Hanging On To Summer

Uncategorized

I know that the weather will fluctuate over the next month or so, going from classic DC area summer weather to true chilly autumn weather. However, I am not quite ready to give up on my summer yet. You would think that Labor Day would have served as the traditional reminder that summer is over, but it wasn’t until I had to open my sock drawer for the first time in five months that I realized I would soon be transitioning from sandals to snow boots (okay, probably not snow boots, but I couldn’t skip that opportunity for alliteration). So for the next month or so while I can still justify it, I will be pretending it is still summer.

Being an adult is weird because the concept of summer isn’t quite the same as it was during school. Summer is no longer determined by having a designated set of days of relative freedom, but is instead marked by taking full advantage of three day weekends and sunny lunch breaks. I “started” my summer a little late because I was trapped inside working, but I happened to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix and had immediate nostalgia for summertime. The show is good ole trashy fun, but it really reminded me of the perks of summer (when previously I had been focused on the negatives of summer in DC: mosquitos, sweat, humidity, the constant sound of A/Cs running).

I missed that feeling when you’re driving with the window down and you don’t have to rush anywhere. I missed that moment when you stepped in from the heat and the A/C hit you. I missed reading a book outside under the sun. I missed having a cold beverage after an hour spent toasting outside. I missed it all.

Now some of this nostalgia is misplaced. I never spent my summers running around with friends (I was at camp or work or my friends had left the area). Unlike the tan teens of the Netflix show, I burn – my Irish skin and I are meant for the shade, not the sun. And I have spent very few days lounging about on a boat. But the semantics don’t really matter.

I want to spend the next few weeks soaking up any sunshine I can find. And I want to go for drives with no set destination with music playing on my car speakers. I want to listen to the birds chirp and (now that it is less humid) I want to go for late night walks and read a book out on the deck. I want to pretend that life doesn’t start up again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning and the biggest worry I have is whether or not I’ve reapplied sunscreen recently.

I mean, I get the love for crisp autumnal days and spooky season, but can I linger in my summer haze for just a few more days?

Embassy Row

Hometown, Travel, Uncategorized

Perhaps you’ve been wandering down a street in DC and you see a foreign nation’s flag hanging on a beautiful building and you wondered “what’s that doing there?”. One of my personal favorite things about growing up in the DC area is the diversity of the folks who live here: from the locals with generations of native Washingtonian heritage to the recent immigrants here for work or school, to the small towners who came to the city to work for the government or an NGO. DC draws in people from literally all over the world. One of the places this is so apparent is a stretch of road known as Embassy Row.

Massachusetts Avenue is one of the diagonal roads that cuts across DC, bringing traffic from the more suburban areas into the heart of the city. One section of this road is heavily populated by embassies, the home of foreign nations, big and small, in the U.S. The basic start of Embassy Row is the Naval Observatory, home to the Vice President. As the road continues southeast, it is lined with embassies through Sheridan Circle and Dupont Circle, unofficially ending somewhere before Scott Circle. (The most interesting collection tends to stretch between Dupont Circle and the Naval Observatory.)

You can take tours of the area if you’re interested, but it’s also just a nice place for a wander. I will warn you – not every embassy is located on Embassy Row. For instance, the Swedish and Icelandic Embassies are located in Georgetown in the House of Sweden on the waterfront. Additionally, ambassador’s residences and other diplomatic buildings are spread throughout the city. That being said, a good majority of the 170+ embassies in DC are located on Embassy Row and you can’t walk this stretch of Mass Ave without hearing a different language or two, or seeing diplomatic plates line the streets, or if you’re unlucky, being stuck behind a motorcade.

One of many events that typically happen throughout the year is Passport DC, an opportunity for embassies to open their doors and share their nation’s culture. Many of these events won’t be happening as usual this year, but that just means folks outside of DC can experience them (without the crowds). For instance, most of the European Union nations open their embassy’s doors for visitors during the EU Open House Day in May. Instead, the effort to shine a light on the diplomatic missions has been moved online to HomeWithEU, taking place on Saturday May 9, 2020.

If you’re interested in visiting a particular embassy the next time you’re in DC, check their social media pages for open house dates or for links to join their mailing lists for events.

