* Prices may differ from that shown
We recently spent a few days in Washington DC at the end of a holiday in the USA. I had heard mixed reviews about the city before we visited; one of my friends absolutely loves it and has been a few times, but Dave Gorman painted a horrible picture of the place on his stand up shows! As it was, we really liked it. I don't think I'd go back because I didn't fall in love with the place, but it was brilliant to see some of the most famous places in the world all in one city.
***Getting There and Getting Around***
We actually flew into Dulles airport, which is a good way out of the city and so costly to arrive from. They are in the process of building some kind of rail link to the airport but until then you'll have to make do with the cheap but very slow bus, organise a slightly more expensive but slightly quicker shuttle or settle on the much quicker and much more expensive taxi. We went for the latter and paid sixty dollars each way including tip. If you are flying into Reagan International, it'll be much quicker and cheaper because the centre is only a few miles from the airport and there are many, many more options. In fact it is worth considering this when you are booking your flights; we went for the cheaper flight option of going into Dulles and were stung on getting into the city, so just bear in mind that what you save on flights might cost you more in transfers - plus it obviously takes longer to get there too.
Getting around the city is easy. It is not so big that you can't do most of it on foot really, as long as you don't mind pounding the pavements. If not there are literally hundreds of options for organised tours and hop on hop off type buses. The other option is the subway system which is quite inclusive and fairly cheap to use. It is quite complicated although we got the hang of it in a couple of days and the staff at the ticket booths are very helpful. Maps at each station make it even easier and it goes to all the main sites.
***My Washington Must Sees***
The White House - The most visited residence in America (and probably the world actually), you can't not visit this when you are in the city. You can't actually go in unless you have pre requested permission and even then it is only allowed if you are part of an educational group or something like that. You can get surprisingly close to it though and it is easy to get a good picture from both the front and the back. I was actually a little underwhelmed by the building though because I somehow thought it would be much bigger. It is a big old house, don't get me wrong, but it just didn't seem as intimidating as I thought it was going to be and it literally is slap bang in the middle of the city!
Arlington Cemetery - OK this one isn't actually in DC because it is across the Potomac River in Virginia, but it is an easy journey to make and well worth it, in fact we actually walked there one day and it took us about an hour from the White House. Arlington is arguably the Us's most famous cemetery and there are many famous people buried there. JFK is there with his family and there is an eternal flame by his grave. The tomb of the unknowns is one of the most popular parts of the cemetery and is guarded 24 hours a day. It is very moving. We found the sheer size of the place somewhat overpowering and depressing although it is meticulously maintained and very respectful. There is a visitors centre at the entrance where you can get a map of the cemetery. Whilst you are over here, you should make the effort to go around to the Iwo Jima monument which is worth a visit and much bigger than I thought it would be. Even if you don't think you know what it is, you will have seen it in books or on the internet it is a very iconic statue and brilliant to see.
The Capitol Building - This was my favourite building in the city actually and although it does look a bit like an over indulgent cake, I loved it's over the top grandeur and pomp and circumstance. It is easy to get to - just keep walking past the Smithsonian museums and it is there sitting proudly at the top of a small hill, presiding over the world's most powerful city. Worth a look.
***Where To Eat***
As with any big city, there are literally thousands of places to eat, whatever your tastes, budget and preferences. Every (and I mean every) single nationality is represented a hundred times over. There are, of course, untold numbers of fast food and takeaway shops. We loved all the independent bakeries selling delicious donuts and cupcakes (our waist lines did not).
I would highly recommend in particular a few restaurants in the Dupont Circle area where we stayed. Firstly Kramerbooks and Afterwords is a bookshop that has a musician playing quietly in the background and has a restaurant at the back with a very chilled out vibe that sells good food and excellent puddings. We went to a Thai restaurant, rather ingeniously called Thaiphoon where we got delicious food and excellent service for not a lot of money. The tables were a bit cramped but the atmosphere was good and the portion sizes meant that we shared food and so it was cheap. We went to Mandu to try Korean food, which was lovely and very interesting. The service was good and they explained the food so you knew what you were eating. They had a happy hour from 4 until 7pm with half price drinks. For Italian food we went to La Tomate, which is has a very reasonably priced set menu and the best Sacher torte I have ever eaten
If you don't have breakfast included in your room rate, I wouldn't bother about it and I certainly wouldn't pay extra for it because there are so many places all over the city that offer every type of breakfast going so you'd be better heading out of the hotel for a cheaper breakfast on your travels anyway!
***Where To Stay***
We stayed in the Dupont Circle area at a hotel called The Normandy, which offered excellent value for money and is in great location. If you are staying in Washington DC, bear in mind when you are booking that it is MUCH cheaper to stay at the weekend when all the politicians have left town. A lot of hotels have special offers and packages on at the weekend so you can get a good deal. If not, do have a look at the Normandy because it is a lovely hotel in a quiet area of the city but within a thirty minute walk of the White House and all of the main attractions. There is a subway station about a ten minute walk awa and no end of eateries and restaurants very close by. The standard of the hotel is excellent as is the service, and it was considerably cheaper than others in the city.
One of the biggest draws to the city outside of the White house are the many monuments that dot the place and you should make a big effort to see as many of them as you can because they are varied and interesting. Depending on what interests you, there are many, many different statues and buildings that you can visit and all of them are fascinating.
If you are interested visiting the war memorials, there are a few and they are all within walking distance of each other so it is easy to do. These were the ones that I found the most powerful and moving. I am an army baby so things like this do tend to pull at my heartstrings a bit more, but they are pretty good. The two world war memorials are grand and show just how much patriotism the Americans have and how proud they are of their war heroes. The Vietnam memorial is simply a list of names of those who suffered engraved into a wall. It is a very powerful reminder of just how much life is lost during wars, especially when you consider how small the writing is and how big the wall is. The Korean war memorial is different again and was the most interesting in my opinion. It is a garden that has statues of soldiers in it, presumably on one of their missions. It has an odd eerie calm to it which is quite something in the middle of such a huge and busy city.
