A trip to the United States capital would not be complete without visiting the White House and government buildings, touring national monuments and exploring the city’s numerous museums. However, I always try to get a feel for what a city is like beyond its tourist attractions and had to admit that despite multiple visits, I’d never seen much of D.C. Last weekend, after spending a day in Virginia, I set out to discover where locals actually hang out in Washington.
Nope, they’re not hanging out at the White House.
I couldn’t help but think to myself that I was potentially surrounded by CIA operatives at all times while walking around D.C. That homeless man sitting on the bench in Dupont Circle could very well be a spy, and the couple having brunch at the next table just might be undercover agents tailing someone. I’m slightly obsessed with spy movies and books, if you couldn’t tell. If I wasn’t a fashion publicist who writes a travel blog at night, I would definitely be a CIA agent.
Anyway, that really has nothing to do with this post, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of my mindset as I set out to explore Washington D.C. It was a Sunday morning, and on the advice of the Internet I decided to visit Eastern Market, Washington D.C.’s oldest public food market in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Let’s pause for a minute and discuss just how freaking adorable the streets of Capitol Hill are. We had decided to walk to Eastern Market from Union Station, which is a long walk to begin with, but I practically doubled that time by stopping every minute to photograph houses. The local residents probably thought that I was a secret agent, spying on them and snapping pictures of their homes. But seriously, I could have wandered these streets for hours with my camera in hand. I’d love to live in a house like this someday!
When we finally reached Eastern Market, we made our way into North Hall, a historic building that was lively, crowded and filled with food stands selling everything from cheese and vegetables to crab cakes. There was also a sit-down area at the end, but having just had breakfast I wasn’t hungry quite yet. So I didn’t actually eat anything at the food market, but it was still fun to “window shop.” Don’t forget to look up, the ceiling is the best part of the place!
Sunday turned out to be the perfect time to visit as there is also a year-round flea market happening outside from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Strolling around the flea, I came across so many cool knick knacks. It reminded me a lot of the Brooklyn Flea in New York, but with more gift-y useful items versus BK’s emphasis on vintage clothing and furniture.
After perusing the market for about an hour, my travel partner du jour (my sis, Brooke) and I were finally hungry and made a beeline for Belga Cafe, a Belgian brunch spot that we’d heard amazing things about. Good thing we were able to snag a last minute reservation on Open Table, because this place was packed.
I don’t normally eat sweet breakfast foods, but how could I resist a Belgian waffle at a Belgian restaurant? I also ordered a side of sausage, because a well-rounded diet is important, guys! The food at Cafe Belga was really good, albeit a little expensive.
After brunch I parted ways with Brooke, as she was off to St. Louis and I still had a couple hours left to roam Washington D.C. I walked around the neighborhood a little more and thanks to signs discovered that I was on Barracks Row.
Apparently Barracks Row was the first commercial center in Washington D.C., but after WWII, many jobs were lost in the nearby Navy Yard and most of the residents left the city for the suburbs. Then, after the assassination of Martin Luther King, there was widespread looting in the neighborhood and many shop owners sadly closed up, never to return. Today, the area is completely revitalized and filled with restaurants and bars. It even has an art gallery dedicated to emerging artists and street art.
This gallery, called The Fridge, is located in an alley right behind Belga Cafe. Its goal is to make art accessible for everyone, and aside from displaying works from different artists the gallery also hosts an array of performances. Of course the moment I decided to check it out, it was closed for lunch, but if you’re in the neighborhood I would recommend stopping by. Even the outside was pretty cool.
The next goodie I stumbled upon on Barracks Row was District Doughnut. Even though I was completely stuffed from brunch, I had to try their unique gourmet doughnut creations so I could report on how they were. It was all in the name of blogging, I swear! I tried the seasonally-appropriate sweet potato pie doughnut and it was SO. GOOD. I felt bad only taking two bites, but there was really no way I could fit an entire doughnut in my waffle-filled stomach. FYI, they only make a limited number of doughnuts each day and once they’re sold out, that’s it. So go early!
I still had some time left in the capital so I hopped in an Uber and headed to Dupont Circle. I’d actually never been there before, but from reading books and listening to friends talk, it sounded like a must-see in D.C. Well, I think that’s probably true in the summer, but in December it was pretty bleak. Obviously the fountain wasn’t running, and there wasn’t much in the way of people watching in the park.
With an hour left before my bus, I figured that since it was nearby I might as well go see The White House and a few of Washington’s monuments. I spent the rest of my afternoon wandering around and taking photos before catching a Greyhound from Union Station back to New York.
The Washington Monument
Side note: how cool is the subway in Washington D.C.?
The bus ride back to NYC was about four hours long, but since I had just hopped on the Serial podcast bandwagon the time flew by as I listened to almost 6 episodes in a row. Anyone else completely obsessed with this show?
Introducing a new series on The Blonde Banana: Weekend Postcard. Every Saturday I'll be sharing a travel photo from a...