Have you ever tried to have brunch in an abandoned building?
I was in DC for the inauguration and a quintessential thing to do there is crash an embassy for free alcohol. So, after spending the morning at the Women’s March, I met up with some friends and we tried to go to the Hungarian Embassy DC for an event (and free mimosas).
But when we got there, not only was the building empty, but the gate was chained shut. And we were essentially in the middle of the woods.
As our Lyft driver disappeared down the road, my cheeks grew a little warm.
“Uhhh. Y’all. This is how horror movies start,” I laughed as we circled the dreary building, looking for an entrance. “The event was today, right?”
“Yeah,” my friend Smoky said, checking her phone. Her face turned red. “Y’all, we’re at the wrong place.”
By this point, standing in front of a dark building and hearing the eerie coo of doves in the distance, I had gathered that.
Turns out the event we were meant to attend was the Hungarian Embassy DC’s new location in the center of the city. Near enough to Smoky’s home that we could’ve walked.
We immediately called another Lyft and within minutes were on our way back over the river and through the woods, leaving spookesville behind.
Thank God for smartphones, right?
I kept thinking about what would have happened in the days of yesteryear…seeing the cab disappear into the distance…having no idea where you are…with no way to contact help…when out of the corner of your eye you spot him…Shia LaBeouf.
We were terribly underdressed when we arrived at the embassy, weaving between diplomats and fancy ladies in pearls just trying to find some snacks. I ran into a few friends from college, as DC is filled with young professionals it’s nearly impossible not to see someone you know at these things, and took solace in the fact that we were all not fancy.
That said, the brunch at the Hungarian Embassy DC was delicious. The people were welcoming and made Smoky and I even more excited about our upcoming trip to Budapest.
The new building is lovely—we all felt right at home (if not a bit warm since there were so many people there to see its new location). But the best part?
The guard dog.
Smoky was trying to take a photo of the dog…but I thought she was taking a photo of me so I sat down and ruined her photo.
mop or dog?
We didn’t feel 100% comfortable stuffing out faces amongst the aforementioned fancy ladies in pearls, so we stopped by one of the best places to eat in DC (besides Nandos of course): Ted’s Bulletin.
Known for its homemade pop tarts, Ted’s is a familyish-owned place with 1920’s décor and friendly vibe. There are a few locations sprinkled throughout the greater-DC area. It’s the best brunch in town.
Have y’all ever made a travel mistake? Arrived at 9:30PM instead of AM? Put in the wrong location? I’d love to hear about it. Thankfully the consequences for this brunch gone badly weren’t too high.
Texans are my favorite kind of people, so it’s a good thing I spent inauguration eve with nearly 10,000 of them.
I’ve gained a little weight since college, so my red coat didn’t quite button, allowing the freezing Maryland air to envelop me as my friends and I darted down the block towards the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center for the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.
Our Lyft driver dropped us at the end of the street to avoid the traffic. I called back “thanks” as I toddled on the concrete, not used to wearing heels. He flashed a smile and inched his way around the corner, perhaps to prepare himself for the morning.
Ah, the morning. Inauguration Day.
the 1st of many!
My friend Smoky works for a senior senator and put in quite a bit of extra time to ensure the inaugural ticketing process ran smoothly for his constituents (that’s how we “scored” seated tickets for the actual ceremony), but many people (surprise, surprise) never materialized to actually pick up their tickets for the standing areas, so she was tasked with getting rid of them.
After handing a few to our Lyft driver, we arrived at the ball with dozens of them stuffed in her purse, determined to give them all away.
I felt a little bit like Santa Claus.
My dress from Rent the Runway! It was HUGE so I had to get creative with safety pins to get it to work.
While it was easier to take the Black Tie & Boots ball for what it was, a big party put on by the Texas State Society in DC regardless of who wins the White House, handing out the inauguration tickets inherently felt more political.
But it did give us some leverage.
We swiped some chairs from the first people we gave tickets to. I was crazy and wore blue suede heels without really breaking them in, so about 20 minutes after arriving it felt like there was glass attached to the balls of my feet.
While there were tables sprinkled throughout the Gaylord’s ballrooms, most of them were occupied with people chowing down on the available Tex-Mex (y’all, I must’ve eaten like 15 mini-burritos), so when I saw an empty seat, I pounced.
One of the lobbies at the Gaylord.
Can you spot the photobomb
I sat down at a table with a pair of husbands whose wives were dancing and 100% would’ve gotten kicked out when they got back if Smoky hadn’t casually given them some tickets.
