Washington DC

To my darling DC,

The train stops, our eyes meet as you recognise me, I smile at my darling Washington DC;

A year having passed since I laid eyes on you last, you caused a skip and a flutter like that girl from my past.

As the last dying embers of summer illuminated the sky I cantered along, carefree, a glint in my eye;

Lincoln and Washington watched over us at night, causing me to step back and admire this truly resplendent sight.

I saunter before pausing along the National Mall, admiring a rare beauty that is witnessed by all;

Monumental in stature, whilst adored with affection, I made one admiring glance as I caught your reflection.

I live in the moment, a whisper, you’re shy; clear eyes, I’m present; the moment passes us by.

You flirt with the camera; I’m drawn to your eyes; silence falls upon stillness- a melodic sunrise.

When admiring your beauty there need be no reason; you flatter, you blush in cherry blossom season.

Memorials of the past offer time to honour and reflect whilst making us grateful, emotional and full of respect.

In Arlington where rows of white headstones are set those brave names engraved we shall never forget.

The White House, imposing, standing proud and so tall; even though the occupant is not admired by all!

A trump card that causes divide and debate; does another term beckon? We shall have to wait.

A capitol building that illuminates the night, a beacon, a symbol, an awe-inspiring sight.

Running so deep and so dear to you, the star-spangled banner- the red, white and blue.

Beauty and admiring glances aside I know a great history fills this capital with pride.

You pull me in close to whisper farewell; my darling DC I’m forever under your spell.

As the time comes to leave emotions run high, we pause, I blink, you’re gone, goodbye!

As you might be able to tell I’m a big admirer of this great city. A cultural hub invites you in to fully explore and immerse yourself within a nation’s history. Far removed from the noisy neighbour that resides a little further down the road, here elegance takes centre stage within a city that isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is as style is far more valued over substance.

So, with the introductions and my personal love affair with the US capital out of the way let us delve in and find out what Washington DC has to offer.

Getting to DC:

Washington DC is serviced by three airports; Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) The closest of the three to downtown DC is DCA being just a 20 minute metro journey directly from the airport. The other two are somewhat of a distance away. BWI is roughly 30 miles away, but you can get to and from DC via train and bus to Union station and then use the metro to get to where you need to be in DC. IAD is also roughly 30 miles away from DC and it is probably easiest to reach DC via bus and metro combination. You can take a bus from IAD to Wiehle- Reston East, from where you can take the metro to your destination in DC.

Accommodation:

First things first and like any trip that you are thinking about planning you are going to need options for your accommodation. So below I have compiled a list of three, all varying in style and price range to help give you a nudge in the right direction for what you might be looking for.

Watergate Hotel; overlooking the Potomac river, drink in the sweeping views of an evening as you retire to the rooftop bar drink in hand and watch this great city light up as the sun begins to set. A cool design and sophisticated decor mean that the hotel with one of the most famous names in the world is a luxurious option for your stay in DC. To help tempt you further, the hotel provides a spa, sauna, pool and fitness centre all helping to keep you occupied and relaxed for the duration of your stay.

Pod DC Hotel; this hipster hotel is a cool place to stay that provides plenty of value for money. With fitness facilities, a rooftop bar, great location and being only five metro stops away from Ronald Reagan National Airport you will be hard pressed to find a better alternative for the low rates that they offer.

HI Washington DC; for those who are looking for a more budget friendly stay then this hostel meets all the criteria. Cheap and with a great downtown location close to all the attractions this is perfect for those trying to keep costs to a minimum.

Getting around DC:

Although I wouldn’t rate it as the greatest transport system in the world, DC’s Metro system is probably your best option for manoeuvring your way around the city. Whilst it is pretty reliable and easy to navigate your way around, it doesn’t cover all of the areas within DC and some stops can be quite spaced out from one another, meaning that you are probably going to do a combination of the Metro, plus walking, to reach your desired destination. Paying to use the Metro is quite straight forward. You simply buy a metro card at one of the stations and credit it with however much you wish to put on the card. You will then be charged a set amount for every ride that you make and once your credit is running low you top the card back up again.

Alternatively you can hire a bike to navigate your way around the city. One of the more popular bikeshare companies being Capital bikeshare where costs start from $8 for 24 hours and $17 for 3 days.

With accommodation and transportation taken care of, now comes the question of where to start. So with that in mind I purchased my metro card, grabbed my camera bag and found myself en route to my first port of call- the National Mall. This of course wasn’t my first visit to DC, but unlike with previous visits where I had just begun to scratch the surface, this time I was looking to take a more in depth look. No longer a mere novice leaving it to chance and hoping to stumble across what DC had to offer, this time I had more of an understanding of this great city through experience and research. I carried more of a purpose with what I wanted to see and explore. So with the L plates finally removed and armed with a good map, I went from novice to intermediate and set about getting to know DC.

