A ROAD TRIP TO WASHINGTON DC

When you hear of Washington DC what comes to your mind? Democracy, government, boring, plain, politics and so on. This was what I thought was going to be our trip to Washington DC. Despite preconceived ideas and notions about a place, I like to still go with a fresh pair of eyes.

We decided to take a road trip instead of flying. I have always thought of taking a road trip around the US. What better time to do it now and enjoy the experience with the whole family. I love flying, but I am in no rush to get to my destination. I want to enjoy the journey, the trip is not all about the destination, it is the memories and things we see on our way. The cities and towns we drove past, the sounds of the rain on the windscreen. The whooshing sounds of a car driving past. The trees and roadside flowers. There is something about driving in America road. They are so wide, several lanes. How about the rules. I discovered on this trip you cannot drive on the far left without someone in the car. This was part of the learning I could not get from the clouds. The scenic route to Washington DC was beautiful.

Scenic view of our road trip

Our final destination was in George Town DC. We stayed in the Riverside Hotel, which was perfect for having the best of all three worlds. Washingon DC, George Town and Virginia.

Even the 7 Eleven there was different from the ones in New York. It was fancy.

When in Washington DC, I think the first place to see (out of courtesy) should be the White House. I mean it would just be rude not to. But in all seriousness, this was first for us because, if by any chance we cannot see other places or ever come back to DC, I do not want to have regrets of never being to the White House. This front lawn has been embedded in our subconsciousness we feel like we have been here before.

I had a list of places I wanted to see in this trip, this was a family trip and a personal one too. So we tried to do most of them. I wanted to go to Renwick Galleries after the visit to the White House.

The Renwick Gallery was on my list because of its proximity to The White House. It has world-renowned beautiful unique collections. It is adult looking but child-friendly. And it is accessible to strollers.

Next, I wanted to have afternoon tea at the Laduree in George Town with my girls. This branch in Georgetown is by far the most beautiful one I have come to see. This French fancy tea shop with branches including Europe is a place I love visiting with my girlfriends. But I wanted this special bond over our trip with my baby girls.

After our afternoon tea at Laduree, I wanted to stop and take a moment to appreciate the Wisconsin Avenue NW & M St NW intersection. There is something poetic where these streets meet. The ambiance of the intersection is somewhat beautiful.

There is an old building currently owned by PNC Bank with a gold leaf-domed. It looks like something you would see in Meca.

I wanted to take a leisure stroll along George Town Waterfront, it was beautiful, the bridge, colorful boats. Everything.

I wanted to buy a bunch of flowers at the Green Works Flowers in O Street NW. The beautiful pink floral shop was so pretty.

At the end of the busy day, I wanted to retire back to our hotel and enjoy the evening with a lovely glass of wine and sit by the fireplace taking in the day and all the exciting places we saw. We all loved staying at the Riverside Inn.

The next day we had a light breakfast and headed over to Lincoln Memorial. We made a wish at the reflection pool.

We stopped at the front of the Lincoln Memorial for a little bit. We wanted to take in the moment.

After our little family (not too fancy) picnic, we headed inside to see the man himself.

Waiting for the elevator

Next stop is the Africa American Museum. I must admit I was a little bit disappointed at the museum. I felt it was rushed. To create something beautiful, you need to take your time and put in a lot of thought into every single piece. This was long awaited and overdue. There was so much expectations. I felt let down. One thing that came to my mind was likening it to a community center for Africa Americans. A place to come together and feel at “home” because you felt belonged. If that was the purpose, it would have been perfect. . But this was a museum. I wanted to learn about the great works of Africa American in history. See the things that made them great. Not just their pictures and stories. A replica maybe. I tell the kids stories of their ancestors that were royalties, share with them great examples of Africa Americans that invented things. I love museums and galleries because it stands for hope of the future by looking at the past or present. That the human mind is capable of amazing things. I have a passion for arts and creativity.

I wanted to see more, yes there was the picture of Madam CJ walker, I wanted to see a (replica) of the hair product she discovered. Samuel T Wilcox, James Forten, Paul Cuffee, Marie Van Brittan Brown, Garrett Morgan safety mask, and so on. Maybe I raised my expectations too high due to the excitement of visiting the beautiful place. Nevertheless, we had a great time.

The next day was for exploring places to eat. There were several places we wanted to go and eat. But because of time, we chose a few. The most memorable one was dinning at 1789 restaurant. I loved the name. It was a conversation started. Why that year? What was significant about it? The lovely waiter explained the history behind the lovely restaurant to us over wine. The menu wasn’t too complex and the atmosphere was beautiful. I could not believe we (ordinary people) could dine in a restaurant that several American presidents had dined in. The restaurant had that humbleness about it. It was simple yet elegant.

I wanted to visit Tidal Bassein because it was not far from the National Mall. To enjoy the view and see the cherry blossoms. To walk to The Wharf where we can find yet another selection of things to do and eat.

I wanted to visit the Library of Congress, the National Building Museum, the Museum of Women in Art. To spend the whole day in City Centre DC. I wanted the last day to be a trip to Union Station, to go early and spend time looking at the architecture and people traveling. Have the kids play around the pillars. Listen the the pigeons flap their wings and listen to the wheels of suitcases wheezing across the concrete floor as they hurried to catch their train.

A cool pod for breastfeeding

Regardless of how you decide to plan your trip to Washington DC, I am sure you will have an awesome time because this is one place that exceeded my expectations and I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had and all the things we learned along the way. We cannot wait to visit again and cover all the places we couldn’t visit or restaurants we were not able to eat because it was time to back to the Big Apple.

The journey back home was another beautiful sight to see.

View from our car windows

FAMILY WINTER BREAK – HOTEL

My daughter turned 9 this week and we asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted a pool party but that anything will be fine with her. Last year we took the family and few of her friends to the American Girl in Manhattan for lunch and she got to pick the doll of the year. I was 9 month pregnant then and it was very hassle free. Just what I needed. They got the cake and gift bags for all the kids. All we did was to dress up and show up.

This year, although I am caring for a baby and two young kids, I am in a little bit of a better situation to plan something. We do not alway do big elaborate parties for the kids anyway. I never see the point. It is all about the kids, what they want, making memories for them and what the parent can afford – both financially and mentally. Over the years, I have found out that instead of having just a party, we can use one stone to kill two birds ( I do not believe in killing birds 🙂 ) so we plan our family vacations around our birthdays, that way, we get to go away for holidays and we get to celebrate with our closest and dearest. No better time to visit new places, meet new people, learn new culture and try different food like during your birthday week.

I have been wanting to go away for a little while this winter but because we have only just done a major move (hubby says no major holiday for a while), kids needs to settle properly in their new home and environment and most of all, I have a baby who I’m currently putting on a routine. we would have loved to go skiing like we did two years ago ( I was heavily pregnant last winter and we did the move from London to New York City), but I cannot expose the baby to such strong amount of cold high up in the slopes. So we decided on having the best of both world. Go away to somewhere not too far away, stay in a lovely hotel that has everything inside it, that way we won’t need to go outside into the cold with the baby. After all, all I really wanted was just a change of scenery. I don’t chase sunshine for holidays. It is all about the experience and scenery.

We settled for Atlantic City. It is just 2.5 hours drive from Manhattan so it was close enough. Atlantic City is popularly called the Las Vegas of the East coast. It is know for its beautiful beaches, broadwalk, casinos and high-rise hotels. I wasn’t necessarily looking for any of that (other than the high rise hotel), I just wanted somewhere beautiful to spend quality time with the kids and celebrate my daughters birthday. This led me to choose Ocean Resorts Casino. With beautiful indoor pool that overlook the Atlantic Ocean (5 pools), spa, shopping, casino (not that I need to play but it was nice to see) game rooms like pool, golf, several different restaurants and above all amazing views overlooking the Atlantic! All the rooms are sea-view but to get the most of it, I requested a top floor.

In all honesty, the hotel was not very family friendly in my opinion, I say these with a cringe because I really really love it and despite that we will be definitely be going back. The reason I say that it wasn’t very family friendly was because of the following reasons. After hauling kids from a long trip, when you get inside a hotel, you want to see the lobby – reception first. where you would be welcomed by friendly staffs who would point you to the direction to go and offer assistance. However, on entering the Ocean hotel, we were a little bit confused, it is so hug and magnificent but there was nothing like a lobby in sight. Although there were signs and directions everywhere I think the disappointment of not walking into the lobby immediately, couple with the long drive and kids, was a little overwhelming. Luckily enough we saw a guest who was leaving and he directed us to were to take the elevator to the lobby – take an elevator to the lobby?! I have been to so many hotels all around the world and this was a first for me, but anyway we took the elevator just by the corner, to a different floor of the hotel where we saw the reception. On getting to the floor, we had to walk, what seemed like a mile, all the way to finally find the reception. Luckily they had pretty good views to take your mind off it and the kids were well behaved (the baby had just woken up from a nap so she was well rested) so there wasn’t a lot of anxiety for a solo mom going a trip with her kids. It would have been nice to have the reception on the entrance floor and have staffs around to help with your luggage. But they made up with the aesthetics of the hotel. The pictures did not do it justice. One of those places you have to see with your own eyes. It was indeed beautiful. Even staffs who have been working there for a while told me they secretly take pleasure in the sights. I bet!

The hotel room was beautiful, cozy but a little dusty. I don’t want to use the word dirty because it was obviously very clean and it is a new hotel but there were a lot of dust on the back of the bedside table (the kids and I have mild dust allergies so this was worrying for me) the wires on the lamp shade was a little dusty and few other places too. But because it was a new hotel, it was generally clean on the surface, just a little dusty. I could use a wet wipe and give it a quick clean to be honest, I hardly make a fuss about something small or human error, especially if I really love the place. Like I mentioned, I would love to go back. The main reasons I won’t be necessarily going back just yet is mainly because there was no bathtub. This was the biggest problem for me. I will not blame the hotel for it however because they did not mention that they had one in the first place. I just assumed that a 4.5 star hotel will at least have a bathtub.

There was a gorgeous spa like shower and beautiful bathroom just no bathtub. This is very import for babies and toddles who cannot use a shower yet. The older kids loved it but not the baby. I was glad she was small enough to bath in the sink, but the sink will be too small for a toddler or chubby baby.

Finally, the worst thing I really did not find to be family friendly was that there was no kettle for hot water (think making baby milk or food I had to use the coffee maker to boil hot water), there was no courtesy bottled water or milk for those midnight thirst but there was a vending machines on each floor. They had a few coffee from starbucks and a little sachet of creamer (only two pieces), I must admit I was really disappointed in the in-room facility. If I was coming with adults or older kids, it would have been perfect.

But the kids did not mind. They were excited, happy and busy having fun and making new friends – as kids do.

It was very relaxing. We slept well. For a place with one of the best casinos in town, night club and shopping mall, it was relatively quiet at night. Maybe it was because we were on the 46th out of the 48 floors.

We spent the evening watching sunset from our hotel room window.

You could order a crib but I co-sleep.

The kids and baby slept well. I spent the night just being in the moment and taking it all in. I realized how far I have disconnected from reality. I was having one of those moments where you want to go traveling and living off grid – only lasted a minute. But it was a lovely feeling.

The older kids had fun in the pool (my daughter finally had her pool party) and they are saying that they want to go back. I won’t mind going back too because the hotel was just so beautiful. I have never seen a hotel as beautiful. It is so big, there are little gems in every corner. Like this giant lampshade

A motor bike here, classic car there, a grand piano. The interior design was out of this world.

There are several shopping outlets in Atlantic City and you can make a day trip out of it. But we never got to go outside the hotel environment until it was time to leave. Check out was super quick and easy.

We are looking at planning a weekend getaway there again because it was indeed a lovely hotel just with minor quirks. Nothing is perfect in life and we should show the children this value. We can’t just write off a place for little things. That is not real life, in life we make room for human error. It is also nice to remember the good deeds. Like when I requested a robe and was given two even though they only gave rooms that were suits. Or when I needed to almost ‘rent’ the whole pool for my daughter’s birthday party and put in a giant unicorn float! Some other places may not allow personal floats let alone such a huge one. So I could look past a few dust issues.