Monday, 19 May 2014

Washington DC for just a few days? How to see (almost)everything! Episode 1


We're off!  We promised ourselves a great holiday for our Ruby (40 years) Wedding Anniversary last October, so we planned a road trip in the US.  Our first stop was a three night stay-over with a friend (Hazel and her family) who lives in The Potomac area of Maryland, part of Washington DC's huge suburban area, encompassing whole towns.  From not far from their home we picked up the Metro, the commuter train which, like London's Tube, starts in outlying areas overground, and then goes underground as it approaches the city.  This terminates at Union Station, opened in 1907 - a beauty of a train station, the foyer currently receiving some tender loving care following a 5.8 Richter scale earthquake in the Washington area in 2011.

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New Gold leaf after repair works.    

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Painted plasterwork



                                                                                                                                                                    How to see the Capital of the USA in only two days?  Well, you can walk about a lot, as the major stuff is very central, or, like us you can take one of the Hop On Hop Off trolley bus tours - which can't be beat for learning a lot about the city in a very short time.  Every driver knows loads of facts (and a few fictions) about his city.  He can give you so much info sometimes it goes into overload, and I never heard a question from a passenger that could not be answered!  This trolley bus arrangement does three separate loops.  One is the central area which includes Capital Hill, The Washington Monument, every other monument (and believe me, there are a great many) and other interesting points which the driver will tell you all about.

                  
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Two familiar sights, and two unfamiliar I think.... This is referred to as "The Restraint of Commerce", one of two matching sculptures outside the Federal Trade Commission, and one door in that building.
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                                                                                                        The changeover point for another loop is just a few yards from Ford's Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  The next loop will take you up to that part of town you can't afford!  A bit like Bishop's Avenue in London, but in better taste - and then on down to Georgetown, the original settlement here, down by the river.  So unlike anywhere else in the US I believe - a few streets of very narrow terraced and detached houses separated only by inches; narrow because there was a tax on the width of houses in Georgetown (no wonder Americans don't like taxes - it started so long ago!) and the narrowest is only 9ft wide.  Lots of lovely independent shops and restaurants on the main street, and no Metro connection, because the Georgetown residents are such wonderful snobs, and voted not to have it "out here"! You'll catch a glimpse of the White House on this loop too.  The last loop will take you (amongst other places) to Arlington Cemetery, where Jack Kennedy's eternal flame burns.

The Smithsonian Museum is a blanket term for several museums all grouped in the same area - North American Indian; Art; Natural History; etc etc..... just look it up.  And, at last, a new building to be opened shortly is the African American Museum.  What took them so long?  Our second day we went back again and walked about as much as much as we could.  Some fabulous statuary  -  our favourite,  "Restraining Commerce", is shown above.

For Mr Mac, his crowning moment was when he came across the FBI vehicle parked right outside  FBI's field office (the FBI's HQ offices can be seen from the bus and also on foot, but tours inside were closed some years ago).  He was so excited to see this - and it is huge because of course it arrives at a scene of crime full of equipment, officers and a laboratory.  And computers, of course.  

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We also found the Police Memorial Park, a new park dedicated to every US police officer who has died in the line of duty.  It is the American way, to commemorate and never forget anyone who has died in the line of duty, so soldier sailor, airman, policeman, whatever, there will be a memorial somewhere for them, with every name displayed.

PS - Washington  was designed by a Frenchman - Pierre L'Enfant - along European lines, and it does have a rather European feel about the old streets which are wide and have all the important offices of state housed in their own buildings including The Mint where dollar bills are printed.

Recommendations

The Roti Mediterranean Grill in Union Station where you can choose from many different fillings in a roti bread (like a wrap only smaller and lighter and nicer), or on a plate - vegetarian or meat.  Delicious, and cheap. Try to choose before you get to the counter, especially on weekdays!

Hop On Hop Off Trolley Bus Tours (Book in advance with Viatours on the internet for a good deal).

Walking with a camera and using your eyes to see interesting things