The monuments to past presidents are plentiful and suitably grand (not trying to sounds patronising, but the Americans really don't do anything by halves) and they are scattered around the city. All within walking distance, but it will be a nice long walk. The most visible is George Washingon's rather phallic looking obelisk, doubtless leading many people to ask what he might be compensating for. The most famous is probably Lincoln's memorial - something I have wanted to see since it featured on The Simpsons! You can touch his foot any more, but you can walk into the big marble building that houses the statue of him and the words (his words) etched on the inside are moving. We particularly like Jefferson's statue in the title basin around the corner that is much quieter as it is off the beaten track. Franklin D Roosevelt's memorial is more like a statue garden than a monument and is good in its own way. All of these are free to visit and, with the exception of Jefferson's, are covered by organised tours.
There are some other statues worth visiting that don't fall into these groups. Near to Roosevelt's statue garden, you'll find the white carving of Martin Luther King Jr and across from Lincoln's memorial, you'll see the rather funky statue of Einstein sat on some steps. This was my favourite by far as it was a wonderful depiction of the somewhat scatty looking genius!
No visit to Washington DC is complete without visiting the outstanding Smithsonian collection which is a series of free to enter museums founded for the diffusion of knowledge. There are a great number of museums and libraries in the collection and, unless you want to spend a week looking around them all, you'll probably want to pick a couple that will be of most interest to you and spend your time in them. The museums are handily all located in the same area so walking between them is easy. There is a turetted building in the centre that is the visitors centre and is a wealth of information. We went to three museums; The National Air and Space Museum, The Museum of Natural History and The Museum of American History. I'd recommend paying a dollar for one of the floor plans available in each museum - they are really handy and make great souvenirs.
The National Air and Space Museum is probably the most popular so I'd recommend getting there early to avoid the busy periods later on. We arrived at opening time and it was quiet for the first half hour or so and then got steadily busier. I can see why it is so popular because there is some really fascinating stuff in there including the Wright brothers' first aircraft, The Spirit of St Louis and various spacecraft. The museum is well laid out with lots of massive open spaces and is easy to walk around in an organised fashion so you can see the timeline for flight and space exploration. Things are brightly coloured to keep children entertained and there is an experiment room that that kids (including my 42 year old big kid of a husband) absolutely loved. They have a food hall and plenty of souvenir shops in here too.
The Museum of Natural History is like a zoo full of stuffed animals and will please children. The areas are split into different zones (marine, land, air etc) and so it is again, very well laid out and easy to get round. We enjoyed seeing the world's largest diamond and the Egyptian area complete with mummies. In the dinosaur area, scientists are working in glass laboratories and they actually have little signs in the window telling you what they are working on.
The Museum of American History is very interesting too and I particularly loved seeing Dorothy's shoes from the Wizard of Oz and the original Kermit the Frog. This museum isn't as big as some of the others and you can easily see the highlights in an hour or so. They have an exhibit about the first ladies of America on at the moment and it is surprisingly interesting. Don't miss the original Star Spangled Banner either.
The thing I loved about Washington DC was the fact that there is literally so much to see and do. It was ridiculously clean and there is no shortage of places to eat. The problem for me is that I saw and did everything I wanted to in the few days that I was there, so I don't feel the need to go back. I am sure that if I did go back and would see something new and different every time, but I don't want to. I didn't feel a vibe from the city really, much as I liked it, it felt very formal and sometimes superficial. There are some amazing things there, but it did have the culture and old world charm that I like to see. It seemed very new and what you would perhaps call 'up and coming', which is not really my bag. Don't get me wrong, I loved my few days there and I would absolutely recommend it to every one, but I won't be hurrying back.
There is no city quite like Washington DC. It's effectively the power capital of the world and its sprawling authoritive pristine white government buildings and arrow straight streets and snooker table green parks mean you really do have to keep off the grass when you are told to, men in black suits with ear pieces likely to jump out and unholster their guns if you do stray. But for all that formality and manicured appearance of the grand and imposing government buildings and museums it is the democratic capital of the United States and so, rather contradictory, its locked and bolted grand oak doors are thrown open to the public in the day time and its access all areas, including The Whitehouse, The Pentagon and The Capital Building, the one with the striking dome that the les educated think is The Whitehouse. Tourist can go almost everywhere and although 911 changed some of that access you can still do tours of the main buildings of American power and history. When I was there I went into The Whitehouse, The Pentagon and The Capital Building. Admittedly it was just before September 11 but I believe Obama has declared the 'War on Terror' over by ousting Bush and the city is calming down again and you can get better access.
If you love American history then you must go to DC. I spent three days there and would have done more if my schedule wasn't so tight (I had a hot bird waiting in Boston!). Don't just plan a day out here or you will miss tons of things to do. You get a real buzz walking around the city and especially in the working Whitehouse, indeed as frantic as it looks on The West Wing. Because of Americas Constitution these places are free to get in and so lots to get through. You have to do a passport background check the 24 hours before you enter the Whitehouse but apart from that in you go. You don't get to see The Oval Office or Michelle Obama's bathroom but well worth the tour. The Capital Building is surprisingly beautiful inside and again worth a peak, open during the day when the senate and congress are sitting. Post Dan Browns fifth book about the Masonic mysteries of Washington DC the city has seen an upsurge in tourism and DB tours very popular by all accounts. The Pentagon tours are not quite as good as they clearly don't want you to see all their dirty secrets. If you scuff the shiny floors when you do the tour a soldier will come out of nowhere and clean up your scuff mark. The military is all about routine and discipline after all.
My personal favorite was the National Military cemetery where JFK and many other great Americans are buried. It's the one with all those lines and lines of white crosses you see in movies and documentaries. It's an atmospheric place where tranquility mixes with Americas warring past and present, business good and the place filling it very fast. The Eternal Flame for President Kennedy is a poignant place at the highest part of the cemetery that gives you excellent views of the city. From here you can see The Pentagon and can only imagine what tourists made of the plane hitting it on 911. This area also holds the space shuttle pilots plots. It's unclear what is actually in their graves. There is also a continuous changing of the guard area by the military at the cemetery and fascinating to watch, not a spec of dust to be seen on the soldiers. If you interfere with these guys you will be in the guardhouse matey! Every intricate step and swing of the arm is perfect and the absolute respect shown to the dead here, broken only by the whirring and clicking of cameras in the spring sunshine. Sometimes silence can be deafeningly powerful. If you feel a breeze in your face up here its ghosts of the past taking the welcome fresh air.
