Washington D.C. Beyond the Monuments | The Washington Center

Washington D.C. Beyond the Monuments

Anyone will tell you that the best parts about Washington D.C. are the incredible sights you’ll see whenever you leave your apartment. Though many people value the traditional sights of the city, the big ones like Abe or the Capitol, the most special sights for me have been the ones that I have seen on my many walks around the city. Here are some of my favorite sights from this summer:


1. The Moon Bounce

On one of my first weekends here in the District, I walked around the city bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on my way to my soon-to-be favorite coffeeshop, Ebenezers. Along the way, I thought fondly of my hometown, the small town feel and the many friendly people that I would see as I walked around. As I rounded the corner to F Street, my eyes were met with an impossible sight: a moon bounce in the middle of the road! Of all the sights I expected to see in D.C., this one didn't even make an appearance in my wildest dreams. The Moonbounce was set up for a children’s party—the families had blocked off their street and all of the parents were outside preparing for the festivities. It was still early in the day, so the children had not yet invaded the inflated walls of the trampoline castle, but there was still rustling from within. As I got closer, I realized that the fathers of the neighborhood were relieving their glory days and bouncing away. I felt right at home.


2. Hello, My Name Is...

D.C. is truly an environment for learning—whether you’re attending a policy briefing, visiting your favorite museum or just walking down the street, there are always opportunities to learn. Something that always makes me giggle (while I walk to work… it's very embarrassing) are the trees on Capitol Hill. I know, I know: you’re thinking that you’re reading the blog post of a crazy lady who laughs at trees as she walks down the street. But there is something particularly eclectic about these trees. Each tree has been adorned by a small but significant rectangular plaque. Each plaque tells passersby the title of the tree, just in case they aren’t botanists and wouldn’t know the type of tree simply be checking out the pattern of the leaves. One of my favorite such trees is on the lawn of the Capitol itself; the tree was small and unimpressive, something I would have discarded as less than extraordinary if I hadn’t slowed down to read. Thanks to the plaque that stands next to this small but mighty tree, I realized that this tree was grown from a sampling of the tree Anne Frank wrote about in her diary. I looked at this piece of history and felt the weight of what I was looking at wash over me, all because of a small rectangular plaque.


3. The Dopplegangers

It’s always so interesting when you meet two people that look identical to each other. I had just left my apartment, sporting a business professional outfit and some chic-as-heck running shoes (don’t judge me: everyone pairs their blazer with their tennis shoes on their way to work!) That was when my eyes were met by the doppelgangers: the first man was wearing a blue button down shirt, khaki shorts and Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. His doppelganger was dressed identically to him, sunglasses and all. You could tell that this pair was pretty close because the first man had his doppelganger strapped to his chest in one of those baby bjorns. I love a good father-son tag team, so naturally this pair made me chuckle—and they continued to do so throughout the summer. I have seen this duo at least once a week since then; I’m always wearing my sneakers and they’re always wearing matching outfits along with their matching smiles.


4. The Segway Date

Okay, this post has been sappy and it’s about to get sappier, so mentally prepare yourself, dear reader. I realize that the title of this section may seem a bit well, impossible. At least for me, Segways are not the most romantic of transportation devices. When I think of nice dates in D.C., I might consider a dinner cruise or even an afternoon paddleboat on the Potomac. Segways are not an immediate or obvious choice for a date, unless you’re on your way to see Paul Blurt: Mall Cop and you want to really set the tone and get into character for the rest of the evening. Well, earlier this month, one couple proved me wrong. I was on my way back to the office; I had just left an interesting briefing that was within walking distance of my internship site. It was lunchtime, and I hadn’t eaten a thing all day. Although I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich waiting for me in the office, I decided to splurge a little and stop for something on my way back. I took a detour so that I could run into the Pret a Manger and local bookstore, Carpe Librum, at Farragut North- I was going to do this lunch break right, get some good food and some good reads. Along my detour, I see this parting of the pedestrians—people choosing to stand to the left or the right to make way for this elderly couple, wearing giant-blackout-sunglasses, hearing aids and the most genuine smiles. This regal couple spoke lovingly to one another as they laughed and glided along the city streets on Segway chariots. I can only imagine the adventures the two of them have with one another; I was so thankful to have seen this one in action.


5. The Mapmaker

I was sitting outside a Firehook coffeeshop awaiting an informational interview one morning. At a table nearby, a grey-haired man sat in a grey suit, busily reading a case study and taking notes on his legal pad. We were sitting near Judiciary Square and this man, a lawyer, was clearly preparing for busy day ahead. When I sat down, he kindly acknowledged me and continued about his business. I took out my laptop to start a blog for you, fellow readers, and when I plugged my headphones in to cue up my Amazon Prime playlist, I noticed that the lawyer was being approached by an unlikely visitor: a homeless woman that had been speaking to herself on the sidewalk.


I expected the lawyer to shoo this person away from his table. The sad truth is that many of those who work in D.C. have become so hardened to the idea of those that live on the streets of the district; often times, the homeless are perceived as nothing more than an eyesore. I watched the lawyer nervously, awaiting the moment that he would have had enough and would send this woman away.


Her name was Sally, and she approached the lawyer with a childlike sense of wonder. She told him that she wouldn’t ask him for money or food. She had one simple request: a map. Sally had places to go and people to see, but she couldn’t do them without the help of this lawyer. She pointed to his legal pad and asked him for a compass rose. Surprisingly enough, he agreed. This man looked at Sally and shed his role as lawyer; he listened to her request and took the time to become just the person she needed: a cartographer.


The Mapmaker sat with Sally and drew out the city blocks she requested along with landmarks for her to reference, everything from Union Station to Wal-Mart. Whenever he was unsure of a location, he would look up at me, and I would do my very best to fill in the blanks. The Mapmaker spent nearly a half an hour helping Sally track out the best route for her destination.


I will remember these thirty minutes of cartography as one of my fondest memories of my time in D.C. The lawyer gone mapmaker helped remind me that the most important moments of your day are the ones where you are connecting with those around you and doing your part to make this community a stronger one. Sometimes, all it takes to make this world a better place is to simply take the time to listen and make one person’s world a better one.


On a personal note:

This week's song is "We Don't Know" by the Strumbellas- I loved listening to this band as I walked the streets of D.C. this summer. This is one of my favorites off their new album, "Hope"!


Read Julie's previous blog posts

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