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.

Just Down the Block

Uncategorized

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?

Five Favorite Day Trips from DC

Five Favorites, Travel

Maybe you’re just in town for a few days or maybe you’re looking to avoid a tourist rush, but there’s plenty of quick trips worth taking that’ll get you outside the city. These are my five personal favorite day trips from DC:

Harpers Ferry

A friend recently visited from Indiana and wanted to cross West Virginia off her list of states unvisited. We initially planned a longer trip, but when we ran out of time, we looked a little closer to home. Harpers Ferry is a little town with history and nature galore. The town was home to John Brown’s rebellion but also has a great hike and plenty of tubing/rafting/kayaking opportunities. The hour and a half drive from the city was easy enough and parking was $15 for a spot through the National Park Service. We hiked the Maryland Heights Trail to the overlook and grabbed lunch in town.

Luray Caverns

If you’re looking to beat the heat, Luray Caverns is a fantastic option. To get there from the city is a beautiful drive through Virginia that’ll take you through Shenandoah. I’ve been in plenty of caves in my time (like four or five, okay? That’s a lot…) and Luray Caverns is amazing. Your guided walk through the caves is both scientifically fascinating and historically interesting. Plus the temperature inside always feels about 60 degrees.

Baltimore Aquarium

Maybe you’ve made one too many trips to the National Zoo and need to mix up your animal intake – take a drive up to Baltimore’s National Aquarium. The Inner Harbor has plenty of cool restaurants and the aquarium is amazing. I could stare at the jellyfish for hours, but there’s also other fish and critters to learn about. Bonus points: they’ve stopped their dolphin shows and are now focused even more on sustainability and the impact on local water systems.

Delaware Beaches

I’m not a huge beach person – too much sand, too many people, too high a chance for sunburn. But I love the sound of the ocean. Delaware has some lovely beaches within a 3 hour drive (if you’re lucky). Rehobeth and Bethany both have great beaches with plenty of food nearby. My personal favorite stop is Lewes Beach which is a little quieter and less busy but still just as cute. Another tip: visit off season – it won’t be a thousand degrees and packed in October or May but you’ll still get to hear the water.

Old Town Alexandria

Maybe you don’t have a car or maybe you only have a half day (or maybe you’re seriously inspired by my post about my favorite part of the Metro area), but Old Town Alexandria is worth the trip. Metro to the end of King Street and walk towards the water. After stopping in every cute shop and sampling ice cream, enjoy a wander along the water. You can either make the hike back to the Metro or hop on the free King Street Trolley.

What’s your favorite day trip from the city?

Not Quite Wanderlust

Travel, Uncategorized

I wouldn’t call it wanderlust – I think I just wanted to see how far I could get away before I had to bounce back. The first step had been the Midwest – would I come running back to the East Coast or would I want to go even further?

There’s a different mentality in the middle of the country. Folks from the Coasts would label it complacency or a lack of curiosity. The desire to explore far flung places wasn’t ingrained in every decision amongst the cornfields.

But I’d come this far. The next step should be easy. I’d done quick trips – vacations with supervision, first to France and Spain and second to Italy and Greece. Neither was particularly challenging – I knew that by the end of the two weeks I would be home; I knew that my lack of foreign language knowledge could be brushed away with a snarky comment about “American tourists”. It was all quite safe.

But then came the big leap. A twenty-something hour flight with layover that would take me from my East Coast home to the other side of the planet. The safety net had been pulled away, it was time to take a proper leap and not know when I was gonna hit the next ledge.

But I didn’t hit the bottom. Instead, I got my extrovert on (kinda) and met new people. I learned about a country so similar yet so different than mine. I saw fish swimming in a coral reef and stood in the middle of the desert staring in awe at the full Milky Way hanging above me in the sky. I shared my new life with my parents and explored two new countries with them while I was at – a “I must come back” trip to New Zealand and a “totally overwhelmed yet amazed” trip to Phuket in Thailand. As I boarded my plane away from Australia, I couldn’t help but think how quickly can I get back here?

The turn around was quick – a month or so to sit at home and realize I was ready to go far, far away yet again. This time the plane ride was much shorter, the stress was much less, but the destination would be much colder. It was a challenge – to fight against the seasonal depression of four hours of sunlight a day.