All of a sudden, they thought we were important. A man in the hallway pulled out a wad of 20’s thicker than my fist (which of course we didn’t accept) when he heard we had tickets, while another younger man chatted to us nearly non-stop for about 5 minutes, making us feel a bit trapped.
“Was he flirting?” Smoky asked.
“No, I think he thought we could do something for him,” another friend replied.
Jokes on him, though. He was talking to the least important group of people there. People who were wearing rented dresses, pinchy heels, and freely taking advantage of the open bar.
We’ve come a long way from prom, Smoky #GloUp
*ahem* please notice the Texas flags
There were a few actually important people there though, like a congressman I had campaigned for as a part of my government class in 2008. Little me had a huge crush on him. I remember thinking that he smelled really good, so I wobbled a little when I spotted him talking to a group of patrons nearby.
He greeted each of them, and somehow I got tacked onto the end of the introduction, like I was part of the group.
“Hi, Congressman,” I squeaked, sticking out a clammy hand.
I wanted to have an actual conversation (about what, I don’t know….my mind was filled with radio silence), but when he turned to my “companions” to begin talking about some school issue, I could only manage to stand there blankly smiling for a moment or two before had to just awkwardly side-step away from the conversation and back to my friends.
It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t run into him again and again throughout the ball getting “who the heck are you” looks each time.
100% full stalker mode
D.C. is filled with young people trying to make their mark on the world and so was Black Tie and Boots. If you work for the government, or an organization that needs government funding support, an inaugural ball is a good place to network. It’s also a great place to find a date (i.e. the highest concentration of motivated businessmen and suave military personnel probably anywhere).
Tired of acting fancy
Later in the evening, after the Beach Boys played and some widely entertaining swing dance groups tore up the dance floor (see below; how those girls manage those drops is beyond me) Donald Trump Jr. arrived to thunderous applause.
The majority of the people there fell into my demographic: straight, white, and probably evangelical in some way. At the time, before 45 had officially come to power, I felt more compelled to hear them out. Now, nearing the end of his first 100 days, I have less sympathy.
Jr. and co.
Jr. looks a little bit less like a serial killer than his younger brother, but being close enough to him that I could see the sweat on his forehead still gave me the creeps.
He spoke about his excitement around the evening and gratitude towards his father’s voters. He received an honorary Stetson and people laughed.
I thought about the words of a speaker earlier in the night.
“I know Black Tie & Boots isn’t partisan, but can you just imagine how sick the other side feels right now?” The crowd cheered in response.
Crass? Sure. But also in our president’s vocabulary.
I’m not sure if I would have gone to the local one if I was home in Houston, but I felt like the DC gathering was a movement I needed to see since I was there.
I’ve seen some media that I respect (obviously not too mainstream) portray the march as a solely anti-Trump, pro-abortion rally featuring deranged women terrorizing the streets of DC. While there was certainly a lot of distain for Trump and his big, dangerous mouth there (especially from the celebrity speakers who I couldn’t actually hear from my location and have yet to watch as I don’t need their opinions to inform my own), on the ground, this isn’t what the main point seemed to be.
From my perch on the wall outside the National Museum of the American Indian, it seemed like a nuanced confirmation of sisterhood.
It was so crowded that I left early, as I began to grow nervous due to the apparent lack of escape route if attacks like those in Nice or Berlin were to occur, but as I made my way out of the crowd, taking nearly 30 minutes to go a quarter block, none of the women around me were pushing. Everyone was chatty, smiling, helping each other, and making new friends.
I saw babies with their dads. Grandmothers and granddaughters. Black women. Native Americans lifting their voices in a rallying cry for indigenous rights (although it seems like these women were not wholly respected at the march. Please read Sydne Gray’s account of her experience here.)
The overall peacefulness of the march (and the general lack of litter. While I did see overflowing trashcans, the trash was mainly stacked neatly to either side) could have contributed to the zero arrests made, the fact that the event was coded white from the beginning was likely the biggest factor. You can read more about this, and other valid criticisms of the march, from Oneika the Traveler’s perspective here.
And while the “official organizers” of the march excludedmajor causes and demographics that I really care about as a Christian woman, unofficially, woman-to-woman down in the crowd, we actually all had a lot in common.
The majority of the women in my area seemed to be over at least 40, and, from what I could gather, were not are much protesting Trump, as his position is currently unchangeable, but rather reminding the community how far women have come and that we refuse to give up the rights we’ve fought for.
