Monday, October 24, 2016

An East Coast Travel Diary

Sometimes your friends get married out of sometimes, you RSVP yes and take that opportunity to explore as much as you can. My girlfriend (from the early days of elementary school all the way through college) recently got married in Annapolis, Maryland and she couldn't have chosen a more idyllic place, especially for this time of year. Let be me clear: I have been to New York multiple times but have never seen much else of the East I had this image in my mind of what Fall there would look like and it did not disappoint.

 But let me back up a bit...I have been to Europe multiple times and while there are still many overseas destinations on my "must visit" list, my husband and I talk a lot about how much history and beauty there is to see in the states, which is part of our loose goal to eventually see them (or at least, a small part of them) all. So on top of our time in Annapolis, we planned an extended weekend with stops in D.C., Virginia and Philadelphia.

Here's a peek into each place:


Annapolis is known as "America's Sailing Capital" and after visiting their gorgeous water front, it's easy to see why. We visited during the boat show which meant every water enthusiast was in town so it was a great time to see the harbor in action.

The Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol still in continuous legislative use (and the only state house ever to have served as the nation's capitol). This place was the first stop on our history tour over the weekend and I was in awe. We stood in the room where George Washington came before Congress to resign his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army...THAT was pretty damn cool.

I think it's safe to say my husband was in his element standing on the football field at the U.S. Naval Academy...we had the whole field to ourselves and it felt very surreal. We toured a bit of the academy which was equally impressive and actually made me envy that kind of physical and mental challenge. While the 4 years of training is extremely rigorous, it's also an amazing accomplishment and has given us some of the best men and women in the service. 

Coffee Oreo flavor from the Annapolis Ice Cream Company voted best in the town for 10 consecutive years. This award is well-deserved because this was delicious...

I could have walked around town looking at the houses all day long. Between the brown stones and the wonderfully bright buildings, it definitely makes all of your charmed east coast dreams come to life.


We saw a lot in D.C. in a short amount of time. I had never been there but my husband (a middle school history teacher) has been multiple times with his class so he was a fantastic tour guide and knew the in's and out's of everything we wanted to see. One of the things on my list was Ford's Theater, the fateful place where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. It was so amazing to be standing in the spot where this life-changing event took place. He was sitting in the right chair of the opera box and I couldn't help but just stare at it, trying to imagine the scene in my mind. The whole story is very interesting...if you'd like a refresher, check this out.

The Library of Congress is the largest Library in the WORLD, with millions of books, recordings, photos, newspapers, maps and manuscripts within its collections. One of the best things I have ever seen is the Long Room at Trinity College in Ireland (Seriously, I cried), but this was a close second. The structure itself is incredible and as someone who falls in love with the written word very easily, this place is a dream. 

The second "must-see" on my list was the Holocaust Museum. My husband warned me that it may change the tone of the rest of our day but I've always been very interested in the history of it so I felt it was necessary and I'm glad we did it because it was an extremely moving experience. I will leave this one up to you to visit and get the real facts about everything you learned (or slept through) in high school history class...but I will say this, there are a few exhibits towards the end that you will never forget. 

The World War II Memorial was like everything else we saw that day, history come to life. Only at this stage of my life, am I truly beginning to appreciate everything that's been given and sacrificed over hundreds of years to get us here today. 

We visited the Lincoln Memorial at dusk so it was absolutely gorgeous to watch the sun set over the Washington Monument and reflecting pool. When the Washington Monument was completed in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet...In comparison, the Willis Tower is 1,451 feet. 

We also visited the White House (at night, which looked so pretty all lit up), took a tour of the Capitol and ended with a stop at Arlington Cemetery. I am a bit of a Kennedy enthusiast so seeing his Grave really brought everything full circle. If you haven't done the D.C. tour (or even if you have when you were young), I highly recommend it again as a adult. For a few minutes there, I felt excited again about our country.


