An Alien in Spain Visits - USA (Washington DC)

Having left Philadelphia on the Mega bus it was a 3 hour trip for the princely sum of $3.00 to be set down in The Capital City of Washington DC after which I immediately jumped on a train for 30 minutes out to Maryland where I was staying at Heather Drive, Takoma Park with Ross a real nice guy who couldn't do enough for you and I would recommend his place if you ever need a place to stay when you visit DC. It is in a leafy suburb courtesy of Air BnB and when you can appreciate the difference between The Town & The Country experience.

The trees are just changing colour at the bottom of Elm Street, the road that I will stroll along from the station to my lodgings each day for the next 7 days with the cut off that takes you down to the crick, that's creek to you and me.The house I stayed at in Heather Drive (Pic 3) had some neat neighbours houses I liked the white one with the porch and the raised deck at the back, but quirky neighbours see the giant chairs that are all made from shower plumbing and did I mention Halloween was alive in the front gardens.

My first day in DC and I usually take a sightseeing bus around a new city to get my bearings and see all the sights but Washington DC has enough sights everywhere you walk and I had a list of all the things I was going to try and fit in and the fact that the tour bus ticket prices were the highest I had encountered ever ($91 for 48 hr pass + Night Tour or $59 without Night tour) so on with the boots and off I went.

Day 1

The Old Post Office has the second highest view point in the capital and is free to go up and so I decided it would be the best place to start but oh oh closed from May 1st for renovations and it's October now, no work started so not a lot of chance it will be finished before I leave.

Moving on, I went to my the next port of call - The Museum of Arts & Industries but alas my luck was not in this morning. So I made enquiries and found out that ALL the major museums which were set up by The Smithsonian Foundation can be found at the National Mall and everything Smithsonian has Free Entry - Amazing but true - if you find yourself sightseeing in DC this is where to start. Ok.

On my way I came upon The Archives Building just off the Mall where the Declaration of Independence is kept along with The Bill of Rights but in accord with the way my luck was running this morning I got there at the same time the College outing arrived so maybe later.

At one end of The National Mall is The tallest building in America The Washington Memorial which you can go in and get a lift to the top and the second picture was of the George Washington Memorial taken after I had walked all the way to visit and go to the top and was told come back at 8 am tomorrow and get in line to get a time to visit young man - Sorry George another time.

At the other end of the Mall is The Capitol Building as made famous by such TV shows as the West Wing et al, but I bet you haven't seen it like this before as it was having renovations carried out on the Dome, hence the scaffolding.

There are many Concession stands everywhere selling food and memorabilia but the Popcorn truck was unusual and old as was the Old Town Trolley very nice to travel on but as mentioned before very expensive.

This is The Smithsonian Main Building just like a castle but only the ground floor accessible to get information and visit the gift shop nearby is one of the more modern museums the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

If I gave you a load of guesses I am sure you would not guess what the 3rd grand Building is - well believe it or not this is a train station in fact Union Station and next to it a replica of the Liberty Bell by the Columbus Memorial outside the Station.

And I don't expect you need any explanation about what is probably the most recognised building on the planet - No one on the roof today but when they are in the roof has armed personnel keeping watch. This is probably not such a familiar sight with peaceful demonstrations allowed - there was a Muslim debate going on when I was down there and I was trying to spot the FBI infiltrators but decided in the end they probably all were.

I don't know if the signs can be believed but this local seems to have been protesting here for 24 hours a day since 1981 with Andrew Jackson watching over him in Lafayette Park in Washington DC.

Just around the corner from The White House is The U S Treasury Department - well I don't suppose it does any harm to keep your eye on the money and close to it is probably the most important democratic building in America -The United States Supreme Court.

On the first day I also visited The Air & Space Museum which is dedicated to the achievements of man in the field of aviation and eventually space travel and is one of the best museums I have ever visited especially as I was alive when Yuri Gagarin was the first man in Space back in 1961 although I wont claim to being around when the wright brothers took off or Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic.

When Discovery landed on the moon it was never coming back but what you have here is the standby that would have been sent if the first one failed, so to all intense and purpose the real deal. Next is one of the Russian space crafts that joined up with the US at the space station and just in case you are thinking of taking a journey one day this diagram shows the whiplash that is achieved by using the gravity belt to throw the craft into space.

You can actually enter Skylab, although the living quarters are small - Did I say small - Very small see that White circle - that is the shower - they got in, pulled it up and showered, then it collapsed away - good eh !!