These women were old enough to be working and raising families before Titles IX and X. Before martial rape laws were on the books. Before Lily Ledbetter. Before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Before the Newsweek lawsuit. Before Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court justice – when women had no say in our nation’s highest court.
These were the women who fought so that I could be born with these rights. And they are not done yet, as many of our POC and LGBT sisters have been left behind.
(For a quick look at a timeline of women’s rights in America – click here.)
Ladies who paved the way.
While there were white women there old enough to have mothers and grandmothers who could not vote in America, there were black women there who could have been denied that right themselves before the Civil Rights Movement, while they experienced the other horrible byproducts at the intersection of sexism and racism.
Like, as my Lyft driver reminded me, having illegal interracial marriages only a generation before.
“If I was my grandfather, my father even,” he said,” it would have been illegal for my wife to be with me here in Virginia.”
I’m only 23 and my own father was already a senior in high school before interracial marriage was federally legal. I was 21 myself before everyone’s marriages were federally legal.
And although American women may have been predominantly featured “officially” at the DC march, as the election was the catalyst for the movement, the safety and advancement of women globally were ideas that were present and discussed within earshot of me continuously, as well as, I assume, around the world.
Our future is in great hands with these guys.
The ideologies, participation, and execution of both the official and unofficial aspects of the Women’s March on Washington were flawed.
But progress always is.
To find out more about legal issues facing women today, please click here.
*As always, the opinions expressed here are completely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my family or traveling companions.
Bill Clinton was my first president.
He was inaugurated on January 20, 1993 and I was born that August. So the 2000 Bush v. Gore election is the first one that I can actually remember.
I was in 2nd grade and spent most of the fall semester arguing with classmates about whom our parents said was going to win.
My friend Max’s mom was a reporter. He said Bush told her there should be school on Saturdays.
I was very concerned about this.
More so concerned, however, that Clinton would no longer be president.
My 7-year-old brain couldn’t understand the idea of a peaceful transfer of power. Bill Clinton was the president. I had memorized this. He always had been. He always would be.
But then suddenly he wasn’t.
On January 20, 2017, I attended the inauguration of Donald Trump and felt that same confusion.
I didn’t vote for Trump.
And I didn’t vote for Clinton, either.
I felt comfortable in this choice because I live in Texas, a deep red state sporting this sunburn since 1980. It doesn’t matter who I vote for, or if thousands of my fellow Texans vote anything other than red, because it seems like the state’s 38 electoral votes will always go to the Republican candidate.
Instead, while I did vote for a president, I focused my attention locally and voted down ballot for judges, sheriffs, representatives, and commissioners who I could be sure supported the people and causes dear to me.
But I still knew I needed to attend the inauguration.
I made plans to go well before the elect was chosen, as my friend Smoky works for a Texas Senator and invited me to the ceremonies in May 2016.
At the Supreme Court the day before the ceremony.
I bought my plane ticket, rented a dress for the Texas State Society inaugural ball, and went to bed on November 8, 2016 thinking I was probably attending the swearing in ceremony of America’s first female president.
But I woke up to Trump’s America.
Was this election controversial? Sure. Argumentative? Absolutely. But so, so American.
Think of it this way: Adama Barrow is currently hiding out in Senegal as he awaits Gambia’s first transition of power in nearly 22 years. Could you imagine if Trump, entering office with the lowest approval rating in the modern era, had to be sworn in on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia, or in Guadalajara, only to be smuggled into the country later?
I watched the President of the United States willingly give up his position. Seeing the most powerful office in the world swing from hard left to right without even questioning that the incumbent would dig in his heels and stay anyway is a uniquely American privilege. And we’ve seen this pendulum crash by three times in the past sixteen years.
It wasn’t even a mile from Smoky’s home to the inauguration’s entrance for yellow tickets, but as we trudged along and joined the lines of other attendees, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was. How tense.
Us girls enjoying the chance to dress up and dance
I didn’t dress warmly enough and as the rain began to mist over the security checkpoint, I briefly considered turning around and crawling back into bed.
But I couldn’t do that. It was my job to be there.
I say that because the majority of white Americans voted for Donald Trump and I am a white American. These voters can (very generally) be divided into white working-class folks from the “Rust Belt” who I affectionately refer to as rednecks, and middle-class evangelicals who were unwilling to cross party lines, no matter the moral character of the nominee. That said, morality seemed to be quite dubious on both sides of the aisle this go around.
Because the majority of Trump’s supporters fall into my demographic, it’s my responsibility to hear them out and work with them; a responsibility I would not expect others (namely my liberal POC and LGBTQ friends) to be responsible for at this point in the process. They can work in their communities; I will work in mine.
