So I’m sat here in the passenger seat of the car on our way to Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, after just visiting the grave site of the assassinated President JFK who is buried with his family at Arlington National Cemetery. It is also where the astronauts from the Challenger shuttle and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are buried. They do full tours of the cemetery and you have to pay to park! Never before have we had to pay at a cemetery! I do like graveyards. There’s something serene and haunting about them. A graveyard with a gift shop is a bonus! (Yes, we like our gift shops!)
Yesterday was amazing. We spent a solid 9 hours walking round Washington DC totalling 13 miles. Even in my new “kicks” which are soooo comfty, I still have blisters the size of a dime on my heels. Very much worth it though I can assure you. Let me walk you through our day.
So we begin, as always, trying to find somewhere to park. They have this thing here where a lot of the garages are only for monthly pass holders only so there wasn’t actually a great deal of parking in DC. Chuck in some roadworks and it took us about 25 minutes to park, which was less than ideal as we had booked onto a tour of the United States Capitol at 10:20am. It was humid with quite a strong wind so relatively good sightseeing weather! Ever got yourself locked in a parking garage? We have? Bearing in mind how long it took us to park, we then couldn’t get out! I’m not kidding, every single door we tried was locked or you needed a pass to get out. We even tried rubbing our parking ticket on them to see if it activated something to release the door. Nope. Nothing. We hiked up towards the car exit to see what we could find and eventually we found an elevator sign. It opened and a lady was stood in there so we asked how to get out. She smugly pointed to the fact she had already pressed the button for the exit. She must have thought we were right idiots.
Next was the quick hike to the Capitol Visitors Centre to pick up our tickets. The visitors centre, also known as Emancipation Hall, was located underground and was about a 20 minute walk. We made our tour time with 9 minutes to spare. Good job I was rocking my new “gym” gear and trainers as clearly that made me go quicker!
After joining the queue to de-sweat, we went into a theatre where we watched a 13 minute film on the history of the Capitol and how it was built. I found it fascinating. The visitors centre was filled with statues and one half was for The House of Representatives and the other half for the Senate.
We then began our tour, headsets on…The first room we visited had statues from the original 13 states all round the side of it and the eternal compass dead centre. Underneath the compass in a room way way down, was where the tomb was built for George Washington. However, by the time Congress had agreed to it and it had finished being built, Washington had been dead for 30+ years so his son refused to allow him to be moved from his beloved home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The next room we went in was The Rotunda, one of the rooms you’d see on TV. It is also the room where funerals take place and the last President to lie in state here was Gerald Ford back in 2006.
“E Pluribus Unum” ….Out of many, one.
There are also some very accurate paintings around the room of important times in American history. (The signing of the Declaration of Independence)(The surrender of General Cornwallis and the resignation of Washington as Commander in Chief)
It’s safe to say the tour was just amazing. And the best part…it was completely free!! And we only reserved our tickets the night before! Is there anything like this free in England? Not that I can think of!?
The next room was the National Statuary Hall where as you can imagine, there are lots of statues! The most popular would you believe, is that of Rosa Parks. Everyone surely knows the story of Rosa Parks and how she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama, thus dubbing her the “First Lady of civil rights.” Congress are allowed to receive two statues from each state as gifts and the states can also choose to swap them over too! This brought us to the end of our guided tour and as you can probably imagine we learnt a lot! I am thinking maybe I should have a career change and become a tour guide as I truly find it fascinating!
Once our guided tour had finished we were able to take the tunnel to Thomas Jeffersons library. However, that was also the way to the exit and we had missed a vital part of the building…the gift shop! So we turned and walked all the way back to the gift shop, where I finally got that elusive pen, then trundled back to the library. Now my ultimate goal in life is to own a house big enough to have a library, probably similar to that in Beauty and the Beast with the sliding ladder. Now whilst this library wasn’t as big, the books were so old! It truly was mesmerising with books arranged by category ranging from astronomy to medicine to general novels. The library is situated in the Library of Congress, again, another fascinating building. (The Reading Room where all the arches are FULL of books!)(Minerva of Peace)Another gem hidden in the Library of Congress is the first map to ever show America on it. These maps are from 1507 and 1516 created by Martin Waldseemüller, the 1516 Carta Marina is possibly the first printed nautical map of the entire world and corrects many geographical errors from his previous 1507 map (the only surviving original out of thousands printed) where he named the whole Western Hemisphere as “America” whereas in 1516 there is the indication that North America and Asia are joined. Fascinating right?
All that history and education called for lunch and where better than our popular haunt Hard Rock Cafe. As we were walking there we noticed a lot of police FBI cars, and when I say a lot, like whole roads of them. We thought they must be protecting the building we were passing or something? It was only when we reached the road that we realised it was actually the FBI building 😂
No flies on us ey!! We eventually reached Hard Rock Cafe. This was a crazy experience and we tried to figure out if it was newly built as there were enough staff for each guest to have 121 service. I mean we walked in and someone asked “hey how y’all doing today,” then another asked “table for 2,” another got the menus then someone else took us to our table! We had a trainee take our order who then informed Nathan that his burger was out of stock, which bit? The beef? The bacon? The cheese? Anyway, he reordered another burger and then as we tucked in, no joke, we must have been asked by 5 different people if everything was ok with our meal! Don’t get me wrong I absolutely understand customer service, but that was just overkill!
