Traveler Intern Catherine Pearson learned that sometimes the sweetest trip can be the one that you take without leaving your city. Ladies and gentlemen, we present you with a "Staycation."
Catherine and her roommate can always make room for cake...
We were bound for Niagara Falls. My roommate and I had never been, and it was her requested birthday celebration. Yahoo! and Google both estimated drive time as less than 8 hours from just outside Washington, D.C. Expedia pinpointed a hotel just north of the border. By our calculations, we were ready to go.
Then a glance at Weather.com froze us in our tracks: Winter snow advisory for the entire Northeast. Impaired visions of weighted-down windshield wipers and sealed-shut car doors chilled our revved-up plans. The perfect storm was toppling our last-minute birthday getaway.
Crestfallen, we dove deeper into the web to find a toastier weekend vacation. But prices skyrocketed as the latitude plummeted.
Admitting defeat, we hung up the mouse and went to bed. My roommate would have to settle for cake and ice cream without waterfalls. Revelation settled in overnight, like a silent snowfall. D.C. is a destination for travelers. Why not make it one for residents? Travel is my roommate's first love, but chocolate is a close second. If museums and politics were the meat and potatoes of D.C., then we would partake in the capital's desserts.
Prioritized by a 6 p.m. closing time, our first stop was Just Cakes (4849 Rugby Avenue) in Bethesda, Maryland. It was packed with eight-year-old girls, and we quickly realized my roommate was not the only one turning a year older – but the cooking class party appeared far superior to any sleepover.
Ignoring the bakery's name, we both ordered brownies – bricks of frosted-chocolate bliss. Fresh from the fridge and too cool to be fully appreciated, the remnants made their way into my roommate's trunk as the first of our confectionary collection. A red-velvet cupcake kept them company.
Wisconsin Avenue, which we fondly referred to as Ice Cream Row,
stretched for miles before we entered Georgetown and spotted our next
stop, Thomas Sweet (3214 P St.
NW). The homemade ice cream parlor was a tasting extravaganza:
bittersweet chocolate, mint chocolate chip, malt, and peanut butter flavors so strong that our spent taste buds opted for plain old chocolate.
That's also when we created the Split Rule (ordering just one dessert and sharing it between us).
Recovering from our malt-shop hangover (although the stiffest drink we'd encountered was vanilla extract) we didn't leave home until the next afternoon.
Deviating from a strict diet of cake and ice cream, we discovered a decidedly different delicacy at the Dairy Godmother (2310 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria). Containing more fat and less air than ice cream, frozen custard won my vote for new favorite.
Unfortunately, we picked the wrong time to institute our Split Rule. Even before we'd scraped the bowl for lingering traces of custard, we knew the meager half-portions wouldn’t suffice. Within two hours we returned to conquer our individual sundaes and noted another wonder: maraschino cherries must have at least started out as real fruit, before finding their destiny as the candied peak on whipped cream. The Dairy Godmother's sour cherries are the redemption of that artificial topping. My cherry-topped sundae inspired another trip to the register for a side dish of sour delight.
For my roommate's actual birthday we opted for the classic, Cake Love. Aptly named, it serves up trendy cupcakes, like chocolate with peanut butter icing. My roommate's choice was mud cream. Layers couldn’t look better on a fashion runway.
The celebration ended where it all began, at home. Late that night, in our own kitchen, I whipped up some chocolate chip cookies and a pan of brownies as a nightcap, a feat I savored knowing I never could have pulled it off in a hotel kitchenette.
My roommate seemed pleased with our in-town adventure, and I'm glad we didn't end up traveling. But I made a discovery nonetheless - a staycation and a vacation are equally exhausting. The weekend left me needing a nap and craving a pick-me-up, perhaps something sweet and chocolate.
Photos: Catherine Pearson