20 Years of Travel #20: Washington, DC

23117028_510612545979976_2052696884451746371_o

Over the summer I began a series called my 20 Years of Travel. As 2018 comes to an end, I am concluding the series with my home away from home – Washington, DC. This place means so much to my husband and I. Washington, DC (and its surrounding areas) is where my husband earned his PhD; where I got my first professional job; where we made lifelong friends; and where we met and fell in love. Since this place means so much to me, it is hard to sum up all the wonderful things to do and see in one blog post, but I’m going to do my best.

SIGHTS/MUSEUMS/MONUMENTS:

  • Capitol Building (pictured above)
  • Library of Congress
  • National Mall
  • White House
  • Smithsonian Museumsmy favorites include The Air and Space Museum and the American History Museum
  • Some Other Museums not included in the Smithsonian –
    • National Art Gallery
    • Archives
    • Holocaust Museum
    • Spy Museum
    • Newseum (my personal favorite)
  • Monuments (not listing all of them – just ones near National Mall & a couple in Virginia)- highly recommend doing a nighttime tour
    • Washington Monument
    • Jefferson Memorial
    • Vietnam Memorial
    • Korean Memorial
    • WWII Memorial
    • Lincoln Memorial (pictured below)
    • Roosevelt Memorial (my personal favorite)
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (pictured below)
    • Arlington Cemetery
    • Iwo Jima Memorial (I like this area because it is elevated with great views of the National Mall area.)

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES: (see additional items under “DAY TRIPS” below)

  • Parks
    • Rock Creek Park
    • National Arboretum
    • Great Falls Park
  • Potomac River
    • Ferry boats
    • Sailing
    • Kayaking
    • Paddleboarding

205611_10150155238292986_2409276_n

DC SPORTS TEAMS:

  • Baseball: Washington Nationals – Nationals Park
  • Basketball: Washington Wizards (men) & Washington Mystics (women) – Verizon Center
  • Football: Washington Redskins – FedEX Field
  • Hockey: Washington Capitals – Verizon Center
  • Soccer: DC United (men) – Audi Field & Washington Spirit (women) – Maryland SoccerPlex

FAMOUS HOTELS:

  • The Willard InterContinental Hotel – famously known as being the location where Abraham Lincoln, prior to his inauguration, hid due to assassination threats, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his “I Had a Dream” speech. For booklovers like me, many famous authors have stayed here like Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and many others.
  • Mayflower Hotel – known for hosting many political events throughout history and also known for some infamous sex scandals.

THEATERS:

  • Ford Theater – Well-known as the theater President Lincoln was attending when he was assassinated.
  • Performance Theaters
    • Kennedy Center
    • Warner Theater
    • National Theater
  • Music Venues
    • Jammin Java (Virginia)
    • Black Cat (DC)
    • Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (Virginia)
    • 930 Club (DC)
    • Wolf Trap (Virginia)

BOOKSTORES: 

  • KramerbooksSecond Story books
  • Politics & Prose – opened a new location on the Wharf that is wonderful
  • Busboys & Poets
  • Capitol Hill Books (my favorite – love getting lost in this bookstore)
  • Second Story Books

Food: (these are just a few of my favorite and notable places)

  • Ben’s Chili Bowl268472_10150246351517986_7747990_n
  • Old Ebbit Grill
  • Dukem Restaurant (Ethiopian)
  • Elephant & Castle (British) – I feel I have to include this one because I waited tables at the Pennsylvania Avenue location before landing a salary job in DC.
  • The Inn at Little Washington – just received DC’s first 3-star Michelin rating. (For full article, click here.)

BREWERIES:

  • Capitol City Brewing Company (DC)
  • DC Brau Brewing (DC)
  • Heaving Seas Alehouse (Arlington, VA)
  • Old Dominion (Hyattsville, MD)

CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL:

A gift from the Japanese in 1912, 3,000 cherry blossom trees line the Potomac River near the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. Every spring thousands, if not millions, of people come to view the cherry blossoms in bloom. While the cherry blossom trees only bloom for about 1-2 weeks, there is a month-long Cherry Blossom Festival during this time that includes parades, fireworks, music and many more events. You can find out about this festival and get a more accurate bloom timeline on the Cherry Blossom Festival homepage.

