Sunday, 5 November 2017

Exploring Washington, D.C.

When I made my first visit to the US in Summer 2016 I really wanted to visit Washington D.C. However, the travel options didn't work out well for it and so, unfortunately, I had to give it a miss. So it was definitely high on my travel plans when I found out I'd be spending the year in the US. I finally got to go last weekend and it was an amazing experience. Because it's a little further than most places I've visited so far I decided to take the Friday off work so that I could get the most of my time in the city. I arrived around 1pm and had a little wander around before I checked into my hotel. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a migraine that developed on the train so I don't actually have many photos from my first day as I had a little nap at the hotel to try and get rid of it. I stayed at the Embassy Row Hotel which was fantastic and I'll be reviewing it soon.


Part of my inspiration for visiting DC was the opportunity to meet Jess. Jess was one of my very first blogging friends and we've been chatting online since 2012. My first-year flatmate, Meredith, also lives in DC and I hadn't seen her since she finished her year abroad. As they were both busy on Friday night I decided to get a ticket to the DC Improv, a comedy club not far from my hotel. I booked a ticket for the DMV showcase which featured  4 local comics and was really good fun. I used to go to a lot of stand up comedy back in Edinburgh and the night really reminded me of how much I love it. This was a great way for me to spend my first night in DC as I didn't feel awkward doing it alone and getting to sit for a while in the dark is actually pretty great when you're not feeling great. After the show, I took a quick walk around the city and then got an early night. Look how comfy the bed looks! 


Saturday was a really busy day so please get a cup of tea if you want because this will be a long post. My flatmate Mark recommended that I visit the Arlington National Cemetery whilst in DC. A cemetery may not seem like the most fun place to go on a trip but it has a really important role in American history and I thought it would be an extremely humbling experience. I went by myself in the morning before meeting up with Jess and it was fascinating. Walking around the cemetery where 400'000 members of the American military are buried really put a lot into perspective. It was also extremely beautiful with the autumn leaves and felt like a beautiful location for soldiers to rest in peace. There are tours available but I was short on time so chose to navigate myself. I walked from the entrance to the JFK and family burial site and then onto the tomb of the unknown soldier. My trip took about an hour and a half and I'd really recommend it.





From there I walked over to the Lincoln Memorial to finally meet Jess. The memorial is somewhere I've seen on TV countless of times so it was crazy to see it in person. Not to mention the amazing view of the Washington Monument from the steps. Jess and I stopped for a few photos and then walked to the Washington Monument too. After that, we got on the subway at the Smithsonian station and went up to Union Market for lunch.




Visiting food markets in different cities is one of my favourite things to do in a new city. Union Market was pretty small but had a lot of different stalls. I had some fried shrimp and chips from a seafood stall and Jess got some Southern bbq. After finishing our food we had a look around some of the stores at the market including one with fantastic homeware. There are also some murals outside which are a fantastic photo opp so of course being bloggers we had to take advantage of this!


After lunch, our next stop was the Library of Congress. I can't pass up an opportunity to go to a pretty library. It was absolutely beautiful on the inside. Kind of like the Boston Public Library combined with an art gallery. It also gave us the opportunity to sit down for a bit as by this point we had walked about 8 miles and my feet were killing me. The library is also right next to the Capitol so we got a fantastic view of the building from there.







We'd arranged to meet Meredith for dinner and still had some time to kill so we decided to head to the Smithsonian's air and space museum. But once we got there we both kinda realised that we were super exhausted and just wanted to grab a cold drink and sit down for a while so we stopped at a nearby Starbucks for some iced tea and the opportunity to charge our phones. After this, we got an Uber up to Tico, a tapas restaurant where we met Meredith.



We caught up over tacos. Jess and I both tried duck tacos with mango salsa and Meredith had the fried chicken tacos. The restaurant was really hip but unfortunately, had super dark lighting so I have no photos! It was right across the road from Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream which was the perfect dessert. I tried their lavender ice cream which was actually pretty tasty if not a little fragrant. I wanted to go back to the Lincoln Memorial to see it at night by which point I was seriously tired. We'd walked half a marathon that day and I had a huge blister on my foot. But in the end, it was worth the pretty view.


The next morning I wasn't feeling so well (a running theme for my trip it would seem). But I forced myself to get up, check out of my hotel and meet Jess to explore the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. This was the museum I was most looking forward to in D.C. as it's pretty famous! We had a nice time looking around at everything. I really reminded me of the Natural History Museum in New York but this one was much smaller in a way that's so manageable. As much as I love the New York one, it's so big you could spend all day there and not see everything. After an hour or two we had seen everything in the museum (it's free) and headed to Astro Donuts as my stomach was feeling much more settled.




After scoffing a coconut cream donut it was time to go visit Mr Trumpy. I was surprised at how central The White House is as you can actually just walk down the street. It's surrounded by gates and guards which kinda ruins the photo op! Even though I definitely don't support Trump I couldn't visit Washington D.C. without seeing the White House especially when I don't know when/if I'll return to the city.



The Renwick Gallery is right by the White House so we decided to enter on a whim. The exhibitions downstairs were a bit naff. One was a replica of a subway station (?) and the other was models of crime scenes that were used to teach FBI agents. Which would have been cool had the room not been extremely crowded and a tad too claustrophobic for me. Upstairs was much quieter and had more interesting art. My favourite was the replicas of the ceilings of famous US buildings that you had to lie down on the floor to see. This was also something I liked purely for the opportunity to lie down but I digress. I'm not a huge art gallery person but I'm glad we stopped by!





The final stop on our trip was Georgetown. An old historic district in D.C. that sits along the river. Unfortunately, by this point, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and was raining pretty heavily. We stopped in a gorgeous little bookstore to take some shelter from the rain and then walked around all the cute little streets. This was a really nice area (and dare I say it felt very British?). I would have liked to spend more time here had the weather been better but the rain drove us to the nearest subway station in Rosslyn where we warmed ourselves up with soup at Panera before I made my way back to Union Station to get the Amtrak back to Stamford.





And thus my trip came to an end! I had an amazing time exploring D.C. and it was so lovely to meet Jess after so many years of online friendship. If anyone is interested, I also filmed a quick vlog which you can see here. It's not great and I kept forgetting to film important bits but it was one of my goals to try and film some vlogs whilst I'm in the US so I thought I'd share it. It's gotten some pretty good feedback from gamily and friends so far although I suppose they really go have to be nice to me!

At the moment I've not got any more trips booked but stay tuned to see where else I end up.

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