Washington Travel Blog› entry 40 of 42 › view all entries
So, after our adventures in the Everglades we flew to Washington DC.
Our flight was at 10.30am so we aimed to get there around 8.30 which would give us plenty of time to check in, get some breakfast and chill out for it.
We decided to forgo trying to find another route and lumped our backpacks to the taxi rank, only to find none there. We were told by one of the officers at the station that lots of people had used them to get to work after the metroril was stopped. We waited for about 15 mins before one arrived and we hopped straight in. $55 later we arrived at the airport and queued up to check in. It took us an hour to get to the front of the queue, and five seconds to get our boarding passes (go figure).
We had to change planes in Atlanta, with the descent rather bumpy thanks to a lot of turbulance but thankfully the second plane ride was a lot smoother. We flew into Baltimore Washington Airport instead of Washington International as it was a lot cheaper so we had to catch a bus then the train to Washington DC. Our hostel was located on 11th & H st, only a couple of blocks walk from the metro station.
Once we got checked into our hostel we walked down to the convenience store to get some basic food supplies (cereal is always important!) then explored the hostel a bit.
The next day we headed out and took a wander round the area, trying to familiarise ourselves with everything and find the visitors centre. It seems Washington is tour town, everywhere we went there was a tour group. Groups of school kids, tourists, families and more were marching here, there and everywhere, following tour guides booming out facts about whatever landmark they were walking past.
Our hostel was running a few different free tours so we decided to put our name down for one. We signed up for a walking tour of the local monuments, figuring a little information would be a good idea as we both dont know much about American history. Our tour guide was an eccentric chap called James, who conducted the tours on a voluntary basis. We started at 9am, making stops at the statue, the White House, the Washington monument, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, where we parted from the tour, wiped out by a very hot day and lots of walking.
The next day we caught the train to the zoo, it was a Smithsonian so free. We were really excited as it is the only zoo in North America to have Giant Pandas. We had looked on their website the night before and seen pictures of the cub that was born a few years ago, the first for the zoo since owning Pandas. We first went to the Elephant house as there was an Elephant bath happening at 10.30. It was more shower than bath, as one keeper hoses them down and scrubbed them clean while another gave it commands, telling it when to lie down etc. After that we went outside and the keepers did a short training session with them.
One the display was over we headed back to the beginning and started walking round all the enclosures.
The coolest part for us was the Giant Pandas. One was asleep but two were very active, Tai Shan was the cub were had seen on the website, though at three years old he wasnt so much cub as small adult. He was very cute, all cuddly and adorable. Their enclosure is a recent redevelopment, built to recreate their natural habitat in China and divided into three seperate areas as Giant Pandas are naturally solitary animals.
Rachel wasn't feeling very well so we spent a couple of days not doing much, just relaxing at the hostel, making use of the big TV and researching things to do in the next couple of days. When Rachel was feeling better we went to the Holocaust museum, not the most cheery of places to visit but we had heard from several people that it was worth a visit. We had to book tickets, even though they were free, the night before online. The day reminded us of England, i.e it was bucketing down with rain and we got soaked walking to the museum. We collected our tickets, strained the worst of the water from our hair and jackets and gave our tickets to the guy waiting by the entrance. He directed us to a stand to pick up an 'Identification card' before entering the lift to take us to the top floor.
On a lighter note, we also visited the Natural History museum. We have visited several on our trip and its interesting (to me anyways) to see the different ways they display everything. They have display cases of stuffed animals, but instead of just housing different types together all the time, they split them into animals from the African plains, the jungle, etc and displayed them in natural poses. There were lionesses frozen during an attack on a buffalo, a leopard relaxing on a high tree branch, his kill of an antelope dangling from the branch in front of him, safe from ny lions that may steal it from him, a giraffee stretching to reach the leaves on a high tree, tongue outstretched. There was also a video, aimed at kids (so we enjoyed it a lot) that explained the evolution of mammals. In the insect are I got to hold a hissing cockroach, Rachel strangely declined.
The museum also had the Hope Diamond on display, along with a ton of other famous jewels, which didnt really interest me much so we moved on to look at the wide variety of minerals and crystals they had displayed which were much prettier to look at and far more interesting to read about.
After that we visited the Hirshhorn art gallery. It had a section on cinema, with artists exploring the realms between reality and dreams. Frankly it confused the hell out of me and I didn't get any of it but eh thats art I suppose. Rachel didnt really like it either so I guess thats ok. As our visit was so short we decided to walk down to look ar the World War 2 memorial as we had missed it by skipping out on our guided tour earlier in the week. It is very grand and ornate, as most American memorials seem to be, very pleasing to the eye with large water falls and hundreds of stars on a wall, depicting how many thousand of brave soldiers died. For an American it must have been a very moving place to visit. However, for a Brit it was a bit pompous and fact bending. The plaques stated the war was 1941-1945 (hello 1939 anyone!?!) and banged on about how brave the American soldiers were....oh and all those other nations that 'helped us'. It just smacked of the conceited attitude of officials that think they own the world. It really rather bugged me!!
The last night we got talking to group of people in the dining area, just sharing anecdotes about our travels, making each other laugh with tales of nightmare dorm room weirdos, mishaps (my dog sledding tale always produces howls of laughter) and useful tidbits about places and hostels we've picked up along the way. We had planned to go out for a drink so left them too it, with a Scottish girl deciding to come along too. We walked down to the nearest bar and asked the bartenders advice on which beer was the best to drink, as we didnt recognise any of the ones listed. He gave us three glasses with different beers in so we could taste each and decide for ourselves. It turned out we each liked a different one so it was a very good ploy! He also gave us a taste of a new drink they were trialling, called 'The Fuel', which was half beer and half Starbuck coffee. It knocked you out while keeping you awake!! Needless to say I virtually spat it back into the glass when I realised what it was, coffee is a big no no for me! and stuck to my beer. I think the beer in the US is quite a bit stronger as after only 2 pints I was on my way to merryland (I am a bit of a light weight but geez). We didn't stay out past midnight as us cinderellas had an early start so stumbled back to the hostel. It was luck for us that the girls in our room were still awake as we had to quickly pack before going to bed.
Just as we had settled in to bed the door opened, and an old guy came shuffling through the door. Er, *rubs eyes* what!?! We had booked into a female door, thats FEMALE, not coed. He came in, a bit surprised himself to see us but then uttered 'dont worry girls Im a doctor, you have nothing to fear from me', then grinned *shudders*. I hot footed it downstairs to have a word with the guy on reception, who swore blind that we were in a coed dorm, I knew he was lying but was way tired to argue the point and we were leaving in the morning so traipsed back upstairs to tell Rachel to wrap herself in tight and keep a heavy object nearby. As you can tell by reading this, we survived the night!