DAY TRIPS:

  • Mount Vernon (VA) – this was President Washington’s estate.
  • Monticello (VA) – this was President Jefferson’s home. I highly recommend a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there from DC (pictured below)
  • Ocean City (MD) – my favorite ocean spot getaway
  • Harper’s Ferry (WV) – where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, and where John Brown led a raid to end slavery prior to the American Civil War
  • Antietam Battlefield (MD) – very interesting Civil War battlefield for American history buffs

Some other great suggestions for day trips can be found at Pink Caddy Travelogue’s post Best Day Trips from DC.

100_0364 (1)

I hope you have enjoyed a look at my 20 favorite travel spots in the 20 Years of Travel series. If you want to see the complete list, please visit my Travel page. Hopefully the next 20 years will be just as exciting, as I explore more of the world!

HAPPY TRAVELS!!!

 

 

 

 

20 Years of Travel #6: Lucca, Italy

11825848_10153079610122986_6553678590597774540_n

The 20 Years of Travel series continues with an obvious location, as it was our home for 3 years: Lucca, Italy (in the Tuscany region). This is actually a difficult post to write, because how can I put down into words how much Lucca has meant to us.

I’m going to start with the obvious….
Food/Wine

13063266_10153604440592986_1103018426654606675_o

My husband and I loved starting every day by going to our local cafes for our cappuccini

12250093_10153280471557986_3260720466219617164_n

and pastries…normally a cornetto or sfloglia. We would frequent Piccola Soave during the week and Da Sara on the weekends. It is worth mentioning that food shopping can be a bit different there. If you want the best vegetables, you go to the vegetable stands; for the best meat, you go to your local butcher (pictured on the right – preparing our turkey for our Thanksgiving celebration); and for the best “unsalted” bread, you go to your local bakery. The food there is so flavorful and fresh.

You can’t visit or especially live in Tuscany without having some wine! It is really hard to

10509712_10152287269017986_2881928864725206720_n

find bad wine there. Plus, for €3 you can get a great local wine that would cost 5x that in the USA. The nearby hill-town of Montecarlo has its own wine festival and is home to the well-known Fattoria di Fubbiano winery. However, the hills around Lucca provide some of the best wineries. We enjoyed our trip to Fattoria Sardi, but our ultimate favorite place for wine is the Fabbrica di San Martino. We’ve been there many times and never leave without cases of wine. Even my friend, who is not a wine drinker, found a wine she loves there.13055839_10153604589492986_7423048710852422585_o (1)

Favorite eatery options:

  • Risto-Bar il Caffe on Corso Garibaldi – was a favorite spot for lunch. I BIG hello to the owners: Roberto and Sabrina. I miss your food and company so much!!!
  • Trattoria da Ubaldo – it is possible that you may find a local comic book series that features the owner of this restaurant. He is an interesting character and a favorite with the locals.
  • Ammodonostro – provides a great sharing meal that includes bistecca alla fiorentina.
  • Osteria Miranda – located in Piazza Santa Maria is one of the few restaurants around that serves our favorite San Martino wine.
  • Trattoria da Leo – a favorite restaurant of the locals. Make sure to have the table wine and the after dinner refreshment of limoncello and grappa that is offered to you before you leave.
  • L’isola Che Non C’era – a great place to take a lunch break while your shopping on Via Fillungo.
  • Le Bonta – everyone in Lucca has their favorite gelateria (gelato stand) and this is ours. It is located right outside the Lucchesi walls.

