Washington DC – It’s a Monumental City!
Washington DC, the Capital of the USA, the self proclaimed seat of power of the FREE world; which of course has the iconic White House as its centerpiece, is next on our tour. We rolled into town after our visit to Gettysburg.
Washington has many other imposing buildings and memorials, such as Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, National Art Gallery and even the world’s largest library! You could spend hours, even days walking around looking at the different structures, especially as it is so spread out in the central area. Washington certainly is a city of historically significant buildings.
Surprisingly it was much cheaper for accommodation and food here, than in other parts of the USA. For instance, Philadelphia while having vegan restaurants to suit our taste buds, was about 10/20% more pricey for hotels.
Hotel Madera – We stayed in this hotel on one of the leafy streets off Dupont Circle. It was our anniversary so we had pushed the boat out a bit. Unfortunately, there were a few issues that detracted from the expected experience. The hotel did apologise profusely. Firstly they gave us a bottle of wine. Then, they compensated by not charging for one night.
Points of interest
There is just so much to see. Indeed, it can be a bit overwhelming. Our time was limited, so we took in what we could. One can definitely get a bit of ‘monument fatigue’ as the sun scorched down on us. Column after column, grandiose Imperial buildings and stern edifices, constructed of thousands of tons of granite, bronze, and marble make quite a man-made statement. All protected by the secret service that isn’t so secret when they have it ironically plastered across their armoured vests!
We definitely prefer nature’s best and the opportunity to connect with the creation’s environment. Gotta love a bit of tree hugging lol.
The White House
Everyone wants to see the White House when in Washington DC, the official residence of the president of the United States. Whatever your political views of who’s actually living there, you still hope to get a glimpse. We all know what it looks like as it is a favourite of Hollywood.
However, the White House is surrounded by gates and armed police, so it’s impossible to get too close. Unless of course you have booked a tour at least 3 months in advance!
Public requests must be made through your member of Congress. If you are an international tourist you will need to contact your home country’s embassy in Washington.
Once you finalize these details, entry is free. Be aware, though, they can cancel at any time.
Built by the Irish!
The official home for the USA’s present incumbent was designed in the 1790’s by Irish architect, James Hoban. However, in 1814, the president’s house was burnt down by the British. The talented Hoban was called back to rebuild it. Another fire in 1929 destroyed the executive wing, which led to more renovations. There was a final overhaul of the White House after Harry Truman entered office in 1945.
Getting your point across to the powers in Washington
Outside the White House, as well as a melee of tourists, one will also see a smattering of protests. Some look as if they are here for the long haul with a camp of sorts.
Others, such as the Cuban Americans highlighting the plight of their country, return daily. In short, Cubans are facing huge shortages due to massive restrictions on the people.
Indeed the well known American rapper, Armando Christian Pérez, known professionally by his stage name Pitbull, spoke publicly and passionately about the protests against the communist regime in Cuba, telling the ‘world leaders’ to step up.
US Capitol (building) – concentrated power in Washington DC
The Washington meeting place for the federal legislature that consists of two separate parts – The Senate and the House of Representatives. This ‘checks and balances’ system for congress was designed to ensure that no one person or side can gain full control of the legislature. It is currently closed. Initially, just for a month or two. Continuing from this, The Capitol building has been locked to the public for over 16 months, for all but a select few. Meanwhile, government work, where a lot of ‘emergency’ powers have been used to stifle democracy, has continued mainly by proxy due to a worldwide attack on freedom.
The building, designed by William Thorton; an amateur architect who won the competition for proposals of the structure, sits on Capitol Hill at the Eastern end of the National Mall. Other architects amended the original design and have been involved when new sections were added over the years. It is certainly an ominous construction.
Library of Congress – an educated Washington
With approximately a whopping 170 million items, the Library of Congress, between 101 Independence Avenue and East State Street, is the world’s largest library. It has a rich history and is filled with books, recordings, video items, newspapers, historical documents etc. It also has a museum, showcasing exhibits inside the Thomas Jefferson Building.
The architectural design is stunning, with elaborate art and scrumptious marble flooring. It is free entry and you can even get yourself a library card for a souvenir. All was pretty quiet when we rolled up and it wasn’t open.
Built as a memorial for the 16th president, Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating piece of artwork. It sits at a massive 19 feet tall looking out over the Mall of the country he was passionate about. He faces the reflecting pool that leads to the Washington Monument, and the US Capitol beyond.
The statue is life-like, so much so you feel like he’s going to get right up from his chair. Read the quote above, ‘In this Temple. As in the hearts of the people. For whom he saved the union. The memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever’.