Home to some of the world’s best museums the National Mall provides you with the opportunity to delve into history and culture by providing you with a wide variety of free museums courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution. Not just your average museum, a lot of thought and creativity has been applied to the making of these fine museums, allowing for people of all ages and interests to enjoy the experience. I had already visited many of the museums on previous visits, but one that had so far eluded me was the National Gallery of Art, which I am pleased to say that I finally managed to see. Split into two buildings, east and west, the museum seemed like a popular choice and, like all the other museums which I had visited under the Smithsonian umbrella, I found it thoroughly interesting and enjoyable.

There are so many fantastic museums to visit that I would encourage you to set some time aside and visit the ones that you would like to visit. They are all pretty spectacular and you will not be left disappointed. So immerse yourself within knowledge and enjoy a look through history as you expand your horizons and enjoy the many free exhibits on offer.

After an indulgence of history and artistic flare I found myself seeking out and heading towards the US Botanic gardens; a living plant museum that informs visitors about the importance, and often irreplaceable value, of plants to the well- being of humans and to the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Grab yourself a map and make your way around the beautifully peaceful and colourful gardens.

Just around the corner lies the imposing and impressive US Capitol building. Open to the public and with tours available, this architectural masterpiece acts as a symbol for democracy around the world. Its distinctive dome that lies atop the building is what most people will recognise from various photographs and famous movies that feature Washington DC. My favourite time to visit is at blue hour when the sun is beginning to set and you can park yourself by the reflective pool and watch as this impressive building begins to twinkle under the lights.

When exploring a new city, one of the things that I like to do is visit and explore bookstores. You just never know what type of gems that you might uncover. So if you are also an avid book-lover then you might want to pay a visit and peruse over the shelves at these two bookstores.

Capitol Hill Books; a second hand bookstore cluttered from wall to wall and ceiling to floor in a wide range of books. This unique store is a treasure trove for book lovers that has something for everyone and if you look hard enough you just might find it.

East City Bookshop; a cool modern bookstore with plenty of reading options for people with different interests and who are of different age groups. Also an independent bookshop that seems to give more of a personal touch and interaction.

Everyone knows that DC is famed for its monuments and memorials but it’s not until you witness them in person that you realise just how spectacular they really are. I think that the US does a great job in remembering and honouring those that went before them and who have helped shape the country into what it is today and by also honouring those that have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country to help protect and safeguard it for today and the future generations.

My favourite thing to do in DC is to watch the sun rise from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I love that time in the morning when light is beginning to break and all that surrounds you is calm and still. The colours, the deafening silence, a rare stillness that delivers goosebumps. You will also have the added advantage of having this spectacular view for the most part to yourself. It can also be fun of an evening around blue hour when people are relaxing and having fun presenting you with the opportunity to partake in a spot of people watching. Afterwards take a stroll around the impressive memorial that holds council over the western end of the National Mall and marvel at the 36 marble columns and imposing 19-foot tall statue of President Lincoln.

Just a short walk and south east of the Lincoln Memorial lies the Korean War Veterans Memorial; a memorial for those who served in the Korean War between 1950-1953. The memorial is made up of four parts- The Mural Wall, The Pool of Remembrance, The United Nations Wall and the 19 stainless steel figures. A quite striking presentation and moving tribute that seems to take on an even more emotional presence if visiting at dusk or dawn.

Sitting close by and just a short trip across the road that sits behind the Korean War Veterans Memorial lies the beautiful Tidal Basin. If you happen to be visiting here in the spring time then you are in for a real treat as in full bloom cherry blossom season the beauty is simply majestic. Still, quite the picture at any time of year it is here that you will find the Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial, The Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the George Mason Memorial.

Sitting to the north east of the Lincoln Memorial you will find the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; a tribute to the brave members of the U.S. Armed Forces who fought in the Vietnam War and were killed or missing in action. The Memorial consists of three separate parts: The Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Woman’s Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

At the opposite end from the Lincoln Memorial and the reflective pool stands both The National World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The National World War II Memorial honours the 16 million people who served as Part of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This is quite a truly remarkable memorial that offers a powerful tribute whilst maintaining a sobering sense and feel that forces you into a state of contemplation and reflection.

Just across the road you will find the Washington Monument; built to honour George Washington the 555 foot marble obelisk is the centrepiece of the National Mall. An imposing monument and piece of architecture that proudly stands tall and is synonymous with the identity of DC.