Our second favorite thing about Lucca are the festivals, holidays and celebrations…

Festivals

12095057_10153197338637986_7776974251927056485_o

During the summer and fall, it feels like Lucca has a festival or celebration almost every day. Drums and flag throwing are included in many holiday festivities. These are some of our favorite celebrations:

  • Luminaria di Santa Croce – a candlelit procession takes place from the Church San Frediano to the Cathedral of San Martino (Duomo – pictured above). This processional represents the miracle of the Volto Santo (holy face crucifix) relocating 17011_10153061958712986_8573529136269828547_nfrom San Frediano to the Duomo.
  • Lucca Summer Festival – a large summer music festival that has brought many bands and musicians. During my time in Lucca, I got to see Stevie Wonder, Elton John, the Eagles, Backstreet Boys, the Script, Gary Clark, John Legend and Lenny Kravitz (pictured on the right).
  • Effetto Cinema Notte – a celebration of cinema with musical performances all around the town from movies like Grease, Labyrinth, Chicago etc.
  • Verdemura Lucca – a portion of the Lucchesi wall is set up to sell plants and flowers and other organic products. It always made me wish I had more of a green thumb.
  • Lucca Film Festival – where directors are honored for their work and cinematic features. David Lynch and George Romero were previous honorees.
  • Il Desco – a market to sell local foods and wines.

12370760_10153393035767986_9078080763741472337_o

Favorite Highlights of Lucca

11826011_10153079612057986_3204357731388854462_n

So many wonderful things to see and do in Lucca. If you like churches, there are more than a hundred of those in this tiny walled-city. Here are some of our favorite things to see and do in Lucca:

10289958_10152503036062986_8062297238159947022_n

  • The Lucchesi Walls – Lucca is a walled-city. These walls are more than 500 years old.13407250_10153717328072986_8324403784892229909_n The top of the walls have been converted into a park for pedestrians, runners and bikers to wander around the city. My husband and I use to walk the walls almost every night. My friends and I would also take a walk around the wall after enjoying a hearty lunch.
  • Cattedrale di San Martino (Duomo) – the main catthedral of Lucca. This is also where you can view the Volto Santo (mentioned above).10516688_10152228726137986_4388737566867241416_n
  • Home of Giacomo Puccini – Lucca is the birthplace of the famous opera composer, Giacomo Puccini. Puccini created operas such as Madame Butterfly and La Boheme. I highly recommend seeing one of the daily Puccini performances. The singers are just amazing!
  • Museo di Arte Contemporanea Lu.C.C.A. – This is the Lucca Center of Contemporary Art. I got to see a display of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, who was a famous French photographer. The museum did a good job displaying such a large collection.
  • Villas & Palaces – Within the city center, you can visit Palazzo Pfanner and Palazzo13466250_10153717336682986_5258876858347279934_n Orsetti. Outside of the city center, you can visit popular villas, such as Villa Mansi and Villa Torrigiani.
  • Torre Guinigi (pictured on the right) – This is a tower in the center of Lucca that has a botanical garden on the top. It is a bit of a climb but worth it.
  • Lucca Italian School – When I first moved to Lucca, I decided to take a two-week Italian course at the Lucca Italian School. While I was nervous at how intense the classes were, because I didn’t know any Italian at all, I was blessed with a great class filled with wonderful people that I still communicate with on occasion. This course includes classroom work in the morning and then an afternoon excursion (field trip to nearby location) or event (cooking class, movies, etc.). It was a great experience, 1932335_10151990359127986_922716397_nand one I would recommend even if you are just coming to visit for a few weeks. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the town and Italian culture.
  • The Anfiteatro (pictured on the right)- a piazza completely surrounded by apartments and restaurants.
  • Shopping on Via Fillungo – there are many popular and also boutique shops on Fillungo. However, my favorite place to shop is a leather store called Officina della Pella, located right off of Piazzo San Francesco.
  • Chiesa San Michele (see picture below) – This ornate church is located on what used to be the town square. It is nice to just sit in one of the nearby cafes that overlook this church, but on a side note: you will pay for the view.

1172378_10151598432427986_183630907_o

If you are looking to explore Tuscany a bit, I highly recommend using Lucca as your main hub, as much of Tuscany is accessible via train from Lucca. It is hard to really describe how much our time in Lucca meant to us, and I hope this post does it justice.

For more information about things to do and places to see around Lucca (mostly day excursions we took), see the following posts:

20 Years of Travel #5: Berlin, Germany

11188497_10152871874392986_8300493453935302494_n

Next up on my 20 Years of Travel series is one of my favorite cities: Berlin. I first visited Berlin when Germany hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2006. I cannot even begin toBerlin Pictures 106Berlin Pictures 107 describe how vibrant and alive the atmosphere in Berlin was during this time. Welcoming us to Berlin as we disembarked the train at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof train station were crowds of Germans singing and cheering, for their team had just won their game. I knew right then that our time in Berlin was going to be a wild ride. We got to see the Brazil v Japan game, which was an amazing experience. I loved every minute from the energy of the city to all the friendly people.

