I was born and raised in South Korea until I was 15. I haven’t gone back to Korea, so I don’t really know what it’s like there anymore. One thing I still remember clearly is the streets covered with cherry blossom petals in the middle of spring, and I deeply miss it. Then, in the beginning of this year, I set a new goal for traveling every month in 2017! I wanted to go somewhere for cherry blossoms in either March or April, and one of the candidates was Washington, DC. I kinda wanted to go to Seattle because I’ve seen a lot of beautiful photos of cherry blossom trees in University of Washington, but they bloom much earlier than the east coast. So I decided to go to D.C.!
I’ve been monitoring the cherry blossom blooming forecast to decide when to go. It’s been unusually warm this year (100 degrees in Phoenix in March. That is odd and unusual. Global warming is a fact, it is really happening.), so I knew it would start blooming in mid-March. However, being a grad student means constantly loaded work, and in mid-March, plane tickets were expensive, so I decided to go on the 31st of March – at the end of March and the beginning of April, fulfilling my monthly travel in March and April! I had planned to go to Grand Canyon in March with a friend of mine, but because of my unexpected medical procedure, we had to cancel and postpone.. Anyways, I checked the weather in DC 3/31 and 4/1, and it looked like it was going to be rainy and cold.. I also heard that cherry blossom trees bloomed, but because of the abrupt temperature drop and rain, they all died. I was sad, but I was excited to explore the city and go to the Roy Hargrove show at Blues Alley!
I could’ve flew into DCA, but it was so much more expensive and there was no direct flight. So I purchased tickets flying to Baltimore (BWI) and then take the Amtrak to DC. I left at 7am in AZ time and arrived in Baltimore at 3:20pm. I’m Arizonan, so 50 degrees windy weather with rain was SO cold. Good thing I packed all the warm clothes.
It took about 30 minutes from BWI to DC by train. When I arrived at the Union Station in DC, I was surprised by how busy it was!! I’ve only been to the Amtrak stations in Boston (small one, I guess) and Rhode Island, and compared to those, it was gigantic! And the lines for each gate were really long too. Pretty scary!!
I’ve been collecting the public transportation tickets (or cards) in different cities, and this one is “SmarTrip” for the DC metro. It kind of seemed confusing to buy the card, and they also had the “exit fare”, which seemed unusual. I liked the DC metro because it seemed really clean and well-organized. The place I stayed in DC via Airbnb was in DuPont Circle/Georgetown neighborhood, so I took off at DuPont circle station. The escalator in that station was by far the longest I’ve ever seen!
Walking around this city was lovely. I actually expected this to be a busy city like NYC, but it was very different! I got this calm, classy, elegant but strong vibes from this beautiful city even when I just walked for 10 minutes. The houses were really pretty, reminded me of Boston a bit, and it was the combination between old, classic buildings and modern, fancy buildings. I loved seeing flowers everywhere in this city, too, and I am actually not allergic to those!!! (I seem to be allergic to a lot of trees in Arizona….) Another thing was that everywhere was within walking distances. From the apartment I stayed to the Georgetown waterfront, it was only 10-15 minute walk, and to the downtown areas and to the White House, it was about 20 minutes!! I’m a big fan of walking, so this city was perfect for me!! Just like San Francisco and Manhattan!
Since my flight was 5h long, I woke up at 3:30am AZ time and I got to DC at around 5pm DC time. I was starving and there were so many places to eat! I loved that all the restaurants seemed smaller and very intimate, creating some cozy vibes. It was raining when I walked to the Georgetown shopping area, so I decided to have some udon noodle soup at a restaurant that serves both Thai and Japanese food! Their food was really yummy!
My host also recommended this place called Baked and Wired for coffee, so I walked there to get a cup of coffee for my dessert! I am a coffee snob so I love trying locally roasted coffee beans! I usually don’t drink coffee after 1pm because I seem to have a hard time falling asleep if I do.. but there’s always an exception and I had their pour over (or drip coffee). I can’t remember which beans they used, but it was really smooth and good! They had many baked stuff as well, but I decided not to get one because I was so full from dinner! I totally loved the cozy environment in this cute little shop.
I started the major exploration the next day. I decided to grab my morning coffee and a quick bite in Downtown area, and I ran into Compass coffee. I actually was on my way to La Colombe Coffee Roasters, but I decided to stop by at the Compass coffee. I’m a huge cold brew fan, and they had a mint cold brew!! My lab studies the menthol receptor so I love any mint stuff!! Their coffee was amazing, and so was their croissant!
I continued walking and realized that I was near the White House! There were many tourists, obriously, I heard many European languages while I was walking around. The White House was very beautiful. All the buildings around the downtown DC were very sophisticated, glamorous and elegant. I was deeply amazed by the architectural features on the building!!! I was able to take a photo of the White House, and I’m so jealous of all the presidents of US because they get to possess their own cherry blossom trees!!!!
Right around the White House, I could see the Washington monument. It was interesting walking around there because I could see all the historical, eventful buildings and monuments. I was walking around the World War II Memorial and I saw both Washington monument and Lincoln monument!! I sensed the reverence, elegance, and grace while walking in this city. I wish I had enough time to visit everywhere, but I saved some for the next time, so I can come visit soon again!!
The highlight of this trip for myself was walking around the Tidal Basin. There were so many cherry blossom trees around, and looking at those cherry blossom petals on the ground melt my heart!!! I was so soaked into the beauty of the scenery, and I was so happy to be there. It was exactly what I needed from the busy, fast pacing life. I absolutely adore every second I spent walking around the cherry blossom trees! It was cloudy in the morning, but by the time I got to the Tidal Basin, the sky was clearing up and the clouds, cherry blossoms, sun, the breeze, floating cherry blossom petals on the ground and the lake were just perfect. I can tell you that I was the happiest person on earth that moment!
I also went to a well known jazz club called Blues Alley to see Roy Hargrove quintet. It was kind of like Blue Note in Greenwich village, but it had a different vibe. It was really dim, intimate and warm, and the show was fantastic! I just love jazz so much, the chemistry and conversations between musicians never cease to surprise me, and the joy I get from listening to jazz is so tremendous!! I ended my day just right!!
I’m so grateful that I could afford this trip. I love solo traveling because I get to explore nonstop, I get to experience new things and from there I get new thoughts and inspirations!! I really loved this city, probably more than New York, to be honest. This trip reminded me of how much I love the nature and the city! I can’t wait to go to another trip in May and explore new places!!