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How D.C. United’s Julian Gressel would spend a perfect day in D.C.

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Julian Gressel could be forgiven for simply thinking of the District as the land of bureaucracy and political power players when he was traded from Atlanta to D.C. United in January 2020. After all, the Germany native — who’d moved to Florida a decade earlier before starring at Providence College — had only passed through the nation’s capital for a few road games and one weekend of sightseeing.

But after Gressel and his wife, Casey, settled into their Navy Yard apartment, they were introduced to the city’s walkable neighborhoods, diverse population and eclectic food scene. Soon enough, the 2017 MLS rookie of the year was pleased to learn D.C. was, in fact, much more than its governmental trappings.

“It was a big surprise to me, especially being from Germany and not really knowing much about different cities in the U.S. yet,” said Gressel, 28, a wing back who led United with 13 assists last season. “It was nice and fun to see that there’s not just this government-run city, like it is on Capitol Hill a bit more, but there are certain areas that really have their culture and have had their culture for such a long time and are so unique and diverse.”

The Gressels now live in Chantilly with their 1-year-old daughter, Sophie, and their dog, Freddy. But on his perfect day in the D.C. area, Gressel gets a break from the field and returns to his old stomping grounds for some strolls around the city, a lunchtime picnic and a night on the town.

We are outdoor people, so it would be a very beautiful day in the low 70s with a light breeze — probably around this time in late March or the beginning of April. I’d start by just making a coffee at home, heading into the city and going for a morning walk with my wife, our daughter and our dog up to the Capitol. We actually used to do that quite a lot during the pandemic when we wanted to be outside and not in our apartment.

Along the way, we’d stop at a nice breakfast spot, maybe Ted’s Bulletin, or find somewhere where we could sit outside — something unique and small, like a corner cafe where you can grab an egg sandwich. Then we’d go back home, since the little one still needs her sleep, and rest for a little bit. After that, we’d make some sandwiches — my go-to is chicken salad with lettuce and tomato — and go to the Spirit of Justice Park. We’d sit down on a blanket, let the dog run around and have a little lunch together.

In the afternoon, we’d drive over to Georgetown, walk down along the water, do some shopping and find a coffee shop — there are a ton of them there, but we’d maybe go to Cafe Georgetown. We’d take our coffee, sit down and enjoy the nice weather by the water. I’m a big family person, so I’d really enjoy the time with my wife and the baby as much as I could.

In the evening, we’d get a babysitter and me and my wife would go to what’s probably our favorite restaurant: Chloe in Navy Yard. The food scene in D.C. is very good, so we certainly try to head into the city for date nights as much as we can. We’d sit outside and enjoy a nice dinner, just the two of us together. It’s a tapas-style place, so we’d get a bunch of different things to share and just nibble — maybe some good salmon and chicken and some nice veggies.

Next, we’d go back down to the water and grab an outdoor table at the Salt Line. We’d then stop for some ice cream at Ice Cream Jubilee on the way home and see what looks good. How many [samples] do you get? Quite a bit? So we’d try some flavors and decide — though I’m usually pretty plain and get vanilla or chocolate or Oreo — before easing into the end of the night.