Ok, so I have jumped a bit and missed out Pittsburgh. This is not because nothing happened- far from it. I'm just very far behind and the Pittsburgh stop on our trip was mainly to catch up with April and hang out with her so, when I have time I will fill you all in with all our goings on out there, but right now, I'm jumping forward a few days to Washington DC- The nation's Capitol... Capital?... Capitol...
The hostel in Washington was nice but very warm, considering the weather was pretty warm anyway (you'd expect some air con, or at least an open window... I actually think the heating was on downstairs.) so we were showering plenty during our short stay!
We woke up early, but not as early as the other English couple in our room, who must have got up at about 5 and gone out because I was not up much later and they were no where to be seen! The hostel put on a nice spread for breakfast, we had to pay for it but it was only $2 which is really not much (1 pound) and it was all you can eat/drink. So I drained them of coffee, and dan went for the pastries... We have a nice balance like that.
Breakfast consumed, shorts on, sunglasses and caps at the ready we headed out to begin another epic day of sight seeing. And my, did we sight-see, back to our usual pace!
We got the subway to the Smithsonian stop which is right in the middle of all the museums and monuments which was nice, we decided to head down towards the Lincon Memorial because, on the map, it looked the furthest away and knowing how tired we would become, we thought it best to get that done first. Before reaching the memorial though, we passed the Washington Monument, which kind of looks like Cleopatra's Needle in London. It's very impressive and rife for hilarious pictures (of which we have many, don't you worry) and surrounded by American flags, also a big queue of people. We weren't sure why, can you go up it? Seemed a little pointless- no windows or anything... Anyway, we're trying to keep the spending as low as possible and people were paying for whatever it was so we decided to give it a miss.
The Lincon Memorial is also very impressive, it has a big lake/pond infront of it which we walked along. We had to keep stopping though because there were lots of ducks and ducklings, and anyone who knows me know I love ducks. So, bless him, Dan indulged me and we watched the duckies. And they were marvelous. We did, eventually, make it to the Memorial and climbed the stairs up- seeing the huge statue of Lincon looming through the shadey pillars. It was worth the climb. I was a little worried that the statue itself was so over-used and iconic that seeing it in the flesh just wouldn't live up to the hype. How wrong I was. It's amazing, it silences you. And you later find that it was made long after his death (105 years after his birth) and they had one face mask he'd had made, the rest was from photos. They say they tried to capture his softness along with his strength and it really does. Definately worth the climb in the heat.
This Memorial visited, we still had many to go (Washington DC loves a good Memorial or monument. Statues, really.) We visited the Korean War and Vietnam War memorials (which are either side of the Lincon Memorial) and they were also moving and silenced us. They both feature statues of soldiers so lifelike and in really quite harrowing poses. I was blown away, really. And I love how they are treated with such respect too, and they are un-ashamedly respectful too. There are signs telling people to "Respect those who served, please keep off the statues" and things like that. I like that it's so direct, and reminds people why they are there and what they are looking at.
We then headed to the World War 2 memorial which is much grander than the other two- with fountains and gold stars and situated in a much less leafy part of the park. It was still immensely moving, but different to the quiet, more leafy memorials.
Monuments and Memorials taken in and tired from all the walking already we decided to get some lunch and eat it in the park as a picnic. This was a brilliant plan, not so brilliantly executed... We bought the food in the Park itself, which we now realise was foolish as it was expensive and, well, rubbish. I had a "deli sandwich" which was a stale bun, loads of wafer thin "turkey" ham and one slice of plastice "Keiser" cheese. Yum. Dan had pizza, I can't really describe it because it was greasy, but all pizza here is greasy... To put it simply, it was not good pizza.
Lunch eaten we then decided to take advantage of our speedy progress (getting everything above done before midday) and be cultured. "Take in a museum" we thought. Now, Dan and I have many fears, we share the fear of mannequins and over-sized animatronics. Why, then, did we decide to go to the Natural History Museum? I'm not sure, I think I said something about liking the architecture... That and it was free. But even then, once in, why did we go in the dinosaur part? We eventually realised how foolish we were, as we crept round corners having to know what was in the room before we entered it while over-eager kids ran past us and went to look at the gem stones instead. We weren't there long before heading for Capitol Hill.
Capitol Hill was quite a walk away but we had a good view of it all the way there, which was nice. It did, however, mean that when we finally got there, the place seemed a little old-hat to us. But it was still very nice indeed. There were some statues in front of it so we sat in the shade there for a little break before walking up more stares to the Capitol itself. Unfortunately some big guards with guns let us know that you had to pay for a tour or you didn't get very close to anything really. So we sat at a fountain just outside (within the Capitol, but not anywhere important) and created our plan for the afternoon.
We decided to head back to the hostel, and collect our bags so that we could get dinner at the station before catching our train. This is something we always knew we had to do that day but nothing prepared us for how hot, sweaty, and grumpy we were when we got there! And then we had to walk back! Not fun. But bags we at the station before 4, meaning we missed rush hour (busy and expensive) on the Metro (which, by the way, is amazing) so we were happy. We spent the rest of the evening at the station buying provisions for our train trip which would take about a day and also buying dinner etc.
Shattered, we boarded the train to be met with frustration after frustration. For some reason our coach was the only really old one, our seats were broken so didn't have working foot-rests etc. there were no power sockets for Dan to recharge his camera and then, as the train pulled out of Washington DC Union Station, 2 different kids started screaming. Going to be a fun one...