Wanderlust: Washington, D.C., Summer

My first time in Washington, D.C. was in the summer. I can’t quite remember what year it was. Possibly 2012, just before I graduated from UCF. Regardless, my best friend joined me on another adventure to go to an audition, and my cousin graciously hosted us for 48 hours. I was up and awake for 23 of those.

Upon arriving at the airport, the first thing Cat and I did was get lost and come out of the wrong exit, sending my cousin’s husband on the hunt to find us for pickup. Once we were finally found though, I enjoyed the scenic drive to their apartment. I immediately noticed the separate bike paths that followed the same path as the roads for the cars, and thought, “That’s so smart! Why can’t Florida do that?”

Of course, being in such a historic city, we couldn’t just sit back and relax that first night. My cousin took us to Arlington Cemetery, where we went on a sweaty, 2-hour walk the night before I had to be up early for my audition. No regrets though, because seeing those graves of so many fallen soldiers and the results of war was a sobering experience. I still can’t imagine what it’s like to have such convictions, that you’d be willing to die for something you believe in. That’s not necessarily everyone’s mindset who goes to war, but there’s enough belief in some to make that kind of choice. I saw so many gravestones demarking the ground where kids my own age now lay buried beneath, while I walked the path to see where their beliefs brought them.

The next day started for me at 3 in the morning, as my cousin and best friend escorted me to the venue for my audition. Cat, being truly the most ride or die friend that any girl could ask for, went on the hunt for an open breakfast spot and found me a delicious chocolate almond croissant before leaving me to wait all day for 5 minutes of time with an audition judge.

Once I left the venue, I called up Cat to find out where she was so I could meet her. As always, it’s not a trip without getting lost at least once. I hopped on the right metro rail, but going in the wrong direction. Thankfully, I realized my mistake only one stop into the ride, so I immediatley hopped off, walked to the other side of the platform and got on the right train going in the right direction.

I met up with Cat just in time to go to the Library of Congress, because of course the history buff and writing nerd would want to see a bunch of old books. I got to see the Gutenberg Bible display that made my writer heart swell three sizes. We also saw some art pieces depicting the arrival of the British to the Americas in a much different light than a series I’d seen in Ecuador. It’s amazing how perspective can change the same story into two totally different tales.

The real drama started as we left the Library of Congress. Just as Cat and I were leaving by the gift shop exit, I noticed a police officer walking in talking into his walkie and heard something about a code block. We were barely through the door when others ahead of us started running, being urged by another police officer just outside the exit, who kept motioning for us to hurry up. I’m not a fast runner to begin with, but add the heeled boots I was wearing the full backpack on my back, and it was all just very stressful trying to oblige the police officer and run out of harm’s way. Getting down the slope to the curb and far enough away from the commotion seemed to take an eternity, but finally, we found a place called We the Pizza and stopped to stress eat some lunch. That was where I discovered Red’s Apple Ale and found my lifelong drink of choice. Also, the barbecue chicken pizza with shoestring onions was dope.

After that, we met up with my cousin at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where we saw terrifying prehistoric creatures. Seriously, how did human beings ever come to be when those monstrosities once existed? Once we’d had our fill of existential dread and scary (thankfully now-dead animals), we took a ride on the metro where a group of girls really wanted to let everyone know where they were going. We headed to Ben’s Chili Bowl for dinner, as when Cat and I kept looking up food to have in D.C., this place showed up on every list. We took it to go though, as I was so tired that by the time Daniel came around with the car to pick us up, I was falling asleep standing up and wobbling like a Mortal Kombat character who was about to get K.O’d. I barely remember getting back to my cousin’s apartment and eating my chili. I just know that right before I hit the guest bed and knocked out, my phone’s clock read 2:00, and my first thought was, “Dear God, I’ve been awake a whole day.”

The next day, my cousin and her husband took us to brunch in Alexandria at a place called Bilbo Baggins, which of course was Hobbit-themed. I had the richest french toast ever in my life, and no other french toast has ever compared since. Made from two thick slices of raisin bread and stuffed with a decadent cream cheese, that french toast was absolute heaven. I can’t wait to go back someday and have it again.