Other things to do are all manner of museums and attractions, as well as some swanky restaurants and bustling bars. The Air and Space Museum is a belter, all manner of iconic planes and space capsules hanging from the ceiling to marvel at. If you want to rub some Moon rock then you can do that here. The famous Watergate building is worth an amble down to for the snap and introduces you to the river that sweeps through Washington DC, a good place for lunch.
This is not a night on the town place though and so you have to go to the college areas of the city to party. Don't go looking for those areas unless you are sure because with in one mile of the The Whitehouse is one of the most dangerous boroughs in America, Washington's black population yet to enjoy Americas prosperousness and freedoms. We stayed at the official IYHA hostel ($23 a night) in the city and if you turn left you are 15 minutes walk from The Whitehouse and if you turn right you're five minutes from being shot. Always ask where not to go in a city at your hostel or hotel as America is seismic plates of ethnic minorities pushing together to produce unrelenting pecking order tensions. For all Washington's beauty it remains in the top ten most dangerous cities in America, that virginal white of the city bowl a big fat lie.
The cities greatest quality is it's beautiful to walk around, especially in the spring. The parks are eclectic places with some protest or another competing with the traffic hum. We played five-aside football with some tourist across the road from the Whitehouse, somewhat surreal, one hoof from having to climb over the fence and get the ball. The snipers on the roof suggest they could hit that ball and you with the same shot. The tall stone needle monument seen in many an action movie has a stairway in it if you fancy a long walk and mysteriously triangulates perfectly with The Whitehouse and Capital Building, the apex for Dan Browns boring book.
Getting there is straightforward with Dulles International Airport (as featured in Die Hard 2) and the Greyhound and train station fairly central. If you are a plane spotter you can get great access to the end of the runway and almost touch the jets as they take off and land.
I was with some people using a drive away deal where you take a private car from A to B and just pay petrol, easy to do through various agencies. It's a very cheap way to travel in America and as long as you are willing to surrender your credit card details as collateral for not stealing the person's car its good fun. They want the car taken to another city and you get to drive it, often really cool cars. We drove up from Miami and doing it this way means you can stop lots of times to do some sightseeing, South Carolina and Georgia beautiful states to explore in the old south, the city of Raleigh well worth a visit. If you are coming down from New York then its worth stopping off in Philadelphia, a city you can do in the day but don't really want to hang around in after dark.
Well now that my reviews for Chicago and Las Vegas have been completed I guess its time to move onto my third stop, don't worry only two more stops after this, in what was an amazing summer. The next leg of my journey took me to the state capital of Washington DC. The roots of American democracy and the political capital of the world. This was actually my last stop before coming back home, however I just felt like writing about this now. I had pre booked my ticket to DC whilst I was in London with American Airlines from Chicago; it set me back about £150, which for a peak time in mid July was not bad what so ever. Having stayed in DC for a week this review will focus more on the sights and places I visited, if I forget to mention the obvious places to see its because I didn't really go their and I therefore don't see the need to mention something I have no idea about. Rather tell the truth than lie, so enjoy.
The state of Washington was first founded in 1791 and is the nation's capital as declared in the constitution of the United States. The area of Washington can be broken down into the main DC area which has a population of some 572, 000 and the surrounding metro region which has some 5.4 million people residing. Washington has had many historical moments such as the Civil war during the 1860's, and the popular race riots which lead to the biggest crowd gathering in Washington.
It makes obvious sense to first give some detail about our accommodation, its location and description as well as a general reflection on its price. Having been in America for some time now, I had stayed in many hotels such as the Luxor, Holiday in and so on; however I had never had a chance to stay at a bed and breakfast. A friend of mine whom visited the capital a year prior to my stay suggested the best bed and breakfast in Washington was called Woodley Park Guest House, which was located in the Columbia District. I should not we booked our reservation prior to leaving London as there are limited rooms and they cannot always guarantee availability. We stayed for 4 nights at a cost of $79 per night, which included bed and breakfast, and the basic utilities such as shower, baths and toilets.
My first impression of the B&B was that it was nothing I ever expected; you hardly see it on the tour brochures or in the movies. It was as if we were actually in Washington during the 1800's. The shiny old wooden floors that creaked, pictures of President Lincoln on the walls, rocking chairs and candles were such a surprise. The place had a warm feeling to it, the kitchens had traditional old stoves, and small slaughter houses at the back were they prepared the food and so on. The staffs were very pleasant and always there for ones needs. The rooms came equipped with nice comfortable beds, phones and air conditioning.
Every morning before we left for the day they would ask whether we wanted to have dinner with the other guest tonight. Occasionally we sat down with the other guests around a pleasant wooden oak table, as seen on there pictures.
Without sounding to biased I really think this has to be one of the best bed and breakfast places I had been too period. The prices may be steep, but it gives you a sense that you're really in the nation's capital rather than staying at some fancy hotel ordering room service and not knowing why it is you're actually visiting the city in the first place.
Getting Around the Capital:
I must say this is another aspect of the journey which really made me feel more warmth towards the city. The other places I had visited were always to busy, the trains were unreliable and we could never now how to get from one place to the next. However, DC in my opinion has one of the best transportation services available and why wouldn't it; it's the capital after all.
The Washington Metro, which is London's equivalent to the underground runs all around the capital, taking you literally outside the main tourist attractions. We found the service to be very quick and present. There are three types of tickets you can purchase, all of which vary in price depending on the length of your stay.
- The first is a regular day pass, which works after 9:30 am and costs around $7.50. it's the equivalent to our off peak passes, I would recommend these to visitors staying for less than 3 days, because it works out cheaper and most places don't open before ten so you wont have to worry about being late.
