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  • Writer's pictureSharon To

Paris Holds the Key to My Heart Part 1: But first, Washington DC

Back in September, I had the immense pleasure of enjoying my first experience of Paris with my family! After a whirlwind of planning and organizing, making reservations, and rearranging schedules, we were off on our family adventure for the first time in forever!

My family and I are extreme penny pinchers (within reason, hopefully), so we tried to get as good a deal as we could on flights since we were going in late September and that’s a pretty popular tourist season. As luck would have it, the cheapest flights we could find had a 12-hour layover in Washington DC, which no one was too excited about since we all know that traveling can be pretty grueling as is. But in trying to make lemonade out of this situation, I decided to make our layover another mini trip on its own! None of us had ever been to Washington DC before, so it was a perfect way to see some historic and classic sights!

Unfortunately for us there were no places to store luggages nearby, so in order to do our sightseeing we had to haul our bags with us, but since we all traveled pretty light it actually wasn’t so bad, just a minor inconvenience.

Hello, US Capital!

After taking turns freshening up in the airport bathrooms, we got an Uber into the city. The very first thing I noticed when we left the airport: it is humid in Washington DC. Anytime I visit a humid place I feel so grateful for California weather! For anyone who hasn’t been to Washington DC, the airport that we landed into, Dulles International Airport, is about 30 miles out of the city, so it’s no short car ride especially during rush hour. What I also didn’t know is that Washington DC tolls are expensive. I think it costs almost $50 to get from the airport to the city if you don't have carpool, which is such a shocker to me because coming from California there are so few toll roads to contend with.

Our first stop had to be food, because what better way to experience a city than through its many eateries! Of course, because we were limited in time, we could only try one place if we wanted to see the landmarks and get back to the airport without feeling too rushed. So to Maketto we headed!

Maketto is an interesting establishment that contains a retail shop, a restaurant, and a cafe. The cafe serves your typical caffeinated drinks and pastries and the restaurant serves Cambodian and Taiwanese inspired dishes. I read awesome things about the Taiwanese Fried Chicken so we were all super excited to try it out. But, reader beware, there are a couple things to note about Maketto. First, their restaurant doesn’t actually open until 11AM. In researching this place, I didn’t come across any information about the restaurant having different hours from the cafe since the opening hours are at 7AM, so we actually got to Maketto around 10AM hoping to nom on some fried chicken only to be told that only their cafe was open. Since we had our luggage with us and were still pretty tired from the flight, we decided we’d just grab some coffees and hang out in the cafe until the restaurant opened up. When 11AM came around and we were ready with our order, we discovered that the Taiwanese Fried Chicken is only served for dinner! What a bummer! But what could we do? The rest of the items on the menu sounded tasty and we had waited this long so we got some other dishes instead. We were told the Crispy Chicken Wings had the same rub as the Taiwanese Fried Chicken so we went for an order of that and an order of their Lo Mein.

I have to say, though I was sad about missing out on the Taiwanese Fried Chicken, the two dishes we did get were really tasty! And the hint of spiciness added a nice kick to it, so I’d say this place was an overall success! I guess I just have to go back to DC to try that Taiwanese Fried Chicken.

Now that we were well fed and well rested (sitting in a cafe for almost 3 hours can do that for you), we were ready to hit the sights! I was pretty surprised to realize how far apart everything was. From a Google Maps view of the city, things seem pretty condensed, but in trying to get around to places the car rides took pretty long all things considered. Since our long respite at Maketto had been unanticipated, we had lost some sightseeing time, and after realizing how spread out the National Mall was we had to make some concessions about which landmarks we really wanted to see.

The White House seemed a little lackluster to me, and the Washington Monument could pretty much be seen from anywhere, so we prioritized the Lincoln Memorial and drove directly there. The nice part was that in driving to the memorial, we passed by a lot of interesting landmarks, so we got to see a little more!

I was actually surprised by how majestic it felt to be standing in front of the memorial at the bottom of the steps. On one side you see the iconic Lincoln statue and on the other side you can see across the large expanse of water to the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill. I don’t at all consider myself a history buff and I’m not super patriotic, but in that moment, I was truly amazed.

When you climb the steps to the statue of Lincoln, you’ll see first and foremost, well, Lincoln. I’ll be honest, it’s a lot smaller than I had been expecting. In all the depictions of it I’ve seen on movies and television it always looked so massive, but in reality not so much. Still impressive, just smaller. The other awesome thing about the memorial that I don’t get to see in movies is the inscriptions of two of his famous speeches on the walls of the memorial! Just another piece of history that really gives you a sense of appreciation for those who came before us.

After lots of pictures with Mr. Lincoln, we were headed back to the airport! Our flight wasn’t for another five-ish hours, but since we ran into rush hour on the way into the city we wanted to make sure we didn’t on the way back so that we could take our time at the airport. Luckily, because I have Priority Pass (thank you, Chase Sapphire Reserve!) we had plenty of time to enjoy some lounge time. A good number of the Priority Pass Lounges were actually closed, but the Turkish Airlines lounge was not, and from what I read it’s actually one of the best ones at Dulles International Airport! We got in without any issues, but it was pretty crowded inside, so it took a while to find seats for all of us, but it was no matter! The Turkish food was yummy and fresh and constantly stocked so we were able to work our way through all the dishes we wanted to try. And if you head to the back of the lounge to the bar, you can ask the bartender for a Turkish coffee that is absolutely delightful and definitely strong, and it comes with a yummy piece of baklava! I had been to lounges before because of Priority Pass, but my mom and one of my sisters had not, so I was so happy I got to introduce them to their first experience!

Filled up on plenty of Turkish goodies, we headed to our gate with lots of time to spare and we were ready for the last leg of the flight. Paris here we come!

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