A monumentus occasion

Trip Start Apr 18, 2011
Trip End Dec 09, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Monday, May 2, 2011

Three connecting bus rides and 15 hours later I arrive into America's capital. The home of the president, the congress, the upper courts of the judicial system and countless museums. This place is for politics and learning, it may be the smaller brother to New York but it feels equally powerful and even more important.

After discarding my Canadian coinage (approximately $1) onto a nearby counter, I am instantly reminded of one of America's biggest social issues when a homeless man pops his head round and asks whether it's mine- I decline, informing him that its Canadian currency. He momentarily pauses and then bundles the loose change into his pocket, I could have said it was Monopoly money and I think the outcome would have been the same.

I get on my fourth underground system of the journey and feel a little relieved. I know all the sites I wish to see; the government buildings, the memorials, the museums and it feels good. I think I thrive off a certain sense of routine, or at least predictability of how my day will pan out. It's one thing to tour the world, but it's a little different if you have absolutely no idea of whats going on or where you're going.

The hostel is of a similar size to my Toronto excursion which once again promotes introverted behaviour, but I do get chatting to a Polish guy called Darig (after several attempts at pronunciation he concedes that Derek will suffice). The heaven-send of a free pool table serves as a good ice-breaker where I meet another couple of Germans. Other good points include a TV room with a wide selection of VHS films and free breakfast which ensures I eat bagels and muffins for every meal of the day- the national bread consumption figures for North America have doubled since my arrival and I think I may actually be turning into a loaf.

From my adventures around the capital there are several observations which are of note- this place is clean, disgustingly clean, I don't even want to think how much it costs to keep a place looking this shiny. And obviously there is a lot of security, especially around the talismanic buildings but in places it feels like I'm unable to move without infringing some sort of law. These two points together give the city an air of exclusivity, that along with all the Roman columns and ornate statues. Washington feels like a place where important decisions are made, which is another huge discovery- like I expected to get to the political capital of the world only to discover some sort of land-locked Rhyl (sorry Jez) or a slightly older version of Crewe (shivers slightly). This is still quite a myopic view of D.C. as from my bus terminal experience I know this city has its more troubled parts but I can only pass comment on the areas I visited.

As for the touristy sites, I think I witnessed every plane ever created at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. Then along with my German tour group of Johannes and Marcel proceded to visit all memorials and points of interest on the mall e.g. Arlington cemetery, Washington monument, The White House, Capitol Hill, Library of the Congress, Supreme Courts, Lincoln Memorial, the memorial list continues (JFK, WW2, Vietnam, Korea, etc). Due to the nature of these sites there was quite a sombre tone (aside from the cheerleading flashmob which occurred outside the Lincoln memorial- see video, but I only caught the end). Naturally, where possible I had to inject a little humour while keeping it tasteful (see fountain) and without resorting to exhibitionism (see Washington monument).

One downside to this packed out day was the sunburn- the Fuengirola lobster returned momentarily, but to complain about the weather after Toronto would be ridiculously British of me.

Washington DC has been a fantastic experience but I'm not sure if I will return, there are only so many memorials one person can take- I suppose it would be nice to be able to see the White House without the use of some hill-mounted telescope, but I can't see that changing any time soon.

I have finally decided to purchase an Amtrak pass- at $579 this ensures that 2/3 of my budget is spent within my first two weeks, but hopefully this means I wont have to spend any more money on travel, and that I can definitely make it to LAX for the next stage of my journey. I'm off to Union Station and will rendez-vous with Johannes and Marcel in Atlanta tomorrow. So although it's not quite midnight, I am leaving on some sort of time-defined train to Georgia.
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