Next stop, tea with Trump? Or as close as we can get to it. If you want a tour of the White House you have to apply through your Embassy if you’re not an American Citizen and currently the White House is closed to “foreigners” so that put a downer on it. As we circled the Ellipsie there was a large crowd gathered with their iPads out and selfie sticks and unknowingly we had stumbled upon the White House. We then tried to find the visitor centre so walked all the way up the right side as if you’re looking at the above photo, basically we followed the crowd and came across a “Dump Trump” protest. We never actually found the visitor centre but when we consulted the map found out it was the big building that ran alongside where we were walking 😂 my sense of direction was shocking! Nathan asked if I would know how to get back to the car and I would not have had a clue! I’d have been wandering around for days as I didn’t even know the name of where we parked or how to get back in where we came out of it! The protesters had a megaphone and everything. Give them their due, there were quite a lot of people marching with a very heavy police presence. That was another weird thing, most of the police in this area were “secret service.” Now in my mind they should be a discreet presence? Not with “secret service” emblazoned all over their jackets/vests/hats? Maybe the translation is different in America 😂 We rounded the corner and I was too busy looking at the blacked out car coming from the side of the treasury building that I nearly walked straight into a guy who looked like Will Smith out of Men in Black…black suit, white shirt, dark shades, head piece. Now, there were 4 of them and they couldn’t be more obvious if they tried. I mean seriously, if there were protecting someone coming out of that building, which it looked like they were flanking a man and a woman, with 2 sexy looking government cars, the best way to remain discreet is the clearly dress in the same attire and look really serious whilst guiding their “marks” across the road 😂 they’d have been better off I gym gear like me 💪🏼.
Considering we were unable to go and say hi to Trump, we thought we would cheer ourselves up with a walk down the Mall seeing all the historical memorials. It was absolutely stunning. We started off with the WW2 memorial and walked to the Lincoln memorial. It was absolutely breathtaking. You see these monuments on the television but don’t anticipate seeing them in real life. (Lincoln memorial) It is actually a lot further than you think walking along the Mall. Especially when you need to make sure you cover off all the memorials. Soooooo the weather has unbeknownst to us, turned sunny enough to catch the sun 😔. What had we forgotten again? The bloody suncream. In our defence, the weather in the morning certainly didn’t warrant it and to go back to the car and put some on was a massive effort, so we persevered without any and I now have some sexy sunglasses marks to add to my necklace mark and Rudolph nose 👍🏼. (Korean War Veterans Memorial)
The impressive Washington Monument, the world tallest stone structure and the worlds tallest obelisk standing at 555 feet! We used it as our central point whilst wandering around in case we got lost (although we did have a map and our phones but anything is possible when you got locked in a car park to begin your day!)
We continued down the Mall to the Smithsonian castle which was completed in 1855 and is known as the “nations attic” as it holds 154 millions items. Our destination was the National Archives. I had been looking forward to this all day! In this building, there are original documents from American History. The three most important original documents in American history are housed right here in this building…the Declararion of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are kept in one room, where the temperature and lighting is specifically set to maintain these original documents, heavily guarded by police, you’re only allowed 20 minutes viewing time and sadly for us, you can’t take photos. It was absolutely amazing to read about (the print has faded over the years so you can’t make out the whole original document) these very old documents. Fascinating fact – the constitution has spelling mistakes (see Steve, even the most important documents have mistakes 😂). The spelling of Pennsylvania is incorrect just above where the signatures are! Crazy right! Guess they didn’t proof read back then!
They also have the original Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 which declared slaves in the south as free, here in the Archives. They rotate the pages from it to protect it from the light. Along with these documents, they also have the 1297 Magna Carta confirmed by Edward I and it also holds Patents such as Thomas Edison’s lightbulb! A truly fascinating place. Fun fact – residents on Washington DC were only granted the right to vote for President in 1961 but still to this day can’t vote for their representation in Congress!
Our time in DC was coming to and end but not before a few more memorials. The first was that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He lost the use of his legs to polio and went on to be considering one of the best Presidents along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. He took America through WW2 before succumbing to polio and passing away in 1945.
The next memorial was that of Martin Luther King JrA leader of the Civil Rights Movement, famous for his “I have a dream” speech, receiver of the Nobel Peace Prize only to be assassinated in 1968 by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. Posthumously, he has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal as well as having the third Monday of January each year dedicated to him as a holiday.
The penultimate memorial was that of Thomas Jefferson. The 3rd US President, the instigator of the Louisiana Purchase which doubled Americas territory and the lead author of the Declaration of Independence. The final memorial we saw was that of George Mason.
He wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, was one of three delegates not to sign the Constitution and is often referred to as the father of the Bill of Rights.
From here we headed to our hotel for the night. There was one other impressive building that we passed on the way though.
Have you guessed yet???
The Pentagon. And we’re this close! Bafflingly crazy being this close to the mother of all defense departments!
After trekking 13 miles round DC, Nathan decided he was hungry again so proceeded to go and get dominos because it was advertised on the back of our key card!
So as I sit here, in the passenger seat of our little red Hyundai Accent, with my legs up on the dashboard sunning myself through the glass (still no suncream), feeding Nathan chocolate raisins as he drives us to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, we bid you adieu from sunny Virginia…..