Monday, July 20, 2015

All Around the World: NYC and D.C.

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
If you're planning a trip to New York City, I highly recommend expanding it by a couple of days to include Washington D.C. The trip between NYC and D.C. is short and easy if you use the Amtrak train out of Penn Station. Either way, NYC and D.C. have a lot of fun adventures awaiting you.

New York City

When in NYC, there are obviously a lot of touristy things to do: Times Square, Central Park, the Empire State Building. If you've never been there and have a lot of time to kill, then yes, do them all. See everything you can possibly see. However, if you're limited on time and need to narrow it down, these are the sites I would see and the places I would most surely eat at.

The World Trade Center Memorial is a must. Be emotionally prepared, however, because the way they chose to display the memorial is both incredibly touching and almost too symbolic of the events of 9/11. In place of the two trade centers are two very deep square holes, each representing one of the towers. I imagine them as monuments designed to replicate the holes in the hearts of those who lived through and lost loved ones that day. As you can see below, water pours over the edge of them, and continues deep down into a second hole in the ground. It's impossible to see how far the water goes, which I also imagine is a replication of how deep the wounds are from this day. I couldn't help but think the water represented all the tears shed, flowing down and down and down, into what looked like a bottomless pit of darkness. The walls themselves are filled with the names of all those who passed away on that terrible day in history.
The One World Trade Center is located right next to the memorial and worth a visit as well.

Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is one of my absolute favorite things to do. The views, both day and night, are extraordinary. In fact, I recommend going both times to see a comparison of the city. If you're debating between this and the Empire State Building, DO THIS. No question about it.

Central Park is a must. It just is. I've never made it through the whole thing, and I doubt I ever will. It. Is. Huge. One day when The Fiancé and I were very, very lost on the metro (which is not at all easy to navigate) an incredibly nice gentleman helped us out and informed us that, while he'd lived his whole life in NYC, he had never seen all of Central Park either. Do your best to make it through the first half of it at least. Also, while I'm on this topic of the friendly stranger who helped us, I want to be super clear that NYC residents have a really bad reputation that is not at all fair. I've been there twice and both times I've only ever met incredibly friendly, helpful, kind people.
ABC City is one of my absolute favorite places because of the artsy-ness of it. I love the graffiti, the way artistic expression is represented - everything. We only got to the edge of it this time and not all the way in because we ran out of time, but I highly recommend it if you're an art lover.

While this next one is pretty touristy, I loved every minute of it and I think it takes priority over other things, like the Statue of Liberty or even Times Square. Times Square is dirty and crowded, but The Brooklyn Bridge is architecturally amazing, open and airy, and it just kind of makes you feel alive to walk across it. The best views happen if you go over to Brooklyn and walk back to Manhattan. It requires a little maneuvering on the metro, but it's worth it.
As for food, NYC is known for it's restaurants, so narrowing it down can be tricky. Especially if you need gluten free options. If you're looking for a late night, quick, budget friendly meal, check out Uncle Paul's Pizza. While the restaurant is little, it makes up for it's size in sheer awesomeness. Most importantly, of course, the GF pizza is yummy!

This next one not only shares my middle name, but is very gluten free friendly. Also, it is fancy. Fancy-shmancy-fancy. Ohmygoodness, though, is it good. Marea has some amazing gluten free dishes (the seafood pasta good) but don't be like us and walk in there in street clothes and then feel silly the whole time you're eating surrounded by people in clothes that cost more than your house. Dress up a little. Just trust me on this. This Michelin rated restaurant is worth it.

Tre Dici Steak is the third best meal I've ever had in my life. No joke, I would fly to NYC just to eat there if I was all wealthy and fancy like that. Sadly, as I was linking this up I learned that the location had closed. I decided to leave this in here, hoping that this is temporary and that they're moving to a new location. It was seriously amazing and my heart is breaking a little thinking it might be gone forever.

I have to give a special shout out to Jacques Torres Chocolate. While I don't believe anything there is gluten free, the service and friendliness was off the charts. I went in to get my mom some chocolate covered almonds and they gave me a free fresh cookie- just because! See what I mean? NYC people are awesome.

Last, but certainly not least, Risotteria Mellotti. This is a very gluten free friendly restaurant that is super adorable and super delicious. I haven't had calamari in YEARS, but I got to have (seriously) the best calamari ever at this place. The staff is great, the food is amazing, and the atmosphere is charming. Go here for sure!
Since The Fiancé had never been to NYC before, we made sure to fit in a few key places, as you'll see below.
Part of Times Square
View from our Hotel at Club Quarters Grand Central
Me and the Statue of Liberty at FAO Schwartz

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. gave me far more than I bargained for. First of all, I've never felt so American or so proud to be an American in all of my life. It's something about being surrounded by all of those monuments and the stories they hold that just makes you feel incredibly connected to this country. Not to mention grateful beyond measure to all of the people who fought and died for us.

We first started our D.C. adventure in Georgetown, a must see if you go there. Georgetown is a short metro ride away. Might I mention, the metro itself was incredibly clean. I've never seen an underground system quite so clean, actually. When you've been on as many metro systems and train systems as me, you become very appreciative of the ones that are well taken care of.

Anyway...when in Georgetown, take a stroll around. While the shops are mostly chains, the scenery and set up is very cool. There are a few unique ones that are worth your time. There's also a gluten free crepe place, Crepe-n-Cream, and an Asian fusion restaurant, ShopHouse, that you must check out, which is also gluten friendly. Plus, the people in Georgetown have a good sense of humor and understand the importance of food and human alliances.
Hungry? We'll get you BBQ. Thirsty? We'll get you a drink. Lonely? We'll get you BBQ.
Be sure to walk along the waters edge and, if you're up for an adventure, go for a nice little kayak ride. While we weren't dressed appropriately for the ride, we decided to be adventurers and go anyway- and it was SO WORTH IT. Being out on the water, watching the sunset- magic. Pure magic. Make sure you wear water worthy clothing and carry very little items with you as you'll need to lock them in a tiny storage vault while you're out on the water.

When you're back in the heart of D.C., definitely be sure to check out the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument. You can easily see so much more than just these while you're out and about walking to them because most everything is in close range. You can easily plot out a really wonderful self-guided walking tour of all the main attractions in D.C.

Another fun little thing to check out would be the little artsy park right past the Washington Monument in what's called The National Mall. It's an outdoor walking path that leads you to museums, a carousel, and a weird yet very awesome art garden. I call the below piece Pizza Cutter de Resistance.
Last but not least, you must absolutely, positively go the the International Spy Museum. Give yourself at least 2-3 hours to get through the whole thing because it is so, so worth it. It has really great interactive things to do for people of all ages, like testing out how good you would've been as a spy, not to mention all the history of real-life spies. I left this place feeling in awe of the world and all of the sneaky, sneaky things we've done in an attempt to save it.

Some of these pictures are available in my Society6 page and more will be added soon! I'm sure the Pizza Cutter de Resistance will be widely popular. Just kidding.

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