A New Adventure: Washington, D.C.

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After getting through some little mishaps that tried to steer us off the course, my mother and I eventually hit the road for a smooth ride to Washington, D.C. – our first trip to the nation’s capital.

Originally, our plan had to been to take Megabus (just $20 for both of us!) on Wednesday night to D.C. It would have been an overnight trip, and we should have arrived in DC around 9:40 a.m. on Thursday. Mother Nature had something else in mind for us, as a blizzard hit the Buffalo area on Wednesday, thus cancelling our bus.

But fear not, for Greyhound saves the day! I was thankfully able to book us tickets for Thursday to DC. It meant spending more money and 14.5 hours on buses, including three transfers…. but we knew it would be worth it in the end.

Thursday morning, we got up and headed to the bus station…. and then got derailed when I realized halfway to downtown that I had forgotten our return tickets at home! Thankfully, we were able to ask a family member to pick us up and help us out, so everything worked out perfectly fine in the end.

Here’s how Thursday went:

Rolled out of Buffalo at 6:15 a.m. –> Transfer #1 in Rochester, NY. –> Lots and lots and lots of stops. –> Transfer #2 in Elmira, NY. –> Lots more stops. –> Arrival in Harrisburg, PA at approximately 4:30 p.m. for an almost 2-hour layover. We visited Strawberry Square – only about a 5-minute walk from the bus station – and had dinner and walked around. –> Transfer #3 in Harrisburg. –> A stop in York, PA and then an additional stop in Baltimore — my first time ever in Maryland. –> Arrival in Washington, DC just before 9 p.m.

My aunt had arrived from Pittsburgh hours before us, so we were to meet her at the hotel. Although a cab seemed inviting, I decided that I was up to the challenge of the metro system. It ended up being fairly simple – take the red line to Metro Center, transfer to the orange line there, then get off at Courthouse and you’re in Arlington!

We stayed at the Residence Inn Arlington Courthouse. It’s a very nice hotel – I’d definitely recommend it! It’s in Virginia but it’s just a short metro into DC, and you can’t beat it. Our room was like a suite – one big bed plus a sofa bed, a kitchen, bathroom, table, TV. One of the things that specifically stood out about the hotel was the continental breakfast every morning. Also note: Virginia – my second new state on this trip.

Continuing onto Friday. We began with breakfast at the hotel, then ventured out to the subway and got off at Union Station in the heart of DC. Our first move? Walking out the front of the building and getting our first views of the Capitol. That’s when it hit me for the first time that we were action in our nation’s capital, and just how amazing that is.

After meeting up with my aunt’s friend, we were off and ready to start the day! We started off by the Japanese-American Memorial from WWII before walking over to the Library of Congress. As a person who’s worked at a library for the past nearly six years, it was only natural that I needed to stop there. And how amazing it is! It was great to be able to see parts of Thomas Jefferson’s original library, and also get a view – albeit not a close-up one – of one of the reading rooms in the library. I found some really nice things for myself in the gift shop as well.

We proceeded through the tunnel to the Capitol. Of course, there were security checkpoints at each building where you had to walk through a scanner and such. It’s good to note that if you plan on visiting any of these places, try to pack as lightly as possible and carry only the things you’ll need.

I still can’t believe we were able to go into the Capitol! We managed to get tickets for a tour that started minutes after we arrived. First, there’s a short film presentation that discusses parts of American history and the building of the Capitol. The tour then takes you around parts of the Capitol, including up to the Rotuna. It’s beautiful and it’s incredible to be in such a pinnacle place to our government and history.

After eating lunch, we visited the Supreme Court and the Folger Shakespeare Library. We even managed to check out the Elizabethan theater and saw some of the actors rehearsing!

From there we walked back around the back side of the Capitol, past more statues and all the way up to the National Gallery of Art. We didn’t go through the whole thing, but we saw some of the photography & painting exhibits. Then, we walked towards the back of the White House but everything was roped off due to an event, so we weren’t able to see anything.

We stopped for a snack/drink at the Old Ebbitt Grill, one of the oldest bars in the country. My aunt and her friend had the oysters (I’ll pass) while mom and I shared a hummus platter. It was definitely nice to get out of the sun, rest our feet and refuel. We then walked to the White House, and it was amazing…. To think about how many presidents have lived there (all but one, of course) and all the famous people that have visited. Surreal.

