Thursday, 23 July 2015

Travel: Washington, D.C.

If you read my Travel Planning post or follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you’ll probably be aware that I recently travelled around America for three weeks with my boyfriend, visiting Washington, D.C., Nashville, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Los Angeles. This is the first of six posts I’ll be writing about the trip, so keep an eye out for the rest or give me a follow on bloglovin to make sure you don’t miss any!

When we first started planning this trip, Washington, D.C. was one of the first places that came to mind, with it being the capital city and having seen photos from various friends’ trips their over the past couple of years.

We flew into Dulles International Airport (IAD) from Heathrow, flying British Airways, and had a pretty comfortable and enjoyable flight (Into the Woods was on the on-flight entertainment, so that kept me happy…).

IAD is a fair distance (26 miles) from the centre of Washington, and as we were staying to the east of downtown Washington, we decided to use public transport to get from the airport to our Airbnb property. We had to catch a bus and then the Metro, and although this was easy enough, they’re actually in the process of extending the Metro line out to the airport, which will make things even simpler!

I had already been won over by the ease, value and endless possibilities of Airbnb, and our Washington experience confirmed that Airbnb was the way forwards. Our accommodation was to the east of Washington, close to Eastern Market. It felt like such a lovely neighbourhood, full of cute houses and little schools. There were a decent amount of restaurants in Eastern Market, along with a couple of small supermarkets and similar stores.

The location was ideal for us; it was just a 20 minute walk to the Capitol Building, which marks the beginning of all Washington’s attractions from that side.

The centre of Washington is really nice in terms of its presentation, architecture and cleanliness, but I couldn’t help but think the whole area felt a little strange. By this I mean that the majority of the area we visited felt as though it was set up to be one huge monument/museum/attraction. There was no sense of community or any evidence of real people who lived and worked there. But I suppose that’s because there aren’t really in that area! We did try to venture into the ‘downtown’ area, which felt a bit more city and business-like, but after we struggled to find somewhere to eat for about 15 minutes, we didn’t go much further.

The architecture of Washington’s impressive and large buildings isn’t much like anything you find across the rest of America, and it kind of reminded me of a lot of European cities, in it's neoclassical style. The Capitol building is just one example of the striking white structures that dominate the city. You can take a tour of this government building if you book in advance, but it’s not something we chose to do. It seemed that we had chosen the wrong time to visit, as the Capitol along with other areas of Washington, were under renovation whilst we were there, which meant a lot of our photos feature scaffolding, cranes and diggers.

Washington Monument was something that we knew we wanted to do, and we had heard that you had to get down there early in the day for the chance to get a free ticket to go up to the top. What we didn’t realise was just how early. We got in the queue for tickets at about 10am, and although the queue went down quickly, the earliest time we could get was 6:30pm. Apparently you’ll want to be down there at about 8am if you want an earlier time.

It’s definitely worth getting in the queue early – the views from the top are amazing.

There are a lot of monuments and memorials in Washington, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the World War II Memorial, to name just a few. Whilst all of these monuments are within walking distance of one another, we slightly overdid the walking on our first day. Okay really overdid the walking. I’m not kidding, my legs hurt more than after the Grand Canyon hikes we did.

If you’re visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time then the White House will be up there on your list of things to do. Don’t hate me for saying it, but I did find the building a little underwhelming in comparison to the likes of the Capitol building and the whole Lincoln Memorial/ Reflecting Pools area. I’m sure they make it look bigger on TV. Having said that, I wouldn’t complain too much if that was my house…

Another building that’s worth stopping by is the Library of Congress. There were various exhibitions going on inside, but more than anything it’s just another nice building to look around.

Last, but definitely not least, Washington, D.C. is the place for museums. The museums in Washington are run by the Smithsonian Institution, which is administered by the US Government. With so many museums and so little time we stuck to the National History Museum, the American History Museum and the Air and Space museum (because Tom hearts planes), but there are a total of 18 to choose from, including a zoo.

As you can probably tell, we squeezed a lot into our two days in Washington, and although I think our short stay gave us a good taster of the city, you could definitely spend a lot longer there.

If you’d like to see more about our trip to Washington, I’ve also uploaded a little video toYouTube – just excuse the quality of my camera and first-time filming!

See you next time, when I’ll be talking all about Nashville…


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