The cure was to move, jumping from plane to train to ferry over and over. Flights to France and Germany, Norway, the UK, and Denmark; trains and buses to Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic; the infamous booze cruises to Russia and Estonia, Finland and Latvia.

In the constant rush, I looked up and there was twenty-two hours of sunlight, not four. I had been everywhere except the “here” that I had traveled so far to see. I told myself I’ll be back, but it’ll never be the same. The people will have shifted, the places will have grown, and who will I be?

Once you’ve left a place, it’ll never be same.

So with a brief layover in Iceland, I returned home. My East Coast had shifted beneath my feet and the cornfields had grown while I was away.

People had drifted away and together. Buildings had been torn down and build.

So I kept going – forward momentum pushing me further and further. Until I paused. In my rush to get as far away as possible, I’d made a loop back to the start.

Honey, I’m Home

Travel

It came to my attention that a friend who shall remain unnamed has lived in the DC area for a few years and never ventured down to my favorite place in the metro area: Old Town Alexandria. I was personally offended. I think Old Town is one of the coolest part of the DC area. And if you love history, hate crowds, and always want to be surprised, Old Town is the place for you.

Getting There: The excuse I was given was that Old Town was too tough to get to. Which is bull. When Metro hasn’t shut down all of the Virginia stops, you can get to Old Town easy peasy on the Yellow or Blue line and hop off at the King’s Street stop. The walk from the metro isn’t horrible and is a straight line down King Street to get to the water front, or you can hop on the free Trolley that’ll take you all the way down King. Parking isn’t ideal, but if you’re keen on a day’s adventure, there’s bike paths that lead straight there from all directions. You can also hop a riverboat from Georgetown and National Harbor.

What to Do: Old Town is filled with history: go on a ghost tour of town, visit Gatsby’s Tavern, wander the cemetaries. It’s also a quintessential walkable area. You can wander down the history cobblestone roads and see historical buildings with just a touch of cute. If you’re on the hunt for that perfect birthday gift or that not-too-touristy present to bring back home, there’s plenty of boutiques and cute shops all up and down King’s Street that are fun to just pop in and out of. Make a stop in the Torpedo Factory to peek at some local artists’ workspaces. If you’re there in the summertime, the boardwalk is filled with performers and opportunities for people watching. Plus there’s that relaxing sound of the water that just can’t be replicated by an iPhone.

What to Eat: Old Town is constantly updating their food options, with shops coming and going. I’ve got a few favorites that are consistent: for “Chicago” style pizza, go to Bugsy’s. Looking for a Marg and a couple tacos, Los Cuates is a good bet. On the hunt for a classy meal, the Chart House has good food and great views. And to round it all off, there’s nothing better than a scoop (or two) of ice cream for your wander onto the boardwalk: there’s a Ben and Jerry’s, but my personal favorite is the Cookie Dough at The Creamery – just keep an eye out for the bear in the window.

Basically, there’s so much to do in Old Town and it’s just so close to DC that you have no excuse.

Nom Nom Noms

Five Favorites, london

Food is something that brings people together, tests your comfort zone, and can instantly remind you of times when you were safe and happy and loved.

In honor of the copious amounts of food I’m sure all of my American friends are about to consume this Thursday, I thought I would reminisce on the foods that remind me of home. And when I say home, I mean Stockholm, Indianapolis, London, Sydney, and DC. (Yes, this accidentally turned into a five favorites list, as well as a “travel the world through my favorite meals” kinda post.)

Stockholm

When I studied abroad in Stockholm, I remember being so flipping nervous about having to eat herring or some strange Swedish food for my six months there. But fortunately, Swedish grocery stores provided all the foods I could dream of. It was actually the first place where I had to cook for myself (and yes, I did have to google some very basic skills.)

46492677_177417226545719_7472823128842829824_nMy list of Swedish foods is six-months-worth-of-freezing-cold-and-dark-weather long. To start, I could rave about fika, the Swedish tradition of a daily (or thrice daily) coffee and pastry break. Or alternatively, I could chat your ear off about their kanelbullar, the yummiest treats equivalent to a cinnamon roll. Or hell, IKEA meatballs.

