The Circle Is My Second Home

“Doors opening, step back, allow customers to exit. When boarding, please move to the center of the car.”

As the economy picks up again, my new career is taking me increasingly down to the nation’s capital quite often, which between the friends and family I have here, is a huge bonus. Don’t get me wrong. Every day here is another day away from my routine (though I’ve mostly fixed that now), I actually have a slight commute in (even if it’s an increase from 5 to now 10 minutes), it’s living with a limited wardrobe (read: out of a suitcase) and it IS another day away from Jeff.

Yet, in many ways, I’ve never really left home. Instead of taking a bus or the blue line in Philly to work, I’m taking the red line from Dupont Circle, and changing trains in the subway if need be. It’s a change of scenery, but it’s still city living. Killer places to eat, better regional chains in my opinion (reference Sweet Green, Tangy Sweet/Red Velvet, Pitango’s, La Madeleine, etc) than what Philadelphia has to offer in terms of any chains period. The hustle and bustle, the abundance of good running routes (compared to Philly, especially when you consider training for hills!!!) and runners period. The fact that I’ve hit up the Lululemon Athletica running club on P Street and get groceries from the Whole Foods on P Street every trip down here, it’s scary enough that I’m living like a local now. Just like I would have hit the same group up on Walnut Street.

I remember my first day with the Lululemon club.

“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Philly, but I am in DC often on business, just staying off the circle.”
“No way!!! You run with the clubs there too?”
“You better believe it.”
“But you’re on the road yet still running with us?”
“Just because I’m on the road, doesn’t mean I can’t get my sneakers and roll it with a running club.” I respond with a smile.

“Hell yeah!” the runners say as we hit it up different routes. This particular club seems to like the visitors that drop in, as DC is more serious as a running community on the whole. In fact their National Marathon (half) in the spring has qualifying standards and a pretty darn stiff completion time in comparison with other halfs. Running in 2:30 may sound easy for most veterans, but it’s NOT walker-friendly and most from-scratch, from-the-couch beginners will have their work cut out for them, I’ll tell you that.

I’m such a die-hard urbanite, I’m sure some people out there will think I’m some annoying hippie elitist.

Personally, I just like to think of myself as a career-oriented individual constantly looking to stay active and engaged with life and their community.

I know some people will step out defending the whole southern hospitality thing in the suburbs. To be frank, with the exception of my recent business trip to San Antonio, I can’t really vouch one way or another on how friendly people are in the South, although up North, I strongly disagree that such hospitality is present in the suburbs here. Even in the Main Line just outside Philly, I don’t find people to be friendly, just exclusive. And I’ve heard on multiple accounts people in New Jersey are even worse, but life in NJ period is stressful between high taxes and housing costs (*cough*property taxes*cough), constant neighbourhood cycling and development. In any case…between hospitality and meeting people, I just find it easier to do in the city, where people I find are more open and aren’t throwing up the whole white-picket fence and aren’t afraid at what is lurking at every corner.

That said, it kills me to say this city is better than Philadelphia in so many ways. If money didn’t matter, to be quite frank, I’d move here. Dead serious. Unfortunately, housing is out of control, not New York City out of control, but way more than I could ever possibly afford anytime soon.

Yes, the neighbourhood I’ve “adopted” as home in the District is more or less, Dupont Circle. Ironically it’s where Pierre used to live back during his first years stateside with one of his elder brothers prior to getting married. Sheer coincidence, one of the hotels I stayed at was the EXACT SAME ADDRESS of an apartment complex that he had lived in with his brother.

