French travel blogger Lucie Aidart is one of 16 winners in the midst of Hostelling International’s Big Blog Exchange. She swapped blogs and countries with Taralynn McNitt and is currently on a 10-day hostelling adventure through the U.S.
Lucie’s 10-day exchange was set to begin in the nation’s capital. There was just one problem. “I’ve been to DC twice before and never really liked it,” Lucie commented on her blog post. She found it stuffy and void of character. But we sensed it was because she hadn’t experienced the real DC. The DC that’s more than the museums. The one that’s not about politics or being politically correct or wearing suits. Rather, the real DC is about the “transplants” who live there, hailing from all over the country and the world, who are people like everyone else, who like to enjoy life and have fun. With the help of HI Washington DC staff, Lucie was able to see how history, culture, and fun collide in a town she had only seen one side of until now. Here’s how she made it happen:
1. She saw the monuments at night. Locals know the best time to see the historical monuments lining the National Mall is not in the light of day, but when the stars come out. With the black sky as backdrop, Lucie joined a free, hostel-led tour to see the monuments lit up with intensity. She made new friends with the HI Washington DC community of travelers for part 2 of the evening.
2. She joined a local celebration. After the monument tour, Lucie and her new friends from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile donned costumes and headed to Georgetown for the city’s biggest Halloween celebration. Locals were out in droves dressed in crazy costumes and packed the bars with their festive spirit.
3. She stepped outside the city. A short metro ride from HI Washington DC is Old Town Alexandria, a bustling town with an old world feel right on the Potomac River. Filled with cafes, boutiques, and unique craft stores, it’s a window into what life is like outside the District – especially since she was led around by a real local, one of her exchange partner’s readers!
4. She stepped deep inside the city. Rock Creek Park is a cherished outdoor haven for locals that makes you feel millions of miles away from civilization, yet is right in the center of the city. It’s beautiful place to gaze at fall foliage or take a peaceful hike.
5. She dined at a local legend. It looks like your typical cheap diner from the outside, but Ben’s Chili Bowl has served its famous chili on top of an old-fashioned hot dog to Presidents and endless local residents. It’s out of the way from the main tourist attractions and it’s a place you just have to know about. And when you’re let in on the secret, you just have to go.
As a locally inspired traveler, the city spoke to Lucie in a way it hadn’t before. After explaining what she saw, what she did, and who she met this time around, she remarks, “And that’s how the first day of this exchange went down and made me like Washington DC. I feel that there are many off the beaten path and local places to explore in town and I do hope to come back soon to do some more exploring.” And that’s what hostelling with HI USA is all about!
Learn more about Lucie’s activities and the cool people she’s met from all over the world by checking out her adventures on Taralynn’s blog, including stops in Baltimore, San Diego, and Austin.
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