Exploring Georgetown

Hometown, Uncategorized

One of the perks of my current living situation is the proximity to one of the cuter parts of DC. Georgetown is literally across the water from my apartment and is walkable. Georgetown is pretty impossible to drive to and isn’t Metro-accessible, which can make it a pain in the butt to visit.

Getting there: I find the easiest way to get to Georgetown is to take a little walk. You can park your car at Rock Creek Park and wander over along the waterfront or you can find parking in Rosslyn and walk or take the free Circulator bus across the river.

What to do: The main attraction of Georgetown is the shops along M St. There’s anything you could want from Kiehl’s to Nike to Starbucks. It’s also always rotating, so you may visit two months apart and see new shops where another had previously been. I’m not a huge shopping person, but the window shopping opportunities are good and there’s plenty of people watching. (Warning: good weather means people and Georgetown can get packed, especially during tourist season.) I love a good wander, so I’d recommend ditching the main road and taking a stroll up the hill towards the cute houses there or down the hill towards the waterfront.

(In the winter, Georgetown Glow lights up the night and the waterfront hosts an ice skating rink for your winter activities.)

Where to Eat: Farmers Fishers Bakers has a great brunch if you’re in the mood. Skip Georgetown Cupcake and get a sweet treat from Baked and Wired instead. And if you want a bit of history with your meal, visit Martin’s Tavern.

Bonus Bits: Georgetown University is right there – it looks a bit like Hogwarts… And the House of Sweden (home to the Embassy of Sweden and the diplomatic missions for Iceland and Liechtenstein) is on the waterfront. Both host events that are open to the public if you’ve interested.

Five Favorite Things: Museums

Five Favorites

Growing up, I was very spoiled by the quality of museums in the DC area. And many of them are free to visit (shoutout to the Smithsonian). I could learn about history, art, space, animals, you name it, all within a few walkable blocks. When I started traveling around and museums weren’t up to snuff and they charged me to visit, I was supremely disappointed. I’ve popped my head into many a museum over the years, in various places. In reflection, some of my favorites are free and some are not, and only one is in DC. Here’s my list of five favorite museums:

Musée d’Orsay, Paris

If you find yourself in Paris, ignore the instinct to wait in line to get a grainy picture of a thousand hands in front of the Mona Lisa. Unless you have all the time in the world, the Louvre is not nearly as interesting as we were led to believe in elementary school French classes. Paris is an architecturally beautiful city and one of its gems is the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a former railway station, the Musée d’Orsay houses some of the most stunning Impressionist art. I could spend hours wandering through the pieces and people watching. Plus if you go upstairs, you get a pretty good view.

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Children’s Museum, Indianapolis

Got kids? Despite being a little older than the target demographic and lacking in a child of my own, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was visited many times during my Indiana inhabitance. The fourth oldest and the world’s largest children’s museum is home to interactive and educational fun, ranging from dinosaurs to space to a carousel, all indoors. The space also hosts rotating exhibits (I even went with my grandma to see the terra-cotta soldiers there).

Courtauld Gallery, London

Another place I visited with my grandma was the Courtauld Gallery at the Courtauld Institute of Art. When my mother and I visited London many years ago, we purchased the London Pass which ended up not saving us very much on anything, but led us to a smaller gallery just a few blocks from Trafalgar Square. Located in Somerset House, the gallery has a wonderful collection of paintings that includes Manet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, as well as ceramics from the Renaissance and Degas sculptures. It’s usually much calmer than the National Gallery down the street so you can avoid the chaos that is tourist London.

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Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC

Another gallery to avoid the crowds is my one DC gallery on this list. Part of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery is a smaller space that allows each piece to take over individual rooms, shaping the experience with the integration of the piece into the physical space. The gallery is located literal steps from the White House and, because it is part of the Smithsonian family, entry is free.

Glyptotek, Copenhagen

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen was a surprise find on a family trip to the city. The collection was built around the personal collection of the son of the founder of certain well-known beer. Though the primary focal point of the museum is sculptures, the highlight of my visit was the beauty of the collection in a stunning building. White sculptures stood out amongst crisp colorful walls; an atrium filled with plants sat at the center of the museum; the ceilings are just as stunning as the floors. And there’s a beautiful rooftop space that gives you a lovely view of Tivoli Gardens.

