Washington DC felt like a big contrast for us after New York City. We had expected high rises, swaths of civil servants and important looking men in suits to dominate the city scene. Instead we discovered a pristine and well manicured city which felt more like a small and friendly town. Although the main city centre does have many large majestic buildings, the streets are paved and flowers hang in baskets, on first impressions it just didn’t feel like the most influential city in the world.
DC is a museum-enthusiasts dream come true! The Smithsonian Institution Museums, founded by Englishman James Smithson in 1826, are a collection of free museums in the centre of DC. All of these are just magnificent but due to their high maintenance costs, are struggling to stay afloat. After visiting several of the museums and seeing how exceptional they really are, we would be happy to pay an admission fee to ensure that they continue in the future.
We chose a range to visit as there are only so many museums you can do in two days! Our first was the National Museum of Natural History, this included (amongst other things) a sweet collection of stuffed mammals from around the world, a huge exhibition on evolution, an insect display complete with live tarantula, and the 45 carat Hope Diamond.
The following day we visited the National Air and Space Museum, the most popular of the Smithsonians’, here we blitzed through to see the main attractions of the Wrights Brothers ‘ flyer and a walk through a real space station. This place was packed with families everywhere including one rather well managed family unit-where the mothers had walkie talkies (strapped to their belts) so as to radio in the troops when necessary. Only in America!
We also checked out the National Museum of the American Indian as I needed to get my indigenous fix. We both found it really interesting and learnt a lot about a culture we had not heard much of previously. Lastly we made a trip to the National Archives to view the three key documents of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Though they are all incredibly faded and difficult to read (and of course under armed guard), it was pretty amazing to see these up close and to realise how impressive the American experiment was for its time.
The remainder of our time in DC was spent wandering from marble buildings and monuments, across large green expanses and admiring the view of this pretty and well designed city. Capitol, where Congress does its thing, sits majestically a top of Capitol Hill and across from the impressive Supreme Court and Library of Congress.
From here we walked down the National Mall, the two-mile-long lawn, to the Washington Monument in the centre and the Lincoln Memorial at the end. This is the place where Forest Gump gave his speech (and was reunited with Jenny) and of course where President Obama gave his inauguration speech. Again without realising it we were well familiar with this famous sight from the movies!
Next stop was the White House. We peered through the front fence at this mighty home, looking exactly how we had expected it too, complete with Michelle Obama’s vegie garden.
Cam was able to fulfil all childhood (and current) fantasies with a close up view of the FBI building. He was going to drop in for a chat but had left his black suit at home. Instead he headed to Starbucks for a tall skinny caramel frappuccino, no cream.
Our visit to DC was nice. The pace was slow and the learning experience was rich . The people were friendly and very proud of where they live - surely enhanced by the cool factor of Obama’s appointment in 2008.
Moving on again we board another bus and trek northwards to Boston, via New York. Our route is slightly backwards but well worth it to get to see the most powerful city in the world up close.