Berlin Pictures 042

Things to see and do in Berlin:

  • Visit the Reichstag (see photo at the top of the page) – The Reichstag is the German Parliament building. On the right side of the building (if you are facing the front of it) is a moving memorial to all the political leaders who were assassinated for fighting against the Nazi party. You can reserve your visit to the Reichstag by visiting this page.
  • Berlin Wall – What remains of the Berlin Wall that divided Berlin into East and West 1780750_10151950832792986_1162444489_nBerlin after WWII has now basically become an art installation with displays of political statements, as well as statements of love and peace.
  • Brandenburg Gate – This monument was built in the 18th century and has since been the site for many historical and significant political events.

10418953_10152871874142986_9724679553948470_n

  • Checkpoint Charlie – After WWII, Berlin was divided. The Soviet Union took control of East Berlin. This is how you can still tell if you are in East Berlin…check out the pedestrian traffic lights:
    The United States took control of West Berlin. They set up a border check called Checkpoint Charlie, which is now an outdoor museum display.

1013270_10151950842237986_781910216_n

  • Museum Island – This is a tiny island in the middle of Berlin that houses five museums, which are all worth a visit:
    • Altes Museum
    • Alte Nationalgalerie
    • Neues Museum
    • Pergamonmuseum
    • Bode-Museum11209378_10152871875932986_239430252201884767_n
  • Berliner Dom – This is a church that honors the reformationists of the 16th century, which include martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin. The Dom is located near Museum Island.
  • Gemäldegalerie – This gallery houses stunning artwork by famous painters such as Raphael, Rembandt, Caravaggio and Vermeer.
  • Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – One of the things that makes Berlin such an interesting and special place to visit is that it does not deny its horrific past. I believe the memorials, such as this one, represent a peaceful future where we learn from the evils of the past.

10984159_10152772919232986_5020968760482168171_n

  • DDR Museum – This is an interactive museum that represents life in the Soviet East Germany. It is located near Museum Island and is definitely worth a visit.Side trips from Berlin:

Day Trips from Berlin:

  • Dresden – The city of Dresden is less than 200km outside of Berlin and accessible by train. During February 13-15th in 1945, Dresden was heavily bombed and almost10830921_10152770679987986_4315638381600018905_o complete destroyed by the Allies. Almost every building was damaged or demolished. This includes the three sites we visited: the museum complex called the Zwinger, the Royal Palace (pictured below) and the Frauenkirche (pictured on the right). The Zwinger includes a picture gallery, a porcelain collection and the royal cabinet of mathematical and physical instruments. Fortunately, even though the Zwinger was destroyed, the collection was removed prior to the bombing and saved. The baroque architecture gives Dresden an ashen look, which I find fitting after the WWII bombings.

11193422_10152871872402986_7191401546125659312_n

  • Sachsenhausen – During WWII, this was the site of a concentration camp that held mostly political prisoners. During the war, this camp housed a few notableBerlin Pictures 082 individuals including Stalin’s eldest son, who ended up dying at this camp under uncertain circumstances. However, our guide leans toward the theory that Stalin was offered a trade – his son for two high-standing Nazi officials that had been captured by the Russians. The theory states that Stalin refused this deal, and his son was dead a short time later. Another individual that was held at Sachsenhausen, Martin Niemöller wrote the following quote that has been immortalized in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Berlin Pictures 083
  • Potsdam – This town is a short train ride just outside of Berlin. It is home to the Sanssouci Palace. This was the summer palace of Frederick the Great, who was the King of Prussia from 1740-1786.

10429411_10152871884402986_2800968622978144443_n

As you can see, there is so much to do and see in and around Berlin. It is a city rich with culture and history. My husband and I have been to Berlin multiple times and each time we have an unique experience. This is a very special city and 100% worth a visit.