In honour of American Independence Day (hello to all my readers across the pond! I hope your 4th of July is filled with sparklers, sunshine, good company and merriment), I thought I’d share some photos from my trip to Washington last August. My love for this place knows no bounds; I spent a ridiculously happy few months there working on Capitol Hill in the winter of 2002-3.
The 4th of July is to me, like America’s own fight for independence, a celebration of freedom, of the power of human will, of the importance of choosing our own path and fighting to achieve that which we set out to accomplish. Going to Washington was my personal Independence Day; I fought hard for the opportunity and worked incredibly hard when I was there, but it was also my first independent ‘grown-up’ adventure, something that was all mine, and the very first moment I had clarity and realised what I wanted to do with my career. More than that, it was incredible to be living on ‘the inside’ of a place that was both so embedded in incredible history (oh, the things that have happened in Washington!), but which is also the epicentre of power today – a privilege which was never lost on me. Though several years have passed since then, I will always treasure how significant Washington was to me.
- Walking the corridors of the US Capitol building – a place of such monumental historical significance that I would get goosebumps exploring the out-of-bounds ancient staircases between the chambers on my lunch breaks, marvelling at the people who walked there before me;
- Pondering freedom and civil rights at the moving Lincoln Memorial;
- The postcard-perfect view from the Lincoln Memorial, across the reflecting pool – the sight of many a great moments in 20th Century American history – to the looming Washington Monument and then up the Mall to the Capitol Building;
- The lofty neoclassical architecture influences which, significantly, dominate the city’s great landmarks and government buildings (the Founding Fathers looked towards the ancient Greek and Roman liberal democracies for inspiration, evidenced in the Capitol’s architecture);
- Walks past the White House (a pretty hard view to beat – and a symbol of the pinnacle an individual can reach if they dare to dream Pennsylvania Avenue-big);
- The worlds best red velvet cupcakes (I sampled a lot!) and the lipstick red sight of Ben’s Chili Bowl (a Washington institution);
- Strolling the beautiful tree-lined streets of Georgetown – rummaging for treasure in tiny boutiques, book shops and antique stores and imagining the society parties that go on behind those closed doors;
- The fact that Washington is probably the only place in the world where politics is so cool, it’s obligatory even at Starbucks (political geeks like me rejoice!);
- The incredible Smithsonian institutions along the Mall – seeing the original Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, documents I’d studied endlessly at university, in the National Archives gave me goosebumps!
(not pictured) day trips to the picture-perfect Old Town Alexandria; the city’s fantastic jazz and wine bars, the Capitol Hill flea market on weekends (filled with delicious food, vintage jewels, and antique maps to rummage through); the pandas at the National Zoo; people watching and eavesdropping (one never knows which diplomat or world leader they might find themselves at an adjacent table to in this city) at old wood-panelled bistros and bars.
Do you have a place that you hold special for marking a significant turning point in your own life? I’d love to hear about it!
Love, Miss B xx