A Travellerspoint blog

Washington D.C.

Day Trip

sunny

For our last full day in the States we had booked a Megabus to Washington D.C. and an Amtrak train to bring us back to New York. The bus there was because it was much cheaper than the train. The train back was because we were flying to Germany the next day and I was terrified of being stranded in Washington and missing our flight. A bad experience with Greyhound from Riverside to Las Vegas has shaken my faith in American buses. In the end our Megabus to Washington left New York bang on time and arrived in Washington slightly early, while our ultra expensive train back developed an electrical fault causing a half hour delay and a lot of standing around in queues.

Washington as a day trip from New York by public transport is ambitious, possibly just silly. It is four hours away and four hours back, maybe three by train, but still that's a lot of travelling just for the day. What's more we had not bothered to research Washington thoroughly, as I had said we'll just get the big bus around, but on route, I started to remember how awful our first day on the big bus New York was and to insist we did not do it in Washington. Thus, we ended up doing Washington on foot and we saw a lot, but we also missed a lot and, oh my, but it was roasting hot and we both got sunstruck and if it hadn't clouded over and poured on our way back we may have died. I don't think I've ever been so pleased to see rain at any point in my entire life.

Add to all the above that Washington is strange. A large central area holds all the monuments and museums. This is where we went and what we saw, but the way it is set out I felt we had not seen a city at all. I felt a bit cheated by the end of the day.

Our bus journey to Washington took us through New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. Our arrival point was Union Station. The Megabus pulls in right next to it, so that was the first place we went. It is a very fancy station, nicely designed, really quite posh.

Inside Union Station.

Inside Union Station.

Looking back towards Union Station.

Looking back towards Union Station.

To my surprise the first thing we saw when we exited the station was the Liberty Bell. This had been down on my to do list for our failed trip to Philadelphia and this one was not authentic, just a copy, but that did not matter much to me. I was pleased to see it.

The real Liberty Bell is on display in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was commissioned in 1752 by the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly and was cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, then shipped out to the States. The words "Proclaim LIBERTY Throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof," from Leviticus (25:10) are engraved onto the bell. The bell was originally used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to let people know about public meetings and proclamations. It is believed the bell was rung on July 8th, 1776 to honour the reading of the Declaration of Independence. In the 1830s, the bell became a symbol of the abolitionist societies and it was these societies that called it the liberty bell.

The Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Bell.

Behind the Liberty Bell we found a monument to Christopher Columbus, understandably so since he is credited with discovering North America for the Europeans. There was a monument to him in Boston, too.

Monument to Christopher Columbus.

Monument to Christopher Columbus.

From Union Station it is a very easy walk across a pleasant park with fountains and statues to the Capitol Building. I used to think this was where the president lived. To me it is way more famous than the White House and it also proved to be way more interesting. I have just read that the capitol building has two fronts: the east front and the west front. We went to one of these, took photos, then regarding it as the front of the building merrily set off in the wrong direction. We were quick to spot our mistake, doubled back, went to the other side of the building, decided it was the front, even though I could not understand why the statue on the roof was facing the other way. Two fronts makes sense. The builders should have thought of a two faced statue for the roof, though, and let's face it, what could be more appropriate for a government building !!!

The Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress, as well as being the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government.This building was first completed in 1800 and was then subsequently expanded. It's pretty big and very impressive.

The park we walked through.

The park we walked through.

The park we walked through.

The park we walked through.

The East Front of the Capitol Building.

The East Front of the Capitol Building.

The East Front of the Capitol Building.

The East Front of the Capitol Building.

The West Front of the Capitol Building.

The West Front of the Capitol Building.

Looking from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

Looking from the Capitol to the Washington Monument.

The Capitol through the trees.

The Capitol through the trees.

The Capitol over the water.

The Capitol over the water.

From there we passed the National Museum of Natural History on our right. A bit further on on our left we saw the Smithsonian Museum. The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum with around 154 million artifacts . I would have liked to have gone in, but we did not have time.

The National Museum of Natural History.

The National Museum of Natural History.

Peter with the Smithsonian behind him.

Peter with the Smithsonian behind him.

On our right we also passed The National Museum of African American History and Culture which apparently has nearly 37,000 objects related to among other things, the performing arts, religion, civil rights, slavery, and segregation. This museum was opened on September 24th, 2016 by then U.S. President Barack Obama.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture.

We then detoured off the National Mall to our right and headed towards the White House. On our way we passed an interesting statue with an eternal flame. This turned out to be the Boy Scout Memorial which was unveiled on November 7th 1964.