But instead I’ll talk about what I genuinely miss on a weekly basis: Max. Max is a Swedish fast food burger chain, like McDonald’s, etc. but better (and it’s more popular in Sweden than McDonalds and Burger King). Their food is fresh, their restaurants are clean, their staff is efficient. I’ve considered making a trip to Sweden just for their burgers and constantly think back fondly on my visits to the Max off of Kungsträdgården.

Fun fact: the first food my parents ate in Sweden was Max, which I fed them in the Arlanda Airport arrivals area.

Indianapolis

No one has ever said that the Midwest has the most delectable diet, what with the corn and the casseroles. But Indianapolis has plenty of really good spots for food, many of which I made trips to over my three years in the city.

Breadsticks fans should head to Hotbox Pizza (yes, that’s really its name…) or to Kilroy’s for their stuffed breadsticks. They’re the best drunk food, tried and tested. Fans of mediterranean food should head to Canal Bistro in Broad Ripple, while fans of Mexican food should head to La Piedad or grab a marg at Luciana’s.

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One place has a special spot in my heart: Patachou. It’s a little bit of a hipster’s dream and it’s a huge brunch spot for Butler students, but it’s so dang good. I have many a fond memory of breakfasts are Patachou with friends after a late night out or as a reunion after a service trip. With fresh, local ingredients and a mission to give back to the Indy community, it’s worth a trip.

P.S. everyone hypes up their coffee, but I’d also recommend you get the hot chocolate.

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London

I think I tried every (cheap) place on the must eat London list. I scarfed down waffles on the 40th floor of a skyscraper at Duck and Waffle. I pretended I was posh before splashing berry syrup all over myself, at Balthazar. I devoured a Crosstown Donut in Camden Markets. I explored a chain I saw all over London at Bill’s. I discovered disco fries at the Breakfast Club.

And a lot of it is delicious, but nothing gets close to my one true love: Dishoom. It’s Indian food with a twist. The bottomless chai helped me survive a dissertation and the naan rolls are making my mouth water at the thought. The restaurants have the best vibe and are filled with tiny touches that make it a memorable experience. It’s a really nice environment for working meals or catching up with friends.46508793_312174566047896_6370496265968418816_n

Pro tip: go for breakfast. It’s much cheaper and much less crowded than the lunch rush (plus, I’ve heard it’s much yummier).

Sydney

I’ll admit I didn’t go out to eat much in Sydney. My dorm had catering and when we did go out to eat, it was usually McDonald’s or Domino’s. The one food that still holds a special spot in my memory were the milkshakes.

Around the time I went to Sydney, decadent milkshakes were on the rise. One of my first Instagrams from my time abroad in Australia was of one of these sugar overloads at the Vogue Cafe. The Vogue Cafe and its counterpart, the Missing Piece, were both located in a shopping mall just next door to Macquarie University and my residence hall. So while I pushed past my introvert ways to befriend new people, we were able to bond over the sugar highs.

Later, we ended up making a pilgrimage to Erskineville for TellaBall Shakes at Foodcraft. We learned quickly that there is no clean way to drink a milkshake and then eat a Nutella donut.

The extravagant milkshake phase seems to have moved on, but those milkshakes left an impact.

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Washington, D.C.

Last, but not least, we’re heading home to DC.

If I was a good daughter, I’d say my favorite food in DC was my mother’s cooking. Nothing against her cooking, but I think it’d be rude of me to applaud her ability to perfectly cook Bagel Bites, keeping me from publicly praising her culinary skills.

The DC area has plenty of restaurants. In Old Town, there’s the classic chili of Hard Times Cafe, where my parents have been visiting for 20 something years, or for the hockey fans, there’s the Chicago-style pizza of Bugsy’s. If you’re in Woodley Park, you can hit up my Wisconsin Avenue high school haunts of 2Amys for pizza or Cactus Cantina for Mexican.