I remember the first of many weeks I’d spent in the District for work and the only hotels available to book in DC were mostly in Dupont Circle. The first few weeks I was in DC, I was all about hitting up the trendy restaurants and places downtown after my work day but once that novelty wore off, I was a bit more content with spending quieter nights with friends and extended family and cousins in the area. My friend and fiancé Patrick and Rina live in Foggy Bottom by George Washington University, so with their help I’ve gotten to know Georgetown and M Street (west of 30th) a tad better, unfortunately there is no good way other than the bus to really get there without freezing your behind in the winter. But as I’ve explored the surrounding area even more, I’ve found out I don’t even need to scurry up north on 18th Street to get a good affordable bite at nearby Adams Morgan if I’ve got a night to myself.

The Circle itself has some insane eats: both sides of New Hampshire on either side of the circle have a mix of chains (Cosi, Panera) and some nice restaurants suitable for various price points. Kramer’s on the north side of Connecticut I hear has some insane dishes, and the best part is that it’s at a bookstore. The Dupont is your typical upscale eatery. The most variety though, can be found on the south side of Connecticut (1200-1300 blocks down to M Street) and the west side of P Street (2000-2200 blocks). There are SO many restaurants at different price points it’s unbelieveable. One would not need to go anywhere else. Further down on the 1500-1600 blocks of P, which in reality is a tad closer to Logan Circle, you have the Whole Foods, a Sweet Greens (salad bar), a Pitango’s, and a few pubs and other restaurants.

Oh yes, and it’s an excellent place to run if you can’t make your way down to the National Mall or are a little hesitant about Rock Creek Park. I can’t tell you how many runners I’ve seen on P or 16th Streets.

Thursday night, as I was grabbing some empanadas from Julia’s on Connecticut, I also took a peek at a number of the other establishments on Connecticut. So many options for affordable eats, I think I’ll have to come here next time with Patrick and Rina or any one of my other cousins. There’s a Thai place called Pasara that captivated me (enough for me to grab a takeout menu!) and ditto for a Lebanese place, both of which are reasonably priced and still look good. A cupcakery called Hello Cupcake looked quite cute and the cupcakes fresh, but to my dismay I saw that they closed at 7pm. Boo.

Who needs downtown when you have Dupont?

Nearby that area is the K Street power scene, home of the group of people these days everyone in America loves to hate: lobbyists. I remember one of my first weeks here in April, Sergio and I wanted to hit up Karl Rove’s hangout behind the White House, Off the Record, for the heck of it just to see if we’d run into him or any other famous politicians just so we can say we ran into them. (NB: Political views are irrelevant, we’re just cruising for famous people.) Of course, we tried it, but didn’t see anyone that day. But playing the power scene in DC is a lot different from doing the same in Rittenhouse Square.

“In Rittenhouse you dress to impress. On K Street, you dress to intimidate.”

I kid you not. That’s what I was told by a senior colleague. In fact, I was told that whilst my business dress was very fashionable, there was one thing I was “sorely” lacking: a pinstriped suit. I needed a pinstriped suit because even with us ladies, “wearing pinstripes would increase the intimidation factor.”

Guess that gives me a good reason to go cruising yet again at the Limited, right?

Sergio was even more blunt. “When you dress up, people need to look at you and go ‘holy [crap]’ because you look and are the power player on the street. Complete that look with a broad smile, an air of confidence, chin SLIGHTLY in the air and NEVER EVER look down. Act powerful because you ARE powerful.”

Wow.

In any case, Dupont has that nice balance. There are a mix of young and old, and it’s quite laid back. I really feel like there’s something for everyone and it’s basically Rittenhouse without the high rises and insanity. Although now that I think of it, there are plenty of lower rises (up to 9 floors) on P Street, but you don’t see the towering 25+ storey buildings that are more prevalent in Philly and in New York. Maybe corporate buildings, but definitely not residential. Adams Morgan can be insane, almost like the way Old City can be today in Philadelphia. Georgetown is along the same lines, but the collegetown area has been a bit quieter lately.

But yes, I think I’ve found a second home for myself down here in the District.

Now if it were only as simple as tucking Jeff in my suitcase and bringing him here…

Once I figure that out, I’ll see you all for dinner at Kramer’s. Cheers.

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