As part of our preparations for leaving for the year we figured we better have a trial run to learn a few lessons before we took off, and what better place to start our trip around the world than Washington DC, our own nations capital! Jeromy was the only one of us who had been there before and that was in 9th grade. We had a fantastic time and learned a lot about not only our country, but how we travel. The good…the bad…and the ugly.
First, Washington DC itself was a fabulous city to visit! It was easy to get around via their Metro system to anywhere we wanted to go. Our house we rented was only a few blocks from the Metro, which was convenient. I highly suggest being close to a Metro stop if you are planning a trip. We also used Uber a few times when our feet were tired after a long day and the Metro was too far away. The other major form of transportation was our feet! Washington DC is so full of history, museums, and federal buildings it is fun to simply walk around, turn a corner and see the FBI building or the Department of Education. They also had these great bike kiosks where you could rent a bike in one area and return in another for a pretty cheap price. Luke wasn’t quite old enough for us to take advantage of that amenity, but we will definitely use the bikes in the future if we were to go there again.
If you are going to Washington DC, you need to arrange with your congressperson ahead of time if you want to have tours of certain buildings. We contacted our congresswoman’s office a few months before we left and were able to have pre-arranged tours of The Capital, The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, The Supreme Court, and The White House. We were all able to learn so much. It made us excited for all the things we will be able to learn on our trip around the world!
One other great thing about travelling in DC is that most the museums, monuments, and buildings are free. This makes it extremely kid friendly because if you only last a short time somewhere, you don’t feel like you wasted a bunch of money for admission.
I won’t go through all the things we did while we were in DC, but here are some of the highlights. I also included our favorite foods we came across because we love to eat, and I feel like a huge part of the travel experience is experiencing the local foods along the way.
Jeromy felt that our tours of the Supreme Court and the White House were highlights. It was amazing to think of all the important people who have been there and the events that have occurred in those buildings. It felt like being on hallowed ground.
Parker enjoyed The Spy Museum best (this is not part of the Smithsonian group of museums so it does cost money to enter). There was an actual spy adventure you were able to participate in that was a lot of fun for him. Unfortunately, Tyler got sick and Luke was too young to participate.
The Lincoln Memorial was what Tyler liked best. He said he really enjoyed the statue, but the highlight for him was sliding down the marble on the side of the stairs! He also loved the Washington Monument and how it seemed like you could see it from anywhere you were in DC.
Luke’s favorite was seeing the Pandas at the Smithsonian Zoo. Pandas are his favorite animals. He has two stuffed ones at home, Pandy and Pamby, who he adores.
I loved all of the above, but a beautiful place we visited that has to be mentioned is Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corp War Memorial. They were reverent places to remember those who died to allow us to be free.
Lavagna. This was a farm to table Italian restaurant with the most delicious homemade pastas. We went one of our first nights there and I ordered the Ravioli Ricotta, which was two large ravioli filled with raw egg yolk, parmesan, ricotta and covered in a delicious beef and pork marinara. It melted in your mouth. Everyone enjoyed their meals, but I shared a bite of mine with everyone and it was the highlight for sure. In fact, Luke asked for it for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner from then on throughout our trip. Imagine three times a day this happening to you, “Luke, what would you like?” His answer, “I want that Ravioli from the other restaurant we went to.” Me, “Sorry bud, they don’t have that here.” Luke, “Then I’m not eating anything!” It got frustrating as you can imagine. Finally, on our last night there we returned and got each of the boys their own order of the Ravioli. I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for them.
Crepes at Eastern Market. The last day we were there we had some of the most delicious savory crepes I’ve had (and I’ve eaten them in France) at the Eastern Market. This is a small market in the area we were staying that is mostly a farmer’s market, but on the weekends expands with more options for food, local art, antiques and more. When we were there we saw that Michelle Obama was eating in a restaurant we were walking by! There were secret service surrounding the entrances and keeping everyone back. We didn’t actually get to see her, but we are glad we didn’t wait around. We passed by an hour and a half later and the crowd was still gathered waiting for her to come out. Back to the crepes, they were delicious! If you are in the area give them a try.
Real Belgian Waffles at Le Pain Quotidien. I have been to Belgium before and had the privilege of having real Belgian Waffles, which are very different from the kind you usually find in restaurants in the United States. A real Belgian waffle is more dense and much sweeter than the US version and doesn’t even really need syrup (although it doesn’t hurt). This restaurant made an amazing authentic version of the Belgian Waffle that the kids devoured. After trying the Belgian waffles at Le Pain Quotidien, the boys can’t wait to go to Belgium!
Lessons Learned for our trip around the world
- My hip did well! I had major hip surgery in September (PAO) and I was concerned about the large amounts of walking we would be doing. Well in DC we walked A LOT. Fortunately, I had very little discomfort and found that I could last longer than Luke, which meant I wouldn’t be the one slowing us down! I’ve worked hard to get to this point, but it’s so nice to know it is paying off and that my hip won’t limit the things we will be able to do on this trip.
- Air BNB. We rented a 2 bedroom row house off Air BNB in the Eastern Market area of Washington DC. A friend that used to live there told me that this area used to be one of the worst in DC and has been gentrified in the past few years. We found it to be a vibrant area with delicious restaurants, bakeries, shops, and markets. The neighborhoods were kept up well and the apartment we stayed in was perfect. It was great having the extra space for all of us to spread out at the end of a long day and have some time alone.
- We can pack in a carry-on for a week and still have clothes left over at the end of the week. If we do laundry about once a week on our trip, we will be fine. Also, we had purchased packing cubes before we left at the suggestion of almost every blog we read on how to pack light. I was skeptical of how much it would help, but it made a huge difference! In fact, I can’t imagine doing it without them.
- Bringing sketch books. Before we left we gave each of the boys a sketch book and bought some nice pens. This worked out better than I even expected. We didn’t want them turning to electronic devices every time they were bored and the sketch books helped to fill that void. Not only will it help their drawing skills and keep them entertained, it will be a wonderful record of the places we are visiting.
- The weather was pretty bad while we were there. It even snowed one day a little bit. The good news is, we were warm enough with the limited clothes we brought (layers are our friend), and it didn’t slow us down too much. Being from the Pacific Northwest, we never let a little rain stop us from doing anything.
- Getting used to the time difference. We never quite adjusted to the time change while we were there. We tended to sleep in and stay up late, which is fine when you are somewhere for a week, but we will need to be better at resetting our circadian rhythms on our trip. This will also curb some of the crankiness!
- Too many sites in one day. We realized there is a limit to the number of tours you can expect 3 rambunctious boys to sit through in one day. Actually they did an amazing job (especially Luke for his age), but we will need to make a concerted effort in our planning to not overschedule. There is so much in DC, it was a good place to learn that lesson.
- Too much time together can cause contention. This is true for anyone and I’m not sure how we will combat this on our trip around the world except by being aware of it and making efforts to allow each other our own space.
- Any of us hungry. Or a more appropriate term, hangry. We will definitely have to try to have regular meals and snacks on hand to keep hunger at bay and all of us behaving rationally.