We really enjoyed our time in Washington, we had great weather, in the main there were no crowds, we didn't bother with the metro as taxis were plentiful and cheap, and we saw some great art. Very impressed that the museums and galleries are free.
We caught a bus from NY to Washington. Not my preferred mode of transport but it worked out quite well. Luggage underneath (and none of that weighing and security checking!) the trip was a bit longer than expected ( took about 6 hrs) and the bus was full but the wifi worked and there was a power outlet so no danger of my ipad running out. The bus was $20, the train would have been about $300 (it was the day after the marathon after all, and we hadn’t pre booked) and we would have had to handle our own luggage on the train!
We checked in to the Holiday Inn Central (a block away from the Australian Embassy funnily enough) and were grateful just to head to the hotel’s restaurant for an early dinner (one thing the bus didn’t have was a lunch stop!).
We booked a Washington monument tour for our first day as we find these a good way to get a feel for where we are, and also to be able to get around to some of the out of the way places.
Washington is a town full of memorials! We saw most of them and walked though a few as well. I really must check out Canberra again soon (I haven’t been to our war memorial since I was on a grade 10 school tour!).
We went to the top of the Washington monument (officially not a memorial as he was still alive when construction started!) it was a gorgeous day so we had a great view.Washington is the home of the Smithsonian (no surprise to anyone!) but what I hadn’t really appreciated was this should be Smithsonians with the emphasis on the ending s. There are actually 19 museums and galleries ! as well as the National Zoo. We got to:
Air and Space Museum
American Indian Museum
National Gallery of Art-west
Natural History Museum
I had to visit the Smithsonian Castle even if it is just the information centre now, as it stars in books by James Rollins. He bases his Sigma force (government agents) underneath the Smithsonian! I’m such a tacky tourist when it comes to scenes and settings from books and movies!
I hate to admit it but I preferred the National Gallery of Art to the Met when it comes to impressionist paintings. I lost count of the Renoirs, the Gauguins, the Monets, the Cezaannes. The only da Vinci in the western hemisphere is here to add icing to the cake!
Viewing art with Leonie gives me a whole different perspective! I look at a painting and think pretty picture-she’s deconstructing and getting meanings out of the most innocuous element.
For example, I see this painting and I see a naked couple in a natural environment -ok I get the whole Adam, Eve and apple bit. But Leonie picks up the female headed snake ( as the pretty face of evil), she gets the goats ( as in sexual references), she gets the elephants (i didn't even see them!) but neither of us could work out what a cat was doing there! I didn't even think they had domestic cats at the beginning of man! So of course I google and 1 interpretation is the cat as judge. Leonie thinks it's the cat symbolising Adam's complacency. I think the painter had a cat!
The American Indian Museum was in a beautiful building built without corners-as there is a belief that corners can harbour negative energy. The exhibits and stories really made me more aware of the complexity and sophistication of these people. Leonie and I took another trip back to one of our earlier travels as there was an Incan exhibition on as well. We were also very impressed with the café here-it has a recipe book published and definitely beats any museum food I’ve tried at home!
We took a break from the museums during the week and headed to historic Georgetown (not named after George Washington!) for a 2 hour walking tour. The hills were a bit of a surprise after downtown Washington, and the pebbled streets and fallen autumn leaves look great but are dodgy to manoeuvre when you are trying to look up at the architecture and down so you don’t trip on a brick! Lovely old homes, and the politically posh end of town. Many a Kennedy has lived here. And the current Secretary of State ((john carey) lives here- interesting to see the security services actually so drive black suv with tinted windows-one was outside his place!
It seems every town is a film set! I had no idea The Exorcist was set in Washington. Our guide tells us it was written by. George Washington University student based on an actual case that occurred on campus (think he might have been pulling my leg!). We looked at the famous steps and decided they were too steep for us at the end of a long walk!
We had an evening of culture and dining. The John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts holds a free performance every night at 6 pm. It can be anything from Broadway, orchestra,, puppet theatre. We went to a performance by the NSO youth fellows and it was lovely. The performances are aired on the centre website here. After we headed off to the Washington Habour for dinner-this is a lively waterfront restaurant and apartment complex and our choice ‘Farmers Fishers and Bakers’ was packed-but worth the wait. There is a real emphasis on farm to table food here-the restaurant even made it’s own sodas-no diet coke on the menu!
We have really been lucky with weather on this trip. A few cold ( freezing) days in Nova Scotia to let us know what it could be like but the. Quite balmy after. Washington has followed suit. So we have beautiful weather but no crowds. No waiting in line for anything. Ok we had to wrestle our way through a few other people to get to the da Vinci in the National Gallery of Art but it sure beats the Louvre in that regard!
Our last day was a wet Saturday and we had yet to visit the Natural History Museum-we knew it would be full of kids but did want to see the Hope diamond. So we gathered our defences and headed off-children everywhere! We stayed long enough to watch the Jean Michel Cousteau IMAX 3D (gorgeous photography and close ups, tacky narration!) and glance at the Hope Diamond (big and blue) before getting out of there and jumping a cab back to our hotel.