Enjoying Open Spaces in Washington DC, USA

ZY Washington DC

SAs mentioned in my earlier post, we made my way from Singapore to Washington DC via a kangaroo hop, from Singapore to Oslo via Bangkok, then to Copenhagen, before crossing the pond to the capital of United States of America. It was an epic journey on Thai Airways and SAS, which took us 35h 6m (about 4 hours longer than scheduled of 31h and 15m due to that delay in Copenhagen).

Although we touched down at nearly 7pm in DC’s Dulles International Airport, we were lucky (thanks to N’s foresight!) that the airport was not crowded and N had earlier arranged for airport transfer that was waiting for us. We managed to check in to our hotel, Washington Plaza Hotel before 9pm (the transfer took about 45 min, which was considered fast, considering that we were sharing the shuttle and it made a few stops in the area before dropping us off).

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. United States Capitol, view from Ulysses S. Grant Memorial.

Settling In

After the usual taking of photos of the room, we proceeded to the nearest Whole Foods to… buy water for the next 2 days!

It was actually a great walk, though short, through the quiet neighbourhood north of Washington DC’s National Mall. The streets were quiet, but not quiet (there was still a lot of traffic) despite being close to bed time!

As it was a trip to buy necessities, we were back in the hotel in an hour, waiting for our call out… We ordered General Tsao Chicken and Orange Chicken! Yup, as it was only my 2nd visit to the US, I hadn’t had the chance to taste the infamous “authentic” Chinese food in America!

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. First dinner: General Tsao Chicken and Orange Chicken.

Both were fried chicken (coated with a batter to give it more crunch) but coated with different sauces, which would be what we usually find or cook in Singapore too. To me, both tasted almost the same – sweet and sour, wildly salty – but they were tasty nonetheless! The mix of crunch and tender meat amidst the sauce made explosions of taste in the mouth. Most importantly, the food came hot!

N and I wondered why Americans referred to General Tsao Chicken like a child who got bad grades in school. Ignoring the fact that it was not a food invented in China itself, the dish actually tasted great and would definitely be a crowd favourite in Singapore.

In fact, for example, there are similar dishes like this in Singapore – Sweet and Sour Pork (Gu Lu Rou, 咕噜肉) found in almost all Chye Png (mixed rice) stall and Honey Glazed Chicken found in AOne.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Streets of Washington DC.

Perhaps if this was my only choice of Chinese food and I have to eat it every other day, I would get bored of it very soon. However, I really recommend all travellers to try General Tsao Chicken when in America!

N and I counted that we had 5 full meals and 2 pastry light meals (at Oslo and Copenhagen airports) in the past 35 hours. Yet, we were famished! That being said, even though we ordered only 2 main dishes, we couldn’t COULDN’T finish them!! The serving size was simply too big; if it wasn’t because I wanted to taste the difference between General Tsao Chicken and Orange Chicken, we would have settled for only 1!

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Washington Monument, beyond Capitol Reflecting Pool, view from Ulysses S. Grant Memorial.

National Mall

The plan for the next day was very simple: to walk around National Mall. In my previous visit, I was too ambitious and wrecked my knees to pack in as many visits to the free-entry museums as possible. This time around, we were more selective.

Again, we did a slow stroll to the nearest subway station (I really wanted to cut down on the walking), where we had breakfast at Au Bon Pain (to taste its awful coffee) enroute.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. First breakfast: coffee at Au Bon Pain Cafe Bakery.

The nearest station, Macpherson Square, to National Mall was actually still a 5-minute walk away. Nonetheless, it allowed us to take in the sights and sounds of the neighbourhood, which was more commercial than the one near our hotel.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Along the streets of DC.

N called the style of the office buildings we saw along the way “brutalist” – I hadn’t thought of it that way. I recognised they belonged to a time in the 70s – 80s where people loved to use concrete surfaces to give their buildings a big, heavy look (though I wonder if that gave the buildings more strength?).

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Federal Center subway station platform, with arch vaults.

The weather was a comfortable 16C and the sky was clear. As it was early by the time we reached the grounds in front of Capitol, we had the area almost to ourselves! The sun, though, made it difficult to see things as the glare was too much…

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Both of us agreed that the Capitol Building was good to be watched from afar and gave up the idea to go in (and pass through the bothersome security screening). We strolled down by the grass patch of the Mall and came to the first exciting museum: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, since both of us are aviation buffs!

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Selfie at Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, with United States Capitol as background.

It was a humongous building with lots of exhibition rooms depicting the history of air and space travel. There were those rockets used for the Apollo missions, space suits worn by the astronauts and a display for exploring our Solar System… It was no wonder that we spent 2 hours in there!

After gratifying ourselves with all things aviation, we crossed the strip to Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History… to look for lunch at the museum cafeteria! We had simple stuff over there, like pasta and grilled chicken, mainly to fill our stomachs at an area of the city serving over-priced food.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Selfie at National Mall, with Washington Monument as the background.

