Relocating to Washington, DC: Initial Impressions

The journey of my life continues. After spending nearly a decade in Atlanta, I have moved to Washington, DC. My husband’s job is here and we found ourselves an apartment in a Pentagon City high-rise. The Army offers an above-average BAH for housing in DC, but finding something within that range was still challenging. We initially looked at apartments in the District proper, but found that we could only afford a one bedroom there. Apartments just over the Potomac in Pentagon City and Crystal City were a little less expensive, but some places are already price gouging, anticipating potential renters with Amazon salaries. We found ourselves a really nice two bedroom though, just a short walk away from the Pentagon City Metro station. Del is also able to get to work in a reasonable period of time.

Even though the Washington metro area is comparable to the size of Atlanta, the city just feels more massive and cosmopolitan. Foreign languages can be heard everywhere we go. We have to pay for parking more often and navigating crowds on the subway in traffic in the streets can be a challenge. Washington definitely has a northeastern hustle and bustle to it and people are not quite as warm and friendly as they are in the South.

The view from our balcony

Our apartment doesn’t have a view of the Capitol Building or the Washington Monument, but we can see the Rosslyn skyline and National Cathedral off in the distance and the top of the Lincoln Memorial. Now and then helicopters buzz over the Pentagon, which sits to the north of us on the other side of the highway. Most everything around here was built within the last 25 years.  When the Pentagon City Metro Station open in 1977, there was no Pentagon City to speak of.  The land was mainly vacant, but for a few warehouses and apartment buildings that had been built in the 1960s. Rapid development ensued after the Metro Station opened and now the area is filled with apartment buildings, shops, and a large mall, the Fashion Centre of Pentagon City. Unlike some traditional shopping malls, this mall seems to do strong business and gets frustratingly crowded on the weekends. The mall tends to attract large tour groups of school kids, which can be somewhat annoying.

Not far from Pentagon City is Crystal City, the site of the new Amazon HQ2. Crystal City was mostly offices and apartment complexes for defense contractors. The area still seems somewhat underdeveloped, although the strip along Crystal Drive is lively. I imagine that this area will change dramatically over the next few years.

On our first weekend here, I decided to take Del to see some of the monuments around the National Mall.  Nighttime proved to be a wonderful time to go.  The weather was clear, but cold enough to keep teeming crowds of tourists away. We took the Blue Line to the Foggy Bottom station and walked down 23rd Street through the campus of George Washington University to the Lincoln Memorial.  The memorial is open 24 hours a day and rangers are available on site until 10 p.m.  We arrived there around 8 p.m. and there were still a number of tourists milling around there taking photographs or listening to their tour guides.  From there we walked along the Reflecting Pool to the National World War Two Memorial, which honors the 16 million who served the United States during that war.  The memorial is beautifully illuminated at night, with columns representing each of the United States. 

From there, we walked by the White House through Lafayette Park and then up to the Mount Vernon Square Metro Station where we headed back over the Potomac.

U.S. Capitol Visit

Del also had never been to the Capitol Building. We signed up in advance for a guided tour on a Friday morning. Once we arrived at the Visitor Center, we had some time to tour the museum. Apparently, the museum will soon undergo renovations and will not be open again for a few years. The guided tours do not give you a tour of the actual rooms where the House of Representatives and Senate meet, but take you through Statuary Hall, a glimpse of the office door of the Speaker of House, the rotunda room and the original chamber where the House of Representatives met before the addition of states required more space. The most fascinating spot to me was a crypt, intended by the building designers to keep the remains of George Washington. The room even resembles a crypt in a European cathedral where kings, queens and nobles are buried. Perhaps it was these trappings of monarchy or religious veneration that encouraged the Washington family to refuse to allow his body to be buried there.

Library of Congress

After our tour, we walked through a tunnel to the Library of Congress, which I recall visiting in 2013. I had forgotten how gorgeous the interior of the building is. It is worth exploring the stairways and balconies, catching a glimpse of the reading room, and admiring the artwork painted on the walls and ceilings of the library.

For lunch, we went to Mitsitam Cafe, the cafeteria located in the Museum of the American Indian.  When I visited DC in 2013, this cafeteria was new and super popular with the lunchtime crowd with its choices of healthy foods, but now I think it has lost its luster. The food was extremely expensive and mediocre. I wish I had checked the current reviews rather than relying on my experience six years ago.

Ethiopian Food

We had a much better dining experience at Chercher Ethiopian Restaurant. In the 1970s and 1980s, waves of Ethoipian immigrants fleeing the country’s Communist regime made Washington, DC their home. Within a few years, these immigrants began sharing their delicious cuisine and restaurants serving this unique food popped up in Adams Morgan and along U Street. Chercher is known as one of the best places for Ethiopian food in D.C. Del had the Chercher Delux Kitfo (Special #2) and I had the Chercher Beef Special Tibs (Special #3). They served both dishes on the same plate of injera, the spongy, sourdough-risen flatbread that you use to pick up the food.

I imagine we will have quite a few new places to write about as we explore the city and as we adjust to our new life here.

Have you moved to Washington, DC recently or PCSed there? What have your experiences been like? What are you interested in finding out about living in the DC area?


2 thoughts on “Relocating to Washington, DC: Initial Impressions

  1. Thank you Jeff for the information regarding Vila Mariana in Brazil. I know it is a few years old, however, I’m glad I stumbled on your article as it was very helpful. I’m planning a quick trip there in November to meet someone in person that I have been face timing with for a while.

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