Days: 409-412 (8 August 2015 – 12 August 2015)
Total distance travelled: 109,304.8 kilometres (67,891.16 miles)
Welcome to Washington in the District of Colombia, not quite a state, but rather a place where the US government works (or doesn’t, depending upon whom you ask).
Unfortunately, a day or two short of our arrival we discovered that one item we’d earmarked for our itinerary whilst in town was simply not going to be possible, that being a tour of the White House which is in fact something we needed to do through our own consular channels, and with us on the road had/would have proven extremely difficult.
Then, as luck would have it, we couldn’t find anywhere of remotely reasonable price to actually stay in the capital, and that is how, minutes after arriving at Union Station aboard our Greyhound coach, we were on a suburban train headed into suburban Maryland, which would be our home for the four nights we had here.
Turns out our pad on a leafy Hyattsville street was in a basement, but thankfully we were feeling a damn sight better than the last time we were underground for four days!
Suddenly, with a room to ourselves, a supermarket nearby and access to equally cheap beers, heading back into DC so late in the day, no longer seemed all that appealing…
So we self catered, watched some junk TV and drunk cheap and cheerful beer, content to launch our true DC adventures the following morning!
We kicked things off in memoriam, skirting the capital completely and instead taking in first a monument to the US Marines (in the form of that iconic, flag raising moment above Iwo Jima in World War II), before wandering the grounds of Arlington, the final resting place for many former servicemen and women, the most notable probably being JFK.
We also paid our respects at the monuments to those lost in both the Challenger and Colombia space shuttle disasters, before wandering our way back across the Potomac and back into Washington DC.
You see, we weren’t done paying tribute to some of the big names in US history, and if you’re familiar with the city at all, you’d quickly realise we weren’t all that far from Washington Mall… Next stop, the Lincoln Memorial!
We continued our foot tour in and around the mall, taking in both memorials to the Vietnam and Korean wars, another to Martin Luther King Jr, FDR, the Washington Monument (with views in every direction which show off both the White House and Capital Hill), before finally rounding things out at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
This found us in the vicinity of the much lauded Smithsonian museums, however we had better places to be… well not places, but certainly one place, Union Market.
In one of those free local papers, we’d spotted an advert for DC Beer Week, which just so happened to be kicking off the day after we arrived with a large beer tasting event.
We’d looked it up, then on a whim bought tickets!
The city itself was spread, however still fairly compact, so we were always going to walk there, and our route was leading us ever closer to one of the most iconic structures in the whole of the USA, Capital Hill!
Only Capital Hill was looking a little less than perfect, covered as it was (and as El Capitolio had been in Havana) with scaffolding!
Eventually we got there, collected our tickets and got beer sampling!
The afternoon was warm, the crowds were thick and the beer was well and truly flowing, so we got right into the spirit of it.
Things kicked with a few more Saison’s than we’d have liked, but with so many breweries and some cool beer names (such as Draft Punk, El Hefe Speaks or Optimal Wit) we eventually found a few favourites.
We soldiered on, ultimately sampling forty four different drops over the course of the afternoon (so many samples, as well as several double ups, that we even started to spit, rather than swallow) and finding our favourite from a Virginian crew, Blue Mountain Brewery and their delicious Kolsch!
It was the end of a long day, and somehow, when we found ourselves amongst the last stray souls lingering at Union Market, we figured it was time to go and rest for the following day.
A dull old day greeted us, although it wasn’t all that cold as we made the now familiar train ride from the burbs into the heart of DC.
Today was all about the museums, although we did take a stroll by the White House to get the morning underway.
We took in the house and admired Michele’s vegetable garden before completing the short walk to our first Smithsonian museum of the day, the National Air and Space Museum.
Here, I was like a kid in a candy store, with relics from the world wars, the Space race and more!
Hours could have been lost within its halls, although some of the even bigger items (such as the Saturn V rockets which launched humans to the moon) are housed in a larger, more distant facility.
Still, there was still plenty to see!
There was the opportunity to explore a re-creation of Skylab, the first manned NASA space station (using the chassis from the abandoned Apollo 18 mission), as well as touch some moon rock (yes, that would be rock from the moon), and for me, the joys of facing off with my favourite explorer of all time…
But eventually, it was time to go (I could have stayed longer, but there was Sarah to think about)!
We took a quick peek within the National Archives, where photography was forbidden, but we were able to get a good look at the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence before a little art time.
With the proximity being some close, some time was also given to the National Portrait Gallery (where they house the only full collection of presidential portraits outside of the White House), before the day was pretty much wrapped up after a final walk by Capital Hill.
As we were winding up, we also passed the Library of Congress, so it only seemed right that we resume there the following morning… after a bargain basement dinner of $5.00 pizza and equally economical beer!
It was another hot one that greeted us, so by the time we hit DC we were pretty happy to get into the library immediately to check it out.
We’re pretty glad we did, as the interior was stunning, both the main foyer and the small glimpse we had of the main reading room.
Philately was not forgotten, as we then strolled over to the National Postal Museum which proved a hell of a surprise.
It’s not that we didn’t already find stamps interesting (no, not just those that fill our passports), after all I used to have a collection of my very own, whilst Sarah’s father had also had a large and valuable collection of his own.
We just didn’t expect this place to be as well planned and engaging as it was, nor did we think for a moment that we’d see the famous Penny Black (the worlds first adhesive postage stamp) or the rarest stamp in existence, the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta!
To complete this day of galleries, we hit up the National Gallery of Art (we were going to visit the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum with our friend Josh before heading to Pennsylvania the following day) where we got our fill of the usual suspects.
Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Cezanne and the only artwork by Leonardo da Vinci in all of North America.
As the afternoon wore on, we certainly got our fill of art, as well as watched a few artists trying their hands at copying the works of their idols, but we gradually began to tire despite the day not really being all that late.
Still, we did have a brief crack at the Hirshhorn Museum, trying to make sense of some modern art, whilst truly enjoying an exhibition on life as a Muslim woman… at least the photos.
We couldn’t get our heads around the film exhibits in that display, but I’m sure for others, it was gold!
And just like that, we were spent, museum fatigue seeing us head back to our Hyattsville pad to spend the rest of the afternoon in repose.
The following day, another sunny morning, our friend Josh made a later than scheduled appearance to collect us (we were waiting on the street for about an hour) before we were whisked away to new adventures.
* Our Greyhound coach service from Chicago to Washington DC (with a change in Cleveland) cost us $85.00 US each for the overnight journey.
* Our room near Washington DC (out at Hyattsville in Maryland) cost us $53.00 AU per night (we stayed 4 nights) plus a $26.00 AU Airbnb fee.
* All of the Smithsonian museums we visited are FREE!
* Our afternoon at Union Market for the DC Beerweek event, cost us $35.00 US each for unlimited beer tastings!