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** I do feel I should defend my list slightly. It’s heavy on the art galleries and lacking slightly on the quirky museums every city seems to have. Don’t get me wrong – the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Natural History are two favorites. The Air and Space Museum in Dulles is also really good, and I will never turn down a little museum that is oddly specific. But the ones on my list make me (want to) return again and again. They’re places I’ve spent hours and hours, only to leave and wish for more hours in the day.

Just Down the Block

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I started the New Year off with a bit of chaos – I moved apartments. I am still in the DC area and I’m not going very far at all. I literally moved two blocks down. The move was a bit of a mess. There was miscommunication with my old apartment and of course it rained. I had assistance from All Star Movers (they’re actually saints and the quickest movers in the DMV) and my lovely parents (though one half was sidelined with injuries). Bits and bobs were moved over the week and my plants got special treatment in their transportation and will now enjoy a sunny spot in my window.

I find moving stressful. Partially because there are so many “what-ifs” and partially because its the end of an era. I’ve moved every year (if not twice a year) for the past six years. Mostly it has been from my parent’s house to college and back or into a suitcase to Australia and back. Things have been accumulated (mostly plants) and things have been tossed (r.i.p. the black leather chair that was older than my parent’s marriage). And I try to prepare, but can never quite get it right.

But I found a few things helpful in making the moving process slightly less anxiety-inducing.

One: start packing before the moving truck arrives. This seems logical and yet you’d be surprised. I started putting non-essentials away about two months before I was set to move out. Then I stopped buying food about two weeks before my move. The week of my move, everything went into bags or boxes, one night at a time. The few days before my move, I did a capsule wardrobe challenge, using only ten items of clothing and packing everything else. And the night before, my loving mother and I broke down my bed and pushed everything the movers would be lugging about into the living room for easy access. It worked. There’s not a whole lot that was left to be dealt with after the movers left and things are packed in a semi-organized fashion.

Two: give yourself wiggle room. It’s tempting to move out the last possible day of your lease, but having a day or two or a week overlap to move helped me stress less about getting everything done in that deadline. I could spend three days moving my plants and my last bits over, rather than three hours. When it started snow/raining, I didn’t have to power through.

Three: cry in advance. I knew that I would end up crying (and I did!) but I figured getting some of those stressful emotions out of the way before the movers arrived would be helpful for all involved. So the night before, I watched a movie I knew would make me cry and I let it out. And then in the morning after picking up my apartment keys, but before meeting with my parents, I cried again. And voila! No tears during the actual move.

Four: let the professionals do their job. Other than bits and bobs and plants, we let the professional movers handle the tough stuff. They figured out how to get things into and out of the two apartment buildings and they carried the heavy things.

Five: know when to quit. There’s a certain point in my day when I have to acknowledge I need to rest. As an introvert, I know that too much socialization will eventually mean hitting a wall of exhaustion that can only be fixed by time alone. After a stressful day of moving, I needed to acknowledge that everything wasn’t going to be put away right then and there. I could rest and handle what was left over the next few days (see tip two).

Can I just say I’m happy I don’t have to do this again until next year?

December in DC

Hometown, Uncategorized

No, we don’t really get snow. And yes, most of the city seems to disappear for the month. But DC in December is still a lovely place to be.

Last year, I happened to get a tour of the White House during the holiday season, but there are plenty of accessible (and mostly free!) options for a festive December in DC.

The National Christmas Tree is lit, with smaller trees representing each of the states (and territories!). My favorite part as a child was always the massive Yule log (because it was warm after being outside freezing!).

The National Botanical Garden gets festive as well. There’s a model train display and this year’s theme is botanic gardens from Hawaii to Maine.

Less flora, more fauna? Head to the National Zoo for ZooLights! Most of the animals will be snoozing, but you can wander amongst the light displays of all your favorite zoo friends.

Speaking of lights: Georgetown lights up for Georgetown Glow. The curated lights display takes you on a path through and around Georgetown with different installations. Each year brings different artists and different spots for the area to light up each night.

Maybe you don’t want to drive all the way into the city? Old Town Alexandria is always a lovely place to visit, but in December it definitely keeps its charm. The first weekend in December is the Scottish Walk supporting the Campagna Center. (There’s always plenty of pups, too!)

My personal favorite part of the holidays is a good Christmas market. Luckily, there’s one on F Street. The Downtown Holiday Market features local artists and crafters, as well as food stalls. It’s a great stop for a last minute Christmas gift and reminds me of London at this time of year.