The shrine symbolises his belief in freedom and dignity for the people. Pity he wasn’t around now!
The Washington Monument can be seen from a lot of the city as its marble monolith structure stretches 555 feet in the air. The obelisk was built to honour the first president of the United states. Central to the Founding Fathers, Washington’s Monument is also central to The National Mall and to DC.
Dedication to the top man
One can ride the elevator to the observation deck at 500 feet. Tickets are required. Be quick, they sell out in minutes. Also, they are only available from 10am on the day before your visit, so you have to be the early bird to get the worm . As Pierre L’Enfant designed the geometric streets and spaces of the nation’s capital, he reserved this central space for a monument to George Washington. The symbolism is of an awe inspiring column that stands in the shadow of no one. Indeed, it enshrines the embodiment of respect and gratitude the people felt for his essential part played in founding the United States.
World War II Memorial
Close to the Washington Monument, on the western side, is the memorial to those that fought and died for freedom in World War II.
Upon entering, the steps are accompanied by walls inset with bronze friezes depicting scenes from battle. In the centre, a fountain and pool allows for one to reflect on the sacrifices made.
At the north and south ends, granite pavilion arches mark the Atlantic and Pacific theatres of the war with 56 columns recognising the 48 States at the time plus 8 territories.
It is a peaceful place and one can sit with feet in the cool water of the pool. You may also get a little duck joining you.
4000 stars, on the Western side, each mark the lives of 100 American people that perished in the war
Our minds, and the times we have lived in since and now, were aroused by some of the inscriptions placed at various points of the memorial.
“AMERICANS CAME TO LIBERATE, NOT TO CONQUER,
TO RESTORE FREEDOM AND TO END TYRANNY”
“THE WAR’S END
TODAY THE GUNS ARE SILENT. A GREAT TRAGEDY HAS ENDED. A GREAT
VICTORY HAS BEEN WON. THE SKIES NO LONGER RAIN DEATH – THE SEAS
BEAR ONLY COMMERCE – MEN EVERYWHERE WALK UPRIGHT IN THE
SUNLIGHT. THE ENTIRE WORLD IS QUIETLY AT PEACE.”
General Douglas MacArthur
How long did the world stay quietly at peace? It begs the question, is the notion to liberate rather than conquer still at the heart of the American government today?
Vietnam and Korean War Memorials
At the far western end of the National Mall, before the Lincoln Memorial, you will find the Vietnam and Korean War memorials. They sit in the parklands beside the reflecting pool.
Bronze sculptures along with dark mirrored inscriptions on polished granite, allow a nation to remember what is not always seen as “the good fight”. Here, the government sent more men to battle, to die, and be maimed for an unclear agenda. How has life, and the ethos of not just America but the world powers, developed since these conflicts? Is Liberty, transparency, peace, and love at the heart of government plans?
Statue of Albert Einstein
Situated at the southwest corner of the National Academy of Sciences, The giant bronze sculpture of Einstein reclines amongst a grove of trees and plants as he contemplates the manuscript in his hand.
National art gallery, Smithsonian, Museum of the American Indian etc
Along the National Mall are a number of Museums. The National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, and the Museum of the American Indian are situated on the western side between the Washington Monument and the US Capitol. The Smithsonian has several buildings that focus a lot on history; natural and human, sciences etc. The others are self explanatory. Some are free entry.
Not as creepy in the day, as they would be at night. These steep, 74 steps brought us back to the classic horror, Exorcist movie, when Father Damien Karras, threw himself down the stairs to try and purge the demon from his own body. We could hear Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, and other eerie ensembles, playing in our minds as we visited.
You will find the narrow concrete steps continuing 36th Street, descending from the corner of Prospect St and 36th St NW in the Georgetown neighborhood. Go at night, though, for a scarier experience! During the day, runners were very annoying, up and down them steps constantly. To the point, we had to ask them to take a breather for a moment while we took a picture!
Eating and drinking
Breads, pastries, deserts, breakfast, lunches and dinners with plenty of vegetarian options. A very popular place serving excellent food. We bought from the outlet at the corner of 18th and Connecticut at Dupont Circle.
Veg and Vegan Indian cuisine served in a down to earth way. Delicious flavours and well worth the visit.
Decent Pizza but a tad on the expensive side. We got in late so our meal was rushed. Still tasty enough and filled the hunger.
An Irish / UK bar with dimmed lighting, stalls and bar flies, sports memorabilia, good chat, and a relaxed atmosphere. You know how it is, its easy to have another lol.
Downtown bar showing sports and playing easy listening music on the night we were there. Nightclub upstairs with plenty of life and chat to be had with a diverse clientele.