By Jack Feldman, Annie Hayes, Courtney Jasper, Logan Kentner, and Tim Webber
During our first full day in Washington, D.C., we were given an assignment to explore our new hometown for the next two weeks. We were specifically told only to use our maps when necessary and not to use our cell phones for navigational purposes. We broke some rules today but had a lot of fun getting a “feel” for D.C.
We made friends with Washington locals and a very friendly squirrel. We ate bagels at Bullfrog Bagels, had lunch in Chinatown at Vapiano and finished our monument/culinary journey at Firehook Bakery in Dupont Circle.
The first task of the day was to take a picture of the newly renovated U.S. Capitol dome. Instead of just posing in front of the Capitol, we decided we would “touch D.C.” Throughout the day, we tried to use this perfect tourist pose at all the places we visited. The dome of the Capitol was the ideal place to start our photo ops. After a few failed attempts, Logan was finally able to place his finger perfectly atop our nation’s Capitol.
After a long, frosty walk against the wind, we were a bit frustrated and very lost. We had been heading to the Japanese-American memorial when we reached the end of Louisiana Avenue (the street it was apparently on) and realized that something went wrong. So we finally decided it was worth the risk to look like total tourists, and our map was conspicuously consulted in the middle of the sidewalk.
Eventually, we found our destination on the map and figured out that we had walked right past the Japanese-American memorial. Luckily, the backtracking meant less wind in our faces!
We stopped for bagels and coffee at Bullfrog Bagels, then decided our next destination would be the Eastern Market. Outside of the actual market there were a few vendors who had pop-up and were selling homemade goods. One of the vendors that we stopped to talk to for a bit was named Robert Jaxson. This was our first real group encounter with a local. Mr. Jaxson sells American flags painted on pallets. He was very excited to talk to us and even told us that he sold some of his pieces to folks from Iowa! He encouraged us to take a picture with his art (shown at left). Due to the bitter cold, we then thanked him for his time and went along our way to explore the Eastern Market.
Once we left our next stop, the Smithsonian Castle, we made our way across the Mall to the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, where I met the little guy pictured above.
Just when you think you couldn’t find a friendlier squirrel than those we encounter on campus…
We may have went a tad too far trying to gain a feel for the pulse of D.C.!
Our last stop of the day was Kramerbooks, a famed bookstore near Dupont Circle northwest of the national mall. We each found books about various political figures, but did not buy them because we are college students with small bank accounts and even smaller luggage space. (Logan wanted to clarify that his expression here is not to be taken seriously.)
Afterwords, we stopped at Firehook Bakery, a coffee shop with a great name and even better brownies. The bakery was an illustration of one of the more surprising aspects of Washington, D.C.: the jumble of architectures and aesthetics throughout the city. We ate at both hole-in-the-wall coffee shops and a nigh-futuristic Italian restaurant located in Chinatown. Historic buildings reside next to modern office spaces.
The layout of Washington, D.C. is much like Midwestern weather: Don’t like the scenery? Wait five minutes. It’ll change.
While trying to familiarize ourselves with Washington, D.C., we had a very interesting conversation with one gentleman. Francis has lived in the city since 1965 and had many different stories about the several inaugurations he has experienced. Throughout the conversation, he told us that his favorite inauguration was Clinton’s first, followed closely by Obama’s first inauguration. All in all, our conversation with Francis was great, but unfortunately, the train came, and our conversation ended without time to take a picture.