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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    175

    Default 2014 - The American Swansong

    For various reasons this will be my last US road trip for a while, so I hope I do a good job of blogging it and I hope you all enjoy reading it.

    It's our first trip since the fall of 2012 and for this one we're starting with a few days in DC before heading to Minnesota to begin the road trip part of the holiday proper.

    The DC days start below, I'll blog them anyway even though they contain no driving as I know that some of our family and friends follow our trips using this site and I'm also sure that many RTA members head to DC so might find my report helpful.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    175

    Default Day 1

    Tuesday September 2nd 2014

    So the day began crazily early, with me picking up my Mum from her home at 4.55am for the drive to London’s Heathrow airport…. We did at least have meet and greet parking booked so no need for off-airport shuttles and we were walking into the terminal at 6.30am

    Thanks to American Express I had a voucher for 2 for 1 flights, so I booked us First Class to Washington aboard an ancient BA 747 (apparently BA start running their new A380 on the Dulles route next month and it can’t come soon enough, the First Class product on the 747 really is laughable when compared to Emirates’ offering.

    Anyway, flying 1st allows us to skip the queues and we’re pretty soon through security and into the hallowed ground of the Concorde Room where I have booked us a private cabana and a massage each to start our trip.

    These go off smoothly and all too soon we’re boarding the plane



    An uneventful 7hrs or so later we’re on the ground in DC and using the mobile lounges (as they quaintly call them) to reach the terminal where it’s the usual hour queue to get through immigration and get our bag.
    We take a cab straight to the apartment that I have booked in the North East part of the city, there’s no one there to let us in by 15 minutes on the phone and mobile internet gets us the code to get in to the apartment and it’s fine, perfect for a few days.

    Straight out again and onto the Metro. Washington’s Metro is the saving grace of getting around this city, with bad traffic and expensive cabs the cheap and reliable Metro has long been a favourite of mine.

    Today it deposits us on the National Mall in short order where we walk down to the Lincoln Monument via a couple of the war memorials placed here.



    The size of the Lincoln Memorial takes Mum by surprise, but it’s an incredible structure and the inscriptions around the edge bear witness to the brilliance of the man, there are docents here to answer questions until about 4pm but we're later than that so only security guards are present.



    The views from the top of the steps are pretty spectacular as well, looking down the mall to the Washington Monument is a pretty special sight.



    Leaving Lincoln’s site we move to one of the less well-known memorials here, the Korean war memorial is a quiet space, touching in one way yet clearly depicting the brutality of conflict.

    From here it’s time to head to the Metro then back to the apartment, we’ve been up over 24hours and are both shattered.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-11-2014 at 11:02 PM. Reason: removed the "extra" links

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    175

    Default Day 2

    Wednesday Sept 3rd

    The apartment was lovely and quiet overnight so we both slept well and are on the way to the Metro station by 7.40 heading towards the US Capitol where we have the first tour of the day booked.



    The Capitol is a visually stunning building, even though today it is partially covered in scaffolding due to the ongoing repairs to the external façade.

    We are early for our tour which is just as well as it lasts a little longer than I remembered from the last time I was here…. This turns out to be because it is longer, the newly constructed visitors centre contains a theatre showing an orientation film that lasts 13 minutes or so.



    Of the hundreds of murals, frieses and frescos in the Supreme Court, this one is my favourite. Depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence it is a beautifully painted work.



    One of the new rooms on the tour, this is a recreation of the very first US Supreme Court…. From the days when the Court didn’t even have its own building and instead borrowed space wherever it could find it – a far cry from today.



    Today, the Supreme Court of the land resides here, this marble edifice being considered a suitable home for the most important law-makers in the land.

    As the Justices are still on their summer break, the docent lead tour brings us into the chamber itself and we sit in the public viewing gallery whilst a member of the Supreme Court Bar regales us with tales from the courtroom across the years.
    This is a working legal site so there are various restrictions but arguments are open for viewing to the general public – you’ll have to be patient though, a recent case involving the sanctity of marriage had people queueing for in excess of 90hrs just to get in.





