• Southern Fall Learning Moment 2018

    September 10, 2018 | Trip Recaps
  • Please select a day or scroll down to read entire post
  • Days 1 & 2 • August 30 & 31, 2018

    A photo of a beautiful lavendar corner home / storefront in the wonderful DC neighborhood of Georgetown

    Well, here I go again on another awesome adventure! This time, I’m off to both Washington, DC for Labor Day weekend, then to Raleigh, NC. Thursday night, I left home at about 7:30 PM and arrived at South Station at about 8:15 PM to wait for the overnight Amtrak train, which left at 9:30 PM. This time, I couldn’t relax at club Acela, which is the lounge that Amtrak has, because it was being renovated. I was in business class, which was very comfortable! I had some wine, chatted with some passengers, and slept for the majority of the ride, and arrived into Union Station Friday morning at 7:00 AM.

    Upon arrival into Union Station, I took Lyft to my hotel, the Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavilion. This is the hotel that I stay at whenever I visit Washington, DC, and I was actually upgraded to a premium suite, simply because during check-in I said that I was tired! Pretty awesome to get upgraded just for saying that! So, my room was ready at 8:00 AM, which only happened once before in 2014. The only difference between the regular and the premium suites is that in this suite, the shower is a walk-in shower, rather than a bathtub, and there are free snacks and a Keurig machine! I unpacked, relaxed for a bit, and met up with my friend Jen who I met in college at about 11:00 AM. Jen showed me around the hotel and the immediate area, then we grabbed lunch at Capital City Brewing company. It was great to catch up, and I had a crab cake platter and a beer.

    Following lunch in downtown DC, I met up with Olivia, a friend who I met off of the Couchsurfing website. We went to Eastern Market, which is a big indoor market with vendors that sell food, produce, and other stuff. Since it was very hot and humid, it was great to grab lemonade to cool off, and it was great to walk around and to check it out. We then took the bus back to the hotel for one of my favorite parts of this hotel, the awesome free happy hour! It was great to enjoy wine, to relax, and to get to know Olivia a bit more. To end the day, even though the weather changed from very hot to very wet and rainy, we were brave and went down to Georgetown for dinner. We ate at a new restaurant for both of us, called Angolo Ristorante. We just found it at random after getting off of the bus, because it was raining so hard! I really enjoyed my penne pasta in a pesto cream sauce with grilled chicken, and Olivia enjoyed her portobello mushroom ravioli. After that, I got back to the hotel at about 11:30. What an awesome first day of this great vacation, and tomorrow, I’m sure, will be full of more great surprises!!

  • Day 3 • September 1, 2018

    A photo of patrons sitting at the G.O.A.T Bar located in the Clarendon Neighborhood of Virginia

    To start off today, I enjoyed the free breakfast at the hotel with Olivia, with whom I hung out last night. After that, we made our way to Union Station, which is the big train station here in DC. Since I haven’t really analyzed it before, and Olivia has only been there a few times, it was awesome to both learn the layout, and to gain a better understanding of the stuff that was there. In addition to trains, there is a big food court, shops, and other services.

    After that, I took the metro to Alexandria, VA to meet another friend Brynn. We enjoyed lunch at one of my favorite bars, the Hard Times café. Brynn is from Nevada, and she just recently moved to the area. The chicken fingers, burger, and hand-cut fries, and of course their homemade beer, were awesome as usual. Following lunch, Brynn and I walked down King Street to the Alexandria waterfront. Alexandria, unlike downtown DC, is much less hectic, and it was great to walk down King Street, to hear about the many shops and restaurants, and we even went to Alexandria Cupcake and enjoyed one of those.

    Following our walk on King Street, Brynn and I went to the G.O.A.T, a bar in Clarendon, near where she works. The G.O.A.T was actually Hard Times, up until 2015. It’s a sports bar, and there were many sports on TV. After enjoying one beer, I made my way back to the hotel to relax and of course, for the free happy hour. Tonight, I met with a few couchsurfers who actually live in Providence, Rhode Island. They really enjoyed the amount of free drinks and snacks that are available at this happy hour, and it was great to drink and chat. At about 9:30, even though it was raining, I made my way to Angelico Pizzeria, which is in Tenleytown, right down Wisconsin Avenue. The pasta with chicken in a red pepper sauce was great, but way to spicy! It was extra spicy times 50! Finally, to end the day, I went to a bar called Chatter, located right up the road from Angelico, and right near the hotel. Several people who actually work at the Cheesecake Factory in the building where the hotel is located frequently come here after work, and it was great to chat. The bar reminds me of the Last Drop in Boston. I got back at about 2:00 AM, and tomorrow will be full of more surprises, including a trip to Six Flags America, and dinner at an awesome but informal steakhouse!!