I am not exaggerating when I say every street in Old Town Alexandria looked as quaint and charming as this one, especially being that all of the homes were tastefully decorated for Halloween. I have always loved the brownstone style...I think it was the early days of Carrie Bradshaw's stoop that started it for me so needless to say, I could "house hunted" all day long.

And actually, we kind of did. I was geeking out over all the colored doors and they reminded me of Dublin, one of my favorite places. I have always wanted a red door so multiple times during the day, my husband would turn around and I would be across the street just snapping other people's front stoops. Sorry, I could't help it!

We also enjoyed stumbling upon an open was fun to not only get a peek inside but also pretend, if for only a few minutes, that we were locals looking for a place. I took this photo in the upstairs bedroom because I thought the colors outside were so amazing and I wanted to remember them. By the way, the 3-floor brownstone we checked out was starting at a million dollars...NBD.

We walked past this park and I just had to go in. Carlyle House Historic Park, to be exact. The park is home to an eighteenth-century historic house museum in which John Carlyle, wealthy merchant and a founder of Alexandria, completed his elegant stone mansion in 1753. It looked like the secret garden and I could have sat there with a book all day long. There were many photo sessions going on while we were there including a couple's engagement session...what a beautiful location! 


Philadelphia was last on our list, but not least. In fact, I think we actually ended up loving it the most which is funny because I don't know if we ever would have woken up one day and said, "Hey! Let's book a trip to Philly." It's not some place you imagine to be a top destination but actually, it's quite wonderful. One of our favorite parts were all the different squares -- You can read more about the history here but basically, William Penn wanted to publish a map of the city with an easy to navigate grid. Central to this idea was his inclusion in the design of five public squares, one in each quadrant of the city and one in the center. These 5 parks were cool because they are placed right in the middle of an urban, bustling city so you have the best of both worlds.

It was such a gorgeous day to explore Rittenhouse Square. There were so many people eating lunch, families taking photos and people chatting with one another. It was really nice to see.

Switching gears to architecture, Philly's City Hall is one of the most grand, impressive buildings I've seen. It's located in Dilworth Park (another one of Penn's parks) and remains the largest municipal building in the United States. Can we live here, please?

We could have spent all day (and more) at Reading Terminal Market -  Since 1892, this famous indoor farmer's market has been offering locally grown and exotic produce, fresh meats, seafood, and poultry, handmade confections and baked goods straight from the oven, plus the widest variety of restaurants under one roof. We walked through the door and our eyes grew wide, like kids in a candy store, literally. After walking the whole market and getting our first philly cheesesteak from Tommy Dinic's (I recommend the pork and provolone), we actually came back for a second time at the end of the day for dessert and to take another look around. The market is unique, full of talent and so much fun. As a local, I would be here on the daily.

One of my favorite parts about visiting new cities is seeking out different breakfast stops and coffee spots. My husband knows this so when he found Talula's Daily, I was in Heaven, especially since we  started our day with the best banana scones I have ever tasted. SUCH a cute find!

Probably the most famous landmark of Philly is Independence Hall - Guys, both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were debated and adopted in this VERY ROOM. Franklin, Washington, Adams...all sat right here. Does anyone else get chills thinking about that?

And more props to my husband for taking me to the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. Before our trip, he said, "I found a museum I think you'll like...It looks like Instagram Heaven." I thought it was pretty cute he thought of that and actually, he was right. The entire museum was created by Isaiah Zagar who made the structures over the years using nontraditional materials such as folk art statues, found objects, bicycle wheels, colorful glass bottles, hand-made tiles, and thousands of glittering mirrors. I have never seen anything like it before and it was one of those places that you can spend hours in, looking at every detail and feeling inspired. Absolutely recommend making a stop here!


What began as a trip to see a longtime friend get married, ended with some memories that we will keep forever. Next time you get the chance to visit somewhere you haven't planned...take the chance, book the ticket and learn something new.