Georgetown - the upscale DC neighbourhood
I had planned this trip a long time back. Even before I came to this country! Washington DC
. The center of all the action. The seat of Power. It is difficult not to be overwhelmed with the idea of the White House and the Capitol Hill along with several historic monuments that adorn the capital of the United States of America
Courtesy Google, I had a HUGE list of things to do and places to see. But once I reached there, I realised that I'd need atleast a week to execute our plan! So I had to then re-prioritize and check out just the few most important things.
Washington DC is not too huge a city, but unfortunately, the two airports (we were landing at one airport and taking off from the other!) are miles away from the main city! In fact, they're in different states altogether!
We landed at the airport in the adjacent city of Baltimore in the state of Maryland .
The bridge on the Potomac
was about 40 miles from there. And then we were to take off from another airport, in the State of Virginia
... which is in the opposite direction... another 40 miles away! The things one has to do to cut costs!! :D
Unfortunately, all the hotels in the main Washington DC area (The Mall) were way above our budget. So we stayed in a hotel near the airport. Which meant that each day, we traveled about 2-3 hrs! From the hotel to Washington DC and back.
We were told that the public transportation in DC is very good. So we weren't very worried. But what I missed to find out was that even though the public rail and bus system within the city of DC is very good, there is just one bus going to the airport.
The infamous ”exorsist“ steps!
And that’s only once in an hour!
So we reached there on Saturday morning, checked into the hotel and headed to DC by bus. It took us quite a while to figure out which bus to catch from where and get the one-day pass for the train and all that.
We had decided that apart from seeing the usual monuments that DC is famous for, we would also check out the neighbourhood that is known to be culturally rich and diverse. So we first headed to a place called Georgetown
.. that is supposed to be a historically famous place. That’s where the up-town richie rich kind of people stay now! Its said to have the oldest buildings in the area. Also, remember the steps in the movie exorcist? The one where that priest gets thrown down by the girl? Those steps are in Georgetown
! And I just HAD to see them!
And then as we were just walking along the streets of Georgetown
, admiring the architecture, we saw a long queue in front of a tiny little shop on one of the side streets.
We saw this LONG line in front of a tiny shop and just had to find out what was happening!
I went to find out what was happening and saw that there was this nondescript shop with a board saying "Georgetown Cupcakes". And there were about 50 people in queue outside it! I were so intrigued by it that I just had to get in line to find out what the fuss was all about!
After about 20 minutes, I managed to get into the shop.. and there on display were the most beautiful cupcakes I had ever seen!
We bought one.. just one! And I fell in love!! It was heavenly! If there’s anything I am going to remember from that trip for the rest of my life, its definitely going to be the feel of that nice warm cup cake melting down my mouth!! Yummmmm!
I had decided to see the monuments at night time because I had heard that they’re all lit up and pretty. So once the sun set, we left Georgetown and headed towards the main DC area.
Built to commemorate the first Pesident - George Washington
We saw a couple of the buildings like the FBI headquarters and the US Capitol and the Washington
monument.. And by then I was tired! Plus, my camera wasn’t really capturing the monuments well in the dark. So we decided to head back to our hotel (which was a looooong way off!) and to come back the next morning and finish seeing all the other monuments and buildings that we wanted to.
We reached the hotel at midnight.. and just crashed!
The next morning, we downloaded the map of the area onto our phones, and set off.. armed with a full itinerary! I must say, the Hubby's iPod Touch was a Godsend during our trip! Although we didn’t quite uncover its full functionality till several more trips had passed! More about that later.
So once we got to the National Mall, we first went to the Washington Monument.
Saluting each State..
I must say, the biggest task there was to capture the whole monument in one click! :D From there we headed to the Reflecting Pool and then to the Lincoln Memorial.
The place I liked the most was the World War 2 memorial. It was a pool with columns all around… each column dedicated to a state in the country that fought the war. There were some nice quotes from famous Generals and Presidents all around it too.
There was also a dedicated space for the Vietnam War Memorial with a wall filled with the names of all those who died in battle. There also was a Holocaust Memorial which I couldn’t manage to fit into our schedule.
Then we walked to the White House! And toured the White House gardens. There’s a tradition wherein each President who lives there plants a tree in the garden. So I saw the little shrub that George Bush planted.. and the huge tree that Bill Clinton’s tree has grown into!
After that we decided to head to another ethnic neighbourhood of DC for lunch.
No points for guessing :)
A few train stops away from the main city is an area made famous by the African-American Civil War. The place is also famous for its Ethiopian settlement. I read all about the cuisine on the net, and decided to check it out! We entered a restaurant (Queen Makaeda) that was recommended highly by my trusty Wikitravel and were greeted by a sheet of smoke! It was like entering the homes of Tarrot Card readers and fortune tellers and all! Mystic and strange!
Soon the smoke cleared, and this lady who looked very much like a mystic smiled and us and offered us some traditional coffee in a small white cup. Along with popcorn!
We told her we were having this cuisine for the first time and ordered some chicken. Their staple diet is this pancake (rava dosa) kind of thing which they use as a bread (roti) and have with meat and veggies. (How truly Indian of me �" describing world cuisine in terms of Indian food!)
The food was spicy and delicious! And we had a feast… including some traditional desert!
After that we headed back to DC, hoping to see the National Archives where the original copy of the Declaration of Independence is kept.
The little Ethiopian restaurant we lunched at
Unfortunately there was too long a queue for that, and we had to get to the airport which was quite a distance away. So we decided to give that a miss.. and headed towards the bus stop.
So we got into the bus to the neighbouring state of Virginia from where we were to catch the flight back.
Washington DC has a law that prohibits sky scrapers.. so the whole city looks very flat and spread out compared to places like New York and Chicago . So as soon as we crossed the border and got into Virginia , the change in the cityscape was so evident! Suddenly there were tall glass buildings all over!
But it was nice to see the way the city of Washington DC has been maintained as a historic place and not been commercialized.
The US Capitol - the seat of power!
All the museums and monuments have a free entry… including the grounds of the White House! There is heavy security though… we had to go through several metal detectors and scanners.. but still, the city encourages tourists in general. And how they glorify their war heroes! It really is a different experience to see that.
But I realized that there’s more to every place than is publicised in the Tourism websites. What really makes a trip worthwhile is the experience of a new culture.. the “soaking in” so to say, of a different way of life.
And so, monuments or no monuments, Washington DC is a must see!