- The second option is getting 7 day short pass, which again works after 9:30 am but can be used for a week, this sets you back about $26.00
- Finally if you're staying longer than 4 days this is your best bet, to buy a 7 day long pass, which works anytime and can also allow holders to use the rail services and any other connection services that are linked to the metro. If you ask nicely they do sometimes, sometimes offer discount if you buy bulk passes.
Another option, which we frequently used as the Metro bus, which normally cost about $1.35, however with your travel pass it's free. There are several stops scattered in many places, the buses come quick, have plenty of seats and during the summer has air conditioning. To be honest the transportation system in DC is somewhat far superior to that of London's, however that's just my opinion.
One must make a quick comment regarding accessibility for disabled people. A friend of mine was accompanying me on this trip who was physically unable to walk found it even easier and hassle free to travel to and from the city. I would recommend the city scooter tours who provide transportation, such as wheelchairs and in some cases coaches to take people from a to b. (www.cityscouterstours.com) (888)441-7574
If you really want to enjoy the sunny city, your best time to go is during the summer holidays, anywhere between June and August, but if you do want something a tiny bit cooler January through April is the best time to suit your needs. But if you really want to make the most of discount packages, holiday parades such as 4th of July then summer is the best time.
Attractions that I visited:
Ok so hopefully this next section will give you some insight into the tourist hotspots that I visited, please excuse if I forget to mention some of the memorable places, but this will reflect the places I had a chance to see during my stay.
Ok well the first and perhaps most important places you should visit it's the Lincoln Memorial, which is part of the national park service. As you may have guessed it is was built to commemorate the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln the 16th president of the United States. Your first impression of the big towering building make you feel as if you're actually in Greece, with the long cycled pillars similar to that of the Parthenon. The size of the building is a lot bigger up close and in person as apposed to the leaflets they hand out, the place is definitely worth while visiting. Not only do you get to see some of the historical aspects of Lincoln life and America's democracy, but the landscape, wildlife and rivers surrounding it make it such a beautiful sight.
The main focal point of the whole structure has to be the interior, was one can see a sculpture of the great man himself, which was designed Daniel Chester a French sculpture. The statue is simply out huge, with a dominant figure of Lincoln sitting down on a tall chair looking out at all of Washington. Next to the sculpture on the wall beside it is the Gettysburg speech.
IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER
Getting there is relatively easy with almost all train links and busses stopping outside it, one quick not its actually free to visit the place, so don't be fooled if someone says you have to pay.
I could go on and on forever about the numerous attractions you can see, but this would simply make the review somewhat stretched and can get boring, so instead ill simply list the places I visited and think you should stop off at if your in the area.
 The Washington monument which is that really tall pillar with a triangular roof shape. Again another historical aspect covered here.
 The RFK Stadium were the DC United football team play their "soccer"
 And the martin Luther Kind Memorial building
I could go on for ours and ours about the sites, but I suppose people have different tastes and opinions about were to go and what to see. There are several places to eat in the capital, you have you franchise stores such and Burger King and Pizza Hut or your more uptown Italian Restaurants, however since we paid for bed and breakfast most of our eating and drinking was done in the B & B.
One final note, there is a tendency to tip in the capital as its not included in your bill, the going rate is about 15% of the bill, however don't be pressured into given them that amount, just give what you can. Or you could do what we did and give nothing, in which case they will give you dirty looks. Hopefully this review has given a small insight into a big city.
Last weekend I spent some time in the exotically named town of Intercourse, PA. This weekend I needed a change of pace, so I went to D.C. because it's (a) only an hour from here and (b) somewhere people have heard of and so are willing to talk about. If I start work conversations with "Tell me about Intercourse" I get funny looks, but with "Tell me about D.C." I don't. So, I decided to go. I went on Friday after work and didn't get back until late Monday night. I stayed at a luverly hotel whose one plus point was that I was encouraged to spend as much time as possible out doing stuff rather than lolling around there. My first stop was the Old Town Trolley Tour. Usually $26, I had a free ticket so spent almost all the day hopping on and off, listing to useful and entertaining facts about the people and buildings of the city. I went round the national cathedral, complete with stained glass window dedicated to the Apollo astronauts (it contains a piece of moon rock) and then I rode up to the top and saw the city form up high. I saw the White House (which is white. And house like). I saw the Washington Monument (tall and also white) but couldn't get to the top because they only give tickets out once a day and when I arrived at 8.50am they had already all gone. I saw the memorials and the Kennedy Center and the Watergate house and congress (steps straight out of Legally Blonde 2). Then, since I was in tour mode and had another ticket, I took the Duck Boat tour which covers different sights and includes a trip on the river, coming ashore by Reagan airport. I would recommend a tour like this, especially if you're only in town for a short time, as they cover everything and take you to and from each sight. Various ones operate in the city, but most seem to be between $20 and $30 per adult, and slightly less for children. Not all allow free re-boarding though, so if you think you'll be hopping on and off,
