November 08, 2012

Washington DC

We spent an awesome 6 days in Washington DC. While in the city we got to visit with three friends from back home (all three have made DC their new home), visit the nation’s Capital and the National Mall, and got the chance to meet back up with a new friend we’d made earlier on this trip. After Philadelphia we had originally planned to visit Baltimore for a couple of days and then make our way to DC just in time for our birthday. Then the apocalyptic storm of the century Sandy rolled in and we decided to scrap Baltimore and move further inland to wait it out. We drove to State College, in the middle of Pennsylvania, and spent three uneventful nights there. When the coast was clear (pun intended!), we drove directly into DC, having decided to save Baltimore for another time.

We arrived late evening on Wednesday. The RV park we chose for DC was Cherry Hill RV Park in Maryland, and we chose it because it was the closest park to the city. It was conveniently located on a bus line that ran to the subway that went directly to the National Mall, all in just under 45 minutes. My friend Lisa put together a great itinerary for us on what to see and do, when to do it, and even paired it with recommended restaurant selections. We went to sleep early in anticipation of exploring the city and all it had to offer.

Thursday we tackled two museums on the National Mall, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Hirshhorn, a modern and contemporary art museum. Afterwards we joined up with Niki and her husband Adam. Niki and I ran cross country together in high school and for a long time we were as inseparable as sisters. Now, Niki and Adam are both national park rangers on the National Mall. Niki leads running and biking tours of the National Mall monuments (free!) on behalf of the national park system. (I think she has one of the coolest jobs…to run and bike, and get paid for it!) You might know Niki from her debut on national TV several years back during the Washington DC earthquake. She was the famous park ranger that was at the top of the Washington Monument, leading a tour, right as the earthquake hit! After the Hirshhorn we walked around the National Mall and Niki and Adam filled us in on neat facts about the monuments, museums and underground tunnels. It was unreal to walk among the buildings inscribed with names previously assigned in my head as existing only in theory; buildings belonging to the Federal Trade Commission, the USDA, the US Treasury Department, etc.

Niki is a national park ranger on the National Mall in DC
Niki, on duty at the Lincoln Memorial
Skyler and Adam looking at an exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in DC
Sky and Adam admiring a piece of art at the Hirshhorn Museum 
We took Friday as a down day and ran errands and spent time with the pups. Saturday we got a late start on the day and met up with Lisa at the Eastern Market just before lunch. Lisa and I go way back, to elementary days, where we first met at a summer sports camp. Lisa, Lindsay, Lindsay’s twin Kelley and I have been a solid troop of friends since then. Lisa has been living in DC for some time now (hence her great insight on what to see and do there), and is quite fond of her new home. She took us to some of her favorite places in the city and Georgetown, and then back to her apartment where we met her boyfriend John, and talked late into the evening over wine and pizza.

Lisa and I on the Georgetown Potomac riverfront
Lisa and I on the Georgetown waterfront
Our wall art at the Baked and Wired cafe in Georgetown
We left our mark at the Baked and Wired cafe in Georgetown! 
Sunday we brought our bikes to the National Mall and spent the day biking around the memorials. We visited the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Biking on the National Mall
Biking on the National Mall
The view of the Washington Monument from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial
The view of the Washington Monument from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial 
We biked across the Potomac River to Virginia to the Arlington National Cemetery, where we visited the Kennedy graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We got to watch the changing of the guards! Here is a short clip I got of the ceremony (the whole thing was around 10 minutes long):

We made our way back over the bridge just before sunset. Niki gave us a personal tour of the Lincoln Memorial, then we made our way to the beautiful fountains of the World War II Memorial. The Fish Market was nearby, so we biked over and got fresh bowls of clam chowder, and then Sky talked me into buying a pound of fresh shrimp and a large slice of fresh salmon. Just before catching the subway home, we biked on the National Mall and saw the Washington Memorial and the Capitol lit up in the darkness. It was gorgeous!

The Lincoln Memorial at sunset
The Lincoln Memorial at sunset
World War II Memorial in Washington DC
World War II Memorial
The Fish Market in Washington DC
The Fish Market
The Capital Building at night
The Capitol Building at night
 Monday we toured the Capitol building and the Library of Congress. The Library has got to be one of the prettiest buildings we’ve been to. The architecture and the detail behind all the decorations throughout the building was spectacular. The tours took up most of the afternoon, so we only had an hour left before the 5:30 closing time of the museums. There were so many museums that we had planned to visit but had yet to explore. In the end we chose the Natural History Museum, Sky really wanted to see the Hope Diamond. After closing time we met up with Brett, our couchsurfing host in Fredericksburg, Texas. He happened to be in town the same time we were and had contacted us through Facebook about meeting up. Brett is one of those very cool people who has through-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and always has an interesting story to tell. We were very excited to join him for drinks at a bar near the Mall.

The US Capitol Building in Washington DC
The US Capitol Building in Washington DC
Inside the Library of Congress
Inside the Library of Congress 
The Hope Diamond in the Natural History Museum
The Hope Diamond in the Natural History Museum  
Our friend Brett from Fredericksburg, TX
Brett, from Fredericksburg, TX!
Tuesday was our last day in the city and was also the US presidential Election Day. It was really exciting to be in the city on the day of the elections! We spent most of the morning planning our route after DC, and then went into the city to watch the election and to meet Yulia and her husband for dinner at the District Chophouse near Chinatown. Yulia parents and my parents are good friends back home, and our families have shared many dinners together while we were growing up. Yulia moved to DC after living in Monterey Bay and also really likes her new hometown. We had a very yummy steak dinner together and watched the elections unfold on the TVs over the bar. When we were leaving to catch the subway home, the election was still too close to call. By the time we got home, Obama was named our next president. It was amazing how quickly the elections went this year; we had been hoping for a longer bout of back and forth swings in the electoral counts.

Yulia and her husband at the District Chophouse
Yulia and her husband at the District Chophouse
Although it feels like we spent a long time in DC, we only saw the tip of the ice berg. There are so many world class museums on the Mall, all different from each other and all with amazing displays. The best thing about them is that they are all free! We definitely plan to visit the city again.

To see more pictures of Washington DC, click here.

Happy after a great time in the capital with friends!


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