You can see a lot in one day!

Trip Start Sep 08, 2009
Trip End Jun 07, 2010

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Where I stayed
Taylor Residence

Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Thursday, May 27, 2010

I landed in the confusing Dulles airport (huge) and eventually made it out, where Arthur (my mum's cousin this time), Jonathon (9) and Alina (6) picked me up. I had stayed with them 5 years ago but of course the kids had changed a lot in that time! It was great to see them and their mum Michelle again after so long. 

Thursday was a long day. Since Arthur and Michelle live in Manassas, about an hour out of the town centre, I thought I'd try and cover most of Washington DC in a day. Which of course, turned out to be a very long day, especially as it got up to 34C! 

I got in at 9am and headed straight for the Library of Congress. On my way down, I passed the huge and iconic Capitol building, and the Supreme Court. It's interesting how all the architecture is in such a Classical style, when it was only built 200 years ago. All columns and statues and white walls and domes. The Library of Congress was no different, with the interior even more decadent that the outside. Marble floors reflect the intricately painted murals that adorn the walls and ceiling, and a central courtyard stands under the huge dome. There were several interesting exhibits with the history of America, Thomas Jefferson's library (or what's left of it), and some very old books that survived the fire of 1814 when the British decided to set fire to Washington DC's expansive library. By far the most impressive, however, was the grand reading room. As soon as you enter, you're hit with that magical musty smell of books, and you can peer down on the rows and rows of books, and the scholars sitting at their desks.

I wasn't planning on touring the Capitol, but since I was passing, thought I'd line up and have a nosey anyway. Not if security had anything to do with it. I was expecting metal dectectors and X-Ray machines, but there was also a rule of No Food or Drink. I was told the only way I could enter the building is if I threw my metal water bottle away. Do they not realise it's 10am and already 28C?! I moved on. 

Rounding the side of the Capitol, I walked through the grounds to get a great view looking back and a great view looking down the mall of the Washington Monument. I didn't get to go up the Monument as the tickets sell out a month in advance (and tours of the White House, 6 months) but I had a pleasant walk down the mall. It was stifling hot already, so I tried to get as much seen before midday and then spend the afternoon in the heavily air-conditioned museums. As a result, I didn't walk the whole way down to the Lincoln Memorial, but just kept going straight to the White House. Incidentally, have you ever thought how uninspired that name is? It's a house, and it's white. Wow.

Well to start with, I had trouble finding it! I didn't manage to find the South facade at all, not sure if I just missed it or if it's covered with other buildings, but I did find what looked like the front entrance, which was similar to Buckingham Palace in that it had thick metal bars across the front and a ton of tourists. Still, it was fun peering through the railings, and the flag was flying so Mr.Obama was probably inside eating his lunch.

My lunch was frozen yoghurt- pick your own, make your own sundae and then weigh at the end. Dangerous but I managed to keep it under $4! Since I couldn't go up the Washington Monument, Arthur suggested the Old Post Office tower, which was free and had just as good views (I imagine). Although the view was a little hazy, you could still see for miles. Next stop was Ford's theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. I had no idea it would be so busy- the whole city is crawling with huge school groups (generally wearing horrific neon T-Shirts) and there was a timed-entry system for the museum and tour. However, I just so happened to talk to someone who had a spare ticket, so I got to go straight in! 

It was a fascinating museum, and probably one of the highlights of my day. The Smithsonian museums are so overwhelming with their enormity. This could be done in 45 minutes- just. The tour gives you 45 mins in the museum, then takes you into the theatre for a 30 minute talk with a park ranger (! Apparently it's their job to protect and preserve all sites of national importance, not just parks...) After half an hour, I had the place to myself- everyone else had gone ahead to get their seats, but I still had so much left to see! My knowledge of American History is appalling, so it really was a history lesson in the making. That's the best way to learn, anyway, at the site in question :)

By this stage of the day, I was quite tired, and didn't have the energy to pour over every exhibit in the Smithsonian (which would have taken weeks anyway) so I just saw the main attractions- the original Star-Spangled Banner, Julia Child's kitchen, the Wright's brother's first plane etc etc. By now, my day was drawing to a close, so I hiked back to Union Station for dinner and the train ride home. 
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