Washington DC - 15th June to 16th June
As the rain feel first thing in New York I awoke to the sound of my alarm beeping, the room was dark and damp. As I hopped out of bed a little before 6.00am I was already packed to head straight to the subway to the port authority for my bus to the United States capital, Washington DC. As I walked hurriedly through the rain and on to the subway I imagined to myself what the capital would have to offer, would I see the President? Would I even meet the guy? Probably not but you never know I thought to myself. As the train pulled in to the bus terminal I headed upstairs and withdrew some cash before being pestered for some spare change, not unusual here. As I made my way down to gate 71, to my horror the line was tailed back as far as the eye could see, over here they work on the assumption of first come, first serve, ridicules when you think that you have brought a ticket for a particular journey. As local New Yorker's spoke with raised voices, shouting at times, 'Yo what you doing, get your behind back here boy before I beat you' nice at 6.15am. As 7 o clock approached the line moved forward, I waited to see if I would make the bus I had booked, with only 4 people in front the door closed, "dam that guy upstairs I thought" So not dwelling too much on the situation knowing that whatever I said I would not get there any quicker I stepped back, brought a coffee and a bagel and waited in line for the 8 o clock bus.
As eight o clock arrived the doors opened once more, I was checked on and picked my seat knowing that I would have company for the journey. The bus departed on time and the journey to the capital was under way, our arrival time was just after midday so for the journey I sat back, relaxed and wrote my blog. After decent ride we pulled on to the highway heading to Washington, the round was surrounded by national parks, as I looked around seeing what I could see the bus pulled in to the capital, as the lights turned green in the distance I saw capitol hill where the supreme court and The Capital Building. Once parked I jumped straight off an started my walk towards the capital hill, calling in a deli shop for a sandwich on my way I stuck with the theme of the government and ordered a delegate, 'walnut chicken salad served with Danish cheese lettuce on raison bread ummm. As I made my way up the hill the sun beamed down, the temperature was much hotter here than it had been in New York, as I crossed union station I sat down on a wall and ate lunch whilst watching a squirrel tackle a muffin wrapper. After changing in to my flip flops (thongs) I walked up to the Capitol building which is home to Congress and is recognized wisely as a historic landmark in America with its dome shaped roof and impeccable surroundings, around the Capitol, guards patrolled the area and street workers were carrying out maintenance around the front. As I stopped for a picture I looked across the road where the Supreme Court captured my view with its huge concrete pillars and fountains either side of the entrance. As I made my way up the stairs and through the bag scanner I took a quick walk around the hall ways where judges molded heads sat equally apart on the walls, each as formal and respectful as the other. At the end of the hall way the door to the court sat open, as I peered in for a few photos I imagined seeing the judges lined across the table overlooking the people below, in the corner the American flag waved gently in the breeze from the air conditioning. As the hall way filled up with tour guides I headed for the exit, in my mind the white house barley able to control my excitement I started the walk through the Smithsonian.
The sky was clear bar a few thundery looking clouds on the horizon, the sun beamed down and the humidity brought the sweat pouring out of my. As I walked down passed the Capitol and out in to the city mall the trail of Smithsonian museums surrounded me, in front of me water features captured the eyes of tourists as many posed for photos. Walking slowly trying not to perspire to much I carried my life on my back. In front of me the Washington Monument stood tall on the hill, surrounded by American flags and tourists the monument is a true symbol of American democracy and is recognized across the world. Walking towards it down the long green of the city mall grass I stopped and picked up a map from a passerby before reaching the monument. As I flung my bag to the ground I reached for some water and lent out to touch the tall pointed monument, "sweet now the white house" I thought. After a quick rest I started the walk across the grass to the right of the monument crossing the ring of paths as I went. Then I saw what I had come for, hidden in the trees away from sight the building an iconic figure in American history and home to every American President, the White House captured my eyes. Fully focused on the building I walked more hurriedly towards the barriers that are patrolled well by armed guards. As I stood and gazed up to the building that is now home to the 44th President, Barak Obama and his family. I watched as cleaners swept the balcony, gardeners pruned the flowers and security walked back and forth around the building. Knowing that the president was not at home as he was delivering a speech on health care in Chicago I was not expecting to see much more than the building itself.As I walked around to the fence I stood and posed for some photos capturing my closest moment to the most powerful house in the world.
