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Washington DC

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Figuring that one should really see the capital of the United States at least once in their life, I stopped by Washington DC the other weekend. And I've got two words for DC, big and tiring! We spent the first day walking around the mall (the area where all the monuments were). Everything didn't LOOK that far on the map and in reality, you can actually see the next monument from one. But when you actually WALK the distance, it is much much farther. Factoring in the blazing sunlight (not that we're not grateful that it wasn't pouring rain), lack of efficient public transport and the lack of trees on the way, it felt like we were trying to reach a mirage in a desert. Besides the distant though, once we reached these mirages, they were actually quite pretty and picturesque. I love how everything is perfectly planned and symmetrical. It makes such a pretty picture. Above is a view of the Washington Monument (left) from the World War II Memorial (right). I think this is one of the best views of the Washington Monument, because its close enough to see and it is perfectly framed by the American flags and the fountain. And the World War II Memorial is absolutely gorgeous.
Another very good view of the Washington Monument is from the top of the Lincoln Memorial (above). Now we know why that strip of water is called the reflecting pool. Absolutely stunning and well....monumental.
The Lincoln Memorial (above) itself is not so bad either. Designed after a Greek temple, it was quite gorgeous.
Unfortunately for my legs, all these monuments looked ever more breathtaking lighted up at night. So that night, we retraced our steps that afternoon and went back to see the monuments. But I think the scene was totally worth it! At the other end of the mall there is Congress (left) and off to the side the Jefferson Memorial (right). So we didn't quite reach these monuments, but in our defense, we went too late to get tickets for Congress (they give out tickets every morning for visiting slots) and the Jefferson Memorial was all the way across those waters!! Besides, I think we managed to better appreciate its beauty from afar anyway- the overall effect of the architect is more visible this way!

Before you wonder, no we did not go to the White House nor the Library of Congress. Apparently you had to get permission and book one month in advance to enter the White House. And we didn't realize that the Library of Congress was closed on Sundays until Saturday night!
We did however visited a few museums. First the Museum of Natural History. I thought the elephant in the middle was from that movie, "A Night in a Museum," but apparently not. The most interesting thing in the museum for me though was not the special butterfly exhibit, but the Hope Diamond. At 45.52 karats, it is one of the world's most famous diamonds, known for its clarity, rare deep blue color and history. I was truly enraptured.
Then we hit the National Gallery of Art. The collection didn't quite compare to the Lourvre, but it was still a lot of fun. We especially loved the west garden. If I had time, I'd sit there and read and book and enjoy the ambiance.
We also loved their outdoor exhibit. It was a lovely artistic garden. It made for a really nice stroll. There was also a fountain in the middle, which I read turns into an ice skating rink in the winter. How cool! For dinner, we went to Cafe du Parc, which is an absolutely darling little French bistro next to the Williard Hotel, which according to the guidebook, is a historical landmark. It certainly was very pretty and quaint! We loved the atmosphere. The service was excellent- our waiter, Olivier, was awesome. And the food, by a celebrity chef apparently, was also great. Try the lamb and the fries!
During our tour of the mall and the old downtown, we did notice that besides tourists, Washington DC was really quiet. There were barely any people and we didn't even see any Walgreens or CVS! Where are the people? Turns out civilization was over in Georgetown on the weekends (It is also where the Ritz and the Four Seasons is- go figure). It is absolutely THE cutest and quaintest town ever. The shops were darling and actually interesting (Intermix, H&M, Zara and basically any shop you'd want to shop in, its there). And the college campus was just gorgeous (left)!
They also have this street called Canal Street, which is absolutely charming. They had an actual canal and the houses lining the canal were so quaint. There was even an old man on the boat (left), that completed fitted the picture.
Off the side, they also have a nice little waterfront, where some restaurants are. We stopped by there for lunch. The food was not exactly top notch, but it was decent and the atmosphere was excellent- especially with the perfect weather. Sigh... I just LOVE LOVE LOVE Georgetown. Wish I'd applied there for college.......

Over all I thought Washington DC was definitely a place I should visit at least once and I'm glad i did. A few tips though:

a) Try to land at the Regan Airport. It is MUCH closer and a LOT cheaper than Dulles.
b) Cabs here oddly work in zones and not meters. Going only 2 miles can easily come out to be $12.
c) Plan ahead and book tickets to see all the places (going up Washington Monument, into Congress and the White House)
d) Don't go when it is the height of summer or midst of winter. You'll never survive the walk needed. And bring sneakers. Try to go during Cherry Blossom season (April), I heard its pretty lined along the Jefferson Memorial.

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