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Wish You Were Here
· $10 at Tako Grill (7756 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, 301-652-7030).
· $15 at Cafe Japone (2032 P St. NW, 202-223-1573).
· Free at Ekoji Buddhist Temple (6500 Lake Haven Lane, Fairfax Station, 703-239-0500).
· $45 at Mandarin Oriental spa (1330 Maryland Ave. SW, 202-787-6100).
· $15 at Sushi Go Round & Tapas (705 Seventh St. NW, 202-393-2825).
SATURDAY. I'm not usually a flip-flop sort of girl. But for my trip to Jamaica, I'm ditching the strappy heels. This will be my criterion for the entire weekend: Must I wear real shoes? Yes? Never mind, then.
First, I need some tunes. Reggae, specifically. Sure, I could hit up iTunes, but somehow that just doesn't seem right. So I head to the DJ Hut. The shop's bamboo-lined ceiling and tiki decor lend it an island vibe, and the reggae section is impressive. Co-owner Chris Stiles notes that mixmasters from all over the country travel to the District for the store's collection of dancehall music. I find some discs by Damian Marley (yup, Bob's kid) and I'm on my way.
I swing by Brown's Caribbean Bakery for some Jamaican patties, yellow pastries encasing a filling of chicken or beef. The patties are crisp and the insides have just a touch of heat. I eat them as I walk, since the bakery is takeout.
I want a good part of the weekend to consist of staring blissfully at water while sunning my pasty skin. Since the beach isn't an option, I've selected the Wardman Park Marriott hotel pool, which opens its facilities to non-guests on certain dates every month (call for dates). The pool fits all my criteria for approximating an island getaway. Few children? Check. Comfy lounge chairs? Yup. Aquamarine water? Uh huh. I can't wait to settle in for the day.
In search of some reading to bring with me, I browse the shelves at Candida's World of Books. Owner Candida Mannozzi includes a thoughtful collection of Jamaican literature among her inventory of travel books and foreign-language titles. She recommends Richard Hughes's "A High Wind in Jamaica" for historical context, and Patricia Powell's "A Small Gathering of Bones" and "Me Dying Trial" for a take on contemporary Jamaican life.
After my swim, it's time to get some food in my stomach -- and some sand between my toes. Island Jim's Classy BBQ Joint is the place for me. It's a little fantasy-land, complete with bamboo plants and a sand-filled patio. I order up a piña colada along with a jerk chicken sandwich, and sit, relishing the feel of being on the "beach."
SUNDAY. After soaking up rays and downing umbrella drinks, I thought I'd try imbibing a little culture, too. The Art Museum of the Americas is home to one of the country's largest collections of Caribbean paintings, sculptures and murals. Look for abstract works by noted Jamaican artists David Boxer and Karl Craig.
Lunch is at Negril, a no-frills Jamaican eatery with three other locations in the area. Plastic booths are brightened by a colorful tile counter and Bob Marley posters. A plate of curried goat with rice and beans hits the right notes: spicy, meaty, moist. Sweet sorrel juice, a purplish brew with a slightly herbal scent, makes a satisfying partner.
I still need to hear some live music, so I head to Bukom Cafe. Although it's a West African restaurant, it's considered the best reggae venue in the city: It took last year's D.C. Reggae Music Award for best live club music.
Like a kid who needs to be bribed to keep from pouting, I celebrate the end of my Jamaican weekend by visiting York Castle Tropical Ice Cream, an ice-cream parlor owned by a Jamaican family that puts a Caribbean spin on the classic cone, offering flavors such as mango, guava, soursop (a tangy island fruit) and coconut. As I lick the last of my drippy pineapple-soursop cone, I realize it's almost time to exchange my flip-flops for workaday heels.
· $16 at DJ Hut (Second Floor, 2010 P St. NW, 202-659-2010).
· $6 at Brown's Caribbean Bakery (3301 Georgia Ave. NW, 202-882-1626).
· $5 at the Wardman Park Marriott (2660 Woodley Rd. NW, 202-328-2000).
· $13 at Candida's World of Books (1541 14th St. NW, 202-667-4811).
· $20 at Island Jim's Classy BBQ Joint (901 Monroe St. NE, 202-635-8454).
· Free at the Art Museum of the Americas (201 18th St. NW, 202-458-6016).
· $10 at Negril (2301G Georgia Ave. NW, 202-332-3737).
· $20 at Bukom Cafe (2442 18th St. NW, 202-265-4600).
· $4.50 at York Castle Tropical Ice Cream (9324 Georgia Ave. NW, 301-589-1616).