Welcome to the Capital!
Three weekends ago, I took a bus from Philly to D.C. I planned the trip a few days prior to the weekend because one of my patient’s told me about the cherry blossoms and how they were supposed to bloom early this year in mid-March. Sadly, we had a random freak blizzard/snow-storm that week and the poor cherry buds got frozen which delayed their blooming. 😦
But in any case, spending a weekend away from the daily grind was amazing. Washington D.C. is such a pretty town with so much to do and see. Thankfully I didn’t see TRUMP but there were protests going on near the White House (which I carefully avoided), and there were people offering Trump : Make America Great Again water bottles on street corners, which again I avoided.
Here’s my itinerary and the highlights – I saw and learned so much but here is a few things that stood out to me that I want to share.
Hotel: Washington Court Hotel : chosen because I had a genius deal on it @booking.com from $454 to $150 for a Deluxe King room. It was close proximity to Union Station, Capitol Hill and the National Mall so I could walk everywhere close and take an Uber to outlying places. The front desk staff weren’t friendly but the room was awesome with a super comfortable bed, a large flat screen tv, mini- fridge, a iHome clock/iPhone player and a spacious bathroom. When I first arrived, I spent some time in the lobby, getting my bearings and figuring out my game plan for the day. Surprisingly enough, there was a medical conference going on at the same hotel, and I kid you not, four different hotel employees came up to me and told me that my group was downstairs in the banquet hall in case I was lost and looking for them. Like geez, can I ever escape my job and escape from people who are in the same profession – didn’t think I had the look of a medical student or a physician – maybe because I’m brown? Who knows.
- arrived at 10am and went straight to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City to shop.
- I visited the makeup store Kiko Milano – so exciting because I LOVE their nail polish and liquid eyeliner pens and I’ve only shopped with them in Italy&Spain, so I’m glad they’re expanding to North America.
- Capitol Hill : home of the Congress
- US Botanic Garden :
- home to about 65 000 plants, it was a great break from the cold because they keep it nice and toasty inside
- has a beautiful layout that takes you from room to room, you’ll see everything from palms, to desert plants, to orchids, to herbal/medicinal plants, to roses.
- I just read on their website that the garden serves as a rescue center for plants confiscated at U.S. borders in cooperation with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- Smithsonian Air & Space Museum : ∗∗∗∗∗ 5 stars! It was busy on Saturday!
- In the lobby, the Apollo Lunar Module (LM) which was made to go into orbit to the moon was on display. The Apollo 11 LM called “Eagle” is what Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin used to touchdown onto the moon. It honestly looks like a home-made science project covered in tin foil, but hey, this thing apparently made it’s way to the moon, so I won’t judge it too much. They also had a piece of lunar rock on display which I touched, so cool! (see photo on left)
- Planetarium: Journey to the Stars (narrarted by Whoopi Goldberg). I love stars and am fascinated by outer space. This was so cool, you basically just sit reclined and the entire ceiling is a dome, in which they project the video onto. It showcases real images from telescopes of stellar formations, our sun and other celestial bodies. It really gives you perspective of our universe and how there is so much more out there – there’s really a lot of space in space. Take a moment to look up at the stars and constellations the next time you’re outside on a clear night – it’s really magical.
- 1903 Wright Flyer : Wilbur and Orville Wright started making this in 1899. They first flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, making a 12-second flight, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting – wow, can you even imagine life before airplanes? What an incredible feat. (photo below)
- Model of Lockheed 10-Electra, an airliner that Amelia Earhart purchased in 1936 in which she used on her round-the-world trip. Sadly this is a model, as in 1937, Earhart, her co-navigator Noonan and the Electra were all deemed lost at sea. While the airplane wasn’t that impressive, Earhart’s determination as a woman breaking through the “sky ceiling” by taking flight and becoming the first woman to achieve so much in the field of Aviation. She was the first woman VP of the National Aeronautical Association, lobbied Congress for aviation legislation and even creating a line of “functional” women’s clothing. Kudos.
- Dinner: Rosa Mexicano
- authentic Mexican restaurant, got some awesome guac and a vegetarian chile poblano! Not going to lie, I had to get Mexican food in the capital before Trump deported them across his wall.
- Late night views: POV Terrace at the W Hotel
- one of my high school friends recommended going here because it’s a great rooftop with beautiful views overlooking the White House and the lawns to the Washington Monument. I’ll have to come back during summer since they had these plastic covers up which obscured the view a bit.