Michelangelo never actually flew, but he had some great ideas, a man light years ahead of his time - On the other hand the Wright Brothers were like chalk and cheese but they managed to build this little baby, made totally from wood, except for the landing gear - Bicycle wheels. and they made the first ever flight back in 1903 - so it lasted less than a minute but it was the first step to where we are today.

Twenty Four Years later The Spirit of St Louis, a purpose built aeroplane, built and flown by Charles Lindbergh made the first Transatlantic flight from The USA to France, 3,600 miles in 33 & 1/2 hours - And this is where we are today or maybe this was yesterday and there is something new on the runway???

Not the original but a very famous plane that dealt death and destruction to many allied flyers in the First World War, Baron Von Richthofen (The Red Baron) made his plane distinct to put fear into flyers that might come up against him - Around the time of the war more and more pilots made their planes distinct to let other flyers know whose side they were on.

There is also a reminder that while all this was going on up in the sky some of the people in London were heading in the other direction to avoid what was being dropped on them from above.

A Diagram to remind us all of how small we are in the nature of things and how amazing it is that we have accomplished so much and worthy of a thought of what we could accomplish if we worked together instead of against each other ??

The tour for me ended with a selection of planes over the years - I like the way the Jumbo Jet looks like a trophy hung on the wall - and a thought - Will this be the future ? Space Travel?

My next stop was The National Museum of American History which is predominantly about how America was opened up and the different forms of transport used and is well worth the visit here and allow a lot of time as it is good.

We start with The original covered wagon as used by the men and women who bravely went were no-one had gone before - except for the Cavemen, The Native American Indian and of course Capt. James T Kirk and the crew of the US Starship Enterprise !!!!

Seriously though, from before 1865 when the railroads opened up the West for settlers the progress made by man is astounding so that in 1906 a ship was built called RMS Mauritania which set a record that stood for 20 years for the fastest transatlantic crossing impressive No?

Horse and Horse Power side by side - The Iron Horse was the mode of transport that opened up the west, just think without this we would never have had Flower power and the Beach Boys - It was on May 10, 1869 and this locomotive, Jupiter, pulled the special train carrying Leland Stanford, the president of Central Pacific to what became known as "The Marriage of the rails" at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory, for the Golden Spike Ceremony where East track met West Track.

Meanwhile Horse Power was advancing with picture 1 showing one of the first cars to cross from East to West followed by those immortal words "You can have it in any colour, as long as it's Black" as uttered by Henry Ford as he introduced the world to The Model "T"

Ford Station Wagon? I would swear this was the original Morris Station Wagon - "They don't make em like that anymore"and mores the shame

At first glance I thought this was one of the first water tenders but looking again at the pictures on the wagon I'm not so sure - Please tell me I am not the only one who remembers "Ponch"from C.H.I.P.'s ?? - He's getting old bless him !!!

Next on the journey along the Mall is the The American Museum of Natural History. dedicated to Nature and I am sure you have seen lots of animal figures so moving on but I am sure you will not have seen a "Rock" that is exhibited up on the first floor so come with me to see -

The HOPE Diamond one of, if not the worlds best known diamonds. I could go on about clarity and size etc etc but that would be so not me, enough is to say it is valued at $250,000,000 USD - And at $250 million USD I think it rates two pictures.

This is what I had come here to see (No, not Denise Wilford) peeking over the counter who had come down from York, Maine for the weekend but the "Wilderness Forever" exhibition best photography awards pictures that were here on display.

(Please click on the pictures to enlarge) Look at the clarity of The Armadillo - One for my mate Scott in Perth, Australia - this photographer must have asked for directions from a local before mate ! Not one for the squeamish as this Rock Python is about to swallow the buck whole.

Talk about juiced up, that Monkey needs to cut back on whatever it is he is drinking or smoking before it's eyes pop out - As the Eagle catches the Salmon perhaps I aught to trade in my rod & reel for a pair of talons ? and finally My Favourite (not the judges) but mine - this just looks so real that if you said shoes or handbag it would bite you.

This was a lot to fit into one day so if you have the time try and fit the visits into two days there is definitely plenty to keep you occupied.

Day 2

I was joined by a couple of friends from Maine today as I was going to Arlington where there is a World Famous Military Cemetery - they had lost a friend recently who had been buried there and they wanted to pay their respects and although I thought that it would be a desolate spot to visit I was wrong as the following pictures will show.

First I have to advertise where I had breakfast today because as you know all the American Restaurant personnel that serve me always assure me the food I ask for is Low Cal and Non - fattening - however, when I asked the lady if the Chocolate Banana Crepe with cream was Low Cal, she said "not a chance" so I just had to go with it and if you visit Washington DC - EAT HERE - 1012 14th St NW Washington D.C. