The most powerful capital on Earth? Quite possibly. I’d wager that it has the largest number of square metres devoted to monuments, at least. It’s a treat!
After spending a week in San Francisco, switching from conference to chilling (another post from that part might still come), we had scheduled a couple of days in DC. Yay us.
What’s a visit to the States without a visit to MacDonalds? Yay for Angus Burger! This was pretty decent; however, if you want a proper fastfood chain-store burger, you should go to Johnny Rocket instead and get the cheddar and bacon burger. Mmmmmmmmm.
Since “a couple” translates exactly to “two”, we didn’t have much time. You can easily spend a week in DC. At least if you enjoy buildings, museums and monuments. We prioritized the most important of these, meaning we spent a lot of time around the Washington Monument and on The Mall.
Capitol - the most fancy pile of stone in DC. Despite radiating power, its West Front faces a very down to earth park which was nice to stroll around in.
That’s the handy thing about DC - it is really not very large, having a population of just 600.000 people (which swells quite a bit when people commute into town to work), it’s easy to navigate on foot (most east/west streets have a letter, whereas north/south streets have a number) and a ton of attractions are within a few kilometres of each other in the area around the Washington Monument.
The museums we visited were The American History Museum and the National Air and Space Museum. The former has a special viewing gallery where you can see the huge US flag which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the US national anthem. Your reaction might be “well, so what, it’s just a flag” - well, it’s about 10 x 10 metres large, almost 200 years old, was flown during a pivotal battle of the US-British war of 1812 and was then seen by Key, who was held on a British warship. It’s pretty darn epic (as some here might say).
When visiting the Flag Gallery and the Lincoln Memorial, in particular, I felt the same sense of sanctity that I’ve felt in impressive churces (like St. Peter’s Cathedral) earlier. It seems to me that a lot of the “holiness” reserved for religion in other places is infused in the symbols of freedom, democracy and justice in the US. I like it. I won’t include my photo of the Lincoln Monument, because that visit was a touching experience for me. Who knows, it might be for you too, and I’d hate to spoil it. “Four score and seven years ago...” Sweet and short, indeed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Address for those who need to brush up on their American history.)
At the American History Museum, you can be president and read speeces from a teleprompter. I fell naturally into the role (but wished I’d worn something more formal than my Counting Sheep t-shirt. By the way, Americans in general react very favourably to Threadless t-shirts).
Air and Space Museum. The X-15 has the world speed record - 6.7 times the speed of sound. I knew all about this when I was 13, so seeing the actual plane was... awesome.
The FDR memorial is different - this is the biggest individual piece. There are lots of other statues and plenty of waterfalls; it’s really more of a big park. And very nice.
We hung out on the bridge at the southern end of Tidal Basin for a while, watching planes on final approach to Reagan Airport. A new airplane every minute. I have a suppressed planespotter in me.
Lots to see, lots to do - I’m really glad we included DC on the itinerary.