. what are you gonna do aside from sleep.
Once in Washington, we managed find the bus quite easily due to all the streets again being named in a letter system making it very easy for a tourist, but not as if as if the people mind giving you directions anyway as we experienced in the bus once we caught it. Getting on the bus to our hostel was quite surreal as it must have been the first time in my life that i had been the only white guy in the public transport. To be honest it was not something that i had contemplated in Washington, i mean obviously from a multiracial country and i know that the states is the same but it was just not the image that i had in mind of how Washington would be as we headed down in to the hugely dominated African American part of town. Wearing all the packs and franticly looking at maps always gets attention, especially when you arrive anywhere fresh of the boat and then you are trying to pay for a bus searching in your pockets trying to get the right change while balancing yourself with the weight of the packs, holding the maps and trying not to look too lost and then vulnerable. So inevitably we were asked if we needed any help by the lady at Elenaīs side, we told her we were heading down to no 301 on the same street which was near to some kind of fried chicke chain. She knew where it was and told us that she would inform us when we arrived... this was shortly followed by another woman in the from the back asking us if "yall know where you goin?" i told her we where heading to be polite but this seemed to only invoke a "oh no you didnt" moment between the two women, as if the first women had already taken the novelty tourists under her wing and there was no need for any more input, very bizarre and funny. So after a few comedy "u huhs" and "girl you trippin" in the almost identical accent that Eddie Murphy takes on when ever giving a girl diss we pulled up outside at the pop in a box chicken restaurant and found our new home a few doors down
. The hostel was not too bad, a 20 min bus ride from the centre and like the hostel that we stayed at in Montreal, more of a house than a hostel as seems to be the trend over in the states, but with it being in low season we again just about had the place to ourselves, so that night we did nothing more than go to the local Safeway (get that, seems as though they have found better shores), eat dinner and try and sleep of the drain that New York had taken on us.
I always seem to wake up early when i first get to a new place and it was constant in Washington, opps D.C., so after getting an early breakfast and noticing that the owner of the hostel did not seem to have his own bedroom and just slept on the sofa we got the bus back into to centre to soak up a bit of the capital of America. Soak up being the operative word here as the overcast sky soon turned to drizzle and then rain, so we just really got a chance to jump on another of those handy routes that always come in the hostel maps and see the capitol building, along with the Washington monument before we had to subside and dive in to one of the free museums that are located along the green that joins everything together, The museum of art was the first stop, an impressive collection lots of impressionist and contemporary to ponder over (with people taking more photos than looking, especially at the Da Vinci that they had where people would line up just get a photo with it and then leave??), as always far too many renaissance, i could quite happily not see another fat cherub or crucifix scene in my life and not lose too much sleep, well aside from El Greco as its just too dark not to like
. Also there was a great exhibit on in the lower level entitled something like American life which was a collection of photographs of people in everyday life taken without them being aware, very cool stuff, i would love to do something like that and have often tried but i always seem to get caught in the act and just feel stupid, there was actually a photo of just that, or someone rumbling the photographers game that made me laugh. From there on to the Natural History Museum, which again had some interesting sections, the natural photography was amazing and loads of interactive displayed but they mostly seemed to be being abused by the bus loads of school kids that came through the door every five mins so we left that and checked out the architectural garden as the rain had let up and spent time being baffled by some Lichtenstein and Calder. Finishing off the day we went down to see the Lincoln memorial which was not really worth the walk in the wind and rain had picked up again but got my obligatory photo, and then was asked by Elena what Lincoln actually did to which i replied "dunno... invent the beard"... she just looked at me through her wet and windswept hair. (perhaps i should get on the wiki later but i am happy with that).
Sunshine was on the bill the day after following in the theme of how we have seen the cities so far, so we grabbed some of the food that we had brought from Safeway to eat on the run to avoid paying the restaurant prices
. Starting off from where we had to leave the trail the day before we went down to begin at the lake, now one of the cities that i am really looking forward to visit is Tokyo and especially in April as that is when all of the cherry blossom comes to life but it seems that we didn't have to wait that long as the large lake was lined with the same trees, apparently a gift from Japan and they were all in season, so much so that in fact D.C. was having its very own cherry blossom festival. So as we walked around the lake, listening to the various bands playing and visited the George Washington and enormous Roosevelt memorials. Then we decided to follow suit and sit under the pink trees to enjoy the sunshine and have a little picnic action. It was a pleasant treat only really spoit by the consistent large helicopters that flew over from the pentagon, not really sure that they need to fly that low over the lake and almost do a 360 before landing, its almost as if some of the pilots are doing a bit of tourist moon lighting but i am sure that its would be very important and classified. From there on the Arlington cemetery which includes again a lot of memorials of the great wars in the states along with disasters such as the pan am and the failed Apollo mission and also many of the presidents including JFK and Regan. Also the site is filled with many graves of the fallen which fills most of the site, white crosses span out in all directions where the eye can see, all with the same size plot, shape and sized headstones, very much like what is at Normandy
. A real thought provoking image, almost leaving a lasting impression of the price of war, in fact i read something that Obama had said whilst being over here about some files that had been released regards torturing prisoners of war during the bush years and it said that is should be about "reflection not retribution" i think that this phrase sits well with me about arlington. By this time we where getting pretty tied as all of these places are well spread out and i think that i tend to be a little ambitious about seeing as many of them as i can, so when i told Elena that we had another 2 mile walk to see that last thing of that day you could see the colour drain from her face. I think that it was worth it, set up in the very nice little haven of Georgetown, quite in contrast to where we were staying. A leafy neighbourhood lined with boutiques and expensive wine cellars along the main drag with a very ye olde English feel to the brick houses that ran along the back streets, only complimented with the cars that were parked outside. But amongst all this was a little treat, i had read a few days earlier that Georgetown is where the exorcist was set and in this part as well where the famous steps that the priest throws himself down in the end to exile the demon... speak to super tourist! Not the highlight of the trip by far but still very cool, almost brought up to date as well, because as you head down these very steep steps, which are quite eary in a way, there is a very spooky graffiti of Obamas face on to the stony wall next to them, taking them in to the new era. After that a couple of buses got us back to our very different side of town and the evening was spent with a few wines and listening to the in house hobo complaining over skype that he didnt feel that Safeway stocked enough grape juice for his liking... clearly too much time on his hands.
