Sixteen lanes, eight each way! Speed, nothing under 70 mph (120 km/hr).
Welcome to big city freeway driving. Scary as it sounds the Interstate (s) into Washington were manageable. Bring on LA!
For this time of the year, 8C to 10C and sunny in Washington is a GREAT DAY.
Arlington National Cemetery was moving. We saw the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – always a sobering experience. Then we moved to the JFK memorial – very sad with the slabs of Jack, Jackie and their two unborn/stillborn children, but not John? At the entrance has Bobby’s grave – a simple cross with his name, birth and death dates.
On arrival, we left the car at our inner city motel, located in a fairly dodgy area, and walked to Capitol Hill. The scale of the public monuments and buildings in Washington is staggering. As we write, we can see the Capitol from our motel window (it’s not that dodgy a motel!!!). We did the full Capitol building tour this afternoon (it’s free!). The building is inspiring and after visiting Arlington National Cemetery this morning, we were truly prepared for the full dose of democratic principles that the Capitol conveys.
You do have to love ‘em. The Americans that is. They do so love their country and all it stands for. As for the rest of us, they are very welcoming and most willing to help us understand where they are leading the world. All that is missing for us is an understanding by them of what the other 6.5 billion people on the planet want out of life. This is not meant as a disrespectful statement. This is a great nation with great people. But as we become more exposed to the national ethos it is difficult not to be concerned that from a non-US, ‘first world‘ perspective, that so much cultural influence and power has become concentrated in the hands of one people….
Monuments, monuments and still more monuments. Washington is simply ‘monumental’. Seriously, this is a beautiful city. Lacking the old world attraction of Paris, Berlin, Rome and London, Washington has been constructed during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a modern ‘classical’ city. The scale of the public buildings and the open layout of this city are more than equal to the above-mentioned old world cities.
Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson share the sacred ground of the National Mall with monuments to the veterans of the Korean war, Vietnam and ‘coming soon’ the monument to WWII veterans. The Mall and its monuments are on such a grand scale that walking distances are very difficult to estimate. From a kilometer away, the Washington Monument looks as though it’s only a block off – Not so! However, the walk was worth it – the view from the top on this beautiful, clear day (max 37F) was spectacular.
The National Museum of American History kept us occupied for the remainder of the day. A very well organised display of America’s history, incorporating such things as the story of five families who lived in a 200 year old house, Judy Garland’s ruby shoes from The Wizard of Oz, a phaser gun from Star Trek, Indiana Jones’ jacket and hat, the story of African Americans ‘From Field to Factory’. We spent three hours wandering happily, through the museum until the thought of back-street Washington after dark drove us homeward bound.
We had been warned by the security guard at the Martin Luther King Jr Library that the area wasn’t safe. Then there was the number of homeless dragging bundles of gear (sometimes in Samsonite luggage) camped on the streets, and the hotel manager’s suggestion that after dark we should be careful. All this had us scooting home by 5pm. We may be super-cautious, but…??
Our hotel view of the Capitol is still on show … it gets the morning sun and the sunset glow… just gorgeous!!
Museums in Washington are free. Consequently, we spent most of the past couple of days ‘doing the rounds’. Spacecraft, Dorothy’s shoes and Mr Spock’s Phaser rate a special mention. Amongst the hundreds of thousands of priceless items gracing the halls of the various Smithsonian Institution museums, it’s interesting how the artefacts of popular culture like the shoes and the phaser standout. We could have spent another two days hard at it and still only take in a small portion of the exhibits.
Our motel, as we said previously, is just on the edge of Capitol Hill. During the day the neighborhood is quiet and safe. Nights are a slightly different matter. Scratch the surface of this city and there are some nasty ‘scars’ underneath.
Writing this, we are on board AMTRAK ‘Train 89’ from New York to Miami FA. We of course, picked up the train in Washington and are heading for Charleston SC. Right now, we are pulling into Richmond VA. It’s a fairly glum day which probably does very little for the jumble of back yards, parking lots that have slipped past the window for the past couple of hours. This is a nine hour trip and we arrive at 9:40pm tonight. Only seven hours more of noisy kids and rambling old (ie 50+) African American men, who sound like too many bad movies we’ve seen….. (“Mmm Hhhhh Yeah! Right on Brother. I hear what you say!”) Don’t get us wrong. Long Distance train travel is new to us and to this point it’s not too bad. Leg room is twice the airline norm. You have scenery. And on US trains, built in entertainment by way of our fellow travellers.