Lions, Tigers, and DC ...

This past week, I ventured down to Washington, DC for a much needed break from Pittsburgh.  Dan had a conference so I was fortunate enough to get to tag along and stay in the historic Shoreham Hotel which is located in the Woodley Park/Adams Morgan area of DC.  For those of you not familiar with DC, both Woodley and Adams Morgan are very nice areas stuffed full of beautiful neighborhoods and fabulous restaurants. 

The Shoreham hotel was build in 1930 and is famous because it once housed the Blue Room, a venue for many great big band musicians and has also had a ton of famous guests like the Beetles and various Presidents over the years.  In the 1990's the hotel went through a 30 million dollar renovation to restore it back to its former splendor. It sits just around the corner from another famous hotel, the Wardman, which is even more lavish.

The Atrium of the Shoreham Hotel

Thursday was a total relaxation day for me.  We arrived at four o'clock and Dan immediately had to leave for work so I was left to my own devices. The hotel room was very comfortable and quite huge.  I almost didn't want to leave!  With a full spa, turn down service, a doorman wearing the classic long coat, and expert room service what was not to love.  I treated myself my first night there to a wonderful meal in my room.  Crab soup and a gourmet steak salad that was bigger than any I have ever seen was ushered in by two of the staff on a mobile table with white linen to the tune of $60.00.  I did enjoy it imensly!
Friday was a great day as well.  I met up with two good friends, Marlon and Jeff for a reunion.  I met both of them in my Body Electric class last year.  Jeff met me in the lobby and we went via the Metro to Dupont Circle to visit Marlon.  We hung out for several hours and then went out for a quick bite at a gourmet burger place where I feasted on a burger covered in sauteed mushrooms, Maytag blue cheese, and black truffles. 
One of the many crazy stores in Dupont Circle

After dinner Jeff and I took a stroll around Dupont Circle and ended up popping into an interesting leather store.  By leather I mean an S and M store called the leather rack,  with various devices available for pucrhase, most of which looked way too painful to even think about! 

Adams Morgan
For those of you not familiar with DC, it has some great neighborhoods.  Dupont Circle has a large shopping area and equivalent to Chelsea or Greenwich in NY.  Its the gay end of town.  Lots of restaurants and clubs and bars.  Georgetown is also a great place to visit.  Huge high end shopping area and very high end restaurants.  Its also a great place to drain your bank account.  Adams Morgan and Woodley park remind me a lot of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.  Tree lined streets with nice homes and a very neighborhoody feel to them. They also have some wonderful ethnic restaurants and shops and are host to the National Zoo.  

Luke the Lion at the National Zoo
A Photo I took of Rock Creek Park from the Adams Morgan Bridge
Saturday, my friend Jeff who just happens to be one of the Keepers at the zoo, met me for a private tour. We took a walk through Rock Creek Park which runs along the old canal lines through the heart of the city.  We wound our way along Rock Creek until we entered the National Zoo.  
I spent nearly five hours at the zoo with Jeff and had a wonderful time.  I was allowed to go into areas not normally open to the public.  I was fortunate enough to be able to meet some of the lions and tigers up close and personally. I was whisked down a set of stairs that led to a facility beneath the lion yard.  In the hallway there were areas where some the of lions and tigers were held until it was ok for them to go out into the yard area.  That's where I fell in love with Luke.  Luke is a male lion who is absolutely beautiful.  I turned a corner with the keeper and there he was.  Huge, with a giant mane and gold eyes that could pierce right through you.  I was about half a foot from him and he sat quietly and examined me after which he rolled over onto his side in a very cat like fashion and seemed quite playful.  He was massive and I can see now how he could easily have ripped me to shreds if he had access to me and really wanted to.  The keeper brought some food out and Jeff warned me that he would become aggressive because apparently male lions can smell testosterone and become very protective of their food.  Its a dominance thing.  The meat tray came out and Luke became a definite lion.  He let out half a roar which was enough to gain my respect and I backed up.

