big trip day 08

Washington DC: Washington Monument, Natural History, National Gallery, Archives, Memorials

We set out reasonably early. No breakfast at the hotel (well, there was but it was extra) so we decided to see if we could find something outside. Long walk downtown but again, pleasant. Lots of important grand looking buildings — I was pretty much walking with my head looking up and camera at the ready all the time.

The first major attraction we hit was Lafayette Park, with a view of the back of the White House. I hadn’t gotten used to the layout of the attractions yet so I actually didn’t recognise the White House. At the centre of Lafayette Park was a statue of Andrew Jackson, which was one of three identical memorials around the country (the other two are at New Orleans and Nashville).

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An interesting sight — there were several protesters outside the park, which didn’t completely surprise me (though they were the only ones I saw the whole time). And there was a group of Korean tourists taking pictures with them. I wasn’t sure if the tourist knew the theme of the protest, but it seemed like the protesters have become a tourist attraction. Only in DC.

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I was duly impressed with the Executive Building next to the White House; again the sense of great importance pervailed. A short walk from the Exec Building was the World War 2 Memorial, which unfortunately was closed. Got a good view from behind the barriers, and I could imagine how meaningful it would to walk within it.

From the WW2 memorial we walked round almost to the Tidal Basin and then to the other side of the Washington Monument. The Monument is one of the constant focal points of the city, I found that we returned to it time and time again. Here’s a couple of shots from different angles.

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At the Monument we got tickets for the Tourmobile — $35 for 2 days hop-off-hop-on including Arlington tour. Turned out to be a real bargain. We were tired from the walking at that point so we stayed on the tram while it took us to the Jefferson and FDR Memorials, the Lincoln Memorial, over to the Arlington Cemetery and back towards the White House and Mall museums. By that time we were hungry so we got off and traipsed over in the direction of the American History Museum hoping for lunch. But horrors!!! The American History Museum was closed for renovations — and it was one of the highlights of our visit.

Hunger prevailed so we went to the Natural History Museum where I had a pastrami sandwich, half a cookie and half a brownie (we were sharing the dessert). I was hungry so I ate too fast and had a big of indigestion. Seeing the dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond helped. There was also a photo exhibition of Nature’s Best that was simply stunning. We went looking for the book of the exhibition but there was only a magazine article. I would have bought the book without question.

By the time we exited the Natural History Museum it was raining. Undaunted, we donned our hats and waded through the puddles to the National Gallery of Art. What I liked about this museum was the fountain areas at either end; walking through the various galleries and then coming across them was like hitting a calm oasis. The Gallery had the only Leonardo da Vinci in the US, Rodin’s Thinker and many more that I have little knowledge of.

After touring through the inside, we quickly visited the sculpture gardens outside. Very interesting modern sculptures in a nice surrounding.

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By then it was almost 5pm and many of the museums were closing. Except the National Archives were still open. It was a long queue to get in, with the security check and crowd control. But we got to see the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. These documents were hundreds of years old and in pretty frail condition. Especially the Declaration, which was almost completely faded. No flash photography was allowed, and I could see why.

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We finished at around 7-ish, and took a taxi back to the hotel. We asked them for a recommendation for a restaurant and they directed us to the Lauriol, a very happening Mexican place. I had a couple of beers and the Guadalajara Plate which consisted of one cheese enchilada, ground beef taco and chicken tamale. Good food and hip atmosphere.

Annnnnd the day wasn’t over! Took a taxi down to the Lincoln Memorial and I took lots and lots of pictures with my new tripod. The Lincoln was breathtaking. An interesting tidbit was a security guard told me I couldn’t use my tripod in the area immediately in front of the Lincoln statue but I had to go back towards the pillars — where people entered the area and was a bottleneck. Weird. Plus it was 11pm and the place was hardly crowded. Again, weird. I took a lot of pictures there on different exposures. I like this one best.

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The Lincoln Memorial overlooked the Reflecting Pool and the sight of the Washington Monument, with Capitol in the background, was spectacular.

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A short walk from the Lincoln Memorial was the Korean and the Vietnam Memorials. Very powerful memorials both, especially the Korean with the larger-than-life soldiers treking through the undergrowth and the images etched into the black marble wall.

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Oh, I made a map of our route today. The red line was walking and the blue line was on the TourMobile.

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