washington dc travel blogger 33

As politically-driven as I am, it seemed improbable I managed to avoid a stop in Washington, DC over ten years of travel to a number of the capital’s neighbours.

Thankfully, Lela Takes The Crescent provided the perfect Amtrak-convenient opportunity to immerse myself in the most American flag-packed streets one could imagine.

Read on for secret Capitol tours, the best sandwich in North America, impromptu trips to Virginia, and more…

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wing wing london
If I’m raving about fried food after four months in America, you know someone’s doing something right.

In this case, it’s Wing Wing – London’s answer to the ever-growing Korean trend of ‘Chimaek’ (translation: chicken and beer) restaurants.

While it crispy Korean-style wings and drumsticks are their calling card (and available in a soy garlic, hot, or liquorice glaze), I rate their Katsu bao as one of the city’s best. With a lightly fried bao bun, they are a unique take on an Asian favourite and delightfully dirty.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Chimaek experience without the beer and Wing Wing’s spectacular ‘bottoms up’ beer system (which pours an ice-cold pint in four second from an upwards-pouring spout) doesn’t disappoint.

Alco-free? Their ginger beer slush is a sweet and principled substitute.

Impressed with Wing Wing’s eponymous offering, my dinner date and I decided to delve deeper into the menu; seaweed fries, onion bricks, yuzu meringue bao nuts (their creme filled bao-utilizing ‘donuts’), and a strawberry granola ice cream which felt bizarrely healthy after all the aforementioned.

While the counter-serve restaurant may lack its Holborn-based neighbours’ sophistication, it is – after all – a fried chicken restaurant. Go with a group, try a little bit of everything, and try your darnedest not to order some hot drumsticks for the road.

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athens georgia 13
“They live in Athens?” I questioned, momentarily wondering whether my sporadic decision to spend a long weekend in a city I couldn’t point to on a map was all that bright.

“Let’s do it!”

Recalling my whirlwind adventure in Athens Athens less than a year ago, I could hardly refuse getting to know its denominative twin (albeit, as a consolidated city–county in Georgia, an inevitable contrary to twindom in every other way).

True to ‘all good decisions find their way to the blogiverse’ form, you can rest assured Athens USA – differences abounding – had plenty to offer of its own…

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amtrak 2
Unlike most Underground-frequenting Londoners, I adore train travel. Of every variety. From my pre-teen introduction to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (still one of my all-time favourite films and an ageless portrait of moral ambiguity), life on the rails has filled me with intrigue.

It is actually slightly ridiculous it has taken me this long to get myself on a sleeper train.

Presenting…the Amtrak Crescent: my sole mode of transport for Lela Takes The Crescent (obvs) as well as the most phenomenal way to explore the Big Easy, Big Apple, and everything in between.

Starting in New Orleans, I took the Crescent to Atlanta (roughly 12 work and food-filled hours), Washington DC (roughly 12 hours overnight), and New York City (roughly 2 hours) with a few days in between each.

Though many people choose seats in Coach to save money, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make their Viewliner bedrooms (“sleeper cars”, if you will) my own and was astounded to discover how innovative the spaces actually were.

For every space, there is a function. Perhaps one or two. Though compact, the seating area pulls out into a full-length bed, the ‘roof’ pulls down into a second bed, sinks pull-out (and double up as a makeshift ice bucket), and there is storage space available in every nook and cranny.

This, of course, is easier shown than said so look out for my upcoming vlog tour (which I will share here when live)!

FAQ: Train Travel Across America

Why would you choose a Viewliner bedroom over a coach seat?
As well as having a personal space to relax/sleep/work in, the Viewliner tickets also include complimentary meals and drinks in the Dining Car.

What is the food like on Amtrak?
As a foodie, I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed everything from a Creole scrambled egg bowl to gargantuan Southwest salads to a restaurant-worthy steak and shrimp combo.

Is Amtrak comfortable to sleep on?
Extremely. Rather than my Instagrammed nap position, both beds pull out to the full width of the room and the top bed even has an optional strap for anyone worried about being elevated on a moving train. The pillows and blankets provided are also hotel-quality.

Is Amtrak affordable?
On many routes it is more affordable than the flight equivalent but I would always advise booking as far in advance as possible and keeping an eye out for discounts to maximise your savings.

“But I could fly so much faster…”
Maybe. Maybe not. In my mind, train travel is for adventurers. Had I done this two week trip by air, I would have been on five flights total. With two hour check-ins each time. Security lines. Baggage lines (and fees). On Amtrak, I arrived less than 30 minutes before ‘take off’ and walked straight onto the train. I worked while I rode. Or slept (which would otherwise likely be a night wasted in a hotel room). I made new friends – even inspiring strangers’ travels and careers – every time I went to the Dining Car. I walked out straight into the cities I arrived in.

If you have the time to spare, train travel is spending it well.

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new orleans elizabeths
I have often entertained thoughts about the type of restaurant I would open should I find myself mad enough to properly enter an industry with less than a 10% first year survival rate.

Something haute and white tablecloth-filled? I might as well file bankruptcy for lolz. A sexy little food truck? Definitely more my style…but an idea endless menu and drink limitations of its own.

Realistically, I would strive to open a restaurant reminiscent of Elizbeth’s in New Orleans and give zero f**ks about its success beyond survival. Elizabeth’s is local, charming, and – from a shrewd foodie perspective – infallible. A restaurant worthy of their 20-year strong standing in NOLA’s competitive food scene.

The Bywater-based brunch favourite has fundamentally developed their reputation on praline bacon and a bevy of ‘down-home’ inspired breakfast foods, but their low-key digs serve high-end dishes of every variety.

After taking over the restaurant in 2011, Head Chef Bryon Peck curated the menu – forever subscribing to lavish comfort food philosophies – to heights I would jump on a plane to revisit. Highlights include the Boudin balls in Creole mustard (a Louisiana must), a campfire-smoked ribeye (the best I’ve had anywhere in the US), ‘Beer BQ’ shrimp (with unimaginable complexity ), and an indulgent bourbon sauce-covered bread pudding (perfectly paired with Elizabeth’s Sidecar – Maker’s Mark, Cointreau. lemon & Whiskey Barrel bitters).

If it is good enough to pique my prudent entrepreneurial interests, you better believe it is good enough for your next meal out.

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