Discovering Virginia: Washington DC

Washington

This is the third in the series of posts and videos where affable, adventure-loving traveller and presenter Andy Shepherd discovers what the beautiful Capital Region of the USA (Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia) has to offer. The final stop on his incredible tour is Washington DC…

So Virginia was sadly over! Having spent the last few days travelling along the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway (part of a network of America’s 150 Scenic Byways), it was time to check out the big smoke of Washington DC.

Driving in, I caught my first glimpse of the iconic Capital Building and felt a rush of excitement – and a rumbling stomach. I needed food – and I knew just the place to find it: DC’s famous food trucks. Each truck was uniquely decorated, steam oozing from the front windows and tantalising my nose as I browsed the extensive menus. The culinary masterminds behind these trucks know exactly how to make your mouth water. And they had EVERYTHING! – including Korean, Ethiopian, even Indonesian. As well as delicious, they were cheap – which is why I had four lunches. And no, I’m not ashamed.

Stomach full, it was time to see the sights. The Potomac River is the heart of the city and I took a unique approach to going upriver – on a paddle board; it’s a weird combination of surfing and punting a gondola. Nicholas from Boating In DC assured me that all I needed was good balance and concentration. The key was standing slowly – starting on my knees before gently coming to a standing position. Easier said than done, but once I got my balance it was smooth sailing.

Out on the river, the landscape past me in slow motion as I took in the wildlife and national treasures dotted along the shoreline. More amazing still was the fact I was still standing, 30 minutes later. Get the camera out, Andy survived the river!

Washington Segway

So what could I do to top that? I wanted something cool – something that said ‘I’ve arrived’, and there was only one answer: a Segway… Stepping aboard one of Bike and Roll’s bad boys, I took to the streets with my trusty guide. We passed the White House – smaller than you’d think but magnificent nevertheless – and as my guide told me, it’s actually two-thirds underground. Wow.

Lincoln Memorial

Next up was Washington Monument (I have a dream!) and the Lincoln Memorial (an impressive looking Abe sternly looming over hoards of thronging tourists. It was surreal standing in front of these buildings that I’d only ever seen in photos or movies.

Ben's Chili Bowl

All this may have satisfied my cultural appetite, but not my stomach. I was starving. Plus, if you haven’t been to Ben’s Chili Bowl then you’re seriously missing out. This red and yellow neon-coloured DC staple is beloved by locals – and has been visited by the likes of Dizzy Gillespe, Nat King Cole, Denzel Washington and even the big man himself – Obama.

Apparently Bill Cosby gets the half-smoked dogs flown to him, and I could see why. As I bit into a huge, spicy Chili dog, I could almost taste decades of family tradition in the smoky sauces. The other thing I loved about this place was the warm, friendly atmosphere. It made you instantly forget about all that’s wrong with the world.

With my day in Washington DC almost done, I ended my travels with a final drink at Marvin a cocktail bar honouring one of the city’s great musical legends, Marvin Gaye. And that was me done (*weeping quietly into cocktail*).

Segways at night

There’s no doubt about it. This trip to the Capital Region will go down as one of my all time favourites. This is what I call a proper road trip.

Photos taken by Lisa Downs, the camera was operated by Timothy Flower and the videos were presented by Andy Shepard. 2013 has seen Andy Shepherd become one of SBTV’s hosts, presenting their sports content. In the past year he has travelled the length and breadth of the country interviewing stars of screen, pitch and track for Gaff. TV. Highlights include conducting an hour long interview with Ashley Cole and becoming best friends with Tinchy Stryder and Ruff Squad. He’s also been busy filming for Channel 4’s ‘For 3 Minutes’, hosting a series of travelogues for Guardian.co.uk and developing a number of projects with leading production companies. As well as all that he was a top ten finalist in a competition to find the next Blue Peter presenter and appeared on CBBC programme Blue Peter: You Decide. He was also a regular contributor on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side for Channel 5, as well as hosting the One Direction event “1D Day”

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