I think one of the best parts of exchange in DC is the access to national parks that are within driving distance whether in Virginia, West Virginia or Maryland. Being located in such a prime location on the east coast meant that hiking the Appalachian Trail is possible for a day trip and without the added cost of camping and plane tickets.
So on Saturday, the 5 of us rented a car and took a day trip to Harper’s Ferry and Shenandoah National Park. Aiming to cover 2 destinations in a day was really ambitious, and to top it off, it rained while we were at out first destination so we could not do much. That being said, we decided to head off to Shenandoah National Park ahead of schedule and it was probably the best decision made that day.
Harper’s Ferry is situated at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is the easternmost town in West Virginia. Driving in, you will be greeted with the sight of a quaint historical town that very much resembles colonial days and this is probably because it was an important site of the American Civil War. We took a break there from an hour’s drive and treated ourselves to some food and ice cream.
While I recommend hiking up the Maryland Heights trail, we were simply not blessed with good weather.
Next stop, we drove for another hour to Shenandoah National Park via the Thornton Gap Entrance (There are four entrances but this is the nearest from DC and also intercepts the Skyline Drive halfway). With national parks, cellphone reception is always a problem so I do recommend downloading the park’s map before you enter for ease of navigation (unless you’re an expert at reading analog maps, which we found out that we were inept at a little too late).
Shenandoah Park is filled with many wonderful viewpoints and waterfalls but due to time constraints, we chose to do the Hawksbill Trail, which led us to the highest point in the park. Man, the view was all sorts of spectacular despite the cold and unrelenting weather – I managed to get some pictures but the cloudy backdrop didn’t do it justice.
Kudos to the drivers who survived the nearly 6-hour drive, it was really not easy for them while us non-drivers simply snacked and napped at the back!
I guess you could say this week really put the study in study abroad. I guess the professors are trying to tell us that spring break is all but a faint history and it’s time to return to the daily grind.
That being said, I managed to take time out to explore last weekend. As April commences, we bid goodbye to winter and open our arms to spring. DC’s annual cherry blossom festival had its opening ceremony this week and it was nothing short of amazing. Thereafter, we took a walk along the Tidal Basin, past several monuments and admired the pink and white blossoms.
The reason for DC’s cherry blossoms dates back in history – Japan gifted DC with 3020 trees in 1912 after the first batch of 2000 sent in 1910 got infested with disease and pests. Since then, countless First Ladies have commemorated the start of the festival by planting their own cherry blossom tree. The one’s that we are seeing now are of the Yoshino variety but in another two to three weeks, the Kwanzan variety will start to bloom, giving DC residents and visitors a second chance to admire the majestic flora.
I was actually surprised to see that many of the blossoms were white in color, as opposed to the pink ones I had seen in Japan . Nonetheless, the paler color gives the surroundings a pure aura and are great for taking pictures too! While at the Tidal Basin last weekend, I actually met many people visiting from out of state, proving how popular the festival is. While our visit was short, we managed to capture some great graphics!
This week, I also took a trip to Tysons Corner in Virginia and it’s basically a huge mall where you can find practically everything. I went there for one very specific reason: Kung Fu Tea. Back home, whenever I craved it, I simply had to walk to the opposite street to get me some boba milk tea. In DC, it’s a lot more difficult to get hold of a decent cup of bubble tea and thankfully Tysons’ is an approximately 30 minute journey on the Metro, great for a quick getaway in between classes. The mall is also home to the only Uniqlo in the DC region, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for jackets or even basics that are of a great quality at an affordable price. I will stop talking about this now because this post is starting to sound like an advertisement.
Thereafter we headed to Dupont for tea and dinner. For now, it’s back to the daily grind at Gelman Library.
This week we officially said goodbye to winter and welcomed in the spring season with warmer weather and cherry blossoms.
An old friend of mine was in town for the weekend and we decided to make the most of the springtime and explore the local areas that surround DC. Old Town Alexandria is just a short fifteen-minute car journey that takes you outside DC into the state of Virginia. It still blows my mind that within such a short period of time I am able to hop between states. That is one of the great benefits of living in DC, you have access to so many different places.
Our first stop in Old Town was lunch. We headed over to Caphe Banh Mi for some Vietnamese food before stopping at Dolci Gelati for dessert. I ordered the grilled lemongrass chicken and had the cookies and cream and bacio gelato, both of which were absolutely delicious.
We spent the afternoon just wandering the streets, popping in and out of all the little boutiques and antique shops. Founded in 1749, Old Town resembles a miniature model railway town. As George Washington’s hometown the area is full of history, old red brick buildings line cobblestone paths.
We headed down to the waterfront and stumbled into the Torpedo Factory Art Center. In a small colonial town, I wasn’t expecting a showcase of modern art. On each floor in the factory artists were creating, exhibiting and selling paintings, sculptures and photographs. My personal favourite was Alvena McCormick, an American artist who had been painting since the age of three.
After a day of shopping, food and art we made our way back to DC for dinner. We hit up Jaco Taco in Georgetown and finished it off with a cupcake from Baked and Wired. As it was the first warm day of Spring everyone was out in the city and the lines for both Georgetown Cupcake and Baked and Wired were wrapped around the street. Although it is definitely worth waiting 20 minutes for a cupcake I’d recommend not queuing up hungry!
Despite having a very mild winter I am looking forward to making the most of the warmer weather before I have to return to the cold.