The next morning in Washington, I woke up to discover of the tragedy that hit Japan and while it was sad to hear what has happened, it was worth noting that particular day was also the launch day of the iPad 2. With these in my mind, I head out towards the lobby at the W where brewed coffee is available for guests. I got a cup of coffee before walking over to the White House for a visit. I was able to get close to the south lawn of the White House and managed some good shots on the cloudy day. It was also a good position for views of the Washington Monument on the other side. Close by the White House, housed in the Department of Commerce is the visitor’s centre which had a small exhibition on the occupants of the White House as well as a gift shop. I spent some time in the Visitor’s Centre since I didn’t get the chance for a tour of the White House.
It was time for breakfast after the short morning walk and I got a hearty brunch at the Corner Bakery located in The Shops at National Place. It was a quiet since by the time I was there it was already late morning. I got myself the Anaheim Scrambler which comprises of eggs scrambled with bacon, tomatoes, green onions, and cheddar cheese, topped with avocado. The whole plate also includes toast and potatoes which makes for a very hearty breakfast indeed. The generous amount of vegetables and fruits like avocado made it healthier!
A walk after a heavy meal is always a great way, and this time I walked in the direction of the Mall, to reach the Old Post Office Tower. There is a large food court at the bottom of the Old Post Office Tower which would be convenient for tourists seeking for a meal, though the highlight of visiting this tower is for the ascent into the observatory deck which was free. There was a nice view from the top, offering visitors a 360 degree view of the Mall from the US Capitol to the Washington Monument.
In the vicinity of the Old Post Office Tower, there are some interesting architecture including the FBI Building, and the National Archives Building. I took a right turn at 7th Street to reach the green lawn stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the US Capitol, that is more commonly known as the Mall. It is the wide open spaces, the large amount of greenery and the great architecture in Washington that endears tourist to this city. The grid like layout combined with the grand Pennsylvania Avenue makes it easily navigable. With the major attractions located along the Mall, it is also easy to cover much of what the city has to offer in a day. In fact it even seems life in the city revolves around the Mall.
On the day of my visit, I was able to see tourists walking along the Mall, locals using it as a jogging route, groups of people playing football or soccer, some teenagers playing frisbee, kids bringing their pet dogs for a walk, and students heading to the National Gallery of Art on a fieldtrip. There are even office workers walking across the Mall or having their lunches on the benches along this fantastic stretch of greenery. With all these sights along the way, it makes the supposedly long walk towards the Capitol Building a very leisurely one.
Considering how the US Capitol is such a distinctive landmark for the US government, it is very accessible to visitors, with a visitor centre and tourists are also able to appreciate the architecture and various monuments around the Capitol up close. Some worthy monuments to take note would be the Civil Way Monument on both sides of the Capitol, the statue of Ulysees S. Grant in the centre and the Peace Circle that signals the end or the start of Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol. While the US Capitol building looks like any other heritage building in the Greco-Roman style, it looks very grand and majestic indeed up-close and would even provide visitors with a multitude of perspectives depending on viewing it up close or from the reflecting pool. Naturally it looks best from the reflecting pool on a clear sunny day. Though on this particular day, a group of Chinese tourists were more interested in having a group shot on the lawn in front of the Capitol, and with my help in helping them with the group shot.
When visiting the US Capitol though, one shouldn’t just stop at the reflecting pool, for behind the Capitol, lies the United States Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, both of which are open to the public without the need for any appointments. I took the opportunity to visit the Supreme Court first which have guided tours that will bring visitors deep into the courthouse itself, while the rest are just provided with a peek or an overview of the scale model on display. A cafeteria and an exhibition hall provides some interesting insight into the architecture of the Court. These nuggets of information includes information about the pair of circular staircases and the significance of the statues and wordings in the front of the Court.
