I’m not a good flyer.
I am that person who needs a drink before boarding and then proceeds to hold onto the armrests for dear life at any whiff of turbulence.
In my line of work, this isn’t the most agreeable of traits, but for the most part, I drink my gin and tonic and get on with it.
However, when the winds change and the plane shakes, I begin to question why I got on it in the first place.
On a recent landing into Dulles International Airport in Virginia, I wanted to be anywhere but up in the air. Bumpy, uneven and rocky, everyone around me remained calm and serene.
I was anything but. In those moments, I was making a will in my mind and pondering all the things I should and shouldn’t have said.
For me, it was the end.
Then we hit land and all I wanted to do was kiss the ground outside like I was the Pope on a state visit.
Thankfully, all was well, I was alive and I had landed safely for a week-long trip in the Capital Region.
Made up of Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland, it’s an area that was never top of my list when it came to visiting the US, but I was open to being charmed.
And charmed I was.
Virginia was the first port of call with the Archer Hotel in Tysons Corner being the home base. Located just outside Washington DC, Tysons Corner is an area now flooded with businesses and young professionals. Its pull is its location. If you want to explore Virginia and Washington DC all at once, it brings you to the middle ground.
As a state, Virginia is a mix. There is nature to be found in Great Falls, where the mighty Potomac River reaches max power, and history to be sifted through on every corner. But Virginia also has great wine and I as a wine lover, was enthralled.
Walsh Family Wine is located in the stunning Loudoun County and is run by husband and wife team Nate and Sarah Walsh. Picturesque, Instagram worthy and surrounded by luscious green, it gives visitors a taste of Virginia’s burgeoning wine scene.
A plus is that the wine is superb and the dry red blend, What Will the Women Drink?, is a highlight.
From the vineyard, the quaint town of Leesburg is a short drive away. When I think of true US towns, Leesburg is usually what I imagine. Vibrant and friendly with traditional American architecture, the town also has a substantial art scene with murals and sculptures dotted around its streets.
Leesburg Public Art tour is a 75-minute tour carried out by Amy Bobcheck and it is a fantastic way to explore the town.
My day of wine and art finished in a restaurant called The Docket, which is the brainchild of Nils Schnibbe. With hipster vibes and trendy interiors, the signature cocktails are dangerous in the best way possible.
My second port of call on my Capital Region tour brought me to Washington D.C. As America’s political heart, I had a preconceived notion that Washington was stuffy, but charm and culture seeps out through the tailored suits.
The AC Hotel Capitol Hill Navy Yard is a modern four-star hotel with a buzzing rooftop bar that has direct views of Capitol Hill. A quick five minute-walk from the hotel is Washington Canal Park where free jazz performances by the DMV Percussion Academy take place in warmer months.
While listening to the smooth tunes, I saw a forlorn man waiting on a date, a group carrying out a form of Tai Chi and people enjoying the company of others after an extended period of being apart. Maybe it was the music or the weather, but it was truly joyful.
Art is also a centrepiece in Washington. Home to the Hirshhorn Museum, it is a must for purveyors of modern and contemporary art. For me, art galleries can sometimes be intimidating. I sometimes struggle to understand. but the interactive nature of the Hirshhorn’s exhibits makes it exciting, enticing and accessible.
The renowned Laurie Anderson currently has her work on display in an exhibition called The Weather. Powerful and deeply personal, this chapter of work stays with you long after you depart out of the museum’s doors.
Meanwhile, Yayoi Kusama’s One with Eternity exhibit features two of her Infinity Mirror Rooms. A feat of art and creativity, these rooms provide the perfect Insta worthy moment.
From Washington DC, I made my way to Baltimore in Maryland. A city often tarnished by stories of crime and remnants of The Wire, it is a diamond in the region.
With a skyline akin to New York, it is friendly, relaxed and sparkles with a quiet buzz. The Canopy by Hilton Baltimore Harbour Point is a chic hotel located on the waterfront next to the famous Domino Sugar neon sign. The rooms have staggering views of the city and the interiors create a fashionable industrial feel.
The hotel’s restaurant Cindy Lou’s Fish House is where I actually enjoyed oysters for the first time and indulged in deep fried crab, which I’m told is a local delicacy.
Fell’s Point is a neighbourhood near the hotel that is older than the city of Baltimore itself and is the first area in Maryland to be listed on the National Register of Historic Districts.
During the day, it is home to farmers markets, boutiques and restaurants. At night, it changes and turns into a mecca for those looking to enjoy a good night out.
For breakfast, I tried my hand at Captain Crunch French toast and failed at the popular Blue Moon Café. Put it on your list if you want to experience American portions at their finest.
Mount Vernon is another historic neighbourhood a short drive to the hotel.
Home to some of America’s finest 19th century architecture, it’s also a buzzing cultural hub. Topside Baltimore is a rooftop restaurant in the area and it gives 360 degree scenic views of the city. Its vibes and views were a particular highlight.
As I looked around and took it all in, I wondered why more and more people don’t visit this side of the US. Known as the city of charm, it shares it in abundance. And for my week-long stay, that’s all the Capital Region did too.
Charming towns, people, food and culture made it an unforgettable trip. I came home filled with new experiences, new stories and new knowledge.
And while my arrival was bumpy, my departure was certainly not. Seven days earlier I had questioned why I had even got on the plane in the first place.
But on the way home I had a realisation.
That bumpy landing was worth it.
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