Ninja in the Whitehouse

Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
Trip End Sep 21, 2012

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Saturday, September 8, 2012

This morning we woke up STUPIDLY early, somewhere in Pennsylvania, and dossed around in our cabin until breakfast time, where we ate around the towns of Garrett and Meyersdale. My predictions of yesterday - that we wouldn't be able to sleep well on the train - sadly came true. 

Whilst still on the train, we passed over the Mason-Dixon line, which denotes the Maryland and Pennsylvania boundary, and was surveyed between 1763 and 1768 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon (a Geordie!), who were English Astronomers. It was made famous as the dividing line between the free Northern States and the slave-trade supporting Southern states prior to the American Civil War. Laura is incredibly interested in American history and insisted on telling me this, and playing the song 'Sailing to Philadelphia' by Mark Knopfler - over and over again - as we travelled onward. We also passed over the Appalachian Trail, which is more up my alley... the Appalachian Trail is a continuous marked hiking trail that extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, which is around 2200 miles! Before we came out, I read 'A Walk in the Woods' by Bill Bryson, which is about his (aborted) attempt to hike the whole trail in one season, and found it absolutely fascinating. I'd love to give it a go at some point in the future - when I'm much fitter than now and have a spare six months, that is!

We napped and read in our cabin until we finally crossed the Potomac River and pulled into Washington DC at around 12:30pm. We had planned to use the Metro system to get to our hostel, but the trains were all off for some reason, so instead we jumped on a replacement shuttle bus over to the 'Metro Centre' station - sadly not the same as our Metro Centre, haha - accidently bashing into some well dressed businessmen in the process. Whoops. Once at our stop, we decided to just suck it in and walk the remaining three blocks to the hostel on New York Avenue.

The hostel was one of the YHA ones, and was OK, but nothing too special compared to some of the lovely independents we've stayed at. We'd had a job, actually, trying to get anywhere in DC within our price range; this was one of the only hostels that they have, and some of the cheaper hotels had had awful reviews, so we were actually quite lucky to get in

We chucked our bags in the room, sorted ourselves out and then decided to go straight out into the city. We'd seen from the complementary maps provided that we weren't far from the White House; indeed we ended up only walking for 10 minutes before we found ourselves at the most famous house in America, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. 

There were tonnes of people milling around, as we were expecting, and even more armed security guards. The White House itself looked smaller than we were anticipating, and really set back from the street (for the Obama's privacy, obvs) but we did the usual touristy posing for photos, as you do. I also saw a ninja squirrel in the White House garden, and best of all, managed to snap a photo of it to send to our trek mates who had laughed at me when I'd said they had existed. After we'd seen enough and we were walking down the street, we passed some crazy preacher dude who was waxing lyrical about the impending apocalypse; I must have looked a bit alarmed, as the armed Marine that we walked passed smiled at me and said 'so many crazies here'. I was quite shocked - he seemed canny rather than scary and I didn't think they'd smile and chat to tourists. 

After the White House, we walked past the Department of the Treasury and through Lafayette Park to the Old Executive Building. We then headed to the White House visitor centre, so I could get some National Park stamps (geek and proud!) and get some info on what to see in the city. When we'd sorted ourselves out there, we went back out into Lafayette Park and were deciding what to do next, when the heavens opened. Honestly, it was unreal and just came out of nowhere; huge, heavy drops of water that came down so hard that they stung! A stampede of people was flowing into an open door, so we acted the sheep and followed them. We ended up in a huge souvenir shop, which was actually useful as we ended up spending an hour in there waiting for the rain to stop and there was plenty to see! We also unfortunately ended up buying a few crappy souvenirs, although that was mainly because the shop owners had a fakey oval office set up in the back of the shop and if you spent a certain amount, you could have your photo taken in it. Holla! :) 

After the rain subsided, we decided to head back out across the city to the hostel. The rain looked like it was going to start up again, and we were so tired from the lack of sleep on the train that the promise of an early night was quite appealing. We grabbed some noodles (again! such a healthy, balanced diet now we're not on the trek) for dinner and settled down for the evening. 

Tomorrow we're doing all the main DC sites, and will be learning some history on the way, so we've a busy day ahead of us!

Deej x 


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