Washington D.C. is the most unlikely capital city I’ve ever visited. It’s certainly got more official buildings than you could shake a stick at, but it’s so calm and laid back, you’d never know there were actually world changing events going on behind those white marble facades. There’s no such thing as a rush hour in D.C, because no one is ever in an actual rush. It’s wonderful to be in a city where the pace is set to ‘amble’, you can see sky and trees, and where there are streets and streets of colourful gingerbread houses and wide avenues filled with colossal pieces of classical architecture. It might be built on a swamp and horrifically humid, but it’s a beautiful, vibrant, fascinating place to be. I love it.
I was staying with one of my best friends, who I met at university. She lives right next to the zoo, and I spent a magical first night sleeping on her balcony, encased in the warmth of the balmy D.C. climate and listening to the peacocks calling to one another in the bird enclosure below. The next day, up bright and early, we headed to the arboretum, on the other side of town. It consists of hectares and hectares of land filled with trees from every state of the US, and is a lovely spot to come and explore. We particularly enjoyed the Bonsai tree section, and I loved seeing the original columns from the Capitol, taken down at some point in the 19th century, and resurrected here, in the middle of a field. It’s a striking sight. So is Union Market, a fabulously renovated warehouse space just around the corner which is now filled with a variety of upmarket food stores and counter restaurants. We popped in for some lunch and had an amazing beef and horseradish bagel at Buffalo and Bergen along with one of their signature handmade sodas. I tried blackberry spice, and it was the best fizzy drink I’ve ever tasted!
The following days were a pleasant round of leisurely strolls, delicious meals and wonderful sights. I saw fluorescent frogs and majestic lions at the zoo. I had the best french toast at Open City. I bought some lovely antiques at the Georgetown Flea Market. I saw wonderful photographs of contemporary and historical America at the Museum of American Art. I discovered a new favourite painter. I saw Julia Child’s kitchen at the Museum of American History. I learned about Native American tribes at the striking National Museum of the American Indian. I saw indigenous Hawaiian plants at the Botanical Garden. I pretended to wave at the President through the gates of the White House. I marvelled at the scale of the Capitol. I found myself surprisingly pleased by the aesthetics of the range of mid century concrete office buildings downtown. I finally got to enjoy the witty and fascinating company of Thomas. I strolled around the other Roosevelt Island and was inspired by Roosevelt’s wise words to all men. I drank gallons of iced tea, went to a proper American shopping mall and devoured the most amazing cookies known to mankind. I never had to wear a cardigan. It was a wonderful week. By the time I boarded the bus back to New York, I’d switched allegiances. The Big Apple needs to up its game. The Big Swamp is where it’s really at.