Summer in the City

DC: First Impressions

Welcome to DC, where even the cars are patriotic!

Yesterday my housemate Lisa and I made our first venture into the city. I’ve visited DC before, but not in about 10 years. My 7th grade class took a three day field trip to DC, but mostly I remember visiting the FDR memorial in the rain and drama over who was rooming with who at the hotel. Needless to say, my experiences this time around are a little different.

Lisa and I weren’t up for a Smithsonian or too much sightseeing. We just wanted to wander around and get dinner, so we took the metro to Dupont Circle, a neighborhood in Northwest DC, which is known in part for its queer-friendly nightlife.

Immediately after getting off the metro and walking down the wide avenues with their sizable tree-lined sidewalks, I turned to Lisa. “You know what city this reminds me of?” I asked.

“Barcelona,” I said, and she agreed. Not only were the streets wide like L’Eixample (the newer part of Barcelona which is gridded), but the buildings were also uniformly low. It was easy to see the sky, and the city didn’t make you feel claustrophobic, the way New York sometimes can.

After a lovely dinner at Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe, which I’ll admit to having read about in my DC guidebook, we meandered south all the way to The National Mall. On our way past the crowds photographing the White House I was amazed by the number of different languages I heard being spoken. After studying abroad in Barcelona, where nearly everyone speaks Spanish and Catalan, and many people speak additional languages, it was disappointing to return to my corner of the US and hear only English. It will be nice to live in a multilingual city again.

After doing a bit of inadvertent sightseeing, and spying on a DAR party, we decided to head home via metro. At 9:40 on a Saturday night we waited 20 minutes for the train. This wouldn’t have been an issue except we had to catch a bus afterwards, and waiting for the train meant that we arrived at the bus station at 10:05… and the buses were only running on the hour.

Today we took a trip up to Adams Morgan, another trendy Northwest DC neighborhood, and on the way home there were simply no Yellow or Blue line trains running southbound. We took the Orange line and then a bus, so everything worked out fine in the end, but thus far I am unimpressed by DC’s public transit system. Once you get onto a bus or a train they’re very efficient (much faster than the T in Boston–sorry Boston!), but they simply don’t run often enough. If I lived within walking distance of the metro, I’d probably feel differently, but as it is, I live on a bus line, and I’ll just have to time my trips more carefully.

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.

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