And so, 9 months and 2 days into our journey, I returned to my country for the first time in three years. We flew into Washington DC from Iceland, and my elation lasted until the Immigration line. Ah well, I was home (sort of), in a city I haven’t seen since early 1995, during a road trip that remains a family legend. Seriously, the whole family was in the van, the youngest being 7 and the oldest being 75. This time, however, Sangbyeong and I were staying at my cousin’s home, so we were greeted with glasses of red wine and a veg*n feast. She lives in Adams Morgan, so we were able to walk everywhere we wanted to for sightseeing. After a morning of sleeping in, we were ready to set out. We were busy…the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Monument, World War II Memorial, Korean War Memorial, MLK Jr Memorial, and Jefferson Monument were all taken in in the first few hours. (PS. Water got in the camera in Iceland, so all these DC pics are really dark. Sorry.) Then, with great pleasure, I introduced Sangbyeong to the Smithsonian.
The next morning, we expanded upon our theme of visiting entities of Smithsonian. My belly dance friend Liz (the fourth Navah sister I have met up with while traveling!!) also lives in the area and took us on a tour of the National Zoo. She is a dedicated distance runner who frequently does her miles on the zoo paths, so she has intimate knowledge of all the habits and habitats. We made a quick pit stop for the world famous Sticky Fingers vegan cupcakes, and then headed to the National Gallery. We only had time for one wing of the second floor, but we certainly made up for it in clever asides.
We cut close to the Ellipsis, where the National Christmas Tree had been lit just the night before. Back at the house, we enjoyed a few moments of sitting before we were up and out again for a sushi dinner with Laura and her friend, and they also brought us to a concert. Not just any concert….Yo La Tengo’s 30th Anniversary concert at the storied 9:30 Club. From beginning to end, this was truly an unforgettable day.
We spent the next morning chilling and brunching at home with Laura before had to catch our afternoon bus to Philly. But I will leave Philly for the next post (all about places I called home) and move onto our third East Coast destination: New York City! For having never lived there, I have certainly been there a LOT over the years, and I was even more excited to introduce it to Sangbyeong, who has seen it in a thousand movies and heard about it in as many songs. We stayed just across the river from the city, with my Italian uncle (a good friend of our family), and took the bus in every day.
In that first day, we just made a big square from Central Park down to Soho and back up. There was no design except to revisit some of my own favorite spots, like the New York Public Library, the hinterlands of Central Park, and NYU campus with Washington Square Park. Long ago, NYU was my second choice for university days…just decided that Boston was more my style. That was the warmup, then we went further afield on the second day, walking clear from Port Authority to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Sangbyeong got to try a bagel with lox (and the rest of the works) to fuel us up…then we went through Tribeca to Ground Zero. It was the first time I have seen anything near there since….summer of 2000, when I was visiting the school. When the towers were still there. After that we walked to Battery Park, where we spied the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island across the harbor. From there, it was a short hop to Trinity Church, Wall Street, and then the Brooklyn Bridge.
In Brooklyn, we made a beeline for the park before riding the subway back all the way we had come to Times Square. As the Christmas season was upon us, all the shops on Fifth Avenue had their fabulous windows displays set up. Saks was our favorite with their NYC interpreted fairy and folk tales. We also elbowed our way through the crowds to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and the ice skaters circling in front of it. In other places, especially along Sixth Avenue, we spotted other oversized Christmas decorations and our last full day in the city also turned out to be Santa Con. How very festive!
We took a more relaxed pace on our final day in the city…we headed to St Patrick’s Cathedral (which was under heavy renovation), the UN headquarters, Grand Central Station, and passed beneath the Empire State building (since when did they start charging 29 dollars to go up?!? Uh, no…), and made our way back to Central Park, where we watched a glorious sunset from the baseball diamonds. That gave us just enough time to catch the last express bus back to our home base on the New Jersey side. We had said goodbye and thank you to our hosts, Larry, Maria, and their son Jon Ross the night before at our goodbye dinner…so we fell asleep for our last night in our little apartment and prepared for the traveling day ahead.
I have to say, revisiting New York with someone who had never seen it before made it feel all new and shiny again. Similarly, my memories of Washington DC were all those of an awkward eleven year old, but rediscovering the sites and delights with Sangbyeong reminded me why I love that city, too. There is a Marcel Proust quote that gets bandied about frequently in traveling circles, that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” In this case, I found it to be true and I am grateful to have a travel companion who can remind me that I do, in fact, come from an amazing country, with amazing cities to explore.
With that in mind…it was time to go back to the city that started it all…Boston!