137. Four enriching days surrounded by history and Cherry Blossoms…
If there was one American city that has intrigued me it is Washington D.C. Because of its unique status as being a federal district, home to not only the most powerful person in the world but to so many other institutions and a witness to a lot of modern history. The capital shares its name with the first American President and with Christopher Columbus.
A trip to this city happened over the extended weekend and I’m sharing this blog to enlist my experiences and also to help future visitors get a glimpse of what’s in store here. I don’t think there is any other city in the world which has as many memorials and museums the way D.C. does. A choice of hotel right in downtown was made so as to be able to walk to all the nearby attractions and experience the city on foot.
The first day began with a visit to the gates of The White House at Pennsylvania Avenue – the most famous address in the whole wide world and to its visitors’ gallery. (A visit inside White House is possible with prior permission from the embassy for non-citizens and through a Congressman for citizens. However my mails to the Indian embassy and one tweet to Ambassador Rao fell on deaf ears). The visitors’ gallery located across the street is a mini museum and includes a short documentary on The White House. On the way, the White House gift shop, the Willard Hotel (this is where the world lobbying originated, according to one theory) and Old Ebbitt’s Grill (for lunch) were duly visited. The Smithsonian museums are a family of several free-admission museums and each requires 2-3 hours for a full experience. After a quick stop at American History Museum, the Washington Monument and the Old Post Office building which offers stunning views of the city. That done, much time was spent with the 44 American Presidents and other celebrities at the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum (which is definitely worth a visit). Dinner was at Firefly near Dupont Circle.
Day 2 kicked off at the Eastern Market – a street market that also has a flea market set up on the weekends. After breakfast there, a walk to the Library of Congress followed. Besides the temporary exhibitions running there the display of the Gutenberg Bible was a highlight. The building is magnificent and is right in front of The Capitol. Visiting The Capitol was a proud moment and tours can be enrolled into online. This requires 90 minutes of dedicated time including a short video. After lunch at the restaurant in Capitol building an outdoor photo session of the magnificent building including the Supreme Court next door took place. Thereafter some time was spent at the beautiful National Air and Space Museum including a section dedicated to the Wright brothers where the first aircraft they flew is preserved. A few meters away is the Smithsonian Castle which includes an information center and a general indoor hangout for weary tourists. The much awaited moment was a walk to the Tidal Basin and time spent amidst the Cherry Blossoms with a view of the Jefferson Memorial. These flowers originally from Japan encircle the banks of Potomac River near downtown and are a symbol of springtime. The National Cherry Blossom Festival (NCBF) is a time of events and programs, this year the city celebrates the centenary since the first cherry blossom trees arrived from Japan. Dinner that Saturday night was at Zaytinya which is close to China Town and ranked one of the best restaurants in DC.
On the third day after mass in Latin at St Matthews Roman Catholic Cathedral, a block away from the hotel, good amount of time was spent at the Arlington National Cemetery. This cemetery is the resting place of several great American soldiers and Presidents. John F Kennedy and family are interned here. The most beautiful section was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where a changing of the guard ceremony takes place every thirty minutes and is worth watching. The guard of honor includes a young serving soldier creating a pattern in front of the tomb, offering a sense of sanctity and discipline inspiring several young American children to join the military. The guard does a ritual in several 63 seconds cycles. 21 steps in front of the tomb every minute with 21 seconds of motionless silence on either side of the path. This memorable moment was followed by a brunch at another well-known DC eatery called Founding Farmers at Foggy Bottom on Pennsylvania Avenue. Thereafter it was time to attend the official inauguration (to which passes were requisitioned online) of the Centennial NCBF at the Washington Convention Center which was a beautifully conducted program of American-Japanese performing arts and crisp speeches. A leisurely Sunday evening stroll included walking by Hard Rock DC and the house where Abraham Lincoln breathed his last before heading to the hotel.
The final day began with a quick visit to my company’s DC office and a stop at Newseum – a museum dedicated to News. The museum is a must visit for journalists, PR professionals and anyone who enjoys news. Parts of the Berlin Wall are some of the many unusual things displayed there. Then some time was spent at the National Geographic headquarters viewing the photo exhibition and at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum including Daniel’s Story – a great way to educate people of all ages about the blot in recent history. Thereafter, it was time to take a metro ride to Lauriol Plaza for lunch followed by a walk to the Courtyard Marriott, to check out and take a Metro ride to the National Airport.
A special thanks to colleague Mindi Wood for recommending the restaurants. All the places highlighted have websites and more information about them is available there. If you plan a visit to this city in the future feel free to reach out to me for any tips you may want. Except tickets to the wax museum which I purchased on GroupOn and Newseum which I purchased at the venue all other attractions were free entry. There are 3 airports in the DC area but the Reagan National Airport (DCA) is the closest to downtown. The Museum of Crime and Punishment, International Spy Museum, Pentagon building and National Cathedral were on the list but could not be visited for paucity of time.
Here are pictures from the trip: bit.ly/theDCpictures
and here is a fun video you may like: bit.ly/theDCvideo
Short link to the blog: bit.ly/theDCholiday