Washington DC is a great city. It’s a place where dense, immutable history is intersected with a whirling landscape of constant urban change. Restaurants open and close, green spaces appear and recede, events are inaugurated and ended, and this constant movement is threaded around a city bursting with social, architectural, and historical significance. It’s overwhelming at times, but it’s also what makes DC great. The old and the new collide. Cracks are opened. And within these cracks, residents can lose themselves in an endless space of exploration.
I’ve lived in the DC area for almost my entire life, and I’m perpetually finding new places to explore. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ll pick something – a neighborhood, a restaurant, a landmark, it doesn’t matter how large or small – and set out on an expedition. I don’t always stumble into the unforgettable, as I did along Florida Avenue, but more often than not, I see something new. These little exploratory experiences refresh me, and remind me that when you live in a city as diverse and expansive as DC, you can always find something you haven’t seen before.
The bell shaped stretch of Florida Avenue, between 9th and 15th streets NW, was recently the subject of my exploration. It’s a beautiful and meaningful strip of road, wedged between U Street and Columbia Heights, with a story to tell about the history of the city, the diversity of its population, and the speed of its change. My westward route started at the 9:30 Club, took me past The Blind Dog Cafe and the Florida Avenue Grill, stopped off at Pica Taco, and ended at Meridian Hill Park. I took a camera with me. Click below to see what I saw.
Meridian Hill Drum Circle by Corinne Whiting
I admittedly love DC, first and foremost, because it feels partly mine. I picnicked in its triangular parks as a wee one (our downtown visits allowing my dad an excuse for an office reprieve); I’ve played tourist around its sites on countless field trips with classmates and relatives; I’ve frolicked along its brick sidewalks as a college student for the first time unleashed, unsupervised, in a big urban world. So, yes, it is familiar and yes, some of my favorite people of all time still call this place home. DC is indelibly etched into the story of what makes me me.
But sweep all that personal history to the side, and I can see this magnificent city as if through the eyes of a visitor (in fact, my job insists that I do). I recognize its allure for tourists and locals alike, and I’m grateful to have roots in a city that keeps me coming back for more.
Perhaps, more than anything, I love that a city stroll can take me on a global walkabout. A challenging game of name-that-flag along Embassy Row sends me past an exquisite tiled mosque, distinctive ambassadorial residences and multilingual, wide-eyed diplomats exploring their new ‘hood. In Mount Pleasant, with Mana playing on my iPod, I pass chatting men on overturned crates as impromptu vendors sell tamales nearby, and the sights, sounds and smells temporarily transport me to Latin America. Within a fifteen-minute bubble of my home, I can eat amazing Ethiopian food cooked by Ethiopian chefs, Thai cooked by the Thai, Peruvian cooked by Peruvians. Authenticity rules our culinary scene. And I love that, at certain dinner parties, I might meet new friends who’ve come from or lived in countries like Bulgaria and Brazil, Martinique and Morocco.