From there, it was another long stroll to the Tidal Basin, where we wanted to visit the Lincoln Memorial. (OK, I sorta regretted not hopping onto one of those rented bikes halfway through the walk, but it was also difficult to ride a bike on a path where some students would sprint out from nowhere…)

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Washington Monument against blue sky.

Though it was a long walk, the cool weather and wide paths made it a pleasure to have a stroll. We stopped by the Washington Monument to take insta-worthy pictures of the phallic structures, of the bare trees lining the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, which we took more of from the vantage point in the hall of Lincoln Memorial.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Washington Monument against blue sky, view from Lincoln Memorial towards National Mall. Seen here also the Reflecting Pools.
US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Corridor around Lincoln Memorial, with classical Greek pillars.

Unlike Capitol, though Lincoln Memorial required a tedious climb up the daunting steps, the view up there was superb! One can look all the way across the length of the National Mall! If you have a good eyesight, you may even catch a glimpse of the Capitol Building (though it reminded me how much I had walked that afternoon!).

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Dinner at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café at Dupont Circle.

Dinner at Dupont Circle

We then took another stroll to Dupont Circle – which was both a good and bad idea… I didn’t study Google Maps hard enough (by using the terrain layer) to find out that it was actually an uphill walk, thinking it would be a very direct route, though long stroll.

Dupont Circle was a must-visit place in DC, as it represented the leisure (and night life) of the city. We thought we could easily find a place for dinner… which tend to be a misunderstanding. The place was mainly full of bars and mid-upscale restaurants. Tripadvisors didn’t turn up much recommendations, since apparently everything was good there.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Dinner at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café at Dupont Circle. Seen here is the dish: Pan-Seared Sea Scallops.

Nonetheless, after taking a pit stop rest at Starbucks, we settled at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café, which as the name suggested, was a mix of book store and café.

The café was in a section behind the bookstore, in a glass house of sorts, so we had a good view of the street. The overall décor was wood-themed, and as night falls, they used soft lighting… which an old man like me was finding hard to get used to lol

N had Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, which I supposed allowed you to taste the sea as opposed to sky scallops? The dish had some healthy-looking garden fresh with it, which would definitely satisfy those who feel guilty at having too much meat everyday.

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Dinner at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café at Dupont Circle. Seen here is the dish: Crab Cake Pasta.

For me, I ordered Crab Cake Pasta, which was their signature dish. The patty of crab sat atop a bed of spaghetti mixed with tomato sauce. Both dishes looked small, but my were they filling!

That meal remained one of my most remembered one, as it was also where N celebrated my 34th birthday! Yup, travelling all the way across the world to the country of my dreams to celebrate my hatch day! All the back aches from the long haul flight and calf aches from the walk down National Mall was all worth it! 🙂

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Dinner at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café at Dupont Circle. I celebrated my 34th birthday in USA!

Sad to say, that slice of cake was too much for me and I had to abandon more than half of it! Americans do like to have their food rich and heavy!

After our dinner, we decided to walk off all that calories with a stroll (again) back to our hotel. Again, walking down the streets with townhouses by the side in a peaceful early-winter night brought peace and bliss to the heart and mind.

An occasion not to be found in Singapore indeed!

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Selfie at Lincoln Memorial at Tidal Basin.

Parting Thoughts

Washington DC carries with it the austere ambience that comes with being the administrative capital of the strongest country in the world. Compared to the narrow and dirty streets of NYC, DC has wide and clean pathways for the people. The downside from having all those space was the distance one has to cover to get from one place to another!

I loved how all the museums along The National Mall were free for entry, even for foreigners. For museum buffs like us, we would definitely want to spend more time there! Perhaps it would be good to prepare food, since what could be found in and around the National Mall was… mehz~ It would be a good idea to sit by the plater boxes outside the museums, or the steps of Lincoln Memorial to have a little picnic!

Flying into DC was really the best idea; not only did we skip the crowded JFK airport in New York (add in the complex security screening, it would be the concoction of a nightmare! I remembered being stuck in just the immigration queue for an hour and a half!), the airport was also near to the city centre (despite being technically in another state).

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Hirshhorn Museum along National Mall.

This post is part of my series to document my trip to US East Coast, which started with my trip reports on Thai Airways via Boeing 777-300ER and on Scandinavian Air Systems (SAS), adventures in the neighbourhoods of New York City and Brooklyn (Part 1), exploring the skyscrapers of the Big Apple and my immersion of old English ambience in Boston, including an overview of the Lobster Rolls I found in Boston. Subscribe to my blog for further updates of my trip!

If you enjoyed reading this trip report, please like and share my post to your friends!

Till then, stay wanderlust!

All photos and videos were taken using Olympus TG870 and Google Pixel XL, and edited with Snapseed.

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