April 13 - Washington D.C. (2 days worth)
Trip Start Mar 14, 2000
24Trip End Apr 30, 2000
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Another long bus ride took us through South and North Carolina and Virginia, most of which I missed because I was asleep. We trundled into Washington (on time, remarkably) at 7am and my first mission, to get a place to stay, proved more difficult than I had anticipated. The only hostel anywhere near the centre city wouldn't guarantee a bed but I took my chances anyway and showed up. I had to wait until midday to find out if I could stay there, so I dropped my bag off and went for a wander.
The hostel is only 15 minutes walk from the main tourist part of town: the National Mall, which has the Capitol at one end, the Washington Monument in the middle and the Lincoln Memorial at the other end. Lining the sides of the Mall are the assorted buildings of the Smithsonian Museum. It is not a mall in the modern sense of the word, with shops etc. It is just a grassy section about 500 metres wide and maybe 5km long.
Luckily I had been 'accepted' at the hostel so I checked in then went back down to the National Mall for a better look. The National Museum of American History (or the American Museum of National History, I forget) is quite interesting but there are so many young teenagers on school trips running around that it is a bit claustrophobic.
Museum-fatigue set in after a couple of hours, so I walked to the nearby Washington Monument (that's the great bit obelisk thing) and then down to the Lincoln Memorial, the scene of famous speeches such as those by Martin Luther-King and Forrest Gump. Unfortunately the reflecting pool was empty and there was scaffolding up around it, which made it all look a bit untidy.
I saw the White House, which is actually set back quite a way from the road, presumably to make it more difficult to see the First Family changing in front of their windows. I took a trip up the elevator at the Old Post Office building and got a pretty good view of the city.
There wasn't much happening at the hostel when I got back. It is one of those large, impersonal places that doesn't have anything to do. I tried to ring Joe Raczinski who I had met in Germany, but the only Raczinski in the book was an old lady who didn't speak English.
THURSDAY 13 APRIL. WASHINGTON DC. DAY 24
Slept extremely soundly until 11.45am, 45 minutes after checkout. I had to swap rooms for my second night, to a very small room. The Natural History Museum has lots of old bones and bits of prehistoric plant fossils and the like but fits more into the stodgy old museum stereotype, despite the ever-present gaggles of school kids. It had an interesting exhibit on black slavery though.
Because of my late start, it was 3.50pm before I knew it and that meant I only had one hour to see the Modern Art museum. Bugger. It is an architecturally interesting building and has a pretty impressive, if not substantial, collection. There is stuff by Picasso, Miro, Mondrian, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Matisse, O'Keefe, Braque and Warhol, and that was just the modern art section. There is certainly a lot to do here if you are into museums and I had only scratched the surface.
After the art museum I popped up the road to the National Archives, where there was a big queue to look at the Declaration of Independence. I passed on that but had a peek at an exhibition of 100 years of American photography.
Feeling a bit museumed-out, I began to walk back. There were loads of people going to the first game of the Stanley Cup ice hockey playoffs.