Sunday, 5 August 2007

Washington DC

Firstly an apology to Sarah as the weather in Washington was high to mid 90's with 95% humidity and these leads to a Mediterranean style of working with an early start, siesta/ quiet time in the middle of the day and a busy evening schedule. DC is a city of monuments and memorials to both ideas and the people who enshrined them. The most memorable of those are the Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR monuments. The whole area is run by the National Parks Service and they provide very knowledgeable pamphlets and rangers. This was especially true of Ford Theatre where the ranger gave a half an hour speech about the run up to and assination of Abraham Lincoln which was both factual and mesmerising at the same time. Another round of applause should go to Melvin who conducted the twilight tour of the city and was again very knowledgeable and entertaining.

Before I came to DC I had read about it being the murder capital of the US and having talked to Marianne (Sarah's cousins wife) who live in DC and she had said that it was difficult to pick a safe area as one block can be safe and the next to it wouldn't be. This was highlighted because between the hotel (on a renovated block) and the metro station there was a derelict block with some buildings boarded up and some being pulled down. Generally in the places I have visited the central areas have undergone gentrification (which is where old houses are renovated, turned into apartments/condominiums and sold for extortionate prices to raise the class of an area and drive away crime) and also have a high police presence so feel safe and I have no problems.

The hotel in Washington was amazing. It mainly deals with business men and people at weekends as the convention centre is one block away but as there were no conventions and it was not a busy weekend so I got a $325 a night room for around $75. It was three rooms with a lounge, room and bathroom. I fell on my feet there. Thank you Expedia.

The only bad thing about the visit to DC was trying to visit the Capitol where both halves of Congress sit. You get a ticket with a time on it and I got mine saying 10am.At 9.50 there was a security alert as someone from a previous tour left a bag unattended and the tours where suspended but the did not stop giving out tickets. After about an hour at 11am the alert was over and there were about ready to start and they made everyone line up with the people with the early tickets at the back. So I would have faced another hour of standing in line in 90 degree heat. I had already had to go back to the hotel once as you are not allowed to take in bottles or creams so the prospect of no water, suncream and standing in line for a second hour made me leave and I went and sat in the Botanical Garden nearby which is a very pleasant and educational place.

Strange things about Washington DC
1. The pedestrian crossings have a count down on them so you know how long it will before the stop light comes up.
2. The bank I went into had a airlock type door where only one person can enter at a time.
3. National Airport is so close that when you are in the monuments remembering past American presidents there is almost the perpetual sound of low flying aircraft.
3. Neo classical pillar deign is used on almost all of the major buildings including White House, Capital building and both Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments. This also extends to the first and second bank in Philadelphia.
4. There is no J street as the j script looked to much like an I (but the I didn't look to much like a 1 or the 0 like a 0??)
5. You can see the change in stone colour on the Washington Monument where they changed during the long gap in its construction.
6. The centre of Washington is over a canal that was originally designed to take the president by barge from the white house to the Capitol
7. The light in the National Archives where they store the American Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and Magna Carta is 2 footcandles. That is the same as being one foot from 2 candles. Normal sunlight is 110 footcandles. I mean I can use imperial of metric but footcandles. Please!

Am now in Advance and went to church to see Sarah preach on the topic of greed and how living a more simple live would allow us to give to those less fortunate than ourselves which for some one in the middle of a three week vacation (holiday) hit a bit of a chord.

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