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W.DC

28/05/12

sunny 32 °C

We had a picnic in the quirky little room off to the side of our hotel bedroom. This was breakfast, bits n pieces from the whole foods supermarket. Can I take this shop home with me please?

Bloomin' hot today again, reached 32C I think. So instead of walking everywhere, we were sensible and bought tickets for the hoponhopoff trolley bus tour. A 2 day pass because this hot weather will continue into tomorrow too. It felt good to be ferried about this way and have the sights pointed out instead of having to work things out. But the seats are wooden and the trolley is not air conditioned so it was still necessary to get off now and then. Today there was a Memorial Day parade which meant a lot of the Mall and other roads were closed off. Police cars everywhere. We didn't watch the parade but saw some of it from a distance. Bands, marching troops, floats and balloons etc. The first stop was the gothic cathedral which we were told is the 6th largest in the world. It is most strange to look at a gothic cathedral that has such clean sharp edges and isn't weathered by centuries of pollution. This was completed last century and has some unusual features, for example, a hippy gargoyle and also a moon rock which was collected and donated by buzz aldrin and embedded in a stained glass window. The cherubs and angel stone structures were of many races, ages and both male and female. I'm not really sure what I thought about this cathedral, but it was a welcome relief from the heat. We passed through an area where a lot of the embassies are located. If anyone has been to Canberra, it's pretty similar to theirs. Some gorgeous houses in the wealthier areas here too. Other points of interest on the tour: the hotel where the Beatles stayed on their first trip to the USA, the road outside the Hilton where Ronnie was almost assassinated, places in Georgetown where Jackie O lived when recently widowed, the church where JFK's funeral mass was held (including the steps where John famously saluted his father's hearse), watergate building, various monuments which we will return to tomorrow, the Potomac river, many angles of the white house and capitol hill, and much more..... Phew and that's just today!

It's hard to keep up the pace when it's hot and the end of the holiday is so close now.

Who knew that the light switches here are upside down? Up means they are ON. Tricky!

Posted by fay_bee 16:32 Comments (3)

W.DC

29/05/12

sunny 33 °C

Hardest day so far, to extricate my carcass from the comfy bed.

Another stinking hot day but the long weekend is over and the people are back in their offices. The sound of business. We, on the other hand are still on holiday and so we set off for the metro with a plan that was quickly superseded. The Pentagon is on the same line so let's go there. I have to say, that there are no underground stations that I have seen more beautiful and futuristic, clean and free from advertising than those in this subway system. I could stay there all day in air conditioned comfort and admire the vault-like celled ceiling and the pulsing lights that warn you a train is coming. So easy to navigate this system, so polite and sing-song announcements. Just so nice.

The Pentagon station does actually bring you up smack beside this famous building. Security hits you in the face but only if going inside. Otherwise, just no photos. There are people walking around in various uniforms, including army fatigues which amused me somewhat. As if there is any chance of jungle or shrubbery to hide in, this place was stark and dry and glaringly white hot today. The reason for visiting here was to see the 9/11 memorial. I'd seen this on a documentary and it looked interesting. I didn't realize until getting in there and up close, that each of those marble wing shapes says a lot of things. If they point away from the building, it represents death on the ground, and if pointing toward the building those were on the plane. The shapes carefully line up but in a scattered way, according to the birth year of the victims so there was one in the row for 1998 and one for the year 1934 for example, and many in between. Underneath each shape is a correspondingly shaped pool of water. Once the trees grow larger this place will become even more beautiful than it already is. This was a unique memorial and I thought the design was simple and moving. Worth the trouble to visit.

Next stop (literally) was the Arlington cemetery. By now, we are encountering the ever present school and coach groups. The temperature is escalating too, so we didn't dawdle here. The objectives were met: see the Kennedy graves sites. I was surprised at the simplicity of those for Ted and Bobby, but perhaps that was just due to the contrast with JFKs site. It looked different to what I had expected. It looks over a balcony style terrace which has words from his inaugural speech, the one that includes, And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you.... The city is visible in the distance, but you cannot see the field of white stones from here. All is overlooked from the peak by Arlington House which I later read has a most interesting history.

Next we walked to see the tomb of the unknown soliders. Yes it's plural because there are unidentified bodies interred in there, one from each war America has been in. There is always a sentry there no matter what. Also we saw the memorial amphitheater with its remnant tributes after yesterday. Had to stop and look at the memorials for those who lost lives in the shuttle mishaps. They really shouldn't try to create a likeness of faces in bronze relief. They look very unlike the true images of the people, it kind of wrecked it a bit.

And of course there were the fields of small white stone plaques that stretch on and on and on. You see these as you walk around. Endless.
Maybe when they run out of space, we can stop having wars?

