Monday, April 14, 2014

Washington Social Diary

Happy Easter, bunny.
by Carol Joynt

An acquaintance was saying he doesn’t come to Georgetown often because he doesn’t know what to do there. He said the shopping looks to be mostly mall stores. True, up to a point. There aren’t many restaurants and bars, he said. True, up to a point.

I explained the very simple solution to his problem: “you have to get away from Wisconsin Avenue and M Streets.” Judging Georgetown solely by those two heavily commercial strips misses the point of the neighborhood; the lure for those of us who love living here are the side streets, the residential areas, the parks, the upper reaches of the hilltop and the banks of the river down below. Once beyond Wisconsin and M, there are unique places to stop and eat, have a drink, and to shop.
Spring color on O Street. Georgetown's O Street has a succession of beautiful front gardens, making it worthwhile to walk the residential streets.
This is along O Street between 30th and 31st Streets.
Another view of the tulip garden.
I leave Georgetown only for work, a bit of social life, to try new restaurants, run the occasional “big box” errand and to get out of town altogether. Otherwise, I could live here day in and day out and find most of my needs met, and be very happy, too. I got up yesterday and took a walk and luckily brought my camera so I could capture some of what Georgetown feels like on a Sunday morning, especially when graced with perfect spring weather.

My friend and I were debating Georgetown versus the newest most fashionable neighborhood – 14th Street. He loves the scene there. What’s happened to 14th Street reminds me of when SoHo in New York City was born. It was an area transformed – one urban personality wiped out and replaced by another. And then they all came.
Also on O Street, blossoming trees. On 28th, where the blossoms fall like snow.
Looking up to 28th Street from an alley.
On Q Street, just off 28th.
Hiding in the ferns ... where only a few weeks ago there were inches of snow.
Everyone’s at 14th Street now and it can be a blast – a loud, crowded, youthful, ebullient party. But after a meal at Le Diplomate or Pearl Dive, or dinner at friends on P Street, as I walk home to Georgetown I notice how it gets quieter and quieter. I like returning to my peaceful village. We’re a fortunate small city that we have both – 14th Street and Georgetown – and that they relatively near to each other.

Georgetown has youth and noise and crowds too. That scene is concentrated on Wisconsin Avenue and M Streets, over to the west side of the neighborhood, near Georgetown University. If action is the goal, it’s there. But it can be avoided entirely too. Another friend has a hard rule that one should try to live on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. She says it’s quieter and thus preferred rather than the west side. That may have been the measure a few decades ago, but with the boom in home prices both sides are obviously highly desirable and have become nearly unaffordable.
One of the most beautifully landscaped parts of Georgetown is Oak Hill Cemetery, which is open to the public. Oak Hill Cemetery, the final resting place for Washington's oldest families, the elite, and many notables.
Tullip Magnolia at Oak Hill.
The lovely spring weather got the young and the old out running in Georgetown's Montrose Park ...
The most expensive home sale in DC in a few years occurred in Georgetown last week. The Friendly Estate – for decades the home of The Washington Post’s Al Friendly, his wife Jean, and their children – sold for $16.1 million, fully renovated. The rumor mill says the buyers are a California family, but that’s the rumor mill. The property is on 31st Street, across from the historic Tudor Place house and gardens, on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue. That puts them close to Upper Georgetown, or Book Hill (Wisconsin Avenue between P Street and R Street), the best shopping and with bistros such as Patisserie Poupon and Café Bonaparte.

Last year, more than a half dozen Georgetown houses sold in the $6-9 million range. They included the Evangeline and David Bruce House, which Under Armour founder Kevin Plank bought for $8.9 million. It’s on the west side.
The Friendly Estate, on 31st Street at Avon Lane, just sold for $16.1 million, the highest price for a home in Washington in a few years.
Nantucket style charm in Georgetown.
Blossoms shading 31st Street.
A stop in Patisserie Poupon, up on the hilltop on Wisconsin Avenue, for coffee, pastries, candies, salads, soup, and sandwiches. Looking through the window to Poupon's hidden and charming nook of a back porch.
The pastry case at Patisserie Poupon, a regular hang out for Georgetown residents.
The best shopping in Georgetown is up the hill, especially Wisconsin Avenue above P Street. Here is the John Rosselli store. Across the street from Rosselli, and clustered with other antiques shops, is Café Bonaparte, open from breakfast to late night.
In Georgetown, every curbside is viewed as having potential. This is on Q Street near Wisconsin.
The real estate market is so robust that mere open houses no longer suffice for the launch of a premium property. In the last few months I’ve received invitations to full- blown cocktail parties at homes that are hitting the market, including one for the Friendly Estate. A publicist is usually part of the mix. The realtor, rather than the seller, hosts these private soirées, where the abode is fully staged, and Looky Lou’s are welcomed to poke around and kick the tires while waiters pass cocktails and canapés.

Life in Georgetown, at least for me, is simple, serene, and routine. Right now the gardens are waking up and need pruning and mulching. There are buds on the lilac bushes, the roses and the dogwood trees, and cherry and other blossoms fall like snow. The damage of the hard winter is revealing itself, too, and there are bits of wood and paint that need repair. I hope when I switch on the air conditioning, it works.
The lovely spring Just like that, we're out of the heavy winter clothing and into the pleasures of shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.
Dogs make the most of it, too.
I’m in a long block where most of the gardens back up to each other. There are about 50 houses in the full block. There is no alley. It’s a village of its own for wildlife, for better or worse, but mostly better. In the mornings and the evenings there are many birds. Several doves have nested at my house and it seems some cardinals are hanging out, too. They scatter in the morning when I come out with the dog and a cup of coffee. Late at night, with the windows open, there’s an owl, the occasional hum of aircraft, the far and near wail of sirens, distant laughter. Complete silence would probably creep me out. Georgetown is decidedly urban, but feels just rural enough.
Palm Sunday ornament at Georgetown's Chris Episcopal Church.
N Street Village held its 40th anniversary gala last week at the Ritz Carlton West End hotel. Sweet Honey In The Rock performed, Senators Kelly Ayotte and Kay Hagan were honored, Senator Roy Blunt and his wife, Abby, were the honorary chairs, with many city officials in the audience. The event raised more than $760,000 for the organization that provides support and shelter for low income and homeless women in Washington. My table included Carol Wheeler, one of the gala’s organizers; Rick Stamberger, Catie Gilmore, who is working on the group’s capital campaign; I Ricchi restaurant owner Christine Ricchi, Barbara Stephenson of the British Embassy, and Gary Walker, who owns Ilo Salon, and his colleague and fiancé Aaron Lichtman. They are marrying in June followed by a honeymoon in China to walk the Great Wall.
Mayor Vincent Gray is interviewed before the N Street Village gala.
Sweet Honey in the Rock perform with N Street Village's Ambassadors of Praise gospel choir, which includes residents, clients and alumni of the organization.
Allison and Chris Putala. Soon to be newlyweds, Gary Walker and Aaron Lichtman.
Carol Wheeler, Rick Stamberger, and Barbara Stephenson.
Roy and Abby Blunt. Catie Gilmore.
N Street Village's executive director, Schroeder Stribling, gets the "OK" from Barbara Stephenson.
Schroeder Stribling and Carol Wheeler.
Chris Ricchi.
The N Street Village dinner in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton West End hotel raised more than $760,000 for the group.
Follow Carol on twitter @caroljoynt