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Day 3 - New York to Washington


Today was a travel day and the weather was perfect, warm dry and sunny and we were on our way to Washington DC.  We left New York after breakfast and drove down to Washington, stopping in Philadelphia en route. 

On reaching Philadelphia we went to see the Liberty Bell in its big glass display case and Independence Hall. I bought souvenir replicas of the Bell and the key to the Hall. Then we went and had lunch in the Bourse, where there is a big Food Hall with lots of  little shops selling all kinds of food and a large eating area in the middle with tables and chairs. As we waited in the queue we got chatting to an American gent behind us who recommended the local Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich with fried onions. We took him up on his recommendation and it was indeed delicious.

After lunch we drove on down to Washington and checked into our hotel, the Omni Shoreham, a lovely hotel near the embassy district and is often used for Presidential Balls. We had a sneaky peak at the ballroom and it is beautiful. After dinner we were taken on a floodlit tour of the cities highlights. Sadly a lot of the monuments are covered in scaffolding and have been for several years, which is disappointing. But did get to see the Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial.

 5/9/1996 - Day 3 - New York to Washington

I had french toast for breakfast with bacon and syrup, lovely!  We left New York at 8am and reached Philadelphia at about 10pm, browsed round the shops in the Bourse and then had an early lunch of Philly Cheese Steak sandwich with fried onions & ketchup as we had enjoyed it so much last year.  This afternoon we had a long drive down to Washington, with a fair amount of rain, and reached Washington at about 4pm, where we were staying at the Holiday Inn on Franklin Square. Sadly this years hotels are not a patch on the lovely hotels we stayed in last year!  It was nice to have a couple of hours to relax before leaving for a City Tour taking in the Kennedy Center (great chandeliers inside and sculpture outside), the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and with Dinner at a huge seafood restaurant called Hogate’s on the banks of the Potomac River. This was where I had crab chowder, followed by crab cakes and deep fried shrimps, followed by strawberry ice cream (OK, so I just happen to like crab!).

 On the tour we got a better view of the Watergate Complex and found that all the monuments had miraculously had their scaffolding and hoardings cleared away for the first time in 5 years (how’s that for luck?). This made a huge difference to their appearance from last year, and they were all sparkly clean as all the pigeon poop and grime was gone both inside and out.


 5/9/1995 - Day 4 - Washington DC

This morning was warm, sunny and humid and we went on a tour of the city and Arlington Cemetery, where we saw John and Bobby Kennedy’s graves, as well as Jackie Onassis ( who had recently been buried there and they were still finishing off her grave). We also saw the Iwo Jima flag raising monument and on the way through spotted a beautiful blue jay (which are much brighter and more colourful than the british variety) as well as an American robin.  Driving back in to the city we saw the Lincoln Memorial, the White House and Capitol building. We stopped here and did a tour which was fascinating. We booked up tickets to get in to the Senate Chamber later on. We also saw where the Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, had his office as well as Teddy Kennedys office. As the tour progressed we saw the Hilton Hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot and the Ambassador Hotel where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated as well as the Watergate building.

 We went on to the Air and Space Museum, where we had lunch (the double cheeseburger was huge!) and got to see one of Hitler’s V2 rockets, a Moon Lunar Landing Module and the Spirit of St Louis, to name a few. However, the highlight was the Star Trek exhibition, in which they have the original deck of the Enterprise. Later we went back to the Capitol  with our tickets for the Senate. We had to go through at least 3 different metal detectors on the way through to the Visitors Gallery and down winding narrow corridors and up equally winding staircases into the innards of the building (quite exciting!) On reaching the gallery had to hand everything in including umbrellas and then sat above the Senators debating in the Chamber below us. We stayed to watch a couple of Bills being discussed, one for putting a limit of 20 years on claims for damages from Companies. Another was discussing moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Pretty dry stuff but it was a fascinating experience. We were the only ones on the tour to bother doing it which was a pity.

5/10/1996 - Day 4 - Washington DC

 We didn’t go on the organised tour of the city this morning, as we had done it last year and wanted to do the museums instead. After a buffet breakfast we left at about 9am and walked down to the front of the White House, where I bought a chiffon Stars and Stripes scarf from a street vendor J, and then went round to the back to take photos of the famous view.

We then walked down Pennsylvania Avenue as far as the Old Post Office building, which is now a shopping mall and food court. We went up the old bell tower to see the great views and had lunch there while a local school choir entertained us. I had a box of noodles with chicken and beef, which was very nice.

After lunch we continued up Pennsylvania Avenue to the National Archives, as I was determined to go and see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, all of which are on display in the beautiful Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom. Having had a look at these we came back out and found that the temperature had suddenly rocketed by what felt like at least 10 degrees while we had been inside! It felt like someone had just flicked a switch and turned a heater on and was also very humid. (it was apparently 76F with 90% humidity!)

We went on to the National Museum of Art and had a look at some Renaissance Old Masters including Titians and Raphael’s and browsed in the shop, which has lots of lovely souvenirs. Then a long walk over to the Museum of Natural History and saw the huge elephant in the rotunda, the Exhibition of American Indians and other exhibitions of stuffed animals. We also went upstairs to see the Hope Diamond which was on display in its necklace in a glass fronted case in the Gems and Jewelry Gallery. It’s quite blue and apparently looks red under ultra violet light. We also saw the Star of Asia Sapphire, one of the largest in the world, and the fabulous Hooker emerald brooch.

When we came out of the museum at about 5.30pm, the weather was gorgeous and as it was such a lovely evening we decided to sit in the Mall for a while enjoying the sun. We were sitting opposite the Smithsonian Castle, which is a lovely red building and houses the Institute and we had great views down to the Capital across the Long Water, which were both shining in the evening sun. After a while we across the Mall past the Hirschorn Museum and then up Pennsylvania Avenue, passing the headquarters of the FBI and ending up in a little square which had a lovely memorial fountain to the Navy with some beautiful bronzes. After admiring this for a little while, we both realised we were absolutely shattered and were so lucky when an empty  taxi stopped at the lights next to us. We jumped in and took it back to the hotel, by which time it was 7pm! It had been a long and tiring day and we had an early start in the morning for a very long journey to Niagara Falls.

Contd - Day 5