48 Hours in Washington D.C.

Several months before graduating, I told myself that I would travel more after I left school. I didn’t necessarily mean I could go abroad; I also just wanted to see more of the country and hit up some of its major cities. Ambitious me wanted to go on these trips alone, learn how to solo travel in places where my phone would always work (funny story…) and I’d be able to speak the native language if I did get lost.

I graduated in May and so far, I’ve managed to hit up two cities — Portland in May, and Washington D.C. this past weekend — though both trips were taken with the comfort of friends and family. This comfort is one, I admit, I didn’t necessarily want when I first planned my trips, but also one I’ve since learned to embrace.

Photo by Courtney Cheng

The last time I was in Washington D.C. was in July 2007, for my uncle and aunt’s wedding. I finally returned this past weekend, in October 2016, for a long overdue visit to see family and a friend, and to remind myself what D.C. was actually like.

Because I did end up spending my entire trip either with aforementioned family and friend, my D.C. visit took me not only into the actual city, but also well into suburbia of northern Virginia.

All the houses in my family’s neighborhood (and other communities in the area, I assume) are built in the American colonial style. The architecture’s history is perhaps a little fraught, but can’t help but admire the style.

Every house has its own unique charm; the shutters, brick details, and elegant trim colors make all the houses look sweet, not necessarily symmetrical, but just pleasing to the eye. The lack of fences between neighbors and rolling sprawls of green grass gives the neighborhood a quiet, open feel. It feels peaceful without the clutter of extra lines and boundaries, and if you’re lucky, you might see a deer pass by your back door.

Photo by Courtney Cheng

The architecture in the city of D.C. follows a similar style. Brick fronts and cool colors, though unique, make the sidewalks feel calm. It’s nice to let your eyes follow the line of tall, thin houses, each with their own, well-styled front doors as you walk by — even if the excessive gates and fences here do cause a bit of an eyesore.

In some ways, certain streets in the city — particularly M Street in Georgetown — remind me of parts of Vienna. The architecture is distinctly old-fashioned, not of the 21st century, and yet each of the buildings seems to compete with its neighbors to house increasingly upscale, high fashion items. The length of M Street that I walked down with my family wasn’t quite so posh, but there were definitely some stores that were only meant for window shopping.

I didn’t spend much time at the actual Capitol itself, or in the nearby Smithsonian museums. My main goal there was simply to visit the Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity exhibit in the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Since I began writing my thesis a year ago, everyone has sent me anything and everything relating to Jane Austen. News of this exhibit came by me by way of my professor and a classmate (if I remember correctly), and I recall spending a couple days in April, actually creating the barebones structure of my D.C. visit around the dates of this exhibit.

(Yes, Darcy’s shirt was everything I hoped and dreamed it would be.)

The infamous shirt | Photo by Courtney Cheng

When I’d first begun planning my visit back in April, I’d made some pretty grandiose plans and had great intentions to go many places. It was romantic and ideal, but what ultimately happened, wasn’t ideal at all.

I may have been born in New Jersey, but it was definitely the West Coast/Bay Area girl in me who thought it was a brilliant idea to leave her phone in her back pocket, even as it began to rain while she was at an outdoor farmer’s market near Union Market on Saturday afternoon. My phone was not happy with me, and I was pretty distraught that my own poor decision had resulted in my sound and vibration system becoming dysfunctional.

The silver lining?

My momentary upset did lead me to make some rather impulsive food choices while at the market (Who has two thumbs and can eat when she’s not hungry?) but if I’m completely honest, my stomach doesn’t regret any of those decisions.

Inside Union Market | Photo by Courtney Cheng

If you’re wondering why I describe my upset as “momentary” — on Saturday, I ultimately returned home to my friend’s house, where I was able to stick my poor phone into a bowl of rice and let it heal overnight. My phone is back at full health, I will never question the rice-phone tactic ever again, and I will always be grateful to be in the company of people I know when I’m far from home.

My trip was far too short-lived. There’s no possible way you can catch up on nine years, five years, and three months of your lives with people you love in just two days. It’s impossible, but I’m glad I had the chance to just try making up for at least a fraction of the lost time.

In the end, my family and friend did potentially have a lot of influence on how quickly I fell in love with D.C. Personal guided tours with family anecdotes and spontaneous video chats to catch up with friends are never things I’d say “no” to, and if those are what I’ll find when I visit D.C., then I’ll gladly come back for more.

Rock Creek Park | Photo by Courtney Cheng


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