From there, we had dinner at Carmine’s near the Verizon Center. I’m not a huge fan of family-style restaurants like that, but it was good. We then went to the Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks game! It’s always nice when I can check another NHL arena off my list. (Early next month, I’ll be able to check MSG off the list!!)

One thing I will say is that the food was expensive. $11 for French fries?!?! I paid $7 for nachos, which I didn’t think was too bad…. Until I saw them. For the same price that I pay at home, I got nachos that were probably about a quarter of the serving I usually get. Yikes. What’s up with that, DC?!

I did manage to purchase a Caps puck for my collection, though. And after searching around a bit, I found a Caps pocket schedule (I also collect those!). After the game, we all met up at Gordon Biersch, then hopped the metro back to our hotel. Total walking distance for Friday: approximately 6 miles.

Saturday began with breakfast around 7 a.m. We walked from our hotel to the Iwo Jima memorial, then went through the back entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. We walked through there quite a bit – though we didn’t even cover half of the cemetery! We did manage to see the Kennedy graves and the Lee family house, which we got to tour. My favorite part was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Our timing was somehow perfect that we got to see the Changing of the Guard just minutes after being there. We also got to see a wreath changing ceremony. It was, in a few words: powerful, moving, and incredible.

We proceeded to walk back through the cemetery to the front of it, across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, across the Potomac into DC. From there, it was all the memorials: Lincoln, Vietnam, World War II. We also saw the Washington Monument and kept walking, walking, walking until we reached Union Station.

From there, we hopped a circulator to Georgetown ($1), where we went to dinner at a restaurant called The Tombs. Despite its ghastly-sounding name, it was quite a pleasant restaurant, located in the basement of a building under the 1789 Restaurant. I elected to try the Hoya Salad, minus the black beans. So that was grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted corn, cucumbers, tortilla strips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and salsa served on a warm pizza crust. Let me tell you, it was DELICIOUS – but also a huge portion. I only ate half before I was stuffed to the brim.

As we walked to our next circulator stop, we noticed a loooong line and it caught our attention. It was the line for Georgetown Cupcake! We decided to go for it because we had no other plans for the evening, and wouldn’t it be cool to say that we had done that? Forty-five minutes later, we had cupcakes. I went for the cookies & cream – it was good. My aunt tried the peanut butter fudge, which she said was good. Mom wasn’t impressed by the cherry blossom one – she said she detected no hints at all of anything cherry!

We hopped another circulator that took us back into Virginia and dropped us off at Rosslyn, not far from the metro. We took that one stop up to our hotel and promptly collapsed in bed. Exhausting! Total walking distance for Saturday: 9 miles. That’s almost 15 total!

Sunday, our final breakfast at the hotel. We packed everything up and took the subway into Judiciary Square, walking from there to the Newseum! Obviously I’m biased since I’m a journalism grad, a writer and a total nerd, but it was such an amazing place. We spent four hours there and it definitely wasn’t enough time, but we got to see a little bit of everything.

Some of my favorite parts:

  •  The Berlin Wall
  • The 9/11 pieces, including a wall of newspapers from around the world
  • History of reporting area
  • The original door from Watergate
  • “Anchorman” newsroom where you can stand in front of a camera & read a script and then your video can be uploaded to Youtube!
  • Journalist’s memorial – truly so touching.

I bought a few things at the gift shop there, and then we left and walked to Union Station. Total walking distance for Sunday was about 1.5 miles, putting us at 16.5 miles in three days!

Our bus left at 2 p.m. for NYC. We drove through Delaware – the third new state for me! Our arrival in the city was a bit early and we had a layover, so Mom & I walked around outside for a bit and sat at Dunkin Donuts. Our bus back to Buffalo was packed, and it was a long ride, and I didn’t sleep at all, but……. It’s okay.

Reflecting on this weekend, it truly was incredible. I’m so blessed to have experiences like these in my life every once in a while; they’re what keep me going. When things get bad and I feel so down, these are the sorts of things that I look to for inspiration, for hope, for happiness. I certainly enjoyed myself and I definitely want to visit again someday.

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