Washington, D.C. has been one of my favourite places in the States from the very first time I came here, all the way back in 2006. Back then, I had brown hair, a much stronger Kiwi accent, and only vague inklings as to what I truly wanted out of life. That first time in D.C. went a long way to helping me realise that some of the things I wanted were beautiful surroundings, accessible culture, and the buzz that is produced by a place full of smart, natural-born communicators. I spent an entire day wandering the city by myself, enjoying the anonymity provided by the crowds, and avoided checking my map as much as I could*. At lunch, I sat in a cafe near some journalists who were casually discussing something – I have no idea what – that was happening in 'the House'. The House! That was something political! I was sitting in the vicinity of awesome, important people** who got to write every day, and in a heartbeat I had made up my mind that I, too, was going to be awesome and important.
Seven years later, I have returned to D.C. several times, mainly for work events at embassies. This makes me sound kind of awesome and important – travelling to other cities and embassies, etc – but I don't think I am. One thing I have learned in the last seven years is that it's very unlikely anyone ever thinks of themselves as awesome and important, even in D.C.
So I had repeatedly told H1 how fabulous D.C. was, and I kept going off there by myself, and saying we had to go there together, and in the end he took matters into his own hands and informed me that we were going to D.C. for a couple of days. He had a couple of clients he had to see, and I was welcome to tag along.
Obviously, I went.
We drove down from New York one Thursday morning. I love road trips with H1, even the tiny mini ones like D.C. He likes them rather less than I do, probably because he's the one who always ends up driving. I don't have my US driver's licence yet, and my NZ one has expired, but even if I were a fully-functioning licensed adult he would probably still drive, if only because that way he gets to dictate the music.
We drove into D.C. along beautiful, scenic, remarkably traffic-free streets, parked at our hotel, and very quickly went out to explore. Because both his meetings were the following morning, we had a mere half-day to ourselves in D.C. Thankfully, half a day is the perfect amount of time to get a very brief overview of the grand important buildings that make up downtown. It's a superficial exploration, of course, but it's better than nothing.
We were staying in Dupont Circle, which is just a good place to stay if you are there on business for a short amount of time. If given longer – three or four days, say – I would try to stay in Georgetown, out by the Potomac River. From Dupont Circle, however, it's an easy little trek to all the places that come instantly to mind when D.C. is mentioned. The White House! The Washington Monument! The National Mall! The Lincoln Memorial! We saw them all, often from behind large, imposing fences with sniper rifles trained on us***.
It was an excessively hot, muggy day, so we took it easy, with frequent breaks for water (and ice-cream on at least one occasion). Our route took us down Connecticut Avenue to the back of the White House, then further on to view the front from a distance, past the Washington Monument, onto the National Mall and past the "Foooorreeeest! Jeeeennnny!"**** pool, and then up the steps of the Lincoln Monument for a quick confab with old Abe******. I asked my question, but didn't get a response. It's possible that my question got lost in the countless others coming from the hordes of fellow tourists surrounding me, or that asking a statue for advice just plain doesn't work. Who knows?
After a shower and a quick rest back at the hotel, we went out for an amazing, amazing meal. And then, it was all over! Bar the work, of course.
I say it every time, but next time I go to D.C. it won't be for work. Next time I'll go just to enjoy it. If you get to go, though, make sure you take some time to explore this gorgeous, vibrant, important and awesome place (even if you're so important and awesome you have to work). You won't regret it.
I'd love to hear – have you had any personal epiphanies while on holiday? What were they?*******
*I wanted to appear as if I fit in, and yes, of course this led to me getting completely lost. In D.C. all the grand important buildings look just like each other.
**They...probably were not that important, actually. People who talk loudly in public spaces about work rarely are. But back then, I thought they were.
****We***** may have very quietly yelled this more than once.
******It should be noted that everything I know about the Lincoln Memorial has been gleaned from The Simpsons.
*******Um, maybe only share if they're not too personal.