The drive from New York to Washington D.C. was pretty straightforward, we were into New Jersey from Times Square after a few turns, and passing Newark Airport before we knew it. The New Jersey Turnpike I95 was clear of snow and it was a beautiful blue sky day.
We arrived in the capital at dusk after driving 228 miles, so once we’d checked into the Courtyard Marriott at Foggy Bottom, we went for a walk to get our bearings. The White House was a few minutes walk away, we walked around the perimeter to stretch our legs and started looking for somewhere to eat. The restaurants in this area shut early around 7-9pm, so we were struggling a little then we stumbled upon the Grilled Cheese DC which was packed. We were in luck, and were sat at a table with a few minutes wait. I love the concept of taking something simple and doing it well, I ordered the bacon Jalapeño popper which is served with ranch and spicy dipping sauces, plus crispy tots.
Our room was allocated as 702, it was spacious, we had a living room area, a comfortable desk to work from, and the television swivelled so it could be watched from the sofa or bed. The bathroom was large with a walk in shower and toiletries included. Wifi was free of charge and no log in required.
On our first full day, we had breakfast at the hotel, there was a varied choice available from the Starbucks bar in the lobby. Our plan was to walk The National Mall, this might sound like a shopping centre, but it couldn’t be more different. The National Mall is a huge green space of 146 acres, stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol building.
We started at the Vietnam Memorial a sombre v shaped black marble wall, etched full of names in the order that their lives were lost. There are signs from the park rangers asking for families not to leave personal items on the wall, however we since learned that thousands of these personal messages have been collected by the rangers over the years, who couldn’t bring themselves to dispose of them, and now plans are underway to build a visitor centre to display the collection.
The Lincoln Memorial was next, this was made from Colorado Yule marble and Indiana limestone. The 36 columns represent the states in the union at the time of Lincoln’s death, although there were 48 states when the memorial was completed. The statue of Lincoln inside the memorial was designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccinilli brothers, it is 19 feet tall and 19 feet wide. There’s a great view along the reflection pool to the Washington Monument, if you’ve watched Forrest Gump, you’ll recognise this place from that poignant moment with Jenny.
There were two more war memorials to visit, the 19 stainless steel statues at the Korean War Veterans Memorial were sculpted by Frank Gaylord and represent an ethnic mix of Americans. The advance party has 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force members. The statues stand in patches of Juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolise the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment. The 7 feet tall statues are reflected in the Mural Wall background which was designed by Louis Nelson.
At the other end of the reflection pool the impressive National World War II Memorial can be found. Either end is marked by the Atlantic & Pacific oceans, there is a wall of 4,000 gold stars, each of which represents 100 servicemen who were killed. We were lucky to witness a special ceremony with a WWII vet during our visit.
The Washington Monument was once the tallest structure in the world (1884-89), standing at 555 feet. This obelisk was built to commemorate George Washington. Only 27% of the monument was completed when construction halted due to a lack of funds and the American Civil War. When the work continued, they had to use stone from a different source, the difference is quite distinctive and can be pin pointed easily. The Washington Monument is currently closed until Spring 2019 whilst a new elevator is fitted to the interior of the obelisk.
We were at the start of the Smithsonian Museums (America’s Treasure Chest) which line both sides of The National Mall from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol. We stopped at the Smithsonian Institute, this Castle of Curiosities is a taster of the eclectic collection of treasures which have been accumulated sine 1846. The Smithsonian Institution started as a gift from an English scientist called James Smithson (1765-1829) who left his fortune to America, a country he had never even set foot in. The castle was designed to be reminiscent of the style associated with the Oxford and Cambridge college buildings.
You could spend days visiting the various museums, all of which are free of charge to enter.
We had reached Capitol Hill, and the West Side of the U.S. Capitol building facing right down the Mall. We walked around to the East side where the entrance to the visitor centre is situated. The Statue of Freedom, on top of the dome faces East, so that the sun never sets on freedom.
There are so many magnificent buildings to see in Washington D.C!
We hopped on a double decker with the Big Bus Tours as we wanted to see the Pentagon building, however they advised doing the red route first, as this wouldn’t be available the next day due to the March For Our Lives demonstration. We had covered some of the stops on our morning walk, so were a little reluctant but went with their advice, leaving the blue and yellow routes to the next day. These open top bus tours are a great way to get a feel for the city, we got to see downtown & Chinatown as well as President Trump leaving The White House by helicopter, on his way to play golf in Florida.
