We drove to Washington DC from Lancaster along a number of busy freeways. The motel we stayed at was actually 15 miles from DC. It was in a town called Rockville and it obviously is a historically significant area. Some of the homes were magnificent. By staying out of the city we saved quite a lot of money on parking fees, as it was free to park at the Rockville motel.
There was an excellent train service from Rockville into the centre of Washington DC which we used a number of times. You have to buy your tickets via the machines; there is absolutely no human help. Let’s just say that we had quite a time working out how to buy a ticket...and we are both educated too! Lol
The week before we arrived had been the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC and by the time we arrived there were hardly any blossoms left...obviously all ‘dropped’.
On our first full day we got up at 5 am, showered, dressed, ate a muesli bar each (motel breakfast wasn’t until 6.30am) and headed off in a taxi to Rockville station, caught a train and we were in the city by 7 am. At 7.15 we were picked up by our tour guide. At first there were 5 of us but later on 2 Dutch tourists joined the tour. The vehicle was like a SUV and this was to be an advantage as it could get us closer to places than a regular tour bus could.
Our first stop was on Pennsylvania Avenue, outside the Visitor Centre from which we could walk up to the south gate of the White House. Even though that was the closest we got, we could still see the beautifully manicured lawns, flowering trees, shrubs and garden beds. One endearing thing I noticed about the grounds was the large vegie patch. I do remember hearing the Obamas starting a vegetable garden so it was great to see it...albeit from a distance. There was also a bee hive near that garden too.
|The pathway to the South gate/fence of the White House|
|The Whitehouse vegetable garden|
|The 2 armed guards on the roof are to the right of the fence post on the right|
|This pic shows the expanse of lawn|
The other thing I noticed while looking through the fence was the 2 armed guards on the White House roof. I bet someone was filming me trying to get a photo of these guards. We were to see a lot of strict security in the capital and had our bags checked in all sorts of places. From the walkway to the south gate of the Whitehouse we saw the Jefferson monument and also the Washington Monument. The former is like a little Greek or Roman temple and the latter is a huge obelisk! Before we had to meet our guide again, DH and I had a quick look in the Visitor Centre after going through security. In the museum there it was impossible to look at all the displays about government and other historical items.
|The imposing Washington monument|
|A street scene across the road from the Visitor Information Centre on Pennsylvania Ave|
The next stop on our tour was the Capitol Building. Since ‘9/11’ a special visitor centre was built under the eastern side of the building. This centre has fairly strict security and if you tour the building you have a sticker on which says exactly what tour and the time the tour started. Bags etc are checked, jackets must be removed, jewellery removed before you walk through the scanner. It would be very hard to stray off the path you are allowed on as there are guards everywhere. Bruce misread an exit sign and was quickly intercepted by a guard wearing an earpiece ( and probably another ‘piece’ under his jacket). I expect everything is observed by CCTV.
|This is where we first lined up to get our tickets to tour the Capitol (2 rooms only)|
|Very soon these queuing areas filled with school groups|
The tour starts in a theatre with a film about the building of the capitol. Apparently the construction wasn’t without its own dramas and completion took many years, especially the cupola. Then the tour went into the first of 2 grand rooms. I was overwhelmed with the grandeur and the workmanship of these rooms. The first room we looked at had a magnificent ceiling, huge paintings around the walls, depicting scenes from US history and a wonderful marble floor. This room was also used for ‘lying in state’ of various presidents. The second room was also very grand and it features many statues. Some statues were presidents but not exclusively. One feature that the Capitol tour guide showed us was the acoustics of this room; the group stood while the guide moved away from us and spoke to us from a distance with his back to us. We could hear what he said very clearly. The tour finished then so we moved outside and took photos of the building, the library of Congress across the road as well as the Supreme Court.
|Looking up towards the dome|
|The magnificent ceiling|
|I can't remember if this statue is called 'Freedom' or 'Liberty'! It is in the Capitol visitor centre|
|Looking back at the building from the street|
|DH photographing the Library of Congress. It is connected by tunnel to the Capitol building|
The morning finished with a quick trip to the Smithsonian. DH and I knew that we would return there on our own. (we ended up spending 2 whole days there!)
In the afternoon we visited a number of memorials but I will talk about them in a separate post, to do them justice.