Boy Scout Memorial.

Boy Scout Memorial.

The White House itself was a bit disappointing as in reality you can't get anywhere near it. Obviously this is understandable and security nowadays has to be taken very seriously. I took photos of it with and without my zoom. Without the zoom you can see all the barriers that stop people getting near the building.

Peter at the White House, no zoom used.

Peter at the White House, no zoom used.

The White House taken with a zoom.

The White House taken with a zoom.

After looking at the White House, we walked back to the Washington Monument. This is currently closed to the public as it suffered structural damage in an earthquake in August 2011 and is still being repaired. It is expected to re-open in the spring of 2019.

This monument was built to honor George Washington, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States. It first opened on October 9th 1888. It was at that time the tallest building in the world with a height of just over 555 feet. The Eiffel Tower was the first building to surpass it in height. However, the monument is still the world’s tallest stone obelisk. It is the tallest structure in Washington and can be seen from a long way away.

Later on in the day when we were making our way back to Union Station we watched several helicopters take off from the White House and fly past the Washington Monument. Not sure if Trump was inside one.

The Washington Monument.

The Washington Monument.

Helicopters pass the Washington Monument.

Helicopters pass the Washington Monument.

It was around this time that we began to realise we were starting to run out of time and that we could not possibly see all the monuments. I am usually quite organised for travel, but on this occasion we had no information about public transport and we only had a map because I had grabbed one from a big bus stand on my way past. Plus we had eaten nothing other than an ice-cream all day, plus we were starting to feel sunstruck. We decided we would push on to the Lincoln Memorial and the monuments around it, but then we would have to go back. Distances had proved to be bigger than we thought.

The next monument we came to was The World War II Memorial, honouring the 16 million men and women who served overseas during World War II. Of these more than 400,000 died, This memorial first opened to the public in April 2004. Across the fountain of this monument, we could see the Lincoln Memorial in the distance.

The World War II Memorial,

The World War II Memorial,

The World War II Memorial,

The World War II Memorial,

The Lincoln Memorial viewed across the fountain.

The Lincoln Memorial viewed across the fountain.

On the way to the Lincoln Memorial we visited the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. I did not realise there were three parts to it and only saw the statue of the three soldiers. We were in such a rush, we would not have been able to see the rest anyway.

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial was built to honor the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. It was designed by Henry Bacon and the statue of Lincoln inside was designed by Daniel Chester French.

The Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial.

Looking back from The Lincoln Memorial.

Looking back from The Lincoln Memorial.

We walked back towards the Washington Monument on the other side of the pond and thus we passed the Korean War Memorial. I liked the nineteen figures of soldiers spread out as if they were taking part in a mission during the war.

The Korean War Memorial.

The Korean War Memorial.

The Korean War Memorial.

The Korean War Memorial.

The Korean War Memorial.

The Korean War Memorial.

Next we passed the District of Columbia War Memorial. This memorial is for Washington D.C. locals who gave their lives in World War I. It was the first war memorial to be erected in West Potomac Park and is also the only local District memorial on the National Mall.

The District of Columbia War Memorial.

The District of Columbia War Memorial.

The plan had been to now walk round the lake towards The Jefferson Memorial, but we really did not have time. I cheated and took a very distant zoom shot of it, but we did not really see this monument except from a great distance and we missed all the other monuments on route. I think if we ever go back to Washington DC we will stay there for around two nights to see it properly. I hate sightseeing in a rush

The Jefferson Memorial.

The Jefferson Memorial.

In the end our walk back was much quicker than our walk from the station. I guess because we went straight with no detours and we did not stop so much on the way. This time we walked up the street rather than the National Mall Park so we were able to see the Smithsonian from close up. It is an impressive set of buildings.

The Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian.

The Smithsonian.

After the Smithsonian we passed the National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian.

Finally, we were back at the Capitol Building, which we still could not stop photographing. We had a quick look at the Library of Congress, The US Supreme Court. Then we returned to Union Station and had a meal. Our first real food all day. Our train was late in leaving and on the way back there was a really violent thunderstorm. The poor people getting off in Baltimore and Philadelphia got drenched. Overall, it was a very long and exhausting day and we could not see all we had intended to see, but I am still glad we did it. At least we got a taste of Washington D.C.

The Capitol again.

The Capitol again.

Library of Congress.

Library of Congress.

The U.S Supreme Court.

The U.S Supreme Court.

Posted by irenevt 20:48 Archived in USA Comments (4)

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