This time last week, I was walking down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., a scarf tucked into my jacket to make the chilly wind bearable. The sky was a bright blue that I’ve rarely seen since winter started, but I was still cold. I didn’t mind, though—I was so excited to be there. My family and I spent two days—bookended by two days of road trips—in Washington. I have so many photos and experiences to share that I decided to split my trip up into two posts. Here’s the first instalment.
We left on Thursday night, staying in Buffalo overnight to beat what we assumed would be crazy lines at the border as March Break drew closer. We woke up early and started the eight hour drive. Along the way, my sister and I watched Netflix, slept and each tried to make a list of all the states (we both did pretty well, although she beat me by a few states).
The route was scenic, despite the bare tree branches and the fact that you could almost feel the chill outside just from looking at it. We passed snowy mountains and blue lakes turned silver by the sun’s reflection. The eight hours passed quickly, save for the heavy traffic going into Washington itself. We found our hotel (a struggle, as our GPS took us in circles) and ate dinner. Then, as the day faded into night, we walked to the White House.
The white buildings and monuments stood out in the darkness; American flags hanging from the sides, swaying ever so slightly. It’s been a while since I’ve been to Washington, and I continually mistook several grand-looking white buildings for the White House. When we arrived at the actual White House, I realized my mistake.
We walked around for a bit longer. To distract myself from the wind, I started humming Hamilton, changing the song when I saw something that inspired a new lyric (the Treasury Building, for example, reminded me of the part of What Did I Miss where Thomas Jefferson sings, “Treasury secretary, Washington’s the president/Every American experiment sets a precedent”). By the end of the trip, I think my whole family had Hamilton stuck in their heads thanks to my incessant singing.
When we reached our hotel, we warmed up with hot chocolate; although my dad got a milkshake, which should tell you a lot about his priorities. That night, we slept soundly, knowing we had a full day ahead of us.
I was smiling the moment I woke up on Saturday morning. The first item on our itinerary was something I’ve been looking forward to visiting ever since the day I found out it existed: the Newseum, an interactive news museum. We arrived right when it opened and, after watching a video about the museum, took the huge glass elevator to the top floor. There, we were met by an amazing view of Congress—and a gallery of that day’s front pages from around the world, one of my favourite features of the museum.
As you can probably guess, I loved the Newseum. One room contained historic front pages, showing headlines about events like the Titanic sinking and the 1961 Freedom Rides. I think it’s remarkable to look back at the front pages and read about these now well-documented events as they were first told. All of the news artifacts and exhibits reminded me of this quote by Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, which is displayed on one of the walls of the Newseum: “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”
I left the Newseum feeling not only incredibly proud to be a journalist, but also excited about what the future of journalism holds. After visiting a museum that was so up my alley, it was time to go to one focusing on one of my sister’s favourite things: space. I’ve been to The National Air and Space Museum when I was younger, so I had some strange moments of déjà vu as I walked through it. My sister, wearing a NASA t-shirt, was totally in her element; she explained some of the exhibits to me, and was super excited to see one of Amelia Earhart’s red planes on display.
We stopped at a street vendor for lunch, and then carried on to the Capitol building. Since it was Saturday, the House and Senate weren’t in session, but we toured the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall. It was really cool to see parts of U.S. history displayed through paintings and sculptures. We also passed the offices of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Although we didn’t see any politicians, it was exciting to be in the place where so many important political decisions happen (“the room where it happens,” for my fellow Hamilton fans).
We also passed through the tunnel to the U.S. Library of Congress, which is a beautiful building with high ceilings and colourful, ornate art.
That night we saw the comedy group The Capitol Steps, who were like a real-life Saturday Night Live, but with more singing. It featured songs like “Wake me up in Mar-a-Lago” and Democrats singing “All about that ‘base.’” It was a great show, and cool to experience so close to the actual institutions housing the subjects they were satirizing.
With that, our first full day in Washington came to an end. I fell asleep thinking about everything I’d seen and learned, and feeling excited to see what tomorrow would bring. That will be a separate post, though—otherwise I’ll be writing for ages! In the meantime, you can find a full gallery of photos from the first part of my trip on my Flickr.