Saturday, 27 October 2012

Washington - 27th October 2012

Today was our last day. There is so much we haven’t done, and so much on the list to do, that there is going to be lots that is going to have to wait until next time! After an early start, to try and get in as much as possible, we grabbed a coffee along the way and went to meet a walking tour guide that I had found on the internet.

The company is called Monumental Stouries, and is a free, tips only, tour. We met Tim, the guide, on Constitution Avenue just off the north grounds of the Washington Monument. It turns out that there is only one other couple on the tour – an American couple, the lady coming from New York and lives one block away from Madonna and the gentleman who went to law school with Mitt Romney. Made for a very interesting tour. The lady also was working on the 65th floor of the World Trade Centre when the plane hit, and gave a very graphic encounter of how she escaped.

Tim was so knowledgeable about the monuments and history – and whatever he didn’t know the American gentleman filled in. A real bonus! We started by walking over to the World War II monument, and then through the Constitution Gardens and by the Reflecting Pool towards the Vietnam Monument. As we were at the World War II Monument, Tim saw two secret service sniper guys on the top of one of the buildings, and said that usually meant that Marine One (helicopter) was on its way in. He explained that if there were three helicopters, one would be carrying the President, if there were two it would be the Vice President, or one it could be anyone! There are thirty Marine One’s altogether. There were only two, so looks like we didn’t get the top man today. The reflecting pool had just been drained and had 34 million dollars spent on having pipes connected to it to keep it clean. This apparently has done two things – allowed algae to grow on it so is not clean at all, and keeps the water moving so that it doesn’t reflect. We must have been really lucky the other day when we had a perfect reflection. It certainly wasn’t today.

We then went to the Vietnam War Memorial, a black granite wall with names of every American that lost their lives engraved in the wall. It sounds a bit morbid, but it actually is very poignant. It is cleverly designed to seem like a knife wound cut into the ground, deeper in the middle than at the ends. So many things are left every day at the wall be relatives and friends of the soldiers – all that are collected at midnight and stored. A Harley Davidson motor bike was left one year by a motor cycle group – so that the deceased could “take a ride” at any time they felt like it.

We then went to Lincoln’s Memorial again, and again had more and more information on this and the surrounding area. We walked around the back of the temple, and had a great view of the Arlington Memorial Bridge and Woman’s Monument in the cemetery. From here we walked to the Korea Memorial. A garden type monument with nineteen stainless steel soldiers that looked as if they were walking though hills and swamps. The expressions on their faces were so life like – just as if they were feeling fatigued and really wanted to come home. A wall went down one side of this with faces etched into it of actual soldiers that served in the war.

From here, we went to Martin Luther King’s Memorial – the newest addition. This was a huge stone sculpture, with many of his quotes engraved into the walls surrounding the sculpture. The entrance is made of a huge rock split into two, that you walk through the middle. His image has been hewn out of the block that came from the middle and moved forward. Very clever. One of the quotes on the side of his image has caused much controversy, so is going to be redone at some point with the whole quote instead of the cut down version which has apparently changed the meaning. From here, there is a view of the tidal basin over to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. It has been a beautiful day again, but our feet have just about given up. This walk took five hours – way over what it supposed to, but was so interesting with the conversation that nobody seemed to mind.

We grabbed a cab and went to one of the restaurants that was recommended by the guide book, one of the locals, and the tour guide – Old Emmitt Grill which is virtually next to the White House. It was well worth the visit.

Clam chowder and lobster – and the biggest lobster I have ever eaten. And it was so good! Well chosen for our last meal in Washington. It was then back to the hotel and pack for our flight at 11.20pm out of Dulles Airport and back to the UK. Just in time – Hurricane Sandy is due in the next couple of days, and is predicted to be the worst storm to hit the area in decades.  And our $55 hop-on hop-off bus ticket was used for one bus for two stops – not the best value for money purchase we have ever made!

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