I would implore people to take a stroll around the memorials and monuments after sunset where they seem to take on a whole new feel as they are less busy and there is a more gentle calmness surrounding them. A stroll along the national mall as the sun is going down by the reflective pool can be quite the enchanting experience and one that I always make time for.

Lying within close proximity to the Washington Monument is the White House; perhaps the most famous house in the world, it is the official residence and workplace of the president of the United States. So why not take a stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue and witness this truly stunning and iconic building for yourself whilst grabbing a photograph along the way

Located across the Potomac River from Washington DC near the Lincoln Memorial in Arlington County, Virginia, is Arlington National Cemetery; the largest military cemetery in the country serves as the final resting place for more than 400,000 military veterans and their immediate family from the fronts of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as World Wars I and II, the Korean conflict, Vietnam, the Cold War and America’s Civil War. It is a very touching and poignant experience when you visit Arlington cemetery and one that evokes emotion as you walk past the many rows of headstones that lie within this tranquil setting allowing for a time to reflect upon the sacrifice that others have made to safeguard the United States.

Arlington County, Virginia is also the home of United States Marine Corps War Memorial; located inside Arlington Ridge Park the Memorial honours all the members of the United States Marine Corps who have served and given their lives in defence of the United States since the founding of the Corps in 1775. The stature and presence that this memorial commands is truly impressive whilst managing to preserve an air of serenity and beauty, as it stands tall against the picturesque backdrop of Washington DC. Again, I would recommend visiting at either sunrise or sunset to capture the true beauty as the sky lights up in a fusion of colours providing the perfect setting.

If you’re looking to catch your breath, grab a bite to eat and for the chance to splurge a little money, then a trip over to CityCenterDC is in order. Located in downtown DC, fashionistas can rejoice in the knowledge that boutique after boutique awaits their arrival in this shopping haven. Not just simply filled with clothes shops, you will also find a collection of eateries, coffee houses, jewellery and skin care shops whilst finding a host of cool courtyards and seating areas along the way where you can relax and pass the time of day with friends. I have to say that it is also a very pretty and beautifully decorated shopping hub. The architecture and decorations are simply stunning and make for a rather pleasing on the eye shopping experience.

It is here in CityCenterDC that you will find Fruitive; the plant-based organic eatery that provides fantastically tasteful fresh food. This cool, chic eatery, is the perfect place for all those following a plant-based or gluten free diet looking to hit their daily macro and micronutrient needs.

Rock Creek Park; If you are a fan of hiking and the outdoors then a visit to this majestic national park should be in order. With plenty of trails to walk along and with its naturally beautiful scenery all helping to make this peaceful gem the perfect refuge for escaping the hustle and bustle of the city as you strip back modern day living and get back to the simplistic pleasures that life has to offer.

Georgetown; I’m sure many of you will have heard about this endearingly pretty neighbourhood and if you should so happen to be visiting DC then you should definitely add it to your to do list. Cobblestone streets give way to picturesque colourful houses, with quaint boutique shops, delightful restaurants and chic coffee houses scattered in between. If that wasn’t enough there is also a historical and scenic canal, whilst a picturesque waterfront park will help capture your imagination as it provides you with a scenic walk along the waterfront offering beautiful views over the Potomac River.

A little off the beaten track is Culture House DC (Blind Whino); this former church has been turned into a community arts, exhibition and private events venue. Although I didn’t get to visit inside as it was closed I still enjoyed the colourful make up of the outside of the building with the quirky nature of the building and colourful exterior making for a cool photograph.

If you want to get a photograph with the renowned Love mural and run your eyes over various other interesting murals then make your way over to Blagden Alley; a cool little creative place that offers up colourful street art, coffee shops, eateries and cocktail bars making this an alternative part of the capital that provides something a little different from the usual DC experience.

United States National Arboretum is an arboretum in north east DC that spans 446 acres. Open to the public from 8am to 5pm every day of the year except December 25, this vast sprawling piece of greenery is another haven that provides the perfect respite from city living. With plenty of walking trails and stunning gardens to admire the arboretum is beautifully majestic in all of the seasons. Be sure to check out the National Capitol Columns for a cool photo opportunity.

Sadly my time in DC was coming to an end and it was that time again for us to say our goodbyes. It always pains me to leave as it is such a truly fantastic city with so much to offer. My love affair with Washington DC will continue and I will be back again at some point within the not too distant future but for now at least it was time for us to go our separate ways leaving me with a plane to catch. As I parked myself in the airport lounge I had plenty of time to reflect upon my time in DC as my flight kept getting delayed. After five hours I was sitting and drifting away into a world of my own when an announcement was made of the PA system….. “passengers can now begin boarding for the flight to Chicago” next stop the Windy City!!

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