EXPLORING THE CAPITAL
Just arrived home from Europe, and I’m still going through the process of getting my routine and life back together. As I anticipated, I accomplished nothing work related while gone. I need to stop kidding myself and accept that I can’t balance fast paced travel and work. New experiences and people will always come before sitting behind my laptop, as it should. Now that I’m home, this procrastinating leaves me with a bit of catching up to do. If you start to feel sorry for me and my never-ending pile of work, just glance at my Instagram feed from the past month and you will quickly get over it.
Over the next week or so, I’m going to put together a few posts outlining my favorite stops in each city and a little overview of my experiences. I hesitate to make a guide, because I’m really not an expert. I only spent a little time in each place and I may be one of the worst tourists. Who goes to Paris and doesn’t see the Eiffel Tower? That being said, I often get asked for tips about certain places and it’s nice to have a post to jog my memory.
First up is Washington, D.C. I never visited D.C. as a kid like many of my friends, and it was probably for the best. While there are lots of museums and activities to hold a child’s interest, I think I can appreciate it more as an adult. It was also one of the easiest places to travel by myself. Museum hopping is a great solo pursuit. I couldn’t imagine any of my friends wanting to spend 3 hours with me in the Portrait Gallery. On the flip side, I’m sure I missed out on the great nightlife that the city has to offer but I’m ok with the trade off.
For the duration of my stay I lived in an AirBNB in Mt. Pleasant, a charming and lovely neighborhood very close to the National Zoo. I used public transportation to get into the city everyday, which was a minefield of daily confusion and mishaps. I’m sure the subway system is usually a simple process but combined with daily maintenance, line closures, and my directionally challenged self, it made for an interesting experience. I eventually figured it out though, and then confidently rode those rails like a local.
As expected, the Library of Congress came out on top as my favorite experience. A Beaux-Arts building that houses the largest catalog of books, what's not for me to love. Did I tear up during the tour when the docent talked about how a British soldier pocketed one book before destroying the original collection, and it was discovered and reclaimed in the 90s? Maybe. Did Jefferson’s collection and a glance into the reading room give me goosebumps? Definitely. I have already decided that I need to go back, get my reading card, and actually utilize the library. So don't be surprised when I have another trip planned to D.C. in the near future. Along with the National Parks, the Library of Congress is one of the things that ACTUALLY make me proud to be American.
My love affair with the library aside, I also hit most of the typical sights:
National Mall- The backside of the Lincoln Memorial was my favorite spot to sit and ponder life.
White House- I did a drive by and took an obligatory picture, observed the Secret Service, and quickly moved on. The Eisenhower offices next door are much more picturesque and lovely as far as buildings go.
Museum of National History- I thought the building was more spectacular than the exhibits. I also discovered that I’m into meteorites along with Dinosaur fossils, of which NYC has a much better collection.
National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden- Good spot for a quick and easy lunch in a lovely setting.
US Botanic Garden- I enjoyed the outside garden area, especially the rose garden. I went on a Monday and the greenhouse was packed with school children, so avoid visiting during the week if possible.
Supreme Court- The building was pretty empty since Court isn't in session, but I liked the fact that I had the whole place to myself. Unfortunately, no RBG sightings.
National Zoo- Did you know that it is someone’s job to monitor the Pandas? Like sit at a desk with 6 monitors and watch live video feed of the Pandas all day long! Where do I sign up?
National Air & Space Museum- This place is kid central. I did like a few of the exhibits, but overall it didn't hold my interest for very long.
Textile Museum- There was a temporary exhibit going on at the time, and while it wasn’t what I expected, it left me feeling inspired.
I was most impacted by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and from what I gather it has a similar effect on many visitors. The simple and unimposing design is in sharp contrast to some of the other monuments, but it is all the more powerful because of it. It quickly pulled me in, and a wave of emotion and a feeling of loss came over me. That is some grade A design work. It also wasn’t lost on me that at the same time last year I was in Hanoi experiencing Liberation Day and all that it entails. I'm all the better for getting a glimpse and insight into how both countries remember the war.
While visiting Washington, D.C., I only really covered the touristic and historical side of the city. Besides interacting with my hosts and a few people here and there, I pretty much kept to myself. As usual I didn’t discover any hidden gems of gastronomic pleasure or top notch shopping, but there is always next time. Who am I kidding, next time you will find me in the dungeons of the Library of Congress and happy as a clam.