check your ticket allows doing so before buying. The next day I hit the museums. I was there queuing when the Air and Space Museum opened and though it took a while to get in, it was relatively empty once you got through the door. It is free, as all the Smithsonian off shoots are, but inside things like the IMAX and the flight simulator and Planetarium came at an extra cost. This museum has various hands on sections as well as usual museum displays, so is more fun than the name might suggest. I went in the National Gallery of Art and after exploring on my own, took a fascinating free tour of the Italian Renaissance, seeing what they claimed to be the only Da Vinci this side of the pond. I figured then wasn't the time to mention that I hang out at the Louvre and the Uffizi on a regular basis. These tours run daily in the morning and afternoon, and cover different periods of history, so if you were that way inclined you could spend the whole day there doing one after the other. In an effort to take in some of the less well known places I descended on the Postal Museum (fun! You get a certificate if you can work out how to use one of the computers in their last interactive exhibit, and can print free postcards to send back home). Next stop was the Museum of Women In The Arts which was bizarre because as well as showcasing some wonderful paintings and creations they also had one display several items from their local Ikea, labeled and everything. The FBI tour is currently suspended and has been since 9/11, so my final stop was the newish Spy Museum where you have to assume an identity and play that character for the duration of your stay. Security is semi-tight at all these places, with bags and people being x-rayed / wand-patted on entry, but they are fairly efficient and queues move at a steady pace. The museums ranged from free to $5 (Women in the Arts) to $13 (the Spy museum). Each had long queues most of the day, and going mid week di
dn't really help much. All the museums had well stocked shops and pleasant cafes and restaurants. I mainly ate at the station though - I always seemed to be passing through around meal time - and stuffed myself on food court Italian dishes and Auntie Anne Pretzels, the *only* sort to eat. Street vendors were visible wherever you went, and there were lots of delis, restaurants and grocery stores around, so eating was never a problem. My number one evening recommendation is to go and see the Capitol Steps, a group who make fun of congress, reminded me a lot of the Reduced Shakespeare Company and are absolutely hilarious. They perform at the Ronald Reagan Center every Friday and Saturday night, and are well worth the ticket price. I also went to the movies lots. I saw The Terminal at the AMC in Arlington, Garfield at the one at Union Station and Mean Girls at the Lowes Georgetown. I like films and I don't like hanging out in hotel rooms on my own, so it worked out well, and going to that last film also took me into Georgetown which is a cute little part of town full of boutiques and people brunching all day Sunday. I walked back along the river, basking in the sunshine and feeling a long way from the smoggy city I'm currently working in. D.C. was an interesting city and I think I spent just the right length of time there. Numerous free maps are readily available, and the city is easily accessible by public transport, with the subway serving most parts and busses the rest. I wouldn't recommend the day pass though. It costs $6 but I never spent more than $4 in any one day as I usually rode in to the city and then walked around rather than riding from place to place. Single fairs are $1.35 in peak times (like before 9.30am) and $1.20 the rest of the time. Several international airports are nearby - Dulles and Baltimore-Washington for example - and you can fly direct from the UK. I was never really aware that I was on my own in a big new c
ity apart from when I was having the odd run in with alarmingly forward blokes (since when did it become ok to try to pick me up when I'm wearing my p*ss-off-and-leave-me-alone face?) and though crime can be a problem as in all places, I never felt unsafe, even when walking around on my own at night. There is a ton to do in D.C. and if time allows I might head back in a month or two, even if it's just for the day. Worth a visit, but it's not quite the complete package NYC is. It's perhaps too much of a city-city rather than a fun filled holiday destination, so if you're coming over from the UK I'd recommend tying it in with some time on the beach or out in Amish country if possible. If nothing, the latter gives you the opportunity to get your hands on their free local newspaper "Intercourse News: It's About Families Doing Things Together". Honestly, you just couldn't make this stuff up.
Dear Everyone: Due to circumstances, I have decided to leave Dooyoo and all other opinionating sites. I have enjoyed the time I have spend here and just wanted to tell everyone goodbye. Now because of new circumstances, I will not be able to post opinions like I did in the past. I appreciate being able to read the posted opinions, and the exchange of ideas. I wish everyone the best. Thanks, Opinion Girl To new people reading this: Yes, there use to be an opinion here, but do to reasons above I have decided to leave, so this opinion is no longer available. I hope you enjoy the site! To the opinion site itself: This is no longer an opinion to the opinion site, this is just a message saying goodbye.
If you?re looking for an easy vacation, Washington, D.C., may be the answer. Both times I?ve been there, my family and I were advised to take the subway. Part of the reason is that it?s nearly impossible to find parking. Another reason is that it?s cheap. The last time we were there, we were able to get all-day passes for $5. Seven-day passes were $17.50, or $2.50 per day. Most of the city is within walking distance of a station. You?ll be able to get to all of the major attractions without that much walking. Many of the attractions are free, although you may end up spending a lot of lunch. The Smithsonian, which operates many attractions in the area, is always a good place to visit as is the Postal and museum. On our most recent visit, we were able to visit the Holocaust Museum. If I recall correctly, it would be a good idea to call ahead to check for hours and procedures. I believe you have to purchase your tickets in advance and people are let in only at certain times. There were several hotels within the city, but both times, we stayed outside the city and took the subway in. Because the city is a popular destination, you have options. I?d recommend finding someplace outside the city; if I recall, options inside the city tend to be more expensive. Also, many of the subway stations have parking. It wouldn?t be difficult to drive to and from the station or possibly find a hotel with a shuttle. When visiting, expect your biggest expense outside of the hotel to be food. The average stay is about 3 or 4 days and you can find plenty of free attractions to fill that time. Dinner is usually reasonable if you find one of the chain restaurants, but lunch purchased at many of the attractions will be expensive. If you can, find someplace else. Otherwise, enjoy your trip.
