It has been a long time since my last post, but I cannot help but want to share my last adventure. To catch you up, I am just finishing up my first semester at University of Central Florida as a junior. As an International and Global Studies major, I decided to join the Model United Nations Club (MUN) and the International Relations Club to get myself involved more with my major. Anyhow, I wound up being one of ten that made the team to go to the National MUN conference in DC. The conference was run by Georgetown University students and was held in the quaint, sleepy town of Bethesda, Maryland.
Luckily, since MUN at UCF is a competitive team, we got partially funded by student government and through other donations; my trip was only $150 for flight and hotel!
We flew from Orlando to Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington. From there, the ten of us grabbed metro cards and took the trains to Bethesda (about a 40 minute ride). The metro is an awesome tool to use if you are visiting the city and/or staying right outside of it. It is relatively cheap and really easy to use! So if you are direction illiterate like me, do not fear.
Let me just say right now, Bethesda has to be one of my favorite places that I have ever been. Small town, family-oriented, cozy, and somewhat hipster/eclectic would a few words to describe it (okay, maybe expensive too). Being in Florida for about two and a half years now has made me appreciate what the north has to offer. We were lucky that our conference took place during the “peak” time when the leaves began to change colors or yellow and orange which is something you do not see much of in Florida. The weather was a perfect 60° during the day, and an added bonus, Bethesda is only a 15 minute metro ride to DC.
We stayed in the charming Bethesda Court Hotel, which was formally called The Golden Tulip. You could tell the place was old, but it was recently refurbished with a clean gray and purple theme that added to the charm and coziness of our stay. The hotel had a small gym and even a courtyard where you can sit and enjoy your continental breakfast. The hotel was only about three blocks from the metro. The staff at the front desk were very accommodating to the ten of us and another school that chose to stay there. They let us keep all of our luggage behind the desk before we checked in and even after we checked out, so we could go into the city.
The only downside of traveling with MUN was that our schedule is filled from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. with debate and we only have two, one and a half hour lunch/dinner breaks. Fortunately, our flight arrived early enough on Thursday, before our registration at 6 that evening, that we got time to run around DC. I won’t get into to much detail about the conference itself besides that it was only my second one and I had a lot to learn.
After a full day of debate on Friday, us Floridians bundled up and headed into the 40° (cold I know!) weather to go midnight monument hopping. Let me just say, organizing a proper tour in an unfamiliar city with ten slightly drunk college students was a challenge in itself.
Phones, sentimental bracelets, and people got lost, but we did manage to navigate ourselves to The Mall. We got to see The White House, The Washington Monument, The WWII Memorial, and The Lincoln Memorial lit up in the night. This is a must do if you are planning a DC trip! The monuments take on a whole new form and appreciation when you see them at night.
I unfortunately did not get to experience Washington DC as the foodie destination that it has come to be known as, but I did get a chance to experience three new restaurants while visiting. On the first night, our group took a midnight trip to a local place, Tastee Diner. If you were wondering, there are no 24-hour diners in Florida that I know of, and YES I miss them. The menu consisted of your typical, run-of-the-mill diner food. Unfortunately, about half of the other colleges discovered Tastee’s that night, and lets just say, the overwhelming number of customers had the one waiter, and I think he was the owner, a little grumpy. Throwing straws at your customers isn’t the best way to attract new business, but the attitude made me feel at home a bit. This is the north, right? The second was La Madeleine, a French-country counter service café that recently opened its first location in the Orlando area. I also ate at Café Deluxe, which is only located in DC and the surrounding areas. It was a pricy, American/Italian style “neighborhood tavern”. All three were located in the downtown area of Bethesda a few blocks from each other.
I was lucky enough to be paired up with another “delegate” from my school to work together during our co
nference. We spent all of our mornings sipping coffee and tea inside a cozy Bethesda Starbucks deciding our strategies for that day’s debate. On our last night in Bethesda, the Georgetown students rented out a local bar and hosted a “social” for all of the MUN delegates. On Sunday, closing awards ceremonies (no I did not get one) ended in time for us to rush into the city again to walk through the botanical gardens located not far form the U.S. Capitol building which was our last stop for some photo ops.
This trip made me realize how much I would like to move back up north after I finish my degree and where I will most likely be focusing my job searching at! Washington DC and its surround towns are filled with charm and character that satisfies your want-to-be city dweller side but also gives you that small-town feel that is familiar with home. Nothing is better than sitting in a Starbucks on a crisp fall morning sipping your chia tea and watching the day go by.