Easily the nicest cities in the US, a city with character, atmosphere, interesting sites, good food, DC is a must visit. And you need time, 5 days was barely enough to cover the main sites. So I reached DC from Troy, NY (that’s where I am currently staying) by Megabus, very convenient,fast, comfortable and most importantly, cheap. It was certainly a long journey but the weather in DC was beautiful, as compared with upstate NY(this was in mid December). Getting to my hostel, Duo Housing(which is so far my least favorite hostel, or maybe I’m just done with staying in hostels) was easy, just took a circulator bus from the Union Station. Went to bed straightaway after dinner.
First of all,my favorite places in DC, not that other places were any less:
1. Museum of Natural History, and the documentaries they air at the IMAX theatre.
2. Library of Congress building.
3. The Washington Monument,ofcourse and the Lincoln Memorial area.
4. The National Art Gallery.
5. Arlington Cemetery.
Things which I missed and would really love to go back to DC for:
1. National Building Museum
2. Basilica of the National Shrine
3. Gardens and estates Hillwood Gardens and Dumbarton Oaks.
4. Spend more time at the Air and Space Museum
5. National Portrait Gallery.
So strong reasons to come back to DC, this also means one needs to spend a lot of time in DC.
Places to Eat
These are the places I went to and liked, all are largely cheap eats and close to major sights:
Amsterdam Falafel, Indian buffet at Rasoi, District Taco, Lalibela for Ethiopian food.
Started the day with a pancake breakfast at my hostel, which was fair enough. This was the first time I was traveling unprepared, without any itinerary or even a rough plan in mind, and it worked out pretty well. I just looked at the map and decided to head to the Washington Monument. I am so glad it has been reopened, view points and towers and terraces have always been highlights in my previous trips. The view from the top, simply amazing, plus I got a good orientation of the National Mall area. And the buildings looked so grand, I’m pretty sure this is how Rome would have looked in it’s heyday.
The next logical stop was the Lincoln Memorial, again, a very well done monument. The leafless trees, blue skies, low sun angle , the walkways, all provided an excellent photo-op. And the views from the Lincoln Memorial were simply fabulous. Next was the Museum of Natural History, another highlight of the trip. Almost all the sections were brilliant, but what appealed to me the most was the section of wilderness areas and the documentary/movies shown at the IMAX, saw 3 of them, almost back to back, Jerusalem, which was the star of all, the others, Titans of the Ice Age and Mysteries of the Unknown World too were well done ones. I wish they could make more of these.
The Pavilion Cafe, was a great place to have a snack in between, the chocolate cake and hot chocolate was great. The evening was a beautiful one, a little clouds and some magical red-orange light at sunset with the Washington Monument and Smithsonian Castle in the backdrop.
The Capitol Hill was on the list today, but then I had food in my bag which I did not want to discard(you can’t carry food inside the Capitol Hill), so I skipped the Capitol Hill for the time being and headed to the Library of Congress, which I think is easily my most favorite building in DC. The Renaissance style architecture reminded me of my travels in Europe. And what do I say about the Supreme Court building? It’s so pristine, for a moment I thought it could rival the Taj Mahal. The Union Station building too was quite impressive, so were many many buildings as I walked back into the Downtown area. Lunch was at District Taco, which was fair enough. I further spent the afternoon exploring the National Art Galley which ofcourse was brilliant. The El Greco collection, the short movie on El Greco, the courtyards were all very very impressive. The evening was spent at the Washington Monument grounds, the views all over the place were great. Dinner was at Amsterdam Falafel in the downtown area, which was petty good.
The Capitol Building was the first destination, I mean it was the 3rd day and I still hadn’t been to the Capitol building. The scaffolding was a tad disappointment, but still the large looming building is certainly no less impressive. Actually a few of Indian official state buildings have been made in a similar fashion, my university main building too is similar. Nevertheless, this was the most impressive of all. The tour was a little too fast paced, I actually would have liked it if we were allowed to move about without a tour. But overall, it was certainly a good visit, and the place is huge!! Room after room, it just seemed never ending.
I was later picked up by a family friend who drove me around. We traveled though the area where all the embassies were located, which ofcourse was very beautiful, the Rock Creek Park area,again very beautiful, it was just past Fall season in that area. I really loved how the beautiful buildings and residential areas mixed with forests and hills and brooks. We then headed onto the Airforce Memorial which was pretty awesome followed by the Arlington Cemetery which is pretty much my most favorite place in DC. The late afternoon light was excellent, plus the views of the Washington Monument were great.
We later drove to the Old Town Alexandria,which was again a great place, plenty of chic places, good christmas lighting, musical instruments being played everywhere, the houses too looked great with their old world charm. Dinner was at Bertucci’s, the food was pretty good. Later we came across a “glass harp” performance, the gentleman play an indian tune for us. So that was a perfect end to a good day.
After a quick hotel breakfast I headed to the Smithsonian Zoological Park. Got down at the Cleveland metro station, the zoo was a short walk away. The pandas were great, but a little underwhelming. The highlight of the visit however were the Sea Lions and the American River Otter. Got a bus to the Washington Cathedral, which was a stunning site. I’ve seen some of the best cathedrals in Europe, but this one was still very exciting and different. Unfortunately the elevator going upstairs was closed.Got a Naples Certified pizza at Amy’s pizza, wasn’t too impressed.
Came back to the National monument area, and visited the Sackler Art Gallery, Freer Gallery of Art and the African Art museum, all were brilliant. Evening was spent with some friends at their residence further away in Maryland. So this was a day of relatively less sightseeing.
My last day in DC. Started with the American Indian Museum, which was great, hopped onto the Botanical garden, which was a delight. The trees which grew in the greenhouse, the christmas decorations, the toy trains running around,kids playing with, was quite a change from the rest of DC. Lunch was at Rasoi,an Indian buffet place in the downtown, not too far away. The buffet was pretty pretty good.
Post lunch, I explored the area around the White House, the buildings, ofcourse were magnificent,watched another documentary at the Museum of Natural History, and then went up the Washington Monument for sunset. The late afternoon-sunset light was brilliant. Views of the Lincoln Memorial and the downtown area in Virginia were pretty good too. Later walked up to my hostel, had a great Ethiopian dinner at Lalibela, spent the rest of the evening packing my bags and left early in the morning next day for Troy,NY(that’s where I am located) using the Megabus bus.