We decided to chill at the hotel that evening, after a full day out, and enjoyed a picnic in our room. The next morning, we set out walking to Georgetown to have breakfast, this is a lovely area of Washington D.C. full of quaint buildings, cobbled streets and a lovely waterfront area including the Washington Harbour. This historic district was the original neighbourhood of D.C. founded in 1751. It’s a popular place for cupcake & macaroon tours. The historic C & O Canal is currently empty and undergoing a restoration.
We dined at the Peacock Café, this is a contemporary American restaurant and recommended for breakfast or brunch in Georgetown. We were offered a window table in the front of the restaurant which was nice, as it was Mike’s birthday. There were some really different combinations and not pricey despite the setting. I ordered the Peacock Eggs Chesapeake which was two poached organic eggs with crab meat served on toast, topped with hollandaise sauce and served with thin fries. Mike had their smoked salmon platter with cream cheese, bagel, capers, pickles and horseradish. Both were delicious and the service was very good, the chef personally visited the table to make sure we were enjoying our food, and also as we were leaving to thank us for dining with them.
After a little wander around the shops, we caught the Big Bus double decker on the yellow line, to connect with the blue line which crossed the Potomac River to the Pentagon Mall. We passed the Pentagon building, although we were warned not to take photographs at this point of the tour. The shopping mall began to fill up soon after we arrived, as bus loads of kids arrived for lunch ahead of the March For Our Lives demonstration. We had a quick wander around but decided to catch the next Big Bus Tour out of here, however the traffic was causing a problem due to the crowds and the buses just weren’t making it through. We went underground to take the Metro, and managed to find a way back over the river, although the closest station open was still 2km from our hotel. We spent some time with the demonstrators walking through downtown Washington D.C. the streets were full of people, all protesting peacefully for tighter gun control.
We took a break out from the crowds in Clyde’s, we were lucky to find 2 stools at the circle bar, where Mike ordered a selection of oysters for lunch, and I had crab cakes. The food was delicious and the service fabulous, thanks to Andy and Tommy for making us feel so welcome at such a busy time.
On the walk back to our hotel, we were still in the throngs of demonstrators, who wanted to pass by The White House, even though the President wasn’t home. Again they were very peaceful, simply walking by laying their placards by the railings. I hoped that President Trump could feel the strength in their message from his golf course in Florida.
It was almost time to move on from Washington D.C. but first we had a special dinner for Mike’s birthday at Rasika, a fabulous Indian restaurant, that we’d booked months ago, at the same time as our hotel in this state. We were dining at the original restaurant in the Penn Quarter of the capital. Since we made our reservation, they have opened a second restaurant close to the hotel where we were staying, which confused our taxi driver. The roads were still closed in that area, so we walked the last block or two. Rasika was buzzing, the restaurant was packed, the only table free was the one we had reserved, which was close to the open kitchen area, where we could see the chefs at work. All of the staff were excellent, service is obviously high on the management agenda, and there was an abundance of staff making sure everyone was attended to. The cuisine was superb, the dishes were beautifully presented and tasted fabulous. It was definitely a meal we will remember from our month long tour in the USA.
I loved Washington! It’s a super cool city and has the grandeur you’d expect of a capital. The buildings are stunning and all of Washington is incredibly clean, with wide avenues, and you never feel “hemmed in” as you do, for example in New York. My only complaint is that the whole place doesn’t feel “real.” It’s almost as if it’s a virtual reality place with nobody actually living and working there. It’s bigger than you think when looking at the map, so be prepared to walk a long way – we managed 45KM in three days.
There is so much history and so many museums to explore there, that my only regret is we only had two days. I’d advise giving yourself a minimum of 3 days, but ideally 5 to really get the best out of a trip there.
Georgetown is fabulous, and you must go there. It’s a classy “village’ In a suburb of the city and is on the Big Bus route.
Our hotel, The Courtyard by Marriott, was really well located, a short walk from the main shops and restaurant areas. One thing thing that was strange was that everywhere seems to shut very early – we were the last people left in a restaurant one night at around 9PM!
Definitely add Washington to your list if you’re into history, architecture, museums or if you’ve always wanted to take a selfie in front of The White House.
Tomorrow we drive across the border to Canada, for 2 nights in Niagara Falls.
You can view our album of photos here: Washington D.C. Photo Album