    From the Supreme Court we head next door to The Jefferson Building and the library of Congress. The tour here is a short one, post 9-11 tourists are not allowed into the actual reading rooms without obtaining a readers ticket from a different building first.

    It’s still an interesting tour though, and the building is exquisite in decoration and style.

    Heading away from this area we board the open-top bus and head for Arlington National Cemetery where we join the tram tour as walking around Arlington takes hours.



    As well as being a Tourist site, Arlington is a working burial site with upwards of 6 funerals a day taking place here, we see 2 in our time here, one with full military honors (gun salute etc) for reasons of privacy the guides do not reveal who is being buried, the tours are kept as far away as possible and no photography of the funeral is allowed.

    Travelling through Arlington it is impossible not to be moved by the number of graves and the respect with which they are treated by the dozens of service men and women present.



    Nowhere is this more obviously demonstrated than at the tomb of the unknown soldier… actually a tomb of 2 unknowns and one recently identified this site is guarded over 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year in all weathers, come what may. (the guards stayed walking during 9-11 and the recent hurricane)

    The changing of the guard ceremony is incredibly formal and, although hard to describe the emotion felt when watching it is a must see on any trip here.



    This is likely the most visited gravesite here at Arlington, JFK was laid to rest here, later joined by his wife) and they are watched over by an eternal flame, surrounded by some of his more famous orations carved into granite.



    From his gravesite, we head to the Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.
    Not for a tour, but for a cup of tea in the rooftop café and a chance to see over part of the city.

    It’s nice to take a break for 15 minutes but on our way down we learn that there’s a free musical performance on stage in 10 minutes so we sit down again and are treated to 45 minutes of great live Jazz before we head back to the apartment for some dinner and sleep!
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 09-11-2014 at 11:04 PM. Reason: removed "extra" links

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,060

    Default Cool views of Washington, DC

    Quote Originally Posted by dangermouse View Post
    For various reasons this will be my last US road trip for a while, so I hope I do a good job of blogging it and I hope you all enjoy reading it..
    Derek, already enjoying the photos and the report. Sad to hear that you won't be coming back here for a while. Hope that whatever the reason is -- that it works out OK for you!

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default

    Thanks Mark... it's nothing serious, just that Mum feels she's done justice to North America and as we both want to tour Europe we're going to head there for our next few trips.

    As I mentioned, I shall be back alone at some point... I am tantalizingly close to visiting all 50 States and that is a bucket list item that I must tick!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default Day 3

    Thursday September 4th

    Today was a bit of a repeat of my last trip to DC.

    Leaving the apartment at 7.10 we walked down to the Metro station and caught a train to the Pentagon… mingling with all the workers we definitely stood out, but as soon as we hit the surface we saw other tourists heading to the same place as us.



    When I was here previously the trees had only just been planted and the whole memorial had an unfinished vibe to it
    .
    Today it is a little different, it’s still surrounded by Interstates and offices but the bench in the image above; the memorial for the youngest victim of the 9-11 attack on the Pentagon, 3 year old Dana Falkenberg stands alone and is a stark introduction to a powerful place.

    The attack on the Pentagon left one of its sides severely damaged, the different coloured bricks of the repair are clearly visible from a great distance away. Repaired it is though and if the traffic in the area this morning is anything to go by then the military machine is still very much alive.

    From here, back onto the Metro for one stop to catch the Blue Line open top bus from Pentagon City Mall… the bus times here are fluid so be careful od booking anything based upon them… our 9am bus turned into 9.15 and cost us the 9.30 tour of the Washinton Monument I had booked (thankfully I had booked a 10:00 tour as well just in case something like this happened.



