We held the hands of friends and lovers
We did not turn our backs
- E. Ethelbert Miller
To some Washington D.C. stands for politics, the elite, for a government that gets nothing done. Others might remember it as the city that was once America's murder capital. To me it is home away from home.
In DC, going to the Mall has nothing to do with shopping. In DC, most tourists never set a foot outside Northwest, not counting Union Station. In DC, cherry blossoms alongside the Tidal Basin are what the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is to New York. In DC, there is so much marble, your eyes start to hurt. I can go on and on about this great love of mine. Sure, like no love, this city isn't perfect either. John F. Kennedy once said: "Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm", ironically implying that the capital is rude and inefficient. With the latter I might agree, but I beg to differ when it comes to the first. I have only found kindness and friends in this beltway bubble.
Let's rewind a little. It is 2011. I am doing my Master's in Journalism after having completed a bachelor's degree in American Studies. It is time to think about an internship and I know exactly what I want: combine both my passion for the US with my love for journalism. So I apply for a position in Washington DC, with the US correspondents for the NOS (The Dutch Public Broadcaster). They hire me and a few months later, in January 2012, I pack my bags, say goodbye to Rob & my family and take off to the capital of The US of A.
For four months I lived in a glorious city that was designed for the sole purpose of government, but in the process created monuments, parks, cultural institutions, and nowadays bears so much history. I lived in the International Student House (ISH) aka Little Hogwarts as we liked to call it. Together with some 90 other highly ambitious youngsters. We explored DC, shared moments that later became precious memories, and went on little trips outside the city in the weekends. Sometimes I think these short four months were the beginning of my adult life. In May, I moved back, finished my thesis (about the American media & Sarah Palin's political persona ;-)) and started my first job.
Flash forward. 2016. After four years of dreaming about going back it was high time to just book that plane ticket already. Together with a longtime friend who did the same internship last year, I flew to DC. We visited our favorite neighborhoods (Dupont, Adams Morgan, Georgetown, and Logan Circle) and explored new (or rather gentrified, to be fair) ones such as Shaw and Capitol Hill/Barracks Row. We walked many, many miles. Hopping from monument to monument, because well, when you're in town, you just cannot not go. Of course we also visited the office on M Street and spent a lovely evening in our old home on R Street. What amazed me most is how emotional I got from the odors of both places. Smells I had forgotten, but recognized immediately. It brought tears to my eyes for a second, but I decided to not to let them get the upper hand. Instead, I enjoyed every moment to the fullest and tried to live in the moment. No easy thing when dealing with so many emotions, I tell you. It's just dificult to describe what it feels like to step back into your old life: it feels like not a day has passed, but at the same time you realize that so much has happened in these four years and none of my friends live in DC anymore, so it's a bit like coming home to an empty house.
What was new to me, was seeing the city through the eyes of a foodie. In 2012, I did not care much for real, plant-based, and high-quality food. Much has changed. Not only I have, but so has DC. Four years ago there was hardly a food culture. In the last few years, many new places have popped up. I talked to some restaurant owners about this and they told me it's because the city is expanding and has become one of the fastest growing towns in America. My friend Alyssa, who also lived in ISH four years ago, but recently moved to Philly, says it's the Obama bump. The Obamas often go out and about, explore new places in DC, and dine out, which is good for business. Hence, the bump.
Anyway, it was such a pleasure to walk from cafe to cafe and restaurant to restaurant, and just order whatever seemed perfect. Or sounded perfect; hello Jolene Peach Punch! I had fun walking through Whole Foods again, actually paying attention to all the products I always see on those pretty Instagram accounts.
Apart from all the eating, we of course created new memories too. Ones I will never forget. Like ordering all those Ubers ('cause of laziness), the mysterious Airbnb cat who might or might not have stolen some of our belongings, looking outside the window while being in the shower and discovering the White House in the distance, dreaming about winning the lottery and being able to buy one of those colorful townhouses. <3 Find a list of things to see/do/eat at the end of the post, after scrolling through thousands of photos.
Big Bear Cafe: Lovely ivy and plants-covered patio. Delicious cocktails, nice vibe.
Pineapple and Pearls: Good coffee + cinnamon buns. Good location. Popular place.
Chaia: Plant based tacos made with local products. Really good!
Dolcezza 14th Street (pastries & coffee), Dupont (gelato): Italian sweets in DC + delicious lattes.
Five Guys: If you're craving a burger + fries, go here.
Jrink: Cold-pressed juices and gorgeous space
Mintwood Place: Feel like brunching? Go here. Nice people, very decent place, high quality food.
Ted's Bulletin: Homemade pop tarts. Do I need to say more?
Shouk: Middle Eastern inspired food. Pitas with lots of veggies.
Smucker Farms: If you need some healthy snacks, sandwiches, or kombucha on the go.
Little Serow: The new "it" restaurant in DC. Thai food, only a few tables available, be prepared to wait for a seat. Considered the best place in town.
Compass Coffee: Yummy ice coffee, located in an upcoming neighborhood.
USDA Friday Farmers Market: The best place to pick up some food while visiting the Mall.
Sweetgreen: When you have no idea where to go for lunch, Sweetgreen is always a good option.
Renwick Gallery: Recently reopened after a major renovation. Features art from past & present.
Salt & Sundry: Cute store with objects for home & kitchen. I bought my favorite nut butter there.
Union Market: DC's food hall
The Memorials: In particular Jefferson & Lincoln
The Mall: In particular Holocaust museum & The Museum of The American Indian
The White House, The Capitol, The Library of Congress, and The Supreme Court
Eastern Market: Food, art & cultural market in Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Old Town Alexandria: Alexandria is a cute town just outside of DC. Easy to visit by Metro. Lots of little stories, cafes and a nice harbor to sit and relax.
(All the Smithsonian institutions are for free)
So what are you waiting for? -x