Saturday, 8 October 2016

The stars and stripes forever..

The foot of the Monument
I can hardly believe it's almost two months to the day since I was in Washington D.C. On one hand it seems like no time at all since we arrived in a grey and miserable looking capital city, pulled into the Greyhound terminal and wondered "what next?". 

Washington Monument

To be honest, Washington was the part of the trip I was the most worried about, because we arrived at lunchtime on day one, had a hotel stay for one night and then nowhere booked to stay the following night because we were getting at 2am Greyhound onto the next stop. Although we obviously had things like the hotel and travel booked, we were a little uncertain what we'd do for the entire day, until the early hours and I was further dismayed when I read in the tour books that the area around Grand Central Station was not the best. When a guidebook warns you not to walk somewhere at night, it doesn't fill you with confidence that there'll be somewhere safe to stay until 2am.

Franklin D Roosevelt memorial
Luckily, we got chatting to some of the drivers of the sightseeing bus we caught from the station and they had a fairly decent idea; we could get an evening bus tour, which would take three hours and stop at all of the monuments, where we'd be able to take photos etc and hear more about them from the guides up close. This seemed like a good idea, so we bought our tickets for that. When we got to the hotel and checked in, they were happy to look after our luggage for us until the following evening, even though we would check out in the morning, so that was great as well. Suddenly, we felt a lot happier. The girls decided that they'd like a night in their nice hotel rooms (we stayed here, which was a huge step up from the hostel in New York), so we saved some precious budget money there by heading to the supermarket to get them salads, juice and yogurts for dinner, rather than heading for a meal out. 

The Capitol  Building
After a really decent night's sleep, I was up before 6am to go for a run and discovered that Washington felt a lot less safe to me than New York had. I ran through the streets in a loop from the hotel, because I needed to stop at the local subway station to buy our day passes, and as I was going past one of the entrances to a park area in one of the squares, was stopped by a lady who was being particularly threatening. I think that was the only time on the trip that I felt concerned about safety, but I managed to get away from her without too much difficulty and was just conscious that we'd take a different route to the subway that evening, as it would be pretty late by then. 

Sculpture Garden at the NGA
View from the Monument (west side)
In contrast to the overcast day before, we had 32C sunshine all day - the sun was already hot by 9am when we got to the Capitol Building. Everything seemed to be covered in scaffolding in Washington - apparently getting things ready for the next President's inauguration. The building itself was way more impressive that the White House, in my opinion, and a lot nicer inside than our Houses of Parliament.

The rest of the day was spent sightseeing, visiting some of the Smithsonian museums, Ford's Theatre, eating our lunch in the sculpture garden at the National Gallery of Art, and visiting the Washington Monument, where we could see in each direction over the city. There's such a stark contrast between the "parliamentary" areas of the city, where there were visible guards around all of the buildings and parks, and some of the other parts of the city and it's so weird how much safer some of the security measures make you feel. At one point, Grand Central station was evacuated for a bomb scare, but it was all deemed clear within about twenty minutes. 

Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool
Of all of the places we stayed, Washington is probably the one I'd be least likely to visit again; mainly because I think we saw everything it had to offer. I mean, there are of course lots of museums we didn't get chance to visit - you can't see *everything* in just one day - but I ticked off all of the things I was really interested in seeing, I guess. 

Korean War Memorial


  1. That scaffolding seems to have been up forever! It's funny how your perception of feeling safe can change between places...I know I always felt safer living in London than I did in a small Scottish town especially wandering around at night (I think it's just because London was busier and it's when there's supposedly nobody about that it feels a little scary). Freaky woman at that time of the day though, is a bit unnerving for you.

    1. Yeah, it was weird because it was so early in the day. And to be honest, I actually got home and felt less safe with people approaching me on the way home from my tiny little town, after NYC.