Category Archives: Washington DC

DC to NYC and Goldens Bridge

Yesterday, Tuesday 3/24 was mostly taken up with traveling from Washington DC via Amtrak and then to Goldens Bridge, NY to stay with Jocelyn’s cousin for a couple of nights.  We got on the Amtrak at about 11:00 am at DC’s Union Station.  It’s a beautiful building and was a nice place to start the journey.

The train ride from DC to New York City was nice, if slow.  Luckily we weren’t in any hurry, so the speed didn’t matter much to us.  It was the first time I had ridden Amtrak, so I was impressed with the overall experience and comfort of it all.  The seats were big and comfortable, and there was free WiFi the whole way.  We’ll see how it compares to train service in Europe though.

We arrived in New York City’s Penn Station at about 2:30 PM.  This is not a nice train station.  It’s all under ground and it’s just a dark labyrinth of tunnels and escalators.  Apparently it was once a beautiful building, but that was torn down in the sixties to make way for Madison Square Garden and the station was pushed underground.  Once we got out of Penn Stations, we walked from there up to Grand Central station, about a mile. I’ve been to New York City once before, but the whole place is just sensory overload.  Just the shear number of people walking down the sidewalks and the smalls and sounds are all just crazy, in a good way.  Once you get used to it, just looking, listening, and smelling can provide for hours of entertainment.  We stopped at Bryant Park on our way for about an hour and enjoyed some sunshine, coffee, and people watching.

We also spent some time at Grand Central just walking around and checking things out before our train left for Goldens Bridge.  This is also a beautiful, huge building.  The ceiling in the main hall is all painted with constellations so it’s like looking up at the night sky.  Again, a very busy place with ample opportunity for people watching.  We boarded a commuter train about 5:30 and and arrived in Goldens Bridge about an hour later.  The train ride was nice and we even saw some deer as we got out into the countryside a bit.

Jocelyn’s cousin Rose picked us up from the train station and took us to her and her husband Adam’s beautiful house in the middle of the woods in the Goldens Bridge Colony.  It’s definitely a nice respite to be here out in a bit of nature after the last few days of being in big cities and before our departure to Europe.  Thanks Rose and Adam for the hospitality!

Today, 3/25, Rose gave us a little tour of the area.  We saw some wild turkeys on our way to Sallinger’s Orchard. There we ate some delicious apple cider donuts and stocked up on apples and various other snacks for the road.  We then had lunch at a quirky little place called Rosy Tomorrow’s.  The rest of the day has just been taken up with napping, doing laundry, and otherwise preparing to leave for Europe tomorrow!

Washington DC – Day 4

Today was our fourth and final day in Washington DC.  We started the day with the 11:15 service at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church.  They had some great music and friendly people.  This church has some really interesting history having had president John Quincy Adams among it’s founding members and having it’s church bell cast by Joseph Revere, son of Paul Revere.

Next, we headed to the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-Op. This is near Silver Spring where Jocelyn spent a bit of time as a young child.  It was a nice, if typical co-op, where we got some lunch and sat outside doing some people watching.  We also made some more use of the Capital Bikeshare system, which makes me a bigger fan every time we use it.  It makes getting from the Metro to other destinations and back so much quicker and also saves the legs and feet from so much walking.  Although walking is good too.

We finished up the day in the Georgetown neighborhood. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the area having been founded in 1751.  The architecture and old buildings are really beautiful and the place just oozes history.  It also has DC’s largest university, so there’s all kinds of activity happening around that as well.  We walked along the Potomac river for a while and had dinner at a really good restaurant on the river called Fishers Farmers Bakers.  This was our one splurge while here in DC.  The food is locally sourced, organic, etc. and best of all it was delicious.  After dinner we watched the sunset over the river and then headed back to Kristen and Will’s house.

Tomorrow we head to New York City and then on to visit Jocelyn’s cousin in Goldens Bridge, NY.

Pictures from today’s adventures in DC:

Washington DC – Day 3

Yesterday was our third day here in Washingtion DC.  It was another great day and the weather was actually really nice, sunny and warm in the afternoon. Our main activities included a guided walking tour of the national mall, a visit to the national archives to see the the original founding documents, and then the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

The “free” guided tour of the National Mall was great.  I put free in quotes because while it was technically free, it was definitely encouraged to give the guide a tip, which we happily did because our guide Becca was great.  She was nice and loud even without a microphone and had all kinds of information that we would not have gotten without her.  We started at the Washington monument, where we learned that construction on it stopped for 28 years when they ran out of money and as a result you can see a definite line where the marble is different colors.  It is also the tallest free standing masonry structure in the world.  The scaffolding in the pictures is there because they are still doing repairs on it from an earthquake two years ago.  Next, we went to the World War 2 Monument which is relatively new in 2004.  Unfortunately, the fountain in the middle of it wasn’t running so we didn’t get the full effect,  but it’s still a powerful reminder of all of the sacrifice and tragedy of that war.  Next was the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.  This one really got to me.  It has the name of every U.S. soldier killed in Vietnam printed on it.  Just looking at all of those names extending above your head when you stand in the middle gives it a much more personal feeling than the other memorials do.  Finally, we ended the tour at the Lincoln Memorial.  It is definitely huge and impressive with Lincoln sitting in that chair.  Inside carved into the wall are two of Lincoln’s most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address, and his second Inaugural Address.  Both are powerful for sure, but the end of the Inaugural Address is especially haunting where he wonders if the country will have to pay for every drop of blood from the slave masters whip with a drop of blood on the battlefield.