As I day dreamed outside I made my way back across the lawn to head to the Lincoln memorial, turning my back I started to walk but turned around for one last photo, then I spotted an increased police presence, wondering, just maybe the President was on his way back home I stopped and waited, the roof suddenly became occupied with sharp shooters, I knew then I could be in for a treat. The guards suddenly cleared all the people away from the fence and sent everyone back on to the lawn where I was stood, an officer approached and I asked if I was okay standing here, 'certainly sir' he replied. I could not believe my luck, was I about to witness the president arriving or way it just precaution. After about 10 minutes I heard the all clear on the officer's speaker, behind me I heard a roar of helicopters, then I saw them, three of them army helicopters with the American Star on the bottom and 'The United States of America' printed on the side. They flew directly over my head so low I felt like I could touch them, 156 days since his inauguration President Barak Obama was directly above me. As the first helicopter banked away the second of the three dropped its wheels and curved to the white house's south lawn, all the members of staff stood waiting on the South lawn to greet there President. As the helicopter turned and landed on the lawn I snapped away hopping to see the man of the moment, the scene was incredible, to be honest I stood in complete wonder at what I was witnessing, for many it was daily routine but this was a real treat. As he left the helicopter I got a brief glance as he ducked his head and headed in to his home, all be it brief it was enough. The engines roared once more as the pilot took off. It looked like a scene from Independence Day just without the aliens. The Presidents helicopter flew directly back over head and the moment was gone but it was a moment that would live forever in my memory.
As I grabbed a drink and looked back at the photos I thought back to the guy at the station who had made me miss the first bus, I thought to myself "everything happens for a reason" without him I would not have been at the White House at that specific moment in time. Walking from a street vendor I decided to walk around the White House to the North Lawn, knowing that it was not as impressive as the South I was still intrigued as to what I would see, obviously with the security it was a long way round, as I reached the road leading to the back entrance the Treasury Office stood next door, I wondered how empty that place was these days. As I approached the gates once more sirens rang around me, behind me a motorcade drove fast, no freaking way I thought, around three cars with police either end entered the White House gates, inside the Italian Prime Minister waved to on lookers,I could not believe it. Now in serious wonder land I started my decent down the hill towards the Lincoln memorial, a man who changed American history by saving the union and abolishing slavery the Lincoln memorial is a iconic symbol that overlooks the capital and stands for everything American stand for today. As I approached I passed the recent World War Two memorial, opened by George W Bush in 2004 the memorial is a symbol of peace and gratitude to the American's who lost their lives, surrounding the water feature each state that makes up the US has its name enshrined and a ring of flowers above it. At either end oceans that surround the country are recognized and the people who fought on the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific are honored. As I climbed the steps to the Lincoln Memorial I looked back at the Washington Monument cross the waters, a famous image that many of us see in films and documentaries alike, behind me one of the most famous men in the American Presidency sat in the shadows.
As I entered in I gazed up at the size of the monument, President Lincoln sat in the chair proud looked directly out over Washington, he seemed like a guardian, a watchmen if you like of freedom and hope. Sweating profusely I took the opportunity to rest and sat down on the steps outside and looked out towards Capitol Hill thinking back to the day's events.
After resting we were assured away once more, this time a bomb scare was in place, so not wanting to hang around I made my way back towards the Smithsonian, rain started to fall as the storms built from the days heat, glancing towards the White House and the Washington Monument I made my way into the city to head to my hostel. The time was around 18.30 and my belly was rumbling, not fancying cooking I called in to a food court where I sat and ate a Teriyaki Chicken and watched as the president spoke on Iran in the Oval Office. After an incredibly enjoyable day and memories that would last a life time I caught the subway to my Hostel which at just 15 minutes away on the red line in Takoma. As I entered the Hilltop Hostel I was shown around the house like building, after a quick shower I took my place in the lounge where I looked back on photos and chatted to a couple of lads from Manchester. With Family Guy on for much of the night I grabbed some m & m's from the 7/11 across the street and relaxed for the night.
The day I woke early to try and make the most of the remaining time I had, my bus out was at 13.00 and I did not want a repeat of what had happened in New York. I jumped on the subway back downtown to the metro centre and grabbed some breakfast in a coffee house. From there I made my way to the lawn opposite the White House where I sat and ate breakfast wondering what sort of luxuries the President would have at his breakfast table, probably more than a blue berry muffin. As time wore on headed to the Smithsonian which opened at 10.00, as I entered in to the Museum of American History I spent an hour and a half looking around wars that America had fought and a history of the American Presidency. I also admired the American flag of Baltimore which inspired the American National anthem of today. With time against me I walked to the bus station passing street performers along my way, calling me Brad Pitt, probably in an attempt to coheres some change out of me, 'didn't work but I took the compliment anyway.' Further down the City Mall track I spotted Michael Moore and his film crew in action as they prepared for their new film about Congress and its lack of action as an on duty officer put it.
With time eluding me fast I called in the Deli store for lunch picking up a Capital Limited of ham, beef, turkey and salad I headed for the station where I met with the lads from the hostel. After about 45 minute wait we entered the bus for the 5 hour journey to New York, the journey went quick as we spoke predominantly about the world of football. As we arrived in the big apple I killed time as I waited for my bus to Ottawa by eating out at the salad bar that I had eaten lunch at on my second day in the city before playing on an Xbox in Toys R Us in Times Square.Calling in Starbucks for a coffee I headed to the station just before eight to ensure my seat on the bus.
My journey in the United States had come to a close, another wonderful chapter in a trip rammed full of memories, as I sit on the bus now looking back on all the things we have done I feel sad that my time is nearly over but am optimistic at the prospects for my return to the United Kingdom my last week in Canada will go as quick as the past seven months have done, that I am sure of.