Newest Review: ... 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 b... more
Washington D.C. (USA)
Member Name: thedevilinme
Washington D.C. (USA)
Disadvantages: Crime never far away
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.