Capital Building Washington DC USA

Heading up the steps to the capital

Lincoln Memorial Washington DC USA

Lincoln sitting in the background

Arlington Cemetery Washington DC USA

On top of the hill overlooking Washington

Washington Monument Washington DC USA

Heading for the Monument in a rainy day

Roaming Washington DC – 2012

I figured as a starting point for my road trip across the USA were better than its capital city, Washington DC. I have read and seen many TV shows about Washington. Whether it was about President George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Henry Harrison, the famous Smithsonian,, the Civil War and War of Independence, Forest Gump, the list goes on. It also was near to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was four hours south and is regarded as one of the USA’s most spectacular drives. I would be starting my road trip across the USA from here, but first a little about Washington…

I landed at Ronald Reagan International airport; I was feeling the politics of the place already. As I was flying in from Toronto, I also purchased my fill of duty-free of alcohol and chocolate for my upcoming six-week adventure. I then transferred to the Washington Metro (which is a free service) and after a brief journey, I was at Dupont Circle. I then walked up Washington street to my hostel, marvelling at how white the buildings were and how many important and busy looking people were walking in all directions. Id booked 2 nights in Washington so there weren’t many attractions I’d be able to get across. I focused on the Smithsonian and other famous attractions near the centre of the city.

I met up with a few backpackers Id befriend earlier in my ‘Roaming’ from Miami and took the subway to the Smithsonian. The service again was free and I was old covers the entire city and beyond, I was most impressed with the ease and convenience navigating the city. My friends told me that the Smithsonian rather than one stand-alone museum is made up of 19 separate museums covering different exhibits. They are all combined to make the world largest museum….  mmm  2 days would never be adequate so our little group concentrated on the Natural History Museum, American History Museum and a walk through the Smithsonian Gardens. I discovered that each of these seperate 19 museum pieces could involve spending a day.

The Natural History Museum is free entry, in fact, the whole Smithsonian is free. With the transport included, Washington was turning out to be the cheapest place on earth. This museum I found out is the largest natural history exhibition in the world, it was superb. It includes many dinosaurs, the Hope Diamond, and an exhaustive exhibition of human origins. After a few hours frantically wandering the packed halls and then charged towards the American History museum. 

The American History Museum covers the development of the USA from Colonial times to today with over 3 million exhibits. Our self-guided turbocharged tour covered Colonialism to War of Independence to the Civil War to World War 1, then 2 up to now. There were also plenty of modern exhibits including The Kennedy’s board game which I found particularly funny. Out of breath, it was onto the Smithsonian Gardens, a large collection of plants and gardens encompassing the entire Smithsonian complex,. We ran out of time to investigate inside other museums, however; the gardens make for a quality.. After that, my friends and I went to the pub, had a few beers, and then I headed off to bed early as tomorrow would be my only full day.

Up and early, I grabbed a tourist map from the hostel and it was pouring rain. This was not stopping me, however, so I purchased an umbrella and followed my plan to see as much as possible by foot. In retrospect, it would have been a better idea to take a bus tour. I was backpacking however and following the frugal theme that Washington is cheap and ‘economise economise’ I started my hike. I headed to the National Mall, which includes the Smithsonian, and took in the following historical landmarks which I will mention –

Washington Monument–the tall obelisk building, built to commemorate George Washington and of Egyptian design I had the obligatory photo taken (see above). I came up with this pose based on photos from visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Lincoln Memorial–this is of Greek design, I entered the building and there was the aforementioned Abraham Lincoln sitting on his chair; it looked more like a throne.

Three War Memorials–First World War Two, which is a fountain with 56 pillars and two arches. Second Korean Memorial 19 statues, two remembrance walls and the pool of Remembrance, and third Vietnam memorial, a 75 metre of wall black shiny quartz rock carved with the names honouring all American soldiers concerned.

 I headed then to Arlington Cemetary across the Potomac River, its 624 acres, and was established during the American Civil war. It contains the dead of past America’s conflicts and also includes Arlington House. It was of Greek design and the former home of civil war general Robert E Lee, undoubtedly where the Dukes of Hazards “General Lee” draws inspiration from. This house overlooks the Potomac River and the National Mall and contains some history of the American Civil war.

I then continued to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial to combat soldiers who died without their remains established. I observed the changing of the guard, which happens every two hours. I then went to the grave of John F Kennedy, strolled to the Capitol building of Greek-Roman (America sure loves Greek archietecture) design and is the home of the United States Congress. It was then to the White House where President Obama met me at the gate and we shared my pavlova (Aussie cake) and a tinny each (Aussie Beer). I waved goodbye to the president and walked back to the hostel, 10 hours on my feet. I said goodbye to my backpacker friends (a shout out to Denmark) and went to sleep. Tomorrow I was picking up my rental car.

 After visiting Washington DC I started to get a better understanding of Americans and their feelings regarding patriotism and how national identity is a major part of American culture. This extraordinary historical city is devoted to patriotism and everywhere you go there are reminders such as the street names, museums, flags, I have visited very few places so devoted to national pride. The city is also a bustling place with a lot of determined-looking people moving about their business, it’s almost like the Washington DC itself is alive. With free transport and museum, it’s a fantastic tourist destination even if American history does not interest you. The road was awaiting now and time to start my road trip; I hope to get back to Washington one day and spend more time.