- Lincoln Memorial
- even though I’ve been to DC twice before, this was my first time walking into the Lincoln Memorial. President Lincoln sits so majestically overlooking the reflecting pool and Washington Monument. He sits so peacefully as a symbol of unity, strength, and wisdom.
- This site itself is historic as it is where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I have a dream” speech.
- Smithsonian Natural History Museum : probably my favourite museum this trip and it reminds me of the movie Night at the Museum
- the main Rotunda is stunning, and the main display of the African Elephant. I had to take a panorama of this room (see below)
- I really liked all the exhibitions here, especially the Hope Diamond which is a 45.52 carat diamond from India, one of the world’s most famous gems – estimated value $200-250 million.
- IMAX shows:
- Dinosaurs Alive 3D: this movie was ok, I thought it spent too much time talking about paleontologists and how they discover new fossils – but what I thought was particularly interesting was that we don’t know how dinosaurs sounded like, or how their external appearance actually was like. I guess with media/movies and the animations of dinosaurs that we have been exposed to, we automatically think of a T-rex as being various shades of green with a fierce roar and we think of other dinosaurs such as velociraptor as having either some sort of stripe or dot design along their back to tail- but no one really knows how they looked like! What if Tyrannosaurus rex was purple and had a furry skin? Hmm that kind of sounds like Barney, haha!
- National Parks Adventure 3D: the park service turns 100 this year! This show really made me want to visit more parks. What I thought was interesting was the story of President Roosevelt and how he first started the national park service after his wife and mother died of illness. He visited Yosemite and was able to heal and gain clarity after being out in nature. He also talked about John Muir, who was a strong advocate for preserving the wilderness in USA before the national parks were founded. One of the quotes they mentioned was “keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” I’ve been to a few of the parks, most notably, Yellowstone which was the first founded national park and has the one of the world’s largest calderas or supervolcano with the beautiful Grand Prismatic Spring, the Grand Canyon which one of my favourite places in all of USA, and the Giant Sequoia park in California which are host to some super tall trees. I really want to go to Yosemite, Zion and Devil’s Tower.
- Smithsonian Air & Space Museum : I came back here again because I had tickets to the new 3D IMAX show.
- A Beautiful Planet (narrated by Jennifer Lawrence) – done in collaboration with NASA, this film showcased video and the life of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). I wouldn’t say this is a must see, but the footage of Earth from space was pretty cool. The astronauts said from space, you can’t see cities during the day but there’s tremendous evidence of life on Earth, especially the damage that we, humans, have created, from burning down large parts of the Amazon rainforest, to the melting ice glaciers – they really emphasized the fact that we have to save our planet. They also said something that has stuck with me, they said that from their vantage point, especially at night when larger cities light up, you cannot see country borders or division. [with the exception of North and South Korea (in which the border is almost clearly outlined with light and the North is very dark, in contrast to the South which is bright)]. The show will hopefully help remind us that we are all global citizens, this is our planet, we should do what we can to preserve it. (hint hint Mr. Trump!).
- Washington Monument
- Dinner: Carmine’s Italian Style Family Restaurant: I had to sit at the bar area here since the dinner tables only offered the dinner menu which each entree apparently feeds 4-6 people. They had a separate menu for people with dietary restrictions: gluten free, avoid seafood, vegetarian and vegans. I ordered the Ravioli with Cheese which came with a bread basket. Food came fast, tasted decent, not the best Italian I’ve had but it was interesting overhearing peoples conversations beside me. College basketball was on the TVs and Washington was playing someone else so it was funny hearing people get excited when their team scored and then mumbling swear words under their breath when their team made a bad move.
- Dessert: Pitango Gelato : I took a stroll down the street from dinner and came across this heavenly store which sells gelato, sorbet and cafe drinks/bakery – only using organic and fresh ingredients. I got a Cardamon and Matcha Green Tea gelato – was amazing, 5 stars for sure!
- Drink(s): I had a Fresh Mint Fresca at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. I had walked one store down from the gelato place and this restaurant was so beautifully decorated with bright colours of butterflies so I had to stop by. I sat at the bar area since that was the only place available and they also had USB plugs under the counter, so it was a perfect place to charge up my phone before my journey back to Philly. The drink was awesome and their food menu looked great too, I’ll have to return to try more. I also met some interesting people that sat beside me who gave me more off the beaten track places to visit the next time I’m in town.
While I didn’t end up seeing any cherry blossoms, it was overall a very educational and fun trip. I would love to go back and explore more of the city area and some of the other free museums.
Until next time D.C.!