That’s it, I finally made it to the USA. It was long, it was painful, it definitely wasn’t the best flight of my life, mainly because of some crazy passengers, but I made it. I landed on Thursday night in Washington Dulles International Airport, completly shattered and slightly lost. I easily passed through immigration and made my way in the airport to the bus. I was harrased by a crazy drunk guy on my way to the city and despite my protests, I was quite shocked that no one came to my rescue. Thankfully, he was harmless. But I must say, at that point, I was very close to tears. The reverse culture shock had just hit me: it was cold, people around were rich and carefree, I did not fit there, there was no noise, no weird smells and I even almost missed the tuk-tuk drivers asking me if I wanted a ride. Almost. I shook it off quickly: it was a different country, there was no need to compare, I needed to be there and enjoy.
I took the metro and when I came out on 11th Street, I recognized where I was and I smiled. It’s always great to be back somewhere you know and to experience it all over again. I have been to DC twice before and I never really liked it. The city is too clean, too fancy, too perfect and a bit too majestic for my taste. However, it seems like the third time is a charm and that the capital finally made its way to my heart.
I arrived at the HI-Washington, where I was warmly received. I have stayed here before and the staff is always great, helpful and friendly. This time, I ended up in a 10 bed-dorm. It’s actually quite well done, separated in small corners so you still have a bit of privacy. You also get a big locker, a bed lamp, a towel and plusg for your bed, luxuries that you do not always get. The hostel is quite big and not very new, but comfortable and warm. That’s what I like here, the people, the activities and the real hostel feel. I crashed on my bed straight away and woke up 10 hours later, ready to take the city on.
It was a grey and cold day. My time in DC was limited and I thought it would be great this time to get off the beaten path and explore something far from, the tourists, the museums and monuments. I was recommended Old Town, Alexandria in Virginia and looking into it, it seems like a great idea. It’s very close to the city center and actually quite easy to get to, although it’s not very known by tourists. I took the metro to King’s Street. Washington metro is easy enough, although maybe not developped enough, but I always throught the ticketing system was awfully completed. I finally figured it out, although it still seems a bit absurb to me. Once, in King’s Street, you can take a free trolley to go all the way to the waterfront and explore the area.
Alexandria is a quaint little town, situated on the river, full of history and cute little shops and cafes. That day, I was shown around by Ariel, one of Taralynn’s reader and we spent a great afternoon roaming around town. The sun finally came out and the town looked very pretty with its mantel of fall colors and its brick buildings. We explored cafés, sweet shops, the Torpedo Gallery – a very interesting art gallery – faitrade boutiques and the waterfront. We also had the chance to enjoy a lovely lunch at Virtue Feed and Grain. At the restaurant, I tried a local DC beer, which was a bit disappointing and a delicious lobster and bacon burger.
Ariel also brought me to Gravelly Point Park, a small park right next to the airport, where you can see planes land and take off, just above your heads. I thought it was a really cool and quirky place.
To get myself into Halloween mood, I decided to do a quick stopover at Arlington Cemetary, a cemetary that was founded during the Civil War. It wasn’t spooky, but it was very peaceful and made for a lovely walk.
After this full-on day, it was time to get ready for Halloween festivities. A panda hat, some black make-up and I became a panda for the night. First stop, a Halloween Monument’s tour with the hostel where they brought us to the White House, the Monument, the WWII Memorial and the Abraham Lincolm Memorial. The explanations given by Catherine were very interesting, the Mall was beautifully lit up and very quiet and it made for a very special evening. The tour was also a great opportunity to meet some fellow travellers and four of us ended up going out together in Georgetown. There was Ana from Brazil, Maria from Argentina and Sandra from Chile.
The streets of Georgetown were full of people dressed in crazy costumes: witches, nurses, vampires, some anime characters, gymnasts and many other. I knew that Americans went all out for Halloween and I wasn’t disappointed. Walking in the streets, sitting in a pub, I was actually just happy to do some people-watching and see the evening unfold. We ended up in a college bar, where we danced and enjoyed the nightlife for a few hours, before going back to the hostel. The crowd was really friendly, it was quite easy to meet some people and the party was really fun. My costume has had its little success as well and I even managed to scare someone. Who knew that a panda could be so scary… I also met three other pandas and was really happy to see that we are not so endangered in DC !
And that’s how the first day of this exchange went down and made me like Washington DC. I feel that there are many off the beaten path and local places to explore in town and I do hope to come back soon to do some more exploring. But my adventures in DC are not quite finished yet and I will tell you more about it tomorrow. For now, I have to catch a train to Baltimore, Maryland.
Don’t forget to follow Taralynn’s adventures in France on Voyages et Vagabondages!