wanted to go to the National Zoo, which at least had the advantage of being in a neighborhood near a 24 hour diner, which we knew would be open on a federal holiday, unlike most of the restaurants near our hotel. So I acquiesced to his wishes, even though I've never been much of a fan of the zoo (unless, of course, it's for seeing something besides the animals), so we could be sure to at least find something to eat for breakfast.
Appropriately named, The Diner was located in the charmingly bohemian Adams-Morgan neighborhood. The area was so cute, in fact, that I was a little bummed that this would be the first, and last opportunity that we would have to check it out on this trip. We had to wait in line to eat, one of the primarily reasons I avoid brunch in general, but we received a very tasty meal in exchange for our patience.
The walk from the restaurant to the zoo, however, turned out to be a much longer hike than I had anticipated, and was uphill virtually the entire way. My joints, still aching from the previous day's exertions, were not amused, and I was not exactly in the right frame of mind to be entertained by the time we made it to the zoo.
Once we got there, we were disappointed to discover that despite DC's warmer climate, a large number of the animals were off display for the winter. Virtually everything in the Asian section of the zoo was closed with the exception of a single red panda. The star attraction of the National Zoo is, of course, the giant pandas, and as we walked I through their habitat, we were starting to get nervous.
We didn't see them outside, and when we walked through the indoor panda house, they were nowhere to be found indoors either. Just when we were starting to fear that the entire sojourn to the zoo had been for naught, we caught a glimpse of Mei Xiang, the female panda, near the back of the last outdoor enclosure. She was a little difficult to see, but one thing was clear - she was pooping. Given the Wyatt family obsession with toilet humor, it was probably appropriate that I would catch this majestic creature in the act.
After that, we started having a bit better luck with the animals. The small mammal house, being indoors, had most of its inhabitants on view. Again, I managed to find two monkeys relieving themselves; one was peeing and the other pooping. Clearly, this was emerging as the theme of my day. I did, however, really enjoy watching an especially lively armadillo, who was scampering around his enclosure like a windup toy, virtually doing laps. For an animal with no hair, it was surprisingly cute.
Justin likes cold-blooded creatures more I do, so we made a stop at the reptile building. While I wouldn't exactly call any of of the lizards, snakes, frogs and turtles cute, some of them had pretty enough markings and colorations that even I was forced to admire them. I particularly enjoyed a tank of vigorously swimming turtles with extraordinarily long necks, who looked like they were constantly head-bobbing.
Next, we headed over to the North American section, by way of the lemur island. Sadly, the display was devoid of the furry prehensile-tailed critters, but the island was running over with turtles, two of which were mid-coitus. Truly, it was a day for bodily and basic functions at the National Zoo.
The North American section, despite being outdoors, had slightly more to see, and we spied a truly enormous seal taking a nap, in addition to a pair of wolves and a lone river otter. I've always been a bigger fan of sea otters; I just find them to be more adorable, I mean, who can resist animals that hold hands in their sleep? Still the river otter was cute in his own way.
By this point, it was starting to get close enough to our departure time that both of us were starting to get nervous, so we made the long schlep back to the Metro station to head back to the hotel to collect our gear. We did, however, make one last stop in DC, to the Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken next to the Shake Shack. We had walked past it the day before on our way back from getting s burger, and were intrigued by the look of the place and all the happy-looking patrons inside eating what appeared to be some very delicious chicken. I was intrigued, and wanted to try to squeeze in a visit before we left.
Apparently, Nando's is a chain that originated in South Africa, and it specializes in Portuguese-style grilled chicken using piri-piri chiles. Hundreds of years ago, Portuguese merchants encountered the chiles in Africa and incorporated them into their cuisine, creating fusion dishes that were popular in both cultures. There are several Nando's locations in the DC area and in Maryland, and Justin and I enjoyed the food there so much that we wouldn't mind at all if they decided to expand into the Midwest, starting with Chicago.
At Nando's, you can order your chicken according to several different levels of spicyness, and then experiment with a range of different sauces to customize your meal -- a feature that appealed to Justin. The meat was superlatively juicy (always an accomplishment when it comes to grilled poultry), and the sides were top-notch as well. If you are ever in the DC area, I highly recommend scheduling a stop a Nando's.
Duly fortified for the flight ahead of us, we collected our bags from the hotel and opted to take their chauffeured car to the airport instead of a taxi. Our initial taxi from the airport had cost $23 with tip, and the hotel car would cost a flat rate of $25. Given the considerable upgrade in quality, it seemed like a no-brainer.
All in all, we had a great little long-weekend getaway. Even if it was relatively spur-of-the-moment (for me anyway), and we did most of our planning on the fly, we still managed to cram an impressive amount of sightseeing into our three days. Plus, I got to spend quality time with both an old friend and the man I love, and those things alone would have made the trip worthwhile even if we hadn't made it to so many museums and eaten so much delicious food.