The view from our seats.
As we settled into yellow section 11 (a seated section, fairly close to the Capitol thanks to Smoky’s hard work leading up to the ceremony) I noticed the people around me fell quite neatly into the two categories above. I started to count the non-white attendees and had reached seven in about half an hour before I was distracted by playing presidential trivia with my friends.
We arrived at 8:30 for the ceremony and while it did take a while for our section to fill up, by the time the Missouri choir sang, I turned to look and, from my vantage point, the Mall seemed packed back to the Washington Monument. I have to chuckle about it now, after seeing the aerial photographs showing the “sparsely populated” event, as the couple behind me, also from Texas, commented that they were sure CNN would say there was no one there.
This was at about 8:30 when we got there. It did eventually fill up.
I enjoyed the “parade of presidents” and will always cherish the opportunity to see Dubyah struggle with his rain poncho in person, but more so the unique occasion to see the loser of the presidential election seated nearly directly behind the new elect as he was sworn in. What was going through her mind?
Struggling with my own poncho or “making fashion great again”
When the Clintons emerged from the maroon-draped hallway, the woman in front of me, who spent a good portion of the time before the ceremony disparaging the “event” in Ferguson, turned her back while some of the crowd erupted in boos. But then, quietly at first and then building, I heard angry chants of “lock her up” ripple out from the sections behind me.
“Oh, have some class!” shouted fellow Texan man in frustration.
Something I’ve heard a lot about over the last year and a half. Respect for both the Presidential Office and the person who holds it.
I’m working on the latter.
It would have been nice to be there when someone I adored, or at least trusted, became my president. To be able to cheer, feel elated, or even just know that I, and the people and causes I care about, are truly in capable hands. The president might not protect the vulnerable, but I, from my position of immense privilege, can offer support and a platform.
Speaking of the vulnerable, as the ceremony progressed and Melania appeared, the crowd lost it.
“There she is! That’s our first lady!”
“This is the luckiest day of that staff sergeant’s life. Woof,” said the Texan man behind me.
A sign from the Women’s March on Washington the next morning.
She looked beautiful, as I’m sure anyone who watched the ceremonies could see, but she also seemed nervous. I wondered how she was feeling, as someone who seems shy, amid a crowd of men “woofing” at her.
The crowd was quite vocal. Not as much in my seated section, but the rowdier, standing sections behind me had extremely visceral reactions, including loudly booing as Senator Chuck Schumer read a letter from a Civil War solider in an attempt to encourage Americans to strive for unity.
I wasn’t sure if they were booing at what he was saying, or just at him in general, but either way, it was frustrating. This was a presidential inauguration. Not the Super Bowl.
And then it was time for Donald.
A rouge hat at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. I had to leave because the Secret Service was there clearing the area for Trump’s appearance later in the day.
When I was in college, I spent a semester in Rome, Italy and during that semester, spent a freezing, rainy Wednesday morning waiting for Pope Francis outside Saint Peter’s. I was soaked and my teeth were chattering from hours of exposure, but as soon as the Pope Mobile rounded the corner, the rain suddenly ceased. My friends and I laughed that it was an act of God.
At Trump’s inauguration, it was the opposite. As soon as the last of his Presidential Oath left his lips, it began to rain. It had been threatening to all morning and had drizzled on and off, but as the 21 cannon salute began (which was terrifying? I didn’t know it was going to happen and suddenly was surrounded by explosions at a very tense political event), so did the rain in earnest.
As I sat quietly listening to Trump’s inaugural address, adjusting my own poncho, I noted his apparent change in demeanor. Sure, his hands were flailing per usual, but he seemed to be trying really hard to seem “presidential.” I don’t really know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.
Then, way before I thought it would, the ceremony concluded.
As I trudged across the muddy Capitol lawn, trying to process the event that had just unfolded before me and avoid being caught in a stampede, I heard the roar of a helicopter and looked up to see the Obamas fly right over me, officially leaving his presidency behind.
2016 was rough in terms of the global political climate (hello Brexit, Trump presidency, ISIS, and Aleppo) and celebrity deaths (RIP Harambe and literally every single one of my childhood heroes), but on a personal level, it was actually pretty okay.
Well not just okay; it was actually pretty amazing.
I turned 23 this year and was able to achieve the INSANE goal of paying off my student debt. It’s so crazy for me to be #DebtFreeAt23 when I FOR SURE thought I was going to be #DirtPoorAt24 and #BarelyAliveAt25. Paying off this debt opened up a whole new world for me, one which will allow me to travel more freely. I didn’t make it out of Murica this year, but I still had some crazy adventures.
