USA Capital - Washington D.C.

Trip Start Jun 13, 2006
Trip End Jun 12, 2007

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Saturday, August 5, 2006

Alex: We didn't see much but the major attractions in Washington as we are feeling a bit tired from all the travelling (I have coined the word "wanderlag" to describe it). So we went to see Capitol Hill and then wandered down the Mall to the Washington Monument, War Memorial, Reflecting Pond and Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Monument is bigger than you would expect, apparently it is the tallest masonary structure in the world, and very impressive. Also popped by the White House, but weren't invited in for tea. I usually am not keen on all the urban planning and that the streets are arranged into blocks etc.. but in Washington you can really appriciate it. It was purpose built as the Capital (on a swap, apparently to put people off entering politics!) and all the major buildings are close together on or by the Mall, so Capitol Hill is on one end, the Washington Monument in the middle and the Lincoln Memorial at the far end and the White house is just off to the North, it makes it a lot easier on the feet.
As well as all the capital type stuff, Washington also has a large selection of museums (the Smithsoneon) also just off the Mall and all free (bliss after New York!) We only got to a couple, the Air and Space Museum which had a few shuttles, and planes and the ballon "basket" that the guys who beat Richard Branson around the world in a hot air ballon used. They also had the plane the Wright brothers built there. All very interesting but very busy (someone with a buggy was stood wherever you wanted to be) although the air con was welcome. The other Smithsoneon we went to was the Museum of American History and was far more interesting. At first I wasn't really bothered as I thought it would be all Native Americans and early presidents and we had kind of done those to death in Alaska/Yukon and Philly, what I didn't realise, until someone at the hostel told me (Dean conviniently forgot to let me know), was they have a big pop culture section including THE Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz. We wizzed through the rest of the museum stopping at one or two vaguly interesting exhbits like Dresses of the First Ladys and Whatever happened to Polio (I prefer free museums, I don't feel like I have to read every single board to get my moneys worth) and then just gave in and went to the pop culture section. Dean was very happy as they also had some of the original Muppets (you know what a big kid he is) and seeing the Ruby slippers just about made my life. Apparently there were lots of pairs for different purposes. The pair we saw were for dancing and had felt soles so they didn't make a noise on the Yellow Brick Road. I was suprised because they were bigger than I expected (size 6 probably, I'd have been able to sqeeze my feet in given the opportunity) and I also thought they would be glittery but they were just covered in sequins. Anyway the rest of the museum just pales in comparison so we just went after that.

The other thing that the Smithsoneon runs is the Zoo with the famous giant pandas and, luckily, it was very close to our hostel so we made a trip there too. The pandas were very cute, they have a cub that is about a year old. We also saw a sloth bear and its cub, again very cute, the cub climbed a tree and then couldn't get down which amused us for a good 5 minutes. Unfortunately it was a very hot day and the animals, being sensible, weren't wandering around the zoo but sitting quietly in the shade, sensible but boring to watch (the most the hippo could manage was to lift its head an inch out of the water to breath, and even that looked like an effort). No penguins, Haddy, so I couldn't steal one for you - that said I don't think it would have been very happy on Greyhound and US mail aren't the gentlest with packages so it was probably for the best.

Overnight greyhound to Chicago next - oh the joy. The plan is to chill out there (and maybe check-in to a proper hotel for a night or two) and get over the wanderlag
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