A week in D.C…

By Caitlin Kelly

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Union Station, Amtrak station in D.C.

Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.?

I’ve been coming here since I was 12 — even though I grew up in Canada — as I had cousins living near the capital, (whose father ended up being the U.S. ambassador to several countries.)

It’s such a different city from New York!

Manhattan is a grid — avenues and streets. Dead simple!

Not D.C., with its circles (roundabouts) and hub/spoke configurations and sections like NW and streets with letters and streets with numbers…I actually got lost a bit walking only a few blocks and had to use a statue of Hahnemann as my landmark (albeit one of three statues all within the same two blocks!)

A fellow journalist on my fellowship pulled out her phone and said “I’ll use GPS” and the voice said “walk southwest” and we had no idea what southwest was.

I asked the hotel doorman instead.

And, in summer, when the temperature at midnight Saturday was still 74 degrees, walking around in the 88-degree sunshine can be exhausting.

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The scale of the city is meant to awe, and it does, certainly anywhere near the White House, The Capitol, the Library of Congress and its many monuments.

My hotel was a block from 16th street and, as I stared down its length it terminated in a building I was sure had to be a mirage.

But it wasn’t.

It was the White House.

If you’ve ever watched the (great!) Netflix series House of Cards (the American version), the cityscape will be familiar, even eerily so.

But you’ve also seen these iconic buildings in films and on television, possibly for decades. To stand in front of one, let alone walk into it, is both disorienting and amazing.

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I was there a few days after the Orlando attack; this was a memorial service outside the offices of the Campaign for Human Rights


It’s a city filled with men in dark blue suits, white shirts and polished black shoes, all wearing a lanyard or ID badge. The subway cars are filled with soldiers in uniform, a rare sight in other cities. The streets throng with eager young interns, many of them long-legged blondes wearing expensive clothes.

Here, you walk past places you normally only read about — The Brookings Institute or Johns Hopkins University or the National Geographic Society — (where I was lucky enough to meet with two editors and hope to do some writing for their travel magazine.)

The place vibrates with power.

It feels like everyone is either lobbying or being lobbied or about to be.

But it’s also a city filled with serious, intractable poverty.

I got onto the 54 bus heading down rapidly gentrifying 14th Street — now all cafes and bars and high-end furniture stores, (the pawnbroker now closed, the liquor stores still in business) — with a woman clearly homeless, carting all her clothes and belongings with her, even in broiling heat.

A woman with a paper cup held the door at a convenience store two blocks from my hotel (charging $259/night) and Union Station, which is one of the most beautiful, clean and well-organized train stations I’ve seen in the U.S., had many homeless as well. It’s a shocking and strange feeling to be in the center of political power, the gleaming white dome of the Capitol easily visible, and see the effects of the nation’s thin and fraying social safety net.

These are some images of my week here, the longest time I’ve ever spent in the city; (only 3 days of which were leisure, the rest spent in a financial planning fellowship with 19 other journalists.)


IMG_20160618_210328574I attended the 95th annual White House News Photographers Association annual dinner, cheering for my friend Alex Wroblewski, who won Student Photographer of Year


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Love this shop — Goodwood — on U street at 14th. Gorgeous and affordable antiques, furniture and vintage-looking clothing and jewelry. (Sort of like a real-life Anthropologie.)

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Had lunch at the counter at this fun, enormous eatery — Ted’s Bulletin — on 14th street.

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Gorgeous, minimalist men’s and women’s clothing at Redeem on 14th Street


The D.C. Metro is in terrible shape — slow, needing a ton of repairs, but it’s still working. The stations always make me feel like an extra in Blade Runner!


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This was a real thrill forΒ  me — I met with several editors there and hope to write for National Geographic Traveler.


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The Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress


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This is why I went to the Library of Congress — a powerful and moving show about the Danish journalist, photographer and social reformer who received essential political backing from Theodore Roosevelt, first as New York’s mayor, then governor — then U.S. President. Riis, an immigrant, was key to illuminating the appalling poverty in New York City during the Gilded Age (late 1890s.)

12 thoughts on “A week in D.C…

  1. Great photos. I always liked visiting D.C.. I never got enough time off to see all of the sights my wife and I wanted to see. Had to squeeze trips to D.C. between deployments and training. I got to see most of the museums and other tourist sights, but it was always a rushed run through. Would be nice to go again and take our time now that I am retired from the Army.

    1. Thanks!

      I still haven’t been to many “official” sights there, like some of the monuments and memorials. I get so hot in the summer there!

      One of the things that stuns me about D.C.(duh) is that the Pentagon is a Metro stop, as is Arlington Cemetery. To me, they feel mythical but of course they are very real, and certainly for a veteran like yourself.

      We were crazy-lucky on a visit in the spring of 2000, when I had just begun dating my husband (who photographed 3 Presidents for the NYT) — and we got into the Oval Office through a friend of his working in the White House. Wow. πŸ™‚

  2. i love the city, my daughter went to school there, and i visited often. it has so much to offer, and i’m a huge fan of the smithsonians – all free and endless hours of discovery. you’re right, it’s still mind-boggling that those in power and in position to change things, are still surrounded by the powerless. fingers crossed for future assignments for you with national geographic –

  3. Thanks!

    I love the Sackler — and usually make a beeline for it. Last fall I saw a fantastic show at the Renwick (we have friends who live in MD nearby.) Free is the right price, for sure. πŸ™‚

    So glad you had multiple visits to get to know it better. It’s a real luxury to be able to go slowly and know you’ll be back to see more the next few times..

  4. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Monday links | A Bit More Detail

  5. Your photos bring back some great memories of past trips to DC. I visited behind the scenes at National Geographic as a college student – I was a history and geography double major and was visiting on a class trip. I felt like such a geek but was so excited to be there. How cool if you are able to do some writing for them!

    I had the chance to see the Jacob Riis exhibition here in NYC at the Museum of the City of New York, before it traveled to DC. Having taught How the Other Half Lives to my undergraduate history students, it was really special to see his photographs and other work in person. (In fact, I wrote about the exhibition here: https://findingnyc.com/2016/02/21/jacob-riis/ )

    1. It was a crazy thrill to walk into that building, for sure…

      How cool that you also saw that show. I find it so powerful to see artifacts like his notebooks and handwriting.

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