    Last time I was here the Monument was closed for repairs after an earthquake, today it’s back up and running in full swing with amazing views such as the one above from the observation windows at 500ft or so guaranteed.

    From here we walk over to the holocaust museum, like last time there is no photography allowed here, but we spend nearly 4 hours going around and still don’t see everything, this really is one of the best museums of its kind I have visited.



    Another bus ride brings us to the National Mall, where after a late lunch we head inside the museum of American History… this is a Smithsonian Institution so it’s free and well worth a few hours.



    For me the transport area holds the most interest, the top image above is a scale model of the Lusitania and the 2nd photo shows a working steam engine from the early days of America.

    Another bus brings us to Union Station where, after a lovely Italian meal we head off on the night bus tour of the city… this shows us a different side to some old favourites and introduces us to some new things that we’ve not seen before:



    This statue, of probably the most famous photograph of the Korean conflict is on a slight hill overlooking a public park, the bus stops and we have a walk around, reading the information boards as we go.



    The Lincoln Monument looks completely different when lit up at night, the views up the mall are pretty good too… in fact many people clearly prefer this place at night, it’s at least twice as busy this evening as it was when we were here the other afternoon.



    FDR’s memorial is huge, covering many acres at the side of the river, it’s made up of 4 areas, each corresponding to a different part of his presidency… Mum and I are left wondering how long today’s President could get away with concealing being wheelchair bound….. we decide not long!



    The final memorial is much smaller but no less important… Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech here in Washington so it seems fair enough that he be commemorated here (one of only 4 non-military monuments on the mall.

    That brings our day to a close, we grab a cab from the end of the tour back to the apartment.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Loving your report. Here's to hoping that you WILL make the goal for your bucket list, that of visiting all 50 states. I did that 2 years ago and now I want to go back to a bunch of them. Thank heavens retirement is coming up in a few years, so I can do just that!


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
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    9,358

    Default Loving It - But...

    I really appreciate your 'outsiders' look at our nation's capital, particularly the great images. I'm going to have to do my best to get back there soon, perhaps this winter when I'll be in the general area for a family wedding. However, there is one small correction I'd like to make. The statue of the Marines raising the flag commemorates an event (and the famous photo) that took place on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II, not during the Korean War.

    AZBuck

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Live in SW England, Work in Dubai, Travel in USA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    However, there is one small correction I'd like to make. The statue of the Marines raising the flag commemorates an event (and the famous photo) that took place on the island of Iwo Jima during World War II, not during the Korean War.

    AZBuck
    You are completely correct and my notes even say that.... I can only blame tiredness and sightseeing overload for the mistake!

  10. #10
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    Aug 2008
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    Default Day 4

    Friday September 5th

    Our last day in Washington promised to be a doozy… sadly the weather, humid since we arrived decided to really pummel us today, this was one of the most unpleasant days I’ve experienced in the US weather wise but we had too much to do to slow down!

    We left the apartment at 7.45 this morning to head to Union Station to board the Yellow route of the open top bus tour, this was to take us to its interchange with the green trolley tour which would then take us here:





    I am a big fan of the city tours run by Big Bus, but even my patience ran out with the arrangement for the trolley… we spent over 2.5hrs of today hanging around waiting on busses and trolleys, they simply don’t run often enough on the green route and the times of the green and yellow route aren’t tied together.

    Anyway, after the Cathedral, (which is stunning by the way, be sure to head up to the Pilgrims Gallery on level 7 for the stunning views.) we headed off to do the river cruise that leaves from Georgetown Harbour.

    Georgetown itself has a lovely feel to it and would be a wonderful place to walk around if the weather was non-humid. Today however we head straight to the harbor and board the boat for 45 minutes.
    The commentary on the boat is fun, but there’s not really much to photograph so you’ll have to take my word for it!!

    After the boat trip it’s back on the bus to Union Station and then away to deal with some banking issues and a few other domestic style issues before heading back to the apartment to pack ready for our early start tomorrow.

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