I had to make a last-minute trip to the US Capital, Washington DC. It was a first visit in approximately fifteen years for me. So with the little time I had during this visit, I tried to see as much as I could.
From the White House to the Washington Monument, join me in this Embolden Adventure as Ms. Sara goes to Washington:
- An Impromptu Trip
- A Commemorative and Patriotic Walk Through Time
- American History Revisited
- A Prince and a Senator!
- And more…
Last time I was in DC, I visited a friend living on the Georgetown University campus. As friends in college do, we grabbed food, got drinks, hit up some house parties, and took brief adventures on the underground Metro. In particular, I remember eating at an Ethiopian restaurant, a cuisine heavy in spicy red meat. With the largest population of Ethiopians outside this African country, it is no surprise that DC is the best place to get Ethiopian food.
On that trip, we walked around the quaint and spotless neighborhood of Georgetown, but hardly spent time touring the area.
The only time I visited DC as a tourist was during the typical class trip American eighth graders usually take. While that trip for me was many moons ago, I decided to reminisce by touring Washington DC again.
An Impromptu Trip to Washington DC
For work, I had to book a last-minute trip to DC. I was committed to meetings and conference events most of the time. However, I dedicated a few hours to exploring the city.
On the train to DC, unknowingly I sat next to a prince of Afghanistan. His name is Ali Seraj and he is the descendant of the last King of Afghanistan. Also, he ran for President of Afghanistan back in 2009 but pulled out of the race midway though. Hamid Karzai ended up winning the Presidency that year.
We started the conversation as the train rolled into the Philadelphia station. I said to him that Amman Jordan was once named Philadelphia. He followed by asking if I had visited the Middle East region. Haven’t I?
Of course I shared with Ali some of my travel adventures including my visit to the country of Jordan and the United Arab Emirates last year. I shared how we toured all over Jordan, visiting the capital Amman, the ancient Roman city of Jerash, the magnificent Rose City of Petra, the expansive Wadi Rum desert, the Red Sea and Dead Sea and more. I continued with the second part of our Middle East adventure in the United Arab Emirates where we toured the mega-city in the desert: Dubai, the desert sand dunes of Sharjah, and where I met my Arab twin in Abu Dhabi.
Ali said he used to live in Dubai and in Afghanistan where he then revealed how he is a prince.
He gave me his card. I asked him what I should call him. He said call him Ali. And no joke, I burst out singing the Aladdin song: “Prince Ali, yes it is he, Ali Ababwa..“
He has quite a traveling story around the world himself and is about to release his biographic memoir. Prince Ali accepted my invitation to feature him on and the podcast show. Stay tuned!
As we pulled into DC’s Union Station, I ran into Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut who was on the train too. I introduced myself as we exited the train station. We spoke for a few minutes about renewables and distributed energy generation. Then I gave a shout out to my hometown state of Connecticut.
Actually, the last US Senator I met in DC happened to also represent Connecticut. I briefly met former Vice Presidential Candidate and Senator Joseph Lieberman while I was walking with my friend in Georgetown. He and his wife were on a leisurely stroll that Sunday morning as my friend and I headed to brunch.
From Union Station, I exited to the city and the gleaming white, iconic dome of the United States Capitol greeted me. There in the gorgeous sunshine it struck me: “I am in Washington DC. I am really here. Wow.”
A Commemorative and Patriotic Walk Through Time
From Union Station, I grabbed a cab to my hotel located in the posh Embassy Row section of town. This area is walking distance to the main Washington DC attractions. After settling into the hotel for a bit, I put on my walking shoes.
I was heading to the White House!
I followed the map the concierge gave me. My patriotic points of interest were a good 20 minutes away by foot. From Massachusetts Avenue, I headed towards Dupont Circle. From here I headed down Connecticut Avenue. Yet again we find my home state of Connecticut!
On the avenue, I approached a man who looked familiar. Perhaps he was a political pundit on TV or a politician. I still do not know, but nevertheless I asked him. “Which way to the White House?”
The way I asked my question to him seemed funny and a bit endearing. We both chuckled a bit. He pointed the direction down Connecticut Avenue. I was heading the right way.
Then I approached Farragut Square, and made a left onto H Street. Here views of the backside of the White House began peeking out through the trees. I knew I was getting close because of the amount of heavily armed secret service patrolling the gates.
I walked along the sidewalk until I approached a pedestrian walkway and greenery. This area opened up to the tourists on foot. Soon enough the famous White House located on Pennsylvania Avenue came into view.
I happened to be right there in front of the White House when breaking news hit that Trump revealed top secret classified information to Russian officials. I was also there near Embassy Row when protestors and Turkey’s Presidential Guards violently clashed at a protest during the President of Turkey’s visit to DC.
While frenetic, international news was happening, DC seemed quiet, safe, and calm.
I managed to get closer to the fence of the White House to take an obligatory selfie. After two different people jumped the fence recently, they installed a fence for the fence, leaving about a foot of room between the two.
Next after the White House, I walked towards 15th Street. In front of me stood the entrance of US Treasury, first established by now Broadway star, Alexander Hamilton. Read about Alexander Hamilton and his love of lighthouses all along the eastern coast United States here.
