The Markets

The Markets

Everyone who comes to D.C. does pretty much the same tour around the city; go to the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol Building, maybe the Supreme Court, the National Mall, some (or all, if you're ambitious) of the Smithsonians. And why wouldn't you go there? Those things are all great. But considering myself a D.C. resident for a few months now, I've started to dig a little deeper than the tourist attractions and historical landmarks. And what I found were my two new favorite places in the city: the markets.

 

Eastern MarketThe first market I visited and knew about was Eastern Market. At about a 25-minute walk or a line-switching metro ride from our apartment building, this market is by far the largest fresh market I have ever encountered. Jade necklaces, homemade candles, photographs, paintings, sculptures, sundresses, and, my God, so..much..food. Rows upon rows and carts upon aisles upon kiosks of locally grown/made and completely organic and natural fruits, vegetables, hummus, lemonade, breads, pastries, and best of all: cheese. A whole entire cart belonging to one man that makes his own cow-and goat-cheese. I think I ate all the free samples he had to offer (oops!).

 

 

This market is mostly outdoors, with most vendors setting up shop out in the sunlight or under a tarp or small roofed area. It's really more like a flea market; the vendors sell all kinds of things, not just food. Homemade jewelry, furniture, sunglasses, picture frames; all kinds of things waiting to be purchased as part of a cash-only transaction. The one vendor I spent the most amount of money with was Joe Shymanski. Joe is a D.C. photographer who loves to take pictures of monuments and memorials, and ties in a flower theme to most of these classic D.C. hotspots. Cherry blossoms next to the Jefferson Memorial, tulips in front of the Capitol, daffodils, sunflowers, and daisies, too. He also likes to experiment with Star Wars, superheroes, and Harry Potter Legos in his photographs. Apart from the fact that Joe is an extremely talented photographer, he is also one of the nicest people I've met in D.C. A lot of times, you'll find that the people at your internship or at the grocery store, or even at the RAF are used to moving at a very fast pace; they speak quickly and interrupt you if you're taking too long to make your point, or they'll bump into you if you're not leisurely strolling down the sidewalk fast enough. But at the market, it's a completely different story. Vendors and other customers will take the time to ask about you and where you're from. They'll tell you about the product you're thinking about buying, and why it's special and unique. The other customers walking down the street will let you pet their dogs or maybe feed them a treat. It's almost completely separate from the average day in D.C. Everyone is in a different mood, and something about the market makes everyone want to slow down and enjoy their day to the fullest. I can say with certainty that it has that effect on me every time I visit this amazing market.

 

Homemade organic soaps and candles at the Eastern Market

 

Union Market

One of the only things the Union Market has in common with the Eastern Market is that they both sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Other than that, they're almost exact opposites. Eastern is mostly cash-only; Union takes debit cards. Eastern takes a little bit of a commute to get to; Union is a 5-minute walk from our apartment. Eastern is outdoors; Union is indoors. The fact that Union Market is indoors does mean that it's a little smaller than Eastern...but as you may know, size isn't everything. At the Union Market are the best...let me say that again...THE BEST lox bagel sandwiches I have ever had, as well as the most delicious olive oil samples (and, yes, actually, I have been to Italy) and the closest thing to Dairy Queen soft serve cones I can get in D.C. (after much exploration and a lot of disappointing trips to Maryland, there doesn't seem to be a Dairy Queen anywhere in sight...but I digress).

 

Best sandwich in DC

 

The first time I went to Union Market, I was with my roommate Nicole and the rest of the Local Green civic engagement group. We got to meet the owners of the Market, and they took us up to the roof and explained the history behind the Market and the parts of the city that we could see from the rooftop. He explained how the Market grew over time and how it's become a central piece of the up-and-coming parts of NoMa. He also explained how almost everything is grown right here in D.C., and the products brought over from different states are never from too far away. This whole market is about supporting local farmers and trying to reduce our impact on the environment, as well as leading healthier lives ourselves.

 

Fresh fruits and veggies at Union Market

 

I think it's easy to see why these two markets are my new favorite places in D.C. The healthful atmosphere and the positive energy they emit are infectious. They made me realize that I can take easy steps to help reduce energy use in how I purchase my food and consume other products, and it helps that everyone that works there and goes there is committed to being happy and healthy! I will definitely bring back that positive attitude and passion for local farmer's markets when I head back to Florida.

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