When we were deciding where to go before we left the UK, I was dead-set that the Grand Canyon and Washington D.C. would be on the list. When we realised that we would be in America throughout the summer, planning July 4th celebrations became increasingly important. It didn’t take long for the pair of us to realise that the best place to celebrate Independence day was going to be the capital, so after planning and re-planning, booking and tweaking, we made it to Washington to see America celebrate America like only America knows how.
Washington really did not get off to the best start. By the end of the stay there, I really did like the place, by my initial impressions featured torrential rain, navigating the metro with heavy bags, and a $20 bill drama with the smart-trip machines that was an absolute joke. Our hotel did offer a free shuttle from the metro station, so once a kind guy helped us load up, and we checked into a decent room, we were much happier; but still, not great first impressions.
Before I dive into a summary of our time in DC, I feel like I should apologise to anyone who may follow me on twitter or instagram. My tablet wasn’t working for a while, which has now been sorted, which has meant that all the photos I wanted to upload to instagram are now ready to go as a batch, rather than every so often. That meant that a flood of photos and links may have filled anyone’s feed. Sorry!
Our first full day in Washington didn’t start off with the usual sites and tours. The local cinema had offers on to see new films for next to nothing, and as Magic Mike XXL was released the day before, we thought it would be rude to let the opportunity to see the film slide before it was released in the UK. As expected, we thoroughly enjoyed it, and suddenly, Washington was back on the map as somewhere we would really enjoy.
That afternoon, we finally made it into Washington itself to see some of the more famous locations. Our first stop: The White House. I don’t want to say it was disappointing, because that isn’t true, but it was a bit small. Yes, I am comparing it to Buckingham palace, but I was expecting the home of the President of the United States to be a bit more, well, big. It was still great to see it front and back once security removed the blockades; I still have no idea what important person passed through while we were there!
Afterwards, we decided to make the most of being on the mall. We checked out Washington Memorial, which I have now finally stopped calling ‘that obelisk’ before strolling down to see The Smithsonian Institute’s Natural History Museum, and Air and Space Museum.
I wanted to go to the Natural History Museum because I knew it was meant to be one of the best free museums in the world, because it was in Night at the Museum, and because it features the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond was, in my opinion, a little too big and in your face, not that I would say no if someone was to give it to me. The exhibits were pretty cool, the mummies impressive, yet I didn’t think it was as good as the museum in London.
The Air and Space Museum was only only my list of places to go because I knew it had the lunar module from the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in it. The module was in fact in the lobby/entrance area, so the museum didn’t take that long to complete, a fact we were thankful for when we went to the metro and went back to the hotel.
Our evenings of late have been filled with watching the TV show Graceland. I watched it at uni when my friend’s introduced me to it, and as we both loved White Collar, I thought I would show it to Jade a sit is written by Jeff Eastin of White Collar fame. We are addicted.
The majority of July 3rd was spent exploring the free Smithsonian zoo. The word free always catches are eye, especially hwne it is a zoo. Luckily for us, it’s not just any free zoo, it has all the good animals, and even has pandas. The normal animals were pretty cool to see as they always are, but we really just wanted to get in and see the pandas.
The queue was pretty long to get in and see, which is quite understandable. When we got to the front we were surprised to find that there was 3 pandas in total, and that 2 of them were pretty active. I didn’t realise that they moved. Well, I do realise that obviously, but I thought they were some of those animals that never did anything when someone was watching. Unlike the meerkat, who I actually think had a posing routine.
Despite the fact it was free, it was really our day off from heaviness prior to a full July 4th, so we ended up going back to the hotel before rush hour; and was in for the evening pretty early. Such a shame, it just meant that we could watch Graceland, and Matilda. What a bad evening (not).
When Independence day rolled around, we suddenly felt both incorrectly dressed. We weren’t in red, white, and blue, and we weren’t sporting bizarre bandanna hats or patriotic sunglasses. The days started with heavy rain that didn’t suit the ridiculous dress either, so we waited until the worst of it went off to make our way to the national mall.
When we arrived at our first stop, the Lincoln Memorial, the sun was out in force. The rain was now a distant memory and I was wishing I had brought sun cream! The memorial was really busy, but we could still get in and get a decent selfie with Abe himself. We stopped at the ‘I have a dream’ plaque in front of the memorial, before making our way back to the main road for the parade.
We didn’t actually know about the parade until we saw a giant inflatable eagle being tamed. At that point, we decided we had to check out what was going on, and stayed to see the last displays go through, including an unexplainable giant inflatable man playing a guitar. Only in America.
Our trip to the White House on July 4th was virtually non-existent. We had seen it as properly as we could on our first day in Wimbledon, and mainly wanted to go and see if we could get a free photo in the ‘Oval Office’, an area of the White House gift shop. We could. We went there before going to the Smithsonian to get Jade’s panda ornament.
Our final stop was the Capitol. Unfortunately covered in scaffolding, the building lacked its usual impressiveness I’m sure, but it was still very cool to see in real life. We made a decision to put the free concert ahead of the fireworks, and made our way to the entry gates before finding decent seats on the grass at the top of the hill.
Just as we sat down, clouds began to come in, and no more than ten minutes later, it was torrentially raining. We toyed with leaving, but tough our rain jackets and ponchos would keep us dry. We soon realised that wasn’t the case, as an announcement came over the tanoy saying ‘Due to bad weather approaching, the area must be evacuated.’ Approaching? APPROACHING? I already had a lake in my poncho and was soaked through!
It was during this evacuation that my foot went. Of course it did on Independence day two weeks before Disney. We made it back to Union station with my bad foot where we bought dresses to change into; thank heavens for the H&M July 4th sale. When we got home, we dried off and discovered the fireworks could be seen from Arlington cemetery, not far from our hotel and it’s shuttle service. The fireworks were insane, yes they lacked the music we would have heard on the Mall, but we had a clearish view of the Lincoln Memorial that they were launched off. A great end to our first American Independence day.
We had nothing to do but sit in our hotel using WiFi and ordering orthopaedic supplies for my foot for the whole of July 5th. Instead of completely wasting the day, we got the shuttle service tot he metro and went to see the Pentagon, which was big, and pentagonal (surprise, surprise!) After limitedly seeing it thanks to my foot, we looked at the 9/11 memorial and made our way back to the hotel. Our bus to Charlotte wasn’t until the evening, well early in the following morning when it finally arrived, and was eventful to say the least, so the rest beforehand was a blessing!