Here’s my 2016 in review:
Visited Mount Rushmore in the DEAD of winter.
With my sister at Mount Rushmore.
My older sister and eternal travel buddy got married in May, so for her bachelorette party, I took her to see Mount Rushmore and the surrounding sites. Since my sister doesn’t drink, typical bachelorette destinations like NOLA or Vegas were out of the question, and a heavy “day activity” place was the perfect fit.
Quick tip: Mount Rushmore is the perfect place for a dry bachelorette party.
No one else wanted to brave the cold.
We spent a long weekend giggling, freezing, and having a blast. Did I mention we basically had the place to ourselves? Yeah, that’s because normal people don’t go to South Dakota in the winter.
Crashed DC and chilled on the Speaker’s Balcony.
View from the Speaker’s Balcony on the Capitol.
It seems like all of my friends moved to DC after college, including my amazing roommate, so while my sister was on her honeymoon, I took a #TreatYoSelf trip so I wouldn’t feel left out. I was hosted by my amazing college roommate and her girlfriend, along with their charming puppy Roheryn.
As a museum junkie, DC quickly became one of my favorite cities, especially since I didn’t have to pay for most of them. I also stopped by the White House to have Brunch with Barack (not really).
Up close and personal at the White House.
I also got a private tour of the Capitol from my best friend from high school, who works for a senator. She even took me on the Speaker’s Balcony which belonged to Paul Ryan at the time, so you know I had to keep my eyes open for him. I may not agree with some of his politics, but those baby blues though.
Went on a 12 hour road trip with my dad.
My sister and I have a running joke that whenever we try to talk to our father (affectionately referred to as #PappaKamm) he always manages to sneak “Well, you know it’s actually a physics problem” into the conversation and spend the next 10 minutes talking about concepts from the class I nearly failed in high school. So spending 12 hours (each way!) alone in the car with my dad as we drove from Houston to southern Missouri for our family reunion made me a little nervous.
What would we talk about?
Highlights of the daddy / daughter road trip.
I was nervous for nothing because as it turns out, traveling with my dad is great! His road trip style matches mine perfectly. We both only stop to eat/get gas/stretch when absolutely necessary and combine all three whenever we can.
We did visit University of Arkansas on the way up so I could call them Hogs, and then spent the rest of the weekend goofing off with our cousins, watching the Olympics, and seeing just how fast jet skis can actually go.
I would say the only downside of the trip was dad listening to Rush Limbaugh at full blast because he’s kind of deaf and me having to resist the urge to fling myself onto the interstate.
Found my inner Hufflepuff at Harry Potter World.
Castles and cold drinks.
Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin, but I’m choosing not to live that truth and instead am settling into being a delightfully average Hufflepuff. I had been to Universal Studios once before in 2009, but Harry Potter World was just being built. The anguish of being able to SEE Hogwarts, without being allowed to go inside was too real.
So obviously I had to go back.
A Florida landmark.
My great friend from college invited me to visit her hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Her dad flies for Southwest and graciously sent me a Buddy Pass, which was my first time flying standby. It wasn’t too bad and further cemented that Southwest is my favorite airline (this post isn’t sponsored, I just really love them).
My dog of 12 1/2 years actually died while I was away, so I am really grateful that the weekend was filled with so much laughter, “tanning,” and roller coasters.
Went on my first solo trip to Memphis.
There was a mix up with the Buddy Passes, so at the last minute, I booked a solo trip to Memphis in early November. I had flown and spent all day exploring alone, but I always had someone to come chat to at night.
“Playing” at Sun Studios.
But what kind of travel blogger would I be if I hadn’t traveled solo? So I went for it. And it was amazing!
Memphis has lots to do during the day (like Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum) and a vibrant nightlife as well (hello, Beale Street). It was easy to get around with Uber and Lyft and I felt SO proud of myself for finally taking a solo trip.
The Mighty Mississippi
I did have kind of an awkward solo dinner at Gus’ Fried Chicken because I think my waiter felt bad for me, when he was really just making me even more uncomfortable. Like sir, can you please just leave me alone and let me read this ketchup bottle in peace kthanks.
I also may have booked way too many trips for 2017.
Now that I’m out of debt, my money goes straight to the bank ( well, okay, some of it goes to Uncle Sam and some goes to Fidelity because I’m out here trying to retire early, but you get what I mean.) Because of this, I’ve made the brave (stupid?) choice to travel travel traaaavel next year.