My next stop is at the building beside the Court which is the Library of Congress and perhaps the most beautiful building in Washington. I like the ornate details of its exterior which I find is much more handsome than the Capitol. In addition, the building is best viewed from afar which will allow visitors to take in the hexagonal rotunda at the top of the building. With Thomas Jefferson contributing much to the formation of this Library, it was also fitting that this magnificent building was named after him. Readers of Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ would also remember the various allegories he pointed out using details from this very particular library. And visitors who takes the guided tour of the Library won’t be disappointed as the guides point out the various symbolism of architectural details on its ceilings, window panes, staircases and points out the 2 ancient bibles on display at its lobby. The main treat, however, has got to be the access to the viewing platform that overlooks the Reading Room, which is a magnificent room that sits beneath the rotunda. Another highlight is the great hall which acts like a foyer for visitors and while the building attracts from the outside, it amazes on the inside, as it feels almost like a Roman Palace with all the beautiful details on the walls and ceilings of the Great Hall.
Visiting the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress took up most of my afternoon and I took the walk back to the hotel along the Mall, though this time walking on the other side, allowing me to admire the Smithsonian Institution’s Castle. And with the sun coming out for a little bit, I made a detour to the White House once more and took a walk beside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building which is another magnificent structure beside the White House not to be missed. The First Division Monument standing in front of the Building also seems to complete the design which reminds me of a French Chateau. This walk around 17th Street allowed me to return back to the hotel via Pennsylvania Avenue and thus viewing the White House from the North Lawn. While the view of the White House is less spectacular here on this side, the wide pedestrian walkway is definitely a more lively place to be at and works well for a sunset stroll.
Upon returning to the hotel, I took a shower first before heading out to Georgetown in the hope of getting an iPad 2 which was launched earlier in the afternoon. While the sun has set, and most of the area around the mall has become more or less deserted, Georgetown is definitely the place to hang out after work, and while I wasn’t able to get my iPad 2 that day (obviously since it was so well received), I was able to get dinner at an American diner called Johnny Rockets. This brightly lit diner serves up great milkshakes and burgers, and was fitting for an American meal after a day of admiring this country’s capital. The highlight of the meal, though, has got to be the smiley face that the server conjured up while passing me my burger and fries! I guess I do like these little touch which really counts for more 🙂 I had their Mocha Fudge which looks less brown than in their photos but tastes great nonetheless and their signature burger which was great, and really tasty. Coming from someone who is not a big fan of burgers, this really counts for something.
Having been perked up by the great meal at Johnny Rockets, I returned to the parkade to retrieve my car, but this really changed my mood for the day, as I paid 20 bucks for a parking worth only 6 bucks, not realizing that change would not be provided. I was definitely pissed, but there was nothing I could do, and neither was the parking attendant helpful in any way after I confronted him, saying I could return come Monday when his manager would be in town. I guess I just have to treat it as charity then. Not to be deterred, I continued to visit the 2 Presidential Memorials in Washington. It is good to save visiting these 2 memorials when the sun set as the crowd will be lesser and it is still ‘open’. I even managed to snag some free parking close to these 2 sites. The first one I head to was the Jefferson Memorial, which is a circular memorial housing the statue of Thomas Jefferson and his address to the American People. His vision and proclamation of freedom for the people really inspired me and helped me to understand more of this President which is considered by many to be one of the greatest in American history. The next one was the Lincoln Memorial, a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, another great President that had to meet such a fatal fate. The location of the latter was amazing at night for its views of the Washington Monument and the US Capitol. One could even get to see the reflection of the obelisk against the reflecting pool. The Lincoln Memorial seems to be the more crowded one amongst the 2, which could be attributed to its location along the Mall.
The view of the Washington Monument against the Reflecting Pool left me wanting for more as I proceed once again to drive towards the US Capitol to see the lights of the Capitol reflected against its own reflecting pool. Driving along Independence Avenue also showed me more of the city and after my short photoshoot in this cold night of the US Capitol, its gleaming reflection on the side mirrors as I drove back Pennsylvania Ave marked the end of this amazing day in Washington D.C. As a city, it might not have the most skyscrapers, or the best shopping malls, or the most vibrant nightlife, but as a national capital, it has grand avenues and majestic architecture befitting its status. For entertainment, its residents could always look to Georgetown. And for that, I do have to say I did enjoy my tour to Washington D.C. and the drive here from New York hasn’t been a waste at all.