If you’re feeling fancy, you can stop by the White House on your way to Old Ebbitt Grill. For those pretending to adult, they can head to Ted’s Bulletin for homemade PopTarts. You can join the fight between Baked & Wired and Georgetown Cupcake (although everyone in DC knows that Baked & Wired wins every time.) I’m currently working near Dupont Circle, where I’m munching on Happy Hours at Front Page, and enjoying lunches at Zorba’s Cafe, and experiencing all that is the Big Hunt.

If we’re honest, I don’t know if I have a favorite in DC. Maybe, I’ll just have to continue my searchAll recommendations are much appreciated. Though they are subject to ignorance in favor of Chipotle or Moby Dick’s.

Five Favorite Things: Best (Free) Things About DC

Five Favorites, Hometown, Travel

There’s about a thousand and one things you could do in Washington, D.C. on any given day. So I’m picking my five seven favorite things (okay, I’m cheating a bit at this… can you blame me?!) to do in the nation’s capital.

First stop, the zoo. The Smithsonian National Zoo is located in Woodley Park, accessible by Metro, but a bit out of the tourist zone that is D.C. in the summer. The zoo is incredible, emphasizing research and the welfare and survival of the animals in its care. The work done by the national zoo is saving species from extinction with the largest group of conservation biologists in the world. And they let you visit, for free! You can wander by and see the pandas (D.C. is a bit obsessed with the pandas and each birth is a huge celebration for the survival of the species — plus they’re cute) or the elephants or just about any animal that your heart desires. Locals stop by the zoo during their lunch breaks or jog past the animals for their afternoon run.

If you’re in the area, Rock Creek Park is a cool stop. (My favorite part about Rock Creek Park is the parkway which switches to one direction at rush hour and let’s me pretend I’m British, but that’s just me.) We won’t count this as one of my official five, but if you’re sick of the city, you can almost escape into the 1,754 acre park in the middle of it all. There’s paths for hiking, walking, wandering, or horseback riding, plus events year round.

Another spot worth visiting is hidden behind the White House. The Renwick Gallery became Insta-famous a few years ago and is one of my favorite smaller museums in the city. It’s part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which means there is no fee to enter, but unlike some of the bigger Smithsonian art museums, it showcases a small, rotating collection of art pieces that are larger than life. Literally. Most of the art on display fills a room. So each time you pass through a doorway, you walk into a totally different, immersive experience. Stop by on a weekday or during non-tourist season and you’ll have rooms to yourself.

If you’re looking for some politics in the political capital of the United States, I will give in and add one spot to the list for you: The United States Capitol. (Please note that it is spelled with an o.) The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center provides tours of the legislative building with some history and some fun facts mixed in. The tours are free, but you’ll want to book a spot in advance if you’re visiting during tourist season.

Since you’re on the Mall, you’re probably thinking I’ll just go wander around and see all the monuments. And then you’ll start walking and you’ll be sweating and tired within minutes, surrounded by tour groups. To avoid this, follow my handy-dandy tip: visit at night. Though there will still be folks out and about at night, the National Mall clears out quite a bit when the sun goes down. You’ll be cooler (not that humidity will go down at all — sorry, it’s a swamp!) and you can take your time before you turn into a lobster. The monuments are all lit up at night from the World War II memorial to the Lincoln Memorial and down to the Tidal Basin to visit the Jefferson and the new(ish) Martin Luther King Jr. memorial.

Now my last few (counting them as one!) suggestions aren’t really in the city, but they’re close enough! Hop on across the river to stop number one: Teddy Roosevelt Island. Another place good for a wander. Take a path through the “natural forest”, pop your head through the trees to spot Georgetown’s Waterfront, and pretend you’re far from a major city until you hear an airplane up above.

Which brings us to our next stop: Gravelly Point. A park located just next to National Airport where you can bring a picnic and hang out while airports land over your head. It’s part of the GW Parkway, which may be my favorite place to drive in the metropolitan area, which you can follow along to down to Mount Vernon. It’s the best during fall when all the leaves have changed.

So, that’s my top five (ish) things to do in DC. All can be accomplished in a day, if you’re speedy. I’m sure now that I’m home I’ll have a hundred more recommendations and lists popping up, but these are my quick recommendations.

What’s your favorite (free) place to visit in the DC area?