  • Day 4 • September 2, 2018

    A photo of an epic colored sky over Washington Nationals Park; a view from the upper stands

    Today, after enjoying the free breakfast at the hotel, Jen and I went to Six Flags America, located about a half hour from Washington, DC. We lucked out, because for all of the rides, there were no lines! The roller coasters that we enjoyed included the Wild One, the Mind Eraser, Superman ride of Steel, which is the tallest roller coaster, Roar, Apocalypse, Jokers Jinx, and others. We also went to Hurricane Harbor, the water park that is within Six Flags main park. We went on many cool water slides, some you sit in a tube, and others you just slide down.

    After that, I got back to the hotel at 4:00, rested for a bit, and my friend Tyler from Boston came down to visit. We enjoyed the free happy hour and had dinner at Rays the Steaks, an informal steakhouse in Arlington, Virginia. My filet mignon, and his New York strip, was awesome, as well as the unlimited mashed potatoes and creamed spinach. In fact, I might go back there during my five-hour layover in DC on my way back from Raleigh. We then took Lyft back to the hotel and fell asleep. Tomorrow is our last day in DC, and it will include such surprises as checking out Nationals Park and going on an Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle pub crawl!

  • Day 5 • September 3, 2018

    A photo of people enjoying a summer day in Farragut Park, located in the Farragut North Neighborhood of Washington D.C.

    My final day in our nation’s capital was awesome! To start the day, Tyler and I relaxed in the suite for a bit and of course, enjoyed the free breakfast. After that, we went downtown and took the Metro over to Farragut North, which is right on Connecticut Avenue. After walking around for a bit, since it was so hot we relaxed at Starbuck’s for a bit, and made our way to Nationals Park. Rather than seeing if we could get tickets on the street like during a previous visit, we relaxed at a bar called the Big Stick, located right near Nationals Park. The DC local beer and sausages were great. We then got back to the suite at about 3:30, and we rested for a bit. At 5:30, we of course went to the free happy hour. Jen met us there, as well as two new friends, Emily, who used to work at the Starbuck’s in Boston, and her mother. Emily is moving to California, and DC was her first stop. It was awesome to joke around, and Emily and her mother were really impressed regarding Tyler’s knowledge of all of the major radio stations in California!

    After enjoying wine and beer at the happy hour, Tyler went to Union Station to take train 66 back to Boston, and Emily, her mother, and I enjoyed an awesome pub crawl in Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. We ate dinner at Lucky Bar and had beer, and went to two more bars, Big Hunt and Grand Central. It was great because they never would have visited this part of the city. It was great to chat, and Emily is looking forward to this new endeavor. I got back to the suite at about 12:30, and tomorrow I leave for the next part of this Southern Fall Learning Moment 2018, Raleigh, North Carolina!!

  • Day 6 • September 4, 2018

    To start off today, I enjoyed the hotel’s free breakfast, packed, and relaxed in the suite for a while, since I was out until late last night, and checkout wasn’t until noon. For lunch, I took the metro to &Pizza, which is in Bethesda. It’s awesome because with their pizzas, you get unlimited toppings and sauces, all for the same price except for shrimp. I then took the metro to Union Station and boarded the Silver Star, my first long distance Amtrak train headed for Raleigh, NC. The seats were similar to the Northeast Regional and to the downeaster, and we left DC on time. I learned that some of the train crew stays on for the entire route, from New York City to Miami, which is about 30 hours! On this train, they had coach class, a café car just like other trains, and a few sleeper cars. We arrived into Raleigh at about 9:15 PM, and my Couchsurfing host Marlena was right on time. We enjoyed Cook Out, which is a famous North Carolina fast food chain, we chatted at her apartment and I learned the layout of it, and I went to bed at about 11:00. I’m looking forward to my first full day in Raleigh, and of course, to more of the awesome southern hospitality!

  • Day 7 • September 5, 2018

    A photo of the entrance to Pullen Park, which includes a lovely silver sign which reads 'Pullen Park, established in 1887'; Pullen Park is immediately west of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Located on Raleigh's iconic Hillsborough Street and adjacent to the main campus of North Carolina State University, Pullen Park, founded in 1887, is the oldest public park in North Carolina

    What an amazing first day in the triangle region! Today, Marlena and I relaxed at Starbuck’s before she went to work, and Natalie, who I met during my previous visit, and I hung out for the day. We went to the Crabtree Valley Mall and walked around, and I noticed that they really like their shoes here in Raleigh, since there are a lot of shoe stores. I enjoyed chicken from chick filet, another southern staple. We then went to Pullen Park, which is actually right near the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. They had a carousel, as well as a train that was awesome.

