Washington Day One

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Thursday, September 20, 2012

Howdy folks,

We got up early at 6:30am because we were planning on beating the rush hour into Washington DC, but we weren't organized enough so we ended up spending a few hours planning out the day properly. Checking out at 9am, we drove to the nearest Metro station located on the Ring Road that circles around the capital and caught the 9:30am train into DC. The train was smooth and well run; it only took us 30 minutes to get into downtown even if the ticketing system took some time to understand. Jumping off at L’Enfant Plaza, we walked north to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Being the nation’s capital, Washington has so many museums and monuments which are free to access which is fantastic and there has to be a dozen Smithsonian art galleries and museums.

I had wanted to go to the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC for a very long time for one simple reason:  THE Wright Brothers airplane. The museum holds the original flying machine that created an industry and changed the world, but there was much more to the museum than just that. The lobby contained such treasures as the Spirit of St Louis, the Apollo 11 module and the capsule used by John Glenn as the first American in Space. It was mind blowing to stand so close to history and the biggest thing that struck me was how small the space capsules were! I could easily walk around this tiny box which held 3 men for almost a week! You wouldn’t want to be claustrophobic.

Going through the various galleries they had a whole section on the Wright Brothers and early flight, air mail, aircraft used at sea and war, aircraft used for observation and photography as well as plenty of space exhibits including a replica of the moon landing, astronomy and a giant video screen of the last ever shuttle launch. That was interesting just in itself to see the power of the rockets lift the shuttle higher and higher. I was in aviation heaven.

It was time to leave for lunch and Steffie had a Skype date with her family, but it fell through so we just sat in Starbucks for a while planning our next move. With so much to do, it can be hard to pick one! Across the road from the Air and Space Museum was the Hirshhorn Museum which was dedicated to sculpture and contemporary art. It was in a round elevated building which looked great and in the round plaza were sculptures of the Chinese zodiac around a pool. Inside the museum wasn’t so great however as half of it was closed for renovation and contemporary art isn’t my forte. Down in the basement was a room covered in words and a few 'dark’ exhibits like a projected tiger growling in a pitch black room and all you can see are his eyes and teeth. Very freaky!

There were quite a few art galleries next door so we walked along and had a look at the Arthur M Sackler Asian artisan gallery, but it wasn’t so great and we walked out through the Freer Gallery. The Smithsonian ‘castle’ had information on all the different museums, but it was getting late in the day so we just took a quick look inside the Natural History museum which had a giant African elephant in the rotunda and the Hope Diamond, the largest blue diamond in the world at a whopping 45.52 carats.

It was time to get moving, so we jumped back onto the Metro and caught it back to our car. It was much cheaper to park at the Metro than drive in and we only paid $4.50 before heading out onto the Ring Road where we hit peak hour traffic. It wasn’t standstill, but for a good 40 miles we were travelling at low speed and it took us 2 hours to exit to Route 66 then onto Highway 50 and out to South Riding, Chantilly, Virginia. It was double the recommended travel time and we were just glad to get out of the car and meet my long lost cousin Joel and his wife Holly. Joel was teaching piano lessons at the time so we went upstairs and had a chat with Holly and met their shy son Finn who soon warmed up to us.

After Joel was finished teaching, he came up and we had yummy enchiladas for dinner before crashing into bed exhausted after a long day. It was great to spend a few hours catching up and seeing how good the memory banks were!
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