Last day in d.c
. was kind of left to see the few bits that we wanted to see, which really was just the white house, not too much to report there, you get to the large gate at the back, have a look at the house about a mile away once you have fought your way through the crowds and then move on, suppose we had to see it but i cant imagine many people heading back for a second look... bit like no 10 really but prettier, but i am glad that we did it. Taking advantage again of the weather we looked over the map for anything else that we could do to kill the rest of the day, as getting in line for the nation archives museum was not really floating my boat and the print museum was fully booked out for the whole day. So we headed up to a place that i had found called stony creek in a brochure that i had picked up, about a miles walk from Obamas digs. When we arrived at place where the map had indicated it was just a large flyover with underneath, well it would be an insult to call it a creek really, more like a dried out bog, there was a small path that lead us into some foliage but it was hot and we needed a drink so we decided to head over into Georgetown again with it being so close to the swamp and try and buy some beers. Not that easy to do it seems in the states as at the only liquor store we could find along the large main street would not let me buy just a couple of cans but insisted that i buy six, to be honest i could have lived with that but i knew that Elena would have only drunk one so i thought better of it, we decided on something a bit softer and then tired from the added walking, went for a little siesta in the back yard of a one of the originally built houses along the street that is now a museum but allows the public to still use the grounds gratis. Very quaint i am sure the American would call it, that quaint in fact that when i woke up from a much longer than i expected sleep i actually thought that i was in England in the back yard of some house in derby but then as a sixteen wheeler went past on the road followed by a UPS truck and a lot of oversized pick-up, i soon put myself right
. There was not too much left to do after that, aside from head back to the hostel and share the evening with the hermit and some Germans that had moved in that night calling it an early one as we needed to get up super early the next day and walk to the metro at 5 in the morning through the hood, as recommend from the sofa/bed by Mr grape juice... something that i was not looking forward to.
Washington D.C, yeah its not a bad city, definitely worth a visit, plenty of history and monuments to enjoy and kudots for having free entrance to the museums, very appreciated on the travel budget. But i have to be honest i expected more, was nothing like the city that i had imaged, something all kind of American and perfect, but it was more like a fortress all bold and proud showing off its armour but little more than that, there was not the kind of feeling amongst the people that we had experienced in Boston and New York, it had more the scene of a field trip and i think that let me down a little. In fact its almost ironic that the best time that i had in d.c. was getting the bus everyday, that seemed to be where all the excitement was, everyone talking loudly and laughing openly constantly using slang and expressions that never failed to make me laugh, one day we got the bus and it was really full from off the bat (ohh i love the yank talk) but the driver insisted on picking up everyone on the route, and i mean everyone. There were wheelchairs being moved to different slots and people doubling up on seats, It got to the point where the driver was telling the people to get out of their seats to head down the back to make more room... and everyone did it! There was of course a bit of banter, well a lot really but so tongue in cheek that no one cared, i cant remember one time where i have seen that without severer consequences. It was almost shameful to look back at the primal culture shock that i might have been robbed instantly when i boarded the bus a few days earlier. Thatīs got to be one of the main reasons why i am doing this trip i reckon, to be in situations that are not out of the norm but where your only call of reference is what you have seen on TV, just glad really that it has started so soon.
Next stop San Fransisco.
Right then off the Washington or D.C. as i found it has to be called... so we get up in the morning early doors in New York to go and take photos of the Guggenheim and also to print off the tickets to get the bus to D.C. with the less then luxurious company Peter Pan. Then running frantically around the upper west side to find a place that actually had internet and a printer (you would have thought in New York that there would be no problems there but it seems that even here its not that accessible, so gotta ask yourself what its gonna be like in Ecuador!) we eventually managed to find a place and then get robbed for the 10 minutes use on the net and a 20 sheet coupon of prints of which used 2 for $18... but what are you gonna do. So we catch the bus from the central bus station just off time square, again a bit of a hole really with absolute disorder everywhere, not clearly stating the times departure and all questions of to where we might go and dealt with a grunt and a nod of the head, then there is a moment of panic when it looks like that we might not even fit on to the bus as it seems the pan keep their prices low by overbooking and relying on no shows, but we manage to squeeze on with the last of the people and find ourselves on the back seat with little miss attitude, who appears to only culminate with nasal noises, at the back over the engine right next to the bog..