Washington D.C. (For those of you who don’t know D.C. stands for District of Columbia) Where to start? It’s a fabulous city, although a little bit on the expensive side to stay, eat and drink, but it’s quite a bit cheaper if you stay on the Arlington side of the Potomac, where taxes are lower. The Metro system into Washington is inexpensive and very easy to understand. If you stay on that side of the Potomac, perhaps you should make a start at Arlington Cemetery, which ought not to be missed. We've been there twice and have still not seen it all! It's extremely hilly, and a bus will take you around if needed – at a price of course, which wasn’t too bad and well worth it. You can 'get off and on' wherever you want to – but beware if you really want to see the most popular parts e.g. ‘The changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, be prepared for a long wait for a bus, as everybody has the same idea as you, and will want to get back on the bus when you do. I’m calling this means of transport a bus, because I don’t know what else to call it – it’s a sort of a bus. The first time we went there, we walked it, so those of you who are reasonably fit won’t need the bus anyway. I found the John F Kennedy grave/memorial a little disappointing, but the view from there was really brilliant. However, don't miss Robert E Lee's house at the top. The view across the Potomac is one level up from the Kennedy grave/memorial, and is outstanding, and really well worth the effort of getting there. Across the Potomac is Lincoln's Memorial. A gigantic building, with a statue inside to match – 16ft tall. The statue is awesome, and definitely not one to miss. You can only gauge the enormity of the statue by being there and comparing the size against humans. Close by is the Vietnam and Korean Memorials - both a
re very moving, although I preferred the Korean Memorial. There are figures of soldiers in the fields of war, and the pain on their faces is absolutely so real and incredible. The reflecting pool is beautiful, and, depending on which end you are, reflects either the Lincoln Memorial or Washington Memorial. The walk along the side of the pool is very relaxing. There are tours, which will take you around the city, and these are highly recommended. They offer the same ' get on and off' as the Arlington ones, and at least one of them incorporates Arlington. The Smithsonian museums are free, and very extensive. We weren’t as impressed as we thought we would be with the National Air & Space Museum (obviously that’s our personal opinion) but it really is worth a visit. We found the National Museum of American history seemed to be extremely informative and in a way addictive. We spent 4 hours there, and have to say we still haven’t seen it all. For those of you out there who think that we obviously read everything, you couldn’t be further from the truth. Normally we have a quick look and sort of run around a museum. I personally feel that the museum is that extensive, that an hour even to those ‘runners’ like me would leave a long way still to go. Union Gap station is a place worth visiting, if time permits, with loads of shops, restaurants and bars. However, there are some very unsavoury areas around it, which we encountered walking back to our hotel (the time we actually stayed in D.C. itself). Whist travelling on one of the ‘get on and off’ tours, we encountered Embassy Row, Please don’t expect me to reel off all those Embassy’s, it’s breathless to say them all, as our driver demonstrated, and even he had to miss a few out. St Patrick’s Cathedral, which can be seen from most of the city, is another place to visit if there is time
, especially if you are religious, and the building itself deserves a look, even if you aren’t. A real ‘must’ is Georgetown. As you pass through the 'older' part of Georgetown, you see houses that are immensely small width wise, but in contrast extremely high for their width (although still not higher than the Washington Monument, which is the height at which buildings are allowed to be built). Apparently, this was due to the fact that taxes paid on houses in the ‘early’ days were calculated by width, and not height. Georgetown itself we found to be cheaper than the heart of Washington’s city centre. Shops were in abundance, as were restaurants. There were also quite a few bars. We found the food in Georgetown to be excellent and quite reasonable. And so back to the city - the White house is well worth a look - from the outside. For those who really want to see inside, I understand that you have to queue firstly for the tickets, early in the morning and then queue again with the tickets to actually go into the Whitehouse – personally this was not my idea of fun, with so many other things to do and see. Where did we stay in Arlington? Days Inn, Crystal City. A good quality hotel, with plenty of reasonable bars and restaurants just around the corner. These included Vietnamese, Chinese and Italian. But we opted for a pub, which served very good food at reasonable prices, and was called ‘The Sports Pub’ The hotel had the all-important ‘free car parking’, and also had an outdoor swimming pool, which is open from the end of May to early September. I can only talk about our experience of the weather – I would say at a guess that it has been between 78 degrees and 82 degrees Fahrenheit each time we’ve been there and these times have been within the first two weeks of September and early May.
While England was coping with Euro '96 and the Spice Girls, I was hard at work getting to know another capital city. It's five years since I spent the best summer of my life in Washington DC. Half way through my university studies, I enrolled in Bunac to become a counsellor at an American summercamp. After a lot of interviews and application forms, I was accepted at TIC Day Camp in the centre of DC. My role was going to be to teach kids and to write, shoot and edit short films. The work was great fun, interacting with kids and going to work each day in the sun. The evenings and weekends were mine to do with as I pleased. Washington was fantastic, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone with an interested in the USA. It's particularly inviting to those new to the country, as everywhere of interest is walkable, and the public transport, should you need it, is reliable and safe. Top three sites to visit (all free!): 1. The Air and Space Museum (where the Apollo 11 capsule hangs above the Wright Brother's plane) 2. The Arlington Cemetary (seen a hundred times in films, you find it hard to believe it's in the middle of a capital city) 3. Georgetown (full of coffee shops, bars and giant book stores) It's also fun to location spot about a million films from True Lies to Planet of the Apes!
My first visit to Washington DC was (as so often) for a trade show. I was not very well briefed as to what to expect and because of the show, there was precious little time to do the tourist bit. In the end we only had one day free so I and a small group concentrated on The Smithsonian and a visit to Georgetown, the charming older part of the city. The omissions were put right in the course of two subsequent visits. A vivid memory of this first visit was that, being unbriefed, the sudden explosion of cherry blossom that took place while I was there was astonishing in its unexpectedness and so beautiful it defies desciption. The core of the tourist's Washington in the "Mall", the wide swathe of landscaped park which stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. My wife and I spent an entire Sunday strolling along the Mall, starting with a tour of the Capitol. Roughly half way down is the Washington Monument, a huge "needle" up the inside of which you can travel by lift. At this point there is a sort of transept created by two branches of the Mall at the end of one of which is the White House and the other the Jefferson Memorial, an absolute gem of a building. As it happened, this was the second time I'd found myself in the USA on St. Patrick's Day and all along the Mall were groups of performers getting ready for the parade and taking the opportunity for a last minute rehearsal. On either side of the Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument are a number of museums such as the Smithsonian and the Space Museum, which are worth lengthy visits, especially the part of the Smithsonian that deals with American Social History - it is fascinating. Also in the Mall is the Vietnam Memorial, stark in its simplicity and a vivid reminder of man's stupidity. This is a site of pilgrimage by many Americans and especially at the weekend, many can be seen searching for the names of their lost ones
and taking rubbings of the inscription. I'm a not sure to what extent the Capitol is open to the public when the Houses are in session but when I was there we had access to just about everywhere (it was a Sunday). We took the tour (you probably have to, I doubt if you can just wander) which was extremely good, the guide knew her subject well. Like most of the public buildings here, the Capitol is a magnificent edifice - the dome is especially beautiful. Inside beneath the dome are hung a series of huge oil paintings representing Scenes From US History and as part of the tour, the guide demonstrated the echo which involved our standing in a tight bunch while she moved to another spot some distance away and whispered at the floor - we heard her perfectly despite the fact that there were dozens of other visitors around us. The only building which left me unimpressed was the Lincoln Memorial but this may have something to do with my personal dislike of the man - but this is not the place . . . ! Across the river in Arlington, Virginia, is the National Cemetery, the Pentagon and a Marine base which has a rather fine sculpture based on the famous photograph taken as Marines raised the flag on Iwojima in WWII. Venturing further into northern Virginia a number of notable sites associated with the Civil war can be found, notably Bull Run (or Manassus, depending on which side you were on) where the first major battle took place. Being close to Washington, the battle here was initially treated as a spectator sport! People actually came out from the City to see what was afoot - death and destruction were afoot and they soon realised that this was no sporting spectacle. Other nearby Civil War sites worth visiting are Fredericksburg and what was known as the Wilderness where one of the most intense battles took place at a spot that became known as the "Bloody Angle" - an earth-work where at the height of the battle the ha
il of bullets was so intense that it felled trees. Very much as one feels in the battlefields of the Somme and so on, to stand at a spot where so many died and whose blood must even now stain the soil is a very eerie experience.
