Two years ago, in December 2008, I came for the 1st time to Washington DC. That was the first time I came to the USA and even though it was on a business trip, I managed to take some 4 hours in 2 days to do some sightseeing. I loved it.
Yesterday we arrived again to DC. This time Luca and me, on holidays, again just for 2 days. We checked in our hotel, The Quincy, in L Street NW, not very far from the White House… though I acknowledge that distances are misleading in this city: why wouldn’t you walk from Lincoln memorial to Washington memorial if “it’s just over there”, and from that to that other museum in The Mall, and for that matter to the Capitol. In the end you walk many kilometres. The hotel was a success. For just 100 dollars a night, we’ve got a room of rank of the best ones I get in business trips with the company, so the start of this stay was promising.
Today has been a long but entertaining day. I woke up without alarms at 5:30am. I checked the time and enjoyed the fact of having 45 more minutes of sleep. At 6:15am I got up, dressed in running gear and went out for a morning run. Only to discover that it was way hotter and more humid than I expected and dressed for. I didn’t come back to leave the sweater and paid for it later on. I was amazed by the dozens even hundreds of people I saw running before 7am around the city, especially in the Mall. I knew Americans love to run and do wake up early. Still, what I saw was beyond expectations. I went from the hotel to the Washington memorial passing by the White House (2 km), then to Capitol (other 2km) and back rounding the Washington memorial. In total 8.6 km. The plan was to round the capitol from behind and pass by the Jefferson memorial (4 more km) but I was way too overheated for that.
Back in the hotel I did some stretching, took a shower, washed clothes and got dressed to continue hitting the streets of DC. We went for breakfast at a cafeteria close to the hotel, then to a store to buy a new photo camera and at 9am we were at the Lincoln memorial ready to start a day of reflections (though the reflecting pool was empty and under construction).
We then headed to the World War II and the Washington memorials. Then to the American History museum. This one is one of the 19 museums of the Smithsonian. All of them admission-free, all of them wonderfully arranged. It is almost impossible to overstate the quality of those museums. In each one you could spend a week if you had it for each. There are hundreds of materials to read, to watch, to listen to… in each room. In this one we paid special attention to the rooms dedicated to the flag and the song that would become the American anthem, to the gowns of the First Ladies, to the presidents and Abraham Lincoln. By 11:45 we had to leave for the next appointment in the day.
This time we had booked a guided tour through The Capitol, which houses the Senate and the House of Representatives. We had to wait rather long as expected long queues weren’t such, so we took the extra 30 minutes we had in the schedule to have lunch in the restaurant within the building. The visit was funny and the guide entertaining, but I expected more of it. With that visit you don’t get to actually see the chambers. I guess that deal in Spain is better. However, as we were about to exit, Luca saw a sign for the Library of the Congress and there we went.
The visit of the LoC is wonderful as well. You get to see two bibles from the XV century, one made by Gutenberg, what is left from Jefferson’s library (a third from the original, but still over 6,000 books – including some from Cervantes) bought by the Congress, and one of the reading rooms, which anyone could access provided the she would get the card by filling a form and paying 2 bucks (that‘s not so easy in Madrid with the national library).
Afterward, we headed for the American Indian museum. Another one from the Smithsonian institution. By then I was exhausted and overloaded by information, so I paid attention to one of each 10 signs to read, but still enjoyed the museum.
As we went out it was already 17:20, time for museums to close… but as we passed by the Air and Space museum I saw a sign saying that that particular museum would open today till 19:30. There we went. We needed something relaxing so we bought a couple of tickets for the 3D movie “Legends of the Sky”, a splendid documentary of 50’ which has the 787 program as the main theme and covers some basic principles of flight such as propulsion, materials, structures, etc. It also reviews a b it of aviation history from the Lockheed Constellation to the A380. I especially liked the final line telling children that everything is not yet invented in aviation, we’ve just started. Then we entered the replica of the Spacelab, the gallery of the Apollo programme and the room dedicated to interactive explanations and games of the principles of flight: wonderful again. This was the second time I visited this museum… it won’t be the last.
By the time we left the museum, Luca and I were completely worn out by the rhythm of the day, with just some strength to walk back to the hotel and take some pictures in front of the White House on the way. We stopped at the Irish terrace close to the hotel to enjoy an American dinner composed of buffalo rings, hamburgers and 4 large beers to call it for the day.
Two years later, I continue to be more than delighted with DC.