A whirlwind tour of Washington DC

The drive from Philadelphia to Washington DC was straightforward and leaving just after lunch meant we arrived to DC around 3.30pm.

The huge, dead-straight highways make for low-stress, mile-obliterating travel from city to city. We arranged to stay at my old babysitter Barry’s house in Falls Church, Virginia, situated just outside DC. He was away in New Mexico for work, and has a spare room that he usually rents out on Air BnB, so he generously organised for us to pick up the keys from one of his colleagues in downtown DC. We would have the place to ourselves until he returned. All of this made for a seamless transition from Philly to the capital.

Once we unpacked and settled in to our new, temporary home, we only had a brief time to relax until we headed straight back out to meet another family friend, Zhikai, for dinner. Zhikai and his sister Jin (who we met for lunch in Philly) immigrated to the USA together and lived with us for a brief period and were around as part of our family when I was a boy. Zhikai now lives in Denver, Colorado, but happened to be in DC for a conference. He was leaving the next day, so it was rather serendipitous that we were able to meet up. He made a reservation at the Red Stone American BBQ & Grill in the recently developed area of National Harbour. Situated on the bank of the Potomac river, this suburb is the pinnacle of 1st world sterility, however, the food was delicious and we had a great time catching up with Zhikai, who we hadn’t seen since our wedding. After our excellent dinner, we made our way back to Barry’s and crashed in anticipation of exploring DC in the morning.

A walking tour of Georgetown

In the morning, we walked 40 minutes to the West Falls Church metro station and caught the orange line to the pleasingly named Foggy Bottom Metro station. Arriving at Foggy Bottom put us in the middle of George Washington University. As it happened, the victory parade for the Washington Capitals (NHL hockey team), who had won the Stanley Cup a few days before, was being held downtown that afternoon. The subway and streets were full of people dressed all in red making their way to the celebration. From GWU, we explored the surrounding area of Georgetown. We visited waterfront park, historic buildings such as the JFK's house, and Tudor House, the home of George Washington’s step granddaughter and her family. We also walked to the “exorcist stairs” where the final scene of the academy award winning horror film was shot. We spent many hours walking the streets of Georgetown, and was late afternoon by the time we made our way back home via the subway.

That night we very much enjoyed the luxury of being able to cook our own dinner in a proper kitchen. While it might sound like heaven eating every meal out at a restaurant for 5 months, it gets rather tiresome at times and being able to shop for ingredients and then put together a home-cooked meal is surprisingly cathartic. We played some board games and watched some TV, just like we would do at home. A welcomed small vacation from our vacation.

National Mall and the Air and Space Museum

The next day we took advantage of the park and ride at the West Falls Church metro station, where you can park all day for $3US, saving our feet the 3 mile walk at either end. We alighted at Foggy Bottom where we struggled to find a place to get passport photos for my US passport renewal application. We finally found a CVS pharmacy that was able take and print the standardised photos that competed my paperwork.

After this errand, we made our way to National Mall to eat some overpriced vendor hot dogs and explore the various famous monuments and memorials that DC is so well known for. The whole park is done extremely tastefully and each of the monuments are unique and appropriate for their respective president/war.

We made our way to the Lincoln, Vietnam War, World War 2, and then Washington monuments before walking down to all the Smithsonian museums.

Vietnam Veteran's Memorial

There are countless museums and they are all free! We elected to visit the Air and Space Museum, mostly because I have such fond memories of visiting it as a child and also because of its reputation for being one of the best in the world. We spent a good few hours here and it did not disappoint! Much of the museum is exactly as I remembered it, literally - the exhibits haven’t changed in ~20 years. However, there were plenty of modern exhibits, especially on space travel and the technology involved. The main entrance hall is striking with the front end of a Boeing 747, the NASA Apollo moon lander replica, and a number of hanging aircrafts, rockets and paraphernalia of various eras of flight/space travel.

Natural History Museum

The next day we returned to the Smithsonian, this time opting to visit the National Natural History Museum. This museum proved to be outstanding! Perhaps one of the best museums we have ever visited, it is extremely well curated and exhibits seem to strike the perfect balance of information, artifacts, and interactivity. We took a break from the museum to go down the road to the Lincoln Waffle House for lunch. After refueling with cheeseburger and a BLT, we continued to make our way through the remainder of the exhibits with no enthusiasm lost.

Catch ups and art shows

That night we caught up with our friends Delna and Kelsey, who we met while in Hampi, India. They spend half their time living just outside DC, very close to where we staying at Barry’s house, so it was only fitting to catch up with them. As it turned out, Delna, who is an extremely talented artist, had a piece of work being shown in an exhibit at their local gallery, and the opening reception was that night. We drove to their house, had some snacks and caught up on our respective travel stories, before we driving to the gallery, We met a number of Delna and Kersey’s friends and family. Everyone was so friendly and interesting!  We even met a woman who has travelled to 176 different countries!

The artwork on display was chosen to represent the tile of “Too Much for Too Much”, and there were many creative takes on this theme.

After the reception, the four of us along with another couple went out for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. We continued to catch up on each other’s travels and share stories. We spent the night at Delna and Kersey’s beautiful house. In the morning Delna made us a cooked breakfast and then took us to the small, local farmers market where she stocked up on fresh vegetables, before giving us a tour of her studio. We said our goodbyes, and headed back to Barry’s place, knowing that we will undoubtedly meet again sometime in the future.

Barry's back!

That afternoon, Barry returned home from his work trip and we went for a drive around the neighbourhood and then went to dinner at a funky strip mall filled entirely with Vietnamese-owned businesses. Naturally, we had an authentic Vietnamese meal and then returned home to relax, get caught up on the last 3 years and then watch a movie. 

On the road again...

In the morning we packed our stuff into the car, and hit the road. However, before we left DC, we had one more stop. Kelsey and Ivan are two friends whom we met through ultimate frisbee in NZ (she's was born in NZ but grew up in USA, and he's Canadian), but were in DC and we were meeting them at a centrally located farmers market. We got some coffee, explored the market and surrounding neighbourhood, and generally caught up with them.

Afterwards, we hit the road for real, headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we would be spending the next 3 days driving and camping in the beautiful nature of Virginia and North Carolina.

Lots of love,
Z & S
xxx