The Treasury prints and mints all paper currency and coins in circulation. Additionally, the Treasury collects all federal taxes, facilitated through the Internal Revenue Service, and manages U.S. government debt instruments. The Treasury is a massive columned building encompassing a big chunk of 15th Street. Across the way is an even larger building, the Department of Commerce.
I enjoyed the beautiful weather at the moment. The sun was shining and the air was a perfect, spring temperature. Washington DC’s famous cherry blossoms were in full bloom by this point. As I continued down 15th Street on this gorgeous, sunny day, many runners passed me on the wide sidewalks.
I felt a tinge of jealously. It became apparent how people in DC enjoy their free time after work, compared to that of overworked and cramped New Yorkers sort of like myself.
Ahead was the National Mall. The National Mall is a grassy, rectangle area between the US Capitol and Lincoln Memorial spanning 3 miles in length. The Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, the new African American History Museum, and other National museums are located on the Mall to my left. The US Supreme Court and the Library of Congress stand behind the Capitol.
I was focused on heading towards the stark white obelisk, the Washington Monument. Seeing this monument up close evoked feelings of the mystic and of the secretive societies. I recalled the last time I was here, I was only 14 years old on our class trip to Washington DC. After all this time, it felt interesting to be back.
The Washington Monument obelisk is perched atop a small hill, surrounded by 50 American flags. The monument is dedicated to the first President of the United States, George Washington.
It is both the world’s tallest stone structure and the world’s tallest obelisk, standing 554 feet, 711⁄32 inches (169.046 meters) tall. First built in 1848, the monument was completed 40 years later in 1888.
At the time, it had the record as the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it in 1889.
Up close, the four walls of the monument were perfectly smooth and precisely aligned. From one side, the US Capitol building stood in the distance between the flags. From another side, the reflecting pool and the Lincoln Monument stood in the distance. The White House peaked out from the trees in the distance as well.
That day, the flags flew at half-mast to commemorative National Police Week in DC that honors all fallen law enforcement officials.
From the Washington Monument, I walked past a co-ed softball game on the grass. What a cool way to end the workday: Play a softball game with the Washington Monument and the White House in full view. This game reminded me of how I played a few co-ed softball games in Central Park with a complete view of a New York City skyline.
Then I made my way towards the White House again to see its famed frontal view from Constitution Avenue.
The sun started to set so I wanted to continue on my walking tour.
I had walked about 3 miles, or half way, so far. I justified all of this walking as a proper training hike for my upcoming hike up Mt Kilimanjaro in 3 months. Located in Tanzania Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Read all about our upcoming adventure here.
American History Revisited
My next stop was to the Lincoln Memorial located at the end of the National Mall. In front of the Lincoln Memorial is the National World War II Memorial. I stopped briefly at this memorial, thinking fondly of my grandpa who passed away. He was a WWII veteran who fought bravely for America in battles located in Italy, a place of family heritage.
Between both memorials is the serene reflecting pool, complete with its resident ducks and their ducklings.
Walk along the rectangular reflecting pool towards the columned Lincoln Memorial, perched atop a series of stairs. At this time dusk approached, and so the Memorial was illuminated in golden light.
Amid the crowds of middle school students on their own Washington DC field trips, I made my way up the stairs. I turned around to see the Washington Monument standing tall in the distance, reflecting from the pool. It too illuminated as the sun set. I could not help but take a few more photos including another selfie.
I walked up the steps to say hi to good ole Honest Abe. He looks at you from his chair, stoic in his statue pose. This time was my first to the Lincoln Memorial, and it had a meaningful effect at me.
I took a moment to observe it all and reflect. I appreciated what an important President and instrumental figure Lincoln was for our country. With the ending of slavery and bringing together our country after a devastating civil war, he was a true leader. More so, he set the foundation for the modern America we are.
To the right of Lincoln are the words of his Second Inauguration. To left of Lincoln are the words of his famous and historic Gettysburg Address. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Next from the Lincoln Memorial, head down the stairs and over to the Vietnam Memorial. This minimalist, and sleek, yet beautiful monument is hidden among the trees to the left of the reflecting pool. Each time I visit this Memorial, it evokes a sense of solemn in me. The Vietnam Memorial is powerful, and that feeling is palatable.
At this point, the night was in full effect, yet I wanted to continue onto the Capitol Building. My stomach growled a mean growl, because I had yet to eat dinner from the long day of travel. After calling some restaurants, I found out quickly that Washington DC closes “earlier” than New York City. The last seatings for dinner are at 9:00pm on weekdays.
I made a tough decision. I skipped a visit to the Capitol Building so I could grab dinner. In hindsight, that decision was a good one, because the Capitol Building was a 3-mile walk from where I was at the Vietnam Memorial. My walking adventure around Washington DC had come to a conclusion that night. In total, I clocked 6 miles of walking that day.
I had one last hurrah with Washington DC the next evening before heading back to New York City. We visited the W Hotel rooftop bar located on 15th Street. The rooftop has panoramic views of the National Mall, the Washington Monument, the Treasury and the White House. Across the street is the Old Ebbitt Grill, established before the Civil War making it the oldest bar in DC. The crab cake there is delicious.
Finally I got my view of the US Capitol building on my way back to the hotel that evening. The cab driver happily drove me up close to the Capitol, so I could get my photograph.
Although I did not reach the steps of the Capitol Building, seeing its newly repaired, gleaming white dome sparkle in the night was a nice consolation prize.