A blister had to be attended to. Silly me, why would wearing fit flops be a good idea on a hot day? So we had lunch locally to the hotel and then continued with the afternoon's itinerary. This was, catch subway to the Mall, see Smithsonian of choice. I had already seen the air and space one in 2001, so Paul had his space beams in solo. I tried to go to the National Archive but when I saw another queue, I hightailed it back again to the other side and visited the more tranquil and contemplative Hirschhorn Art and Sculpture museum. Ah, air con and so few people! I really enjoyed my visit. I saw loads of good stuff here. Just loads. Many familiars: Warhol, Picasso, Henry Moore, Hopper, de Kooning, LeWitt, Ernst, Rodin, Arp, Miro, Frank Lloyd Wright etc I found some new ones I like too. I loved seeing the Tall Woman by Giacometti. There was absolutely nobody in the room to get in the way! This sculpture is quite famous, I'm sure most people would recognize it. It's a metallic very skinny elongated woman.

So after meeting up again, with our respective art and space beams on, we had a look at the Natural History museum. It was very similar in content to the one in NYC. Very good exhibits. So little time! I would like to see the American History one again but try to not visit anything twice, like reading books maybe?

The sky was heavy with rain clouds. We got the train back to Foggy Bottom which is the area where George Washington uni is and close to the hotel. We ate our dinner but had to walk home in the rain. So if we are not drenched in sweat we are drenched with rain!

Last day tomorrow! How much can we squish in? Still a lot to see......

Posted by fay_bee 18:40 Comments (0)

W.DC

30/05/12

semi-overcast 22 °C

And so the last day arrived, bringing lovely mild temperature and no rain. Perfect.

The first thing we did was return to uses the second day pass on the trolley tour. We sat through the same route (there are two different routes, we did both) but heard different commentary and trivia so that was good. The destination we wanted was the area of memorials near the man made lake across from the Mall. Here we saw the huge Jefferson Memorial which had an interesting basement where you could learn about this statesman. There's certainly no shortage of these illustrious men and it seems that each of them has his own memorial, big or small. We had to contend with more school groups. Over here, school kids wear team t-shirts with logos about what the school trip is. This must be costly for parents. It does make it easier to identify which pack they belong to. And to spot them coming towards you, much like a plague of locusts or screeching bats.

So we crossed the bridge and walked to see the relatively new Martin Luther King memorial. This one was impressive in scale and design, very imaginative and the design had lots of meaning. MLK is semi carved out of a massive boulder which seems to have been pushed far out from the middle of another. Hard to describe. His quotes are surrounding him on a wall behind. Anyone influential is full of quotes.... It was a quote overload kind of thing around there. Roosevelt memorial was large and went for quite a long way. On the trolley we were told he didn't want a big memorial, just a stone, which we saw and simple it really was. However it seems others thought more was needed. Indeed.

After lunch, we visited the spy museum which is not a Smithsonian. It was quite specky with much too much information to digest. In fact, those school locusts were back and in plague proportions, so it became near on impossible to read or use any of the interactive exhibits. We got through about half the huge exhibition and what we saw was top notch stuff but had to give up. Children were running amok and neither the school teachers nor the museum staff cared. Boo, hiss!

What to do next when you're all museumed out? Sit in the Old Post Office food hall area and eat a Ben and Jerry's mango sorbet. The exterior of this historical tall building belies the interior. It seriously lacks something inside. Or perhaps it needs to be converted into a super expensive hotel. Oh, that's right, Donald Trump's daughter has bought it and will convert it some time soon. It will make an awesome hotel, because the cheap and nasty food hall greasy spoons are not doing it any justice right now. And the viewing tower was shut.

Which reminds me, it's a strange phenomenon that Paul and I experience when travelling. So often the highlights of a place are under redevelopment, repair, covered with cranes or canopies, or simply shut or broken. Examples: In Geneva, 2 out of 3 things the lady at the tourist bureau told us to see were not working or visible. In Versailles the Hall of Mirrors was being cleaned and renovated. The Capitol has a scaffold around it for something or other. And a number of older buildings here have been cordoned off because the 2010 earthquake made some things unstable. Sigh.

Had one last trip to the Wholefoods Market. Do I love this place or what? So much to choose from, healthy, organic if you choose, ample vegetarian options, endless shelves of new, different interesting things. This was a treat.

Tomorrow, we have a flight to JFK in NY then a 6 hour wait. After that, the long haul via Frankfurt to Singapore. We arrive there at 6am and I hope to amble around zombie like, to get sun on my skin and reset my body clock to 12 hours ahead. The next day we leave for Perth on the good old afternoon arrival. Oh Perth airport and your customs hall, what a wonderful thing to look forward to!

So signing off for now, with a possible interlude in Singapore, thanks for following my first travel blog.

Xxxxx

Posted by fay_bee 19:51 Comments (0)

Japan 2013

New blog, new link, same password

http://faybee66.travellerspoint.com/

If you want to read about Japan, please use the above link, password is still faybee.

Posted by fay_bee 01:33 Comments (4)

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