So much to see so little time. We were only in Washington D.C. for the weekend having driven down from New York and wanted to see as much as was possible in a short space of time. We booked into a cheap and cheerful Days Inn in the Arlington District and after a good night sleep put on some sensible shoes and set out exploring. First stop Arlington National Cemetery this is a beautifully kept graveyard that runs tours pinpointing famous graves. Among the thousands of white headstones lie JFK and his brother Robert to name but two. Also in the cemetery is Arlington House the former home of Robert E Lee which you can go through. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a very popular stop and every hour there is a changing of the guard, it is a very moving experience and despite the 90+ temperature it brought me out in goosepimples. At the entrance to Arlington we bought our tickets for the Old Town Trolley Tour a hop on hop off ticket was $7 but that was a few years ago. We hopped off the trolley at The Lincoln Memorial this grand memorial overlooks the reflecting pool and comprises of a 19 foot statue of the 16th President and the surrounding walls are inscribed with some of his most famous speeches. Admission is free. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall is just a short stroll away and is a modern V-Shaped memorial inscribed with over 58,500 names of people either killed or missing during the Vietnam conflict. It was personalised by flowers being left or people taking rubbings and I felt like we were intruding on their grief. We hopped back on the trolley and headed for the National Air and Space Museum (one of 14 museums in the Smithsonian Institute) The collections there included Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis and the Apollo 11 lunar command module to name only 2 this was a fantastic place and in a few short words I can’t do it justice. Again admission is free and there are restaurants and shops for the all important s
ouvenirs. We bypassed the Castle ( photo opportunity here it’s a lovely building) the oldest of the Smithsonian’s 14 museums in favour of the National Museum of Natural History. At the entrance is a large mammoth there is also a Dinosaur exhibition Insect Zoo and a great Discovery room for Children. This building is older and not air-conditioned and we all started to wilt slightly however I wouldn’t be put off till I had seen the Hope Diamond up close. Guided tours are available but we opted to meander round on our own. Back on the trolley and on to the Capitol building. This was the only place were we had to go through security checks (similar to airport security) before entering understandable really. The rotunda has a beautiful painted ceiling I got quite dizzy looking up. This is where the guided tours start from. Again we did our own thing visiting Statuary Hall, The House of Representatives, the Senate and the Crypt before calling it a day and heading back to the hotel for a much needed swim and a rest. DAY 2 We decided to start at the White House, tickets are needed from April till October and are given out on a first come first served basis from a kiosk on the Ellipse beginning at 8am. When we joined the queue at that time we were out of luck queuing had started at 4am and all tickets for the day were gone so we just had to settle for the outside views. We then crossed over the Ellipse and headed for the Washington Monument, the queues were ringed round it but it was well worth the wait. Once at the top there were panoramic views of the city to be enjoyed. As we were leaving to travel back to New York we only managed to cram two more items in these were The Iwo Jima Statue a magnificent 78 foot high memorial to commemorate all the marines who have died in battle.,and the National Washington Cathedral a fabulous 14th century style Gothic building set in gardens and the observation G
allery offered great views over Washington and surrounding areas. This was a whistlestop tour and there was so much more to see, we found it a very tourist friendly city maybe a bit to educational for some but a thoroughly enjoyable weekend break
This city was a marvellous change to the other capital cities I have visited over the years. There are several reasons for this, which I will address individually below. Cleanliness: There was an amazing lack of litter on the streets in comparison to say somewhere like London. I am not saying that its streets were bare of litter but that there were very few instances of burger cartons and such like lying around in the gutters. Public transport: The Metro was very good value for money. A day’s ticket could be bought for a nominal amount and provided good transport around the city. Again the stations were kept very clean. Buses provided an equally good alternative to the Metro but take slightly longer to reach destinations. When I went to Washington there was no train service to and from Dulles airport so rather than pay for a taxi I used the bus and for eleven dollars was taken to the nearest road intersection to my hotel. The bus staff were very polite and helpful. Navigation of the city: Marvellously easy as when it was designed it was done on a grid system enabling simple A to B transit. Get a city map and take a wander, it’s a marvellous place. Sites of interest: The Vietnam wall of remembrance, The Lincoln Memorial, The Washington Monument, the Whitehouse and Arlington National Cemetery. Overall this city represented good value for money and had plenty to see. I would say that it is worthwhile saving up a tip fund before you go so as not to eat into your spending money.The variety of food establishments was good ranging from the expected steak houses and diners to Thai restaurants all of which in my experience provided good value for money. All in all a city worth visiting. Mark Ghazarian aka ‘Guz’
As an outsider, hailing from the UK my first trip to the states was in July 2000, I flew out to Atlanta first and then onto Washington on July the 2nd. I had planned the trip to include the July 4th celebrations so I could go downtown to the Mall and see the best fireworks in the world. My trip was made easier by the fact that my dad lives in Fairfax which is just outside the capital. On my first day I arrived into Washington Dulles in the mid afternoon, still wearing a fleecy jacket from the cold island known as England, I walked outside and straight away I was over whelmed, firstly by the heat which virtually knocked me over, and secondly by the sheer volume of people, and this was just in the car park. So I loaded my stuff up into my dads car and he took us back to his apartment. That journey was an eye-opener as well, driving on the wrong side of the road and being able to go when the lights are on red is normal behaviour in England so i was quite worried at first but soon got used to it. We got to the apartment and it was like the size of my house back home, another example of how impressive America is. The apartments were next to the Government building, whatever that was for, and there was a walkway right round it and the small ponds at the back, which we used to run round every morning before the heat was too much to walk round let alone run round. So later on the first day went to the Fairoaks Mall which was about 5 minutes drive from the apartment. That night we met up with some of my dads friends and went for a meal at some restaurant i forget the name now. Now back home people say i have a big appetite and that i never stop eating but DAMN the portion of food i got would have fed me for a week, i mean c'mon they can't really expect someone to eat that much food in one go. The second day i was up at the crack of dawn, still suffering from jet lag however, and was away running round the ponds, then into the gym for a la'al bit of weight training. We went i
