By Louise Pepper
I’ve just returned from the Capital Region USA where I ticked off the states of Maryland and Virginia plus Washington D.C. in a week. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to the USA over 40 times but it still amazes me how much I still haven’t seen or experienced.
This was a week of many firsts for me… the first time I had won at a casino (thank you to the new MGM Resort in National Harbor), the first time I’d ever ridden a mechanical bull (I lasted for all of 18 seconds!), the first time I’d drunk out of a cup shaped like a shark (in a secret speakeasy in Old Town Alexandria) … I was also among the first people to take a dip in Washington D.C’s new rooftop pool at The Intercontinental Wharf Hotel in the brand new Wharf Development (it wasn’t officially open when I visited but they allowed a sneak peek – or should that be ‘splash’?). It was divine and will definitely be one of the summer’s places to be in the city!
I was in the Capital Region to showcase the area’s newly developed waterfronts and the ease of access between each state via the Potomac water taxi service, servicing each destination with very quick and easy journeys.
My adventure started in Maryland’s National Harbor, a mere 10 minutes from D.C. but which felt worlds away from the nation’s capital. This sparkling addition to the waterfront is a very new destination, with a plethora of new hotels, shops and restaurants all set around a cute harbour, complete with Ferris wheel – picture the London Eye on a smaller scale. With gorgeous sunset views, the waterfront was the place to hang out and dine al fresco after a busy day shopping at the nearby Tanger Outlets.
After a short water taxi ride across the Potomac, we arrived at our second destination of the week. Old Town Alexandria in Virginia was founded in 1749 and is the former home of George Washington. Complete with cobbled streets, beautiful brick buildings and quaint independent shops, it’s voted one of the most romantic cities in the US – it’s not hard to see why the Obamas visited for Valentine’s Day treats when in office. You truly feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you soak up the atmosphere along King Street. I stayed at the fabulous Kimpton Lorien and Spa, which was a sumptuous haven to return to after a day of sightseeing. My favourite places to eat were The Majestic, where I ate melt in your mouth lamb, Hanks Pasta Bar, for the tastiest fresh handmade pasta I’ve had outside of Italy, and at Captain Gregory’s for delicious donuts paired with quirky cocktails in a secret speakeasy tucked away out back.
My final stop was a very pleasant water taxi ride from Alexandria straight into Washington D.C’s newest development, The Wharf, a new $2.5 billion, mile-long waterfront project which has transformed Southwest DC along the Potomac River. Phase 1 includes three new hotels plus plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops. The sun was shining and this was definitely the place to be to enjoy a cocktail and the fabulous sunset over the river behind the super yachts docked in the harbour.
I enjoyed a very memorable meal at the Intercontinental’s Kith & Kin restaurant, where chef Kwame Onwuachi cooked up some of his favourite West African/ Jamaican inspired dishes for us, including goat roti and whole fried snapper. Luckily the next day we had a Bike & Roll tour of D.C’s main attractions, so I got to work off the calories while admiring the many memorials and museums on offer in this beautiful city. It was a brilliant way to see all of the sights and our tour guide was fantastic at explaining the history and meaning behind each memorial. The Martin Luther King and Lincoln Memorials were my favourite (the view from the Mall at the top of the steps is incredible). And we couldn’t resist stopping for a quick selfie outside the White House and the Washington Monument, fantastic icons you feel you already know after seeing them in so many TV shows and films. There are 19 Smithsonian Museums to enjoy for free across D.C. – you’ll need a few days if you want to see all of them. Don’t leave without having a tour of the Capitol Building which is fascinating also! All too soon the sun set on an incredible week in the Capital Region USA, but in the words of Arnie, ‘I’ll be back.’