Greetings from Washington! After a pretty smooth flight we landed in DC early Saturday afternoon, and made it to our hotel in Dupont Circle – around a mile from the White House – fairly easily. Later the same day, we took a wander down to check out the White House. It is quite weird to see a building in real-life that you have seen countless times on the news, in films, etc. as it looks exactly as you know it does. We have no idea of whether Barack was at home at the time but we didn’t catch a glimpse!
The Washington Monument nearby is an impressive structure, though unfortunately it is covered in scaffolding at the mopment as they fix some damage done to it during an earthquake in 2011 so it’s not the photo op it should be. Given that the monument has no structural support and is basically brick on top of brick, a small amount of damage means it got off fairly lightly. It stands at 555ft tall and is the highest structure in Washington, which is otherwise a very low-rise city by American standards – no building can be in excess of 15-storeys tall, which offers Washington a very different skyline from the likes of Chicago and San Francisco.
Washington itself is a cool city which doesn’t “feel” like a capital. Compared to, say, London, Washington seems to be less busy, less crowded and generally less cramped. That’s not to say there aren’t crowds – certainly everywhere we’ve been there’ve been scores of people – but with a spaciousness that London (or Paris, Berlin, etc.) simply doesn’t have, it feels very different. We have explored the city by bus on one of the bus tours, which also came with a free river cruise and free entry into a couple of the attractions. Or I should say, the river cruise SHOULD have been free, but when I arrived and then realised I’d left my voucher in the hotel – whoops! – it was a costly “free” trip!
Highlights include a tour of the Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated, and the house over the road where he actually died. This seemed fitting given that we’d seen where Lincoln was born and raised during our Route 66 visits. Also amazing was the Crime and Punishment museum, documenting crimes over the years, looking at the formation of the police forces in both the UK and the US, forensic investigations a la CSI, and various other crime-related exhibits. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather, with mostly sunshine and it hitting 30 degrees or so most days. On a couple of occasions we’ve had thunderstorms and heavy rain pretty much out of nowhere, but they tend to go as quickly as they come.
Tomorrow we are off to Six Flags theme park for some rollercoaster action, and then we begin the only really unstructured part of our trip – the drive to Niagara, calling in at Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and who knows where else!
I’ll update again along the road trip.