Last known location: London, England

Capitol Times!

Having dropped off the car at Union Station we had a quick lunch at a local pub before heading to our hotel – The District – to check in. Our bargain room was cosy, but perfectly fine and we spent a couple of hours cooling off in the AC before venturing out to explore the local area. We were based in Dupont Circle, a neighbourhood centred around the intersection of the most prestigious streets in Washington including Massachusetts, Conneticut and New Hampshire Avenues. The original design of the area by the architect L’Enfant was actually intended to slow down enemy troops but it also managed to confuse us rather a lot! Today the area is known for its art galleries, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. It’s also one of Washington’s trendy gay neighbourhoods. We walked across the small park at Dupont Circle and passed lots of the famous cafes. Before long we found ourselves at an Italian bar with, according to a friendly local, the cheapest happy hour in town. A couple of glasses of wine later and in need of some food we went next door to a Thai restaurant before heading home.

On our first full day in the capital we decided to visit a few of the major sights. It was really lovely to be out of the car and in the fresh air, walking the streets rather than driving nervously through them! The first, and probably most obvious choice, was the famous White House. It was a lovely building, slightly smaller than I’d imagined but still very impressive. Stopping for an iced coffee round the corner we hoped to spot a member of congress or famous political figure, but no such luck!

From the home of the President we walked to the West end of the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately the famous ‘reflecting pool’, seen in so many films, was undergoing work so there was no water, just lots of mud! We still got to check out the enormous statue of Abraham Lincoln and the engraved Gettysburg Address, which he presented to a Civil War-weathered nation. We also visited a couple of the war memorials, both the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the National World War II Memorial. The latter was particularly impressive and is right at the centre of the Mall. It also gave us an opportunity to dip our feet into the cooling pool after a few miles of walking!

We continued down the Mall to the Washington Monument, a 555ft monolith honouring George Washington. If you look very closely you can see two different hues of stone which are a result of two phases of construction. Just along from the Washington Monument there was a Folk Festival going on, with Colombian, West African and Asian tents. To be honest, we were mainly attracted by the shade of the tents and an ice cold lemonade but the Colombian dancing made a pleasant change from the tourist traps.

We couldn’t hang around for too long and were soon back on our feet headed for Capitol Hill. The home of Congress and where American laws are written, the palatial baroque style building is really stunning and we spent a while admiring it from underneath a shaded tree. Almost overheating, we decided to seek some serious air con relief and nipped over to the Library of Congress. We arrived at the stunning sight just in time for a free guided tour and spent an hour exploring the amazing interior with a very well informed docent. It was really interesting and we learnt a lot but by 5pm, when the tour finished, we were all tourist attraction-ed out and keen to sit down with a cold drink.

We had to walk for what seemed like a hundred blocks to find anything but eventually stumbled across a beer bar where Dan could notch up his 201st beer and I could kick back with a refreshing cider. Because we were so near Chinatown we got an excellent Chinese dinner at Tony Cheung’s and then walked home to relax for the rest of the evening. Our feet were in desperate need of a cold bath after covering so many miles in not so sensible flip flops!

Saturday was our last full day in Washington and because of the soaring temperatures we decided to stick to our local neighbourhood. We spent a while browsing through some of the boutique shops before stopping for brunch at Bistro Du Coin, a highly recommended French restaurant – my friend Vee and our guide book said it was a must-do. The food was lovely and gave us another burst of energy to make it to Rock Creek park, a large green river-front area a few blocks away. We bought a couple of papers and spent a few hours shaded under a tree reading. It seemed we may have been in the Hampstead Heath equivalent because there seemed to be rather a lot of men cruising in the bushes and we even caught a pair in the middle of a rather lurid act! After all that excitement we popped back to the hotel to cool off!

That evening we went to a couple of local bars before stopping at an Italian for dinner. It’s so lovely to be able to sit outside in the evenings, and luckily the temperature had cooled a bit so we weren’t overheating! After doing some people watching over dinner we went back to the hotel to get packed and ready for our next, and final, destination. New York here we come!

1 Comment:
  1. Imogen 9 Jul, 2011

    New York, New York! Great posts Gem and Dan, looks like you had a fabulous last few weeks.
    Love from China (we’re still here!).
    I and O xxx

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