Monday, February 7, 2011

Washington, D.C

In the summer of 2008, we were fortunate enough to be able to drive down south and visit one of the most phe-no-me-nal places I’ve ever been to: Washington, D.C. I mean, wow, what a place. Where does one start when they visit such an area? Museums, galleries, monuments, memorials, parks, shops, name it, it’s there. This is one of the most remarkable destinations I’ve ever traveled to, bursting with exciting attractions and memorable places to visit. And most of them are free!

The multitude of museums is astonishing, but since we were limited on time, we only got the chance to explore the National Museum of Natural History and the National Air and Space Museums. Both of these attractions are Smithsonian Museums, which (according to certain sources) are some of the most visited museums in the world. Well, I certainly have no trouble believing this after having been there. I never saw so many people in a museum in my life!

Washington is filled with monuments and memorials dedicated to a variety of events and people. Amongst some of these are the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the United States Navy Memorial, the National WWII Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the well-known Lincoln Memorial, a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America, something I’ve always hoped to visit in my lifetime. This memorial - a fixture on the National Mall since 1922 that was built in the style of a Greek temple, one for each state at the time of Lincoln’s death - has been the site of many famous gatherings and speeches, including the most famous one of all: Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in 1963. I mean, wow, I stood where Martin Luther King stood in 1963 as he gave his historic public speech. Wow.

Inside this immensely popular place is a 19-foot tall statue of President Lincoln that looks east toward the Washington Monument and the Capitol. I have seen photos of this statue on websites, in brochures and in many different types of advertisements, but I have to tell you that none of them do it justice. When you see this statue in person, you will be awed by how massive, overwhelming and unbelievably imposing it is. And when you stand on the steps at the front of this memorial, you really do have a great view of the Washington Monument and the Capital, both of which we walked over to for a closer look (and an opportunity to take a gazillion photos of).

Let’s not forget The White House that we strolled over to peak at through the fence on Pennsylvania Ave., which is closed to vehicular traffic. While standing there snapping photos of the official residence and principal workplace of the President, my husband wondered out loud how long it would take before security noticed that he was climbing the fence, and how far he could get before they tackled him. I don’t know why he has these strange thoughts but it’s an interesting question. One that, for obvious reasons, we left unanswered.

We also stopped in at the Smithsonian’s first building, popularly known as “the Castle”, which houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the Smithsonian Information Center. Apparently, this is one of the most famous of all the Smithsonian’s many buildings, as well as the first Smithsonian building ever constructed. Well, much to my delight, behind this building is the Enid A. Haupt Garden, which consists of over four acres of elaborately manicured gardens filled with an assortment of gorgeous plants, some of which are grown indoors up here in my northern world.

Our hotel was situated in Arlington, Virginia, which is located directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Our car sat idle for most of the day. There was a shuttle from the hotel to the metro system, which we used to get to and from Washington. Although we didn’t dedicate much time in thoroughly exploring Arlington, we did drive by The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, and the world’s largest office building. The building really is shaped like a pentagon and it is massive, housing about 23,000 military and civilian employees and about 3,000 non-defense support personnel. Quite impressive.

In addition to The Pentagon, we drove over to the Pentagon Centre in (where else?) Pentagon City, an unincorporated neighbourhood (also called an ‘urban village’) located in the southeast portion of Arlington County. We didn’t know this at the time but this area is a major tourist stop because of its proximity to Washington, D.C. Not that it makes much of a difference even now that we do know. We ended up there by accident, simply because we were searching for a place to have supper, and we noticed that this centre had restaurants in it. We had dinner at one of the California Pizza Kitchen restaurants where I had the Adobe Chicken Chowder, one of the most scrumptious soups I’ve ever eaten in my life. What’s more, California Pizza is a chain of restaurants with more than 240 of them in 33 states and a few of them in nine foreign countries. I’d never heard of CPK restaurants before, despite their size and (apparent) popularity, but I’m glad I got the chance to eat there because the soup I had was out of this world.


It goes without saying that we had a wonderful time in Washington, D.C. And that I’d highly recommend that you visit this area if you can. Just make sure that, unlike us, you plan to spend more than a couple of days there. There is far too much to see, and two days is not enough.

I leave you with the image below...

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