    After that, we took the Go Raleigh transit system to The Pit, a famous barbecue restaurant here in Raleigh. The buses were just like those in Washington, DC. At the Pit, I had awesome beef brisket and pulled pork, which melted in your mouth! I then came back home, rested for a bit, and Marlena and I went to a Couchsurfing event called Raleigh on the Rocks at the Cardinal bar. They had a patio, and unlike the meet-ups in Boston, it was so much easier to get along with people! We enjoyed drinks and laughs, and after that, went to a few more bars: the Hibernian Irish Pub, which was awesome, and to Cornerstone, which reminded me of the Railroad Tavern in Keene, NH when I was in college. At cornerstone, it was awesome to dance and to re-live my old college experience! To end the night, I got food to go at Cookout again. What an awesome day, and tomorrow will be awesome with more Raleigh surprises, including Krispy Kreme!

  • Day 8 • September 6, 2018

    Today, Marlena and I adventured out to another Raleigh staple, Krispy Kreme! This donut chain is very popular down south, and it was great to enjoy the classic glazed, a cake battered, and a glazed with sprinkles donut. We then went to the new Morgan Street food hall, which is a smaller version of Boston’s Faneuil hall in downtown Raleigh. They had a lot of booths, and I even tried frozen custard for the first time, which is another southern classic. For lunch, we ate at a popular Raleigh restaurant, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey. The fried chicken sandwich with the Carolina Reaper hot sauce was awesome, along with the yukon gold mashed potatoes.

    After that, I bought some Cheerwine, a popular soda down here to take home, and we relaxed at the apartment. For dinner, Marlena, her son, and I went to Steak n' Shake, another popular fast food chain. The burgers were awesome! I then went to a few bars downtown, including to Woodie’s at City Market, Landmark Tavern, and Players' Retreat. It was great to chat with many nice people, and I took Lyft back and arrived back at the apartment at 12:30 AM. Tomorrow is my last full day in Raleigh!

  • Day 9 • September 7, 2018

    A photo of 5 delicious pints of frosty beer from Raleigh Brewing Company located in Raleigh North Carolina; Since 2013, Raleigh Brewing has become Wake County’s third largest production brewery, averaging +4,500 bbl of beer per year. Atlantic Brew Supply has become the largest brick and mortar homebrew supply shop on the East Coast and ABS Commercial has expanded its tanks into 34 states and four countries.

    Today, since Marlena had to work, I slept in, and at around 2:00 PM, made my way, independently, to downtown Raleigh to get lunch at Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue, the same place where I ate in 2016. Unlike Washington, DC and Boston, the public transportation here, while still in existence, is very limited, and the closest bus stop to the apartment is a half hour walk! So, I took Lyft into town, and the lyft driver was very helpful, since I had a bit of trouble getting out of the apartment, and AIRA didn’t work either. The beef brisket sandwich with coleslaw was amazing. I then found my way to the Go Raleigh bus terminal, and took one of the local buses up to the Raleigh Brewing Company. Marlena met me there, I had a beer, her and her son got dinner, then I rested for a bit back at the apartment. At about 9:00, we went out and ordered Chinese food and enjoyed some North Carolina wine. The dumplings and general gau’s chicken were awesome. We were going to go to a pub, but I figured for my last night, let’s keep it a bit lower key. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow, I head home on a small railroad called Amtrak, with a great steak dinner in between trains in Washington, DC!

  • Days 10 & 11 • September 8 & 9, 2018

    An exterior photo of the new Raleigh Union Station

    Prior to the long train ride back from Raleigh, Marlena took me to Krispy Kreme one last time, and man, were the donuts awesome once again! Like the previous visit, I had the original glazed, cake batter, and glazed with sprinkles. Upon arrival at the newly renovated Raleigh Union Station, I was able to check my bag all the way through to Boston, and I was in coach class. The Carolinian train was just like the Northeast Regional, and I went to the café car and hung out. We arrived into Washington, DC’s Union Station at about 4:30 PM, and I had a six-hour layover before my connecting train to Boston.

    During my layover, I took the Metro out to Arlington, Virginia to enjoy a few beers at the G.O.A.T bar in Clarendon, as well as dinner at Rays the Steaks, the same informal steakhouse where Tyler and I ate last Sunday, September 2. In fact, it was the same waiter! The beers were great, as well as the filet mignon au poivre with both black pepper and the peppercorn sauce, unlimited mashed potatoes, and creamed spinach. It’s great because while this steakhouse has the same high-quality meat as Capital Grill and others, it’s half the price, because the presentation is informal. Following dinner, I decided to venture to the Screwtop Wine Bar to see my friend Bryann who I hung out with last weekend. It was a struggle to get there because not one, but two lyft drivers missed me and marked me as a no show! I had people helping me, and it was crazy. Fortunately, they got me a taxi to travel the one mile to Screwtop. While there, I enjoyed one more beer, Bryann and I chatted, and then I took Lyft, because I did get credit for one of the missed rides, to Union Station. The train left about 20 minutes late, and I only got coffee prior to our arrival into South Station. I got back at 7:35, got Uber, and got home at 8:00. What an amazing trip!!