Archive for the ‘Washington 2015’ Category

So today was the first full day of my Washington trip. It started early – I woke at 02:30, which was of course 7:30 UK time. Reminding myself firmly that I wasn’t in the UK I turned over and went back to sleep, but by 6 o’clock I was definitely awake so I got up. This did at least mean that I was able to breakfast early and was out of the B&B where I’m staying at about 8:30.

My target today was the National Mall, and the plan was simply to walk up its length from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol, with diversions as they occurred to me. I started by getting the Metro to Foggy Bottom (love that name) and walked from there south to the western end of the Mall, where the Lincoln Memorial is. I visited that and spent some time there. It’s impossible to not be impressed by the architecture and the huge sculpture inside it, but I was taken by the two speeches that are written out on the inside walls of the Memorial. One is the Gettysburg Address, with which I was already familiar (the ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ speech). However, I didn’t know the other one, his 2nd Inaugural address. It contains some phrases that struck me as being as among the most eloquent I’ve read.

Then I carried on walking up the Mall. I visited the Vietnam Memorial, and then walked on to the Washington Memorial. Next stop was the National History of American History, and here I especially enjoyed a display about a single house in Massachussetts, built in 1760 and occupied until 1963. The display, which includes the house itself – it was removed to the museum in 1963 – discussed all the owners and occupants of the house over those 200 years and the lives they lived there.

After lunch at the museum I walked on towards the Capitol. I was distracted, however, when I saw a stream of cyclists appearing, with a police escort. There were hundreds – thousands – of them. I learned that this was the culmination of 2015’s Police Unity Tour. It must have taken a good half hour for all of the cyclists (and motorcyclists) to pass where I was standing.

After that I just walked some more and at about half past three headed back to the B&B. It was very hot today – 90° – and also humid, so by late afternoon I was glad to go back to some good air conditioning.

Practicalities: I bought a SmarTrip card from the B&B For $10; this was $2 for the card itself send $8 credit on it. I also asked and was shown how to check my credit level and how to add more credit to the card. I made several Metro trips today and they all worked well.


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Here I am at the start of my trip to Washington DC and Virginia. I’m spending four nights in DC, followed by six nights on a road trip around Virginia – two nights in Front Royal, two in Staunton, and two in Richmond. Along the way I hope to do the following, at least: visit the U.S. Capitol building; visit various of the museums along The Mall; visit the Manassas Civil War battlefield site; do the Skyline Drive, along the Apallachians; and visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

But all that will happen in the days to come. At the moment I’m still resting at the end of my journey from the UK, which was long and tiring. Up at 5:30, at Manchester Airport for a flight at 11am, eight hours in the air, two hours getting through US Immigration and Customs, and a final hour getting from Dulles airport to my hotel. From getting in the car to walking into my hotel room in DC took about fifteen and a half hours.

Here’s my first tip: the SuperShuttle shared bus ride from Dulles right to my hotel worked well. I had planned to use the bus to the metro station and then take the metro to the nearest stop, but although this would have been the cheapest option it would have been hard work. I’d have had to work out how to use the metro, and then make a change of metro trains at a main station in central Washington – all with my bags. The $34 I spent on the SuperShuttle was money well spent, and was about half the price of a cab. I don’t think I’d grasped how far Dulles airport is from central Washington.


Update: just had a bit of a shock with a restaurant bill. The meal was $43 which was already a bit steep, for a bruschetta ($10), a pasta dish ($23) and a glass of wine ($10). On top of that was the 10% restaurant sales tax, and on top of that was the (expected) tip – ’15 to 20%’ says all the advice.  In the case of this evening’s meal the total was $55 or £36. The lesson is that I need to inflate prices on restaurant menus by at least 25% to get the amount that I’ll actually be paying.  Ouch.

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