Have you got any festive plans for the month of December?

Manspreading and Other Public Transportation Woes

Travel

I’m sure you’ve experienced it. You’re sitting on public transportation, probably sweating and hoping you’re not sitting in some wet substance that’ll stain the back of your pants. The doors open to the next stop and twelve hundred people get on. You, being a conscientious public transportation rider, pull your bags onto your lap and tuck your elbows in, taking up as little space as possible. You’re not comfortable, per say, but you’re not squished.

And that’s when it happens. The passenger next to you either puts their bag between their legs (rather than on their lap) or is trying to air out their inner thighs. Whatever their reasoning, suddenly their legs are spread beyond two parallel lines and what little space you had is now taken up by the manspread.

I should note that women are guilty of this takeover of any and all space, but men are definitely the worst offenders. What makes you think that I want to feel your leg pushed up against mine on the hottest day of the year? What makes you think that your comfort is more important than my right to a personal bubble?

Now I get it, sometimes it’s inevitable. The tube is absolutely packed so your armpit is right at my face level as I try not to flail all over the place. Or we’re all pushed up against the door trying to squeeze two people more onto the traincar between this station and the next. But come on. Spreading your legs out is just unnecessary. (And no this is not a promotion of that weird Russian “activist” who decided to spray bleach on manspreaders.)

You know, I’m actually okay with you manspreading or crossing your leg or putting your bag on the seat next to you, but when the bus/train/metro/etc is full, or someone is sitting right next to you, make yourself tiny please.

This rant on manspreading in public transportation comes after three-ish weeks of traveling by metro in DC. And my problem with metroing to my internship has almost never been with the super crowded four stops on my commute, but instead with the jerks who exist on the metro on the six or so half-crowded stops.

I’ve begun to collect complaints that I would like to share with you now:

One. If you are riding the metro with a friend/co-worker/family member, there is no reason you should not sit next to each other. Do not take up two rows or sit across the aisle from each other and shout over your fellow passengers.

Two. Wear deodorant. Even if it’s not a super humid day, public transportation is smelly enough without your armpit sweat adding to the mix. (Also, please don’t drown yourself in perfume or body spray or cologne. There is such a thing as too much.)

Three. Playing music through your headphones is polite, but if I can hear the entirety of the playlist from across the train, maybe turn it down a dial or two. Your ears will thank you later.

Four. If the seat is empty, you are not required to take it. However, move the heck out of the way. Standing directly in front of an empty seat is worse than taking it from someone who might need it.

Five. Take your backpack off. I have an ongoing theory that three things make people into automatic assholes: backpacks, suitcases, and umbrellas. Fortunately, the last few weeks have been rainy so I’ve been smacked by many a careless umbrella user. I also happen to pass an airport on my commute, so I’ve been tripped up by plenty of lost tourists and self-important businessmen. But backpacks just piss me off. When folks are wearing them, they don’t always remember they’re there and they’ll swing ’em around, pushing people, taking up valuable space, and smacking you with all the random straps that tend to hang off them.

Six. Stop standing directly in front of the door to the train. If you’re in the way, I can’t get off. Now, over the years, I have lost any fear about using my shoulders/elbows/body to push people out of my way, but good golly, why’re you blocking the door? Step to the side!

Seven. You walk on the left of the escalator, you stand on the right. If you’ve got stairs or a broken escalator (which let’s be honest. Just about every escalator in the DC Metro system is broken), why do you feel the need to push past the people standing on the escalator? You have alternatives! Use them!

Eight. If a kid gets on the train, stand up and give them your chair. If you sit in the “priority seating”, you better look up at every stop to see if someone needs your seat. My Metro ride is maybe forty minutes and as much as I would like to kick my feet up and relax, you can bet your bottom dollar, I’ll pop right up if you need my spot.

Nine. If you take one of the free newspapers, take it with you. Metro stations have special recycling bins for newspapers now. Don’t just leave it on the seat for me to have to push on the floor or to the other seat. I didn’t take one because I don’t want the responsibility, why the heck should I have to deal with your leftovers?

Ten. (And my last one, for now.) You are never more important than the other people on the car. You are one of thousands of people trying to get from point A to point B. Everyone’s got a journey. Be kind. Be patient. Don’t manspread.