DC Metblogs’ Favorites: Urban Oasis

The urban oasis, a centering spot for self amongst a busy life in a busy city. Here are a few of our Metbloggers’ choices!

Jenn Brasler:
Barnes & Noble
6260 Seven Corners Center
Falls Church, VA 22044

I love to read, so any bookstore is like a little paradise for me. Barnes & Noble is paradise times 10. I love walking in and seeing rows and rows of books, all of the possibilities of things that will entertain me and keep me engrossed for a few days.

Barnes & Noble is browse-friendly, so you don’t have to feel pressured to buy something when you go there. I know it’s more convenient to buy books online, but then you don’t get the pleasure of physically being there, looking at books and deciding which ones fit you the best. Plus, if you get bored, there’s tasty (though expensive) coffee at the Starbucks next door. Bookstores, especially Barnes & Noble, are definitely air-conditioned, semi-peaceful oases during the summer or any other time of year.

Desert Island Boy:

When things go crazy, I usually take a nice drive around town, preferably as far away from Rush Hour as possible. Sometimes this will take me out into Fairfax and Loudoun counties and sometimes into Frederick and Carroll Counties, but a nice relaxing drive helps me get focused.

For the more urban centering, it’s usually Georgetown, Arlington and Old Town Alexandria. If I am blessed with parking and light crowds, I may actually get out and walk. It’s a lot more fun when you have company, but that’s not the point of the exercise.

Although I would have to say that some of the neighborhoods in Old Town definitely give me the privacy and architectural stimulation that can help lift my spirits.

Jenn Larsen:
One World Fitness
1738 14th Street NW

I thought I’d dig deep into the definition of an oasis – more as a stop on the trade route – a place to refuel your body, meet people, and learn.

One World Fitness is a private training gym at the corner of 14th & S, conveniently located about two blocks from my house. I signed up for a sixteen-week intensive program back in February, and have been going in for private weight training sessions and cardio ever since. Owner Karim Steward is a Master Trainer and definitely knows his stuff. He’s committed to ensuring the gym is open and friendly with no attitudes, and that environment is what keeps me motivated and ready to return. He also happens to be a great coach, who certainly doesn’t let a slacker like me get away with anything!

There’s something about going to a place where you feel completely safe, accepted, and encouraged. It truly allows you to let loose the stress of the day and focus on doing something good for yourself. It’s been operating for the past four years, and Karim renovated the gym himself. The space avoids that cold antiseptic hospital feel of so many city gyms, and instead features warm brick walls, eclectic art, lively XM radio, and a truly congenial atmosphere. No impersonal intimidation here.

What other gym considers its clients family? Once I meet fellow gym-goers I start recognizing them around our neighborhood. I hear about new restaurants opening, chat about other DC issues, and this just adds to that oasis vibe. By the time I leave, battered and sweaty, the endorphins kick in and I’m practically skipping back to my house, rejuvenated and ready for another day.

Ok, maybe not skipping physically. But mentally, I’m definitely more alive.

Michael Darpino:
The Watergate Steps

No, I am not talking about the steps of the Watergate Building in Foggy Bottom. I am referring to the actual outdoor staircase that the building takes its name from. Just down the street at the Lincoln Memorial end of Rock Creek Parkway, between Lincoln Circle and the Potomac River is a wide marble staircase that seemingly lead nowhere. It begins across the street from the Memorial and ends down at the river.

The steps were built as a ceremonial place to greet dignitaries visiting Washington by boat in the 19th Century. This ceremonial greeting place was called “The Water Gate.”

While the steps haven’t been used for that purpose in over a hundred years, they do serve as a formidable obstacle to ambitious joggers or as a great place to chill-out on a nice day taking in a panoramic view of the river and the lush Virginia coast.

Ever since my days back at GW, I can remember going down there to center myself whenever school or my social life seemed to be spinning out of control. (Which was often!) Over the years I have gone back there on dates, to write, or just to think.

Late at night, it is a great place to smuggle a six-pack and watch the twinkling lights zipping along the GW Parkway across the river. During the day it can be a little more hectic, but if you go there during the off-season, there isn’t a lost tourist in sight. Sitting on those steps has served me well over the years. Not only is a beautiful place to do some soul-searching, but also realizing that those rolling green hills you are looking at are actually Arlington Cemetery helps to put life’s problems into perspective.

Sculpture Garden Fountain
Constitution Ave NW between 9th and 7th St NW

In the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve never really made the effort to find an urban oasis. My typical reaction when the world gets to be too much is to go home and take a nap. But I recently found a place that qualifies. Tom mentioned it the other day- on Saturday, we discovered the Sculpture Garden fountain.

On a hot day, I can’t think of anything more relaxing and inviting than a great big pool of water, in a garden, where the security guards don’t mind when people dangle their feet in the water. It’s surrounded by trees and flowering plants, so you can see the National Archives building, but you pretty much miss the traffic whooshing by. When we went, we met a nice family in town for a weeklong vacation- they liked our idea and joined us on the rim of the fountain to cool their feet after an afternoon of strolling the mall.

I should find my way over there more often this summer, maybe during Friday lunchtimes… but I guess I’ll have to find a new oasis come this fall, huh?

The Plaza at the Reagan Center
13th St. at Pennsylvania Ave NW

I love spaces that feel non-sequitur. That feeling of separation from Locale is what draws me to the Plaza at the Reagan Center. Full of travertine paving stones, and tall columned buildings with terra cotta tile roofs, you’d think you were anywhere but in the middle of the District. The nearby Metro station is the only thing that intrudes upon the illusion.

A great spot for lunch, I head there when I need to escape my day job for a little bit, laze on a bench and imagine I’m somewhere in Rome, instead of stuck at work for a day.

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