After the tour ended, Jocelyn and I headed to the Korean War memorial and then on to the Martin Luther Kind Jr. memorial.  The MLK memorial was really nice.  It is a statue of him kind of stepping out of a block of stone and then the wall behind has some of his more famous quotes, all of which are inspiring and uplifiting.  The setting is also nice in a grove of cherry trees by a little lake/pond.  We sat there and had our lunch and then headed to the Capital Bikeshare.  Capital Bikeshare lets you check out a bicycle for half an hour and then return it to another Bikeshare spot at the destination.  It’s really handy for getting around the mall.

Next up was the national archive.  Here we saw the original founding documents including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  They were mostly illegible, with the writing being too faded to read.  However, the signatures on the Constitution were still very visible, which was kind of neat.

We ended the day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  Like the other ones we’ve been to, this place was huge with way too much to see in a few hours.  Highlights included the exhibit on transportation in America, and a new special one on food in America (Jocelyn’s favorite).  Pictures below.


Washington DC – Day 2

Today was mostly taken up with the Smithsonian museums.  We hit the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.  The size of the Smithsonian museums is incredible.  It was a long day to make it through these two, and that’s just scratching the surface.  Highlights for me included the gem and geology hall at the natural history museum and seeing the space capsules, lunar module, and Saturn V engines at the air and space museum.

We also went to the East Market neighborhood a short distance from the National Mall (thanks Rose for the suggestion!).  This had a really cool indoor market where people were selling all kinds of stuff from meat and fish, to fresh produce, to baked goods and desserts.  Kind of like an indoor daily farmers market.  We also had some dinner in the neighborhood at a little Salvadoran place called Tortilla Cafe.  It was highly recommended on Urban Spoon and apparently is was also featured on a food network show called “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”.  It lived up to the expectations. It was both incredibly cheap, about $6 each, and really delicious.

On the agenda for tomorrow is a walking tour of the National Mall and the Smithsonian American History Museum.  Check out some pics from today!

First Day on The Road – Washington DC Day 1

We’ve made it to Washington DC and are spending our first night of many on the road! We left Portland this morning at 9:50 AM and arrived in DC about 4 hours later at about 5:30 PM local time.  After leaving our plane we headed to the Metro to get a ride to our lodgings for the evening.  It required much more math to buy a ticket for the DC Metro than it does to buy a ticket for our MAX light rail in Portland.  First of all, you have to figure out whether it is peak hours or not to get the base fare, then you have to look up your exact stop on a table since each stop has a different fare, and finally you have to add a dollar if you’re purchasing a paper ticket instead of using one of their rechargeable cards.  Once we got our tickets bought, we got on the train and had an uneventful ride to our stop.  Of course, things didn’t go completely without a hitch. Jocelyn’s ticket wouldn’t scan through the reader so she couldn’t go through the turnstyle to leave the subway station.  After some fine Metro employees finally decided she wasn’t trying to game the system and let her through, we were on our way.  From there, we boarded a bus which was a bit of an adventure at rush hour with our large packs.

We managed not to knock anyone over on the bus and made it to our final destination, our Airbnb stay with a nice couple named Kristen and Will.  Will works for the Foreign Service and Kristen does NGO work.  They seem to be around our age and have been extremely nice and helpful giving us tips on things to do in the city, how to get around, etc.  This is my first experience with Airbnb, but so far I have to say I really like it.  It’s nice to stay with some locals to get a real feel for the place and get some insider tips.

After our arrival, we took a walk to acquaint ourselves with the neighborhood a bit and get something to eat.  We found a little organic market that made our Portland selves feel right at home where we got some hummus and pita for lunch tomorrow.  We ate at a little cafe called the Brookland Cafe (the neighborhood we’re in is Brookland) where Jocelyn had her old standby Mac n’ Cheese with some grilled veggies and fried plantains.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich with the french fry “Xplosion”, which had four different kinds of french fries mixed together; regular, sweet potato, seasoned with lemon pepper, and seasoned with red pepper.  They had some old Janet Jackson concert playing on the TV that everyone seemed to be really into.  The place had a nice, small, neighborhood vibe to it and everyone was really friendly.

So far my impressions of DC are good.  it definitely feels different than Portland.  Much more urban and everything just seems older, probably because it is.  Everyone is very friendly so far and it is also much more racially and ethnically diverse than Portland.  I looked up the demographics and DC is 50% African American and 38% white as compared to Portland which is 76% white and 6% African American.  This definitely gives DC different feel.  It’s a bit jarring the first time you realize you are the only white people on the bus or in a store when we’re so used to almost everyone around us being white in Portland and many other places.  It’s a good experience to have though because I think it might help us realize a little bit how people of color might feel in Portland and many other places in this country.

Plans for tomorrow include the Smithsonian museums and maybe a free walking tour of the capitol mall.