nto DC today just to have a wonder round the war memorials which are a must for anyone who is visiting DC, they are quite spooky and you can almost feel the shells flying over head. We ate lunch in the old post office tower, which is a great place to eat whether you are on your own or in a group because it has everything to choose from, Veggie, Greek, Italian and American burgers. After lunch we went to the Air and Space Museum, which is part of the Smithsonion. I wanted to go to the museum because ever since I was a young lad I have been fascinated with Airoplanes, and i am currently study leisure and tourism so hopefully i can become a flight attendant, but even if you aren't really interested in flight and space travel this place is still really good to have a walk round, just to see the exhibitions. The next day i met up with one of dads work collegues daughter called Steph. She came round and we went to see a movie at Springfield Mall, now i know that isn't interesting but i included it to give a word of warning, if you come from outside America do not eat the popcorn in the cinemas, it really is that bad, there must be about 3 inches of salt on it and trust me it really does taste horrible, and if the person who ended wearing my popcorn reads this i'm very sorry but i had to spit it as far as i could. But from one bad tasting treat to a nice tasting treat is the CinnaBon, a creation a bit like a Danish Pastry but with loads of chocolate and sugar on top which makes it miles better than popcorn and therefore a must for anyone. Me an Steph hung out most days after that and we went to a Water Park with her lil bro's. And no trip to America would be complete without a vist to a water park. we stayed there all day and just messed about trying to keep her bro's occupied so they didn't keep jumping on my head and trying to drown me. Me an Dad went back into DC and went round the rest of the places in DC. We went to the natural history museum and saw a 3D movie about
the history of the Galapogos Islands. We went round all the exhibitions just taking in their awesomeness as the detail is astounding and the museum is very well looked after, we went downstairs to the souvenir shop which is where i got most of my prezzies for the folk back home. We went up to the White House, but we didn't fancy queing to get a look inside but my dad has been round the white house before and he says it is a must for poeple with more time than we had. Then it happened, a big flash in the sky and then a few second later a tremendous clap of thunder which literally scared the crap out of me and which sent vibrations through the ground, at this point we decided to get home and quikly. We got back to the apartment and ordered a nice big 18 inch pizza which was soon devoured with ease. The thunderstorm lasted for twelve hours and we just sat on the balcony watching it until the early hours of the morning. This was just one of the experiences I gained on my first trip to one of the greatest cities on earth. I have since made plans to return on the 26th December 2000 to see the city at New Year, I will then return to DOOYOO with my new 'Winter in DC' opinion.
The Capital of the United States, well what an eye opener. I have recently visited some friends in the USA and I stopped off at Washington DC. The place has loads to see and do, it is after all the capital. But please a word of warning, if you travel there make sure you either are with friends that know the place or with an organised tour. I was shocked to see how rife the drug problem is in Washington, the friends I was with made sure they kept the car doors locked at all times. As a consequence of drugs being widely used street crime and robbery in particular is very bad. Tourists are an easy target. The first warning you get is at Dulles Airport, where signs tell you to be careful not to take lifts from people. Also the drug abuse appears to be spread around the entire population, not limited to any particular age group. As for the city it can be an enjoyable place to visit. But please safety first.
If your going to New York and the Niagara return trip why not turn a straight line into a triangle by a drive down to the nations capitol, Washington DC is a real class act with beautiful tree lined suburbs sucking you into the cities white washed government metropolis. You can literally leave your grey humdrum routine life in the UK and walk into the most important building in the free world at no cost or appointment. The Whitehouse allows one million tourists and Americans to walk through the guts of the pristine house every year with Bill and Hillary in their own little annexes literally yards away from the curious masses unseen but running the planet, now that is accesses, they even let the Brits play soccer in the park across one of its many green spaces even though we burnt it down a couple of times. Most government buildings are free and have extensive access to Joe public. The Capitol building the won with the dome witch incidentally is the highest structure apart from the needle in the capitol as its the law that no other building can be taller than its spike. The Pentagon, unless the yanks are obliterating some poor little country .The excellent Air and Space museum where you can touch moon rock and the Apollo 11 capsule that went to the moon to seeing some of the most important aircraft of time and history. The city is littered with such institutions and you can get lost in their echoing polished corridors for weeks. The most poignant place for me in DC is Arlington cemetery home of the eternal flame in memory of Americas greatest president JFK with other tributes including the Space shuttle pilots killed in challenger as well as the memorials to the Iranian hostage crisis and Lockerbie Its great to spend some time wandering around the endless rows of white crosses you will find all sorts of prominent graves sleeping in the tranquil summer breezes. Its a little out of the city but the metro system is second to none in the States. $5-00 bucks
gets you everywhere on an all day ticket. One can feel the power in the air as the presidential chopper hums across the city skyline swooping to avoid the monumental buildings that give this place such awe. The only way to finish a day here is to hang around The Whitehouse to glimpse the Presidents motorcade as he is rushed through the traffic with the FBI black vans in tow ready to meet an intern or two. Plenty to see in this intriguing powerhouse and well worth 4-6 days of anyone’s itinery.Loved it.