The National Zoo, and most zoos in fact, serve as not only a place to see animals and to raise public awareness of endangered species, but also as a breeding an preservation instrument.   Jeff explained that literally thousands of creatures are endangered due to habitat destruction and that the zoos keep breeding stock in order to serve as a genetic arc.  Careful records are kept about bloodlines and genetics in order to be able to save the species.  I can also tell you that there is a TON of work that is done behind the scenes at zoos.  They aren't just the cute place to take your kid in  a stroller.  They really do serve a very important purpose. 
Luke, taken last year in the snow by one of the official zoo photographers.

Needless to say, I have a newfoudn respect for those who work at the zoo and for zoos in general.  Jeff was a wonderful guide  and could tell you anything you ever wanted to know about most his animals .  It was a fascinating day...and I really did fall in love with Luke. 

Metro Map
Another great thing about D.C. is that you can be anywhere within minutes by using their subway system, a.k.a the Metro.  Its so easy and convenient.   I with that Pittsburgh would get a clue and build our pathetic system out.  

Coming up out of the Metro Station
Saturday night was equally fabulous.  I met up with Jeff, Sean, Dan, Lucio, and Nick for a fabulous dinner at a very famous Moroccan restaurant on NY Avenue called Marrakesh. I knew Sean from Roseland and Nick and Lucio were his two very charming friends.  Marrakesh is truly an event.  You are served in seven courses and are provided with belly dancers for entertainment.  You sit around low carpeted benches covered with rugs and pillows and eat with your hands.  The restaurant is gorgeous and the staff is very attentive.  First we were presented with a huge platter of eggplant dip and fresh baked Moroccan bread brought in a basket.  Next came Bistilla, a traditional Moroccan dish that is chicken and eggs in a philo crust dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.  Then came lamb shanks with almonds and honey and a whole chicken stuffed with lemon and green olives, a huge platter of couscous with grilled vegetables and acorn squash followed by a fruit basket and then baklava and Moroccan tea service.  In Morocco tea is poured from very ornate tea pots with very long spouts from about five feet in the air into a very tiny glass cup.   Its quite a site to see. 

In the midst of feeling stuffed and being treated like a Sultan, the lights dim and a belly dancer comes out and performs for about twenty minutes.This girl had hips that could move faster than the naked eye could see and was quite amazing.  She even did a sword dance where she balanced the blade on her head while she danced.
The Belly Dancer

Lucio, Nick and Dan
Jeff Playing the Harem Girl

After dinner we Jeff retired early and headed back and the rest of us went out.  The D. C. Eagle is two doors up from Marrakesh.  The Eagle, unlike the Pittsburgh Eagle, is truly a leather and jeans bar.  Its very dark and very" dungeonesque". We hung out there for a bit but it was still early so not at all busy.  Next Sean drove us all to a club in south east DC, which is in a not so nice area of town but it houses on of the best gay clubs in D.C.   Secrets and Ziegfields.  This club is huge, posh and has a drag stage downstairs and a strip club upstairs.  Clad with red velvet drapes and neon lights galore it really gets hopping the later that it gets. The upstairs has a giant projection screen that shows dance videos along with about ten raised platforms where the guys dance.  Its very metro and very hot!  A good time was had by all.  FYI, you cannot touch any naughty parts on the strippers or you WILL get tossed out.  D.C. is very strict about the look but don't touch policy!   There was a bachelorette party going on and I must say that women are waaaay more obnoxious than gay men when it comes to strippers! 

Just after opening at Ziegfield's'

Its Rupaul!  Not really...but close!

Sunday was our last day there and Dan and I re-parked the car and hung out in Woodley Park for a while.  I took him to meet Luke the lion and then we had yet another fabulous lunch outside at the Lebanese Taverina.  It was a balmy day so dining al fresco on braised lamb was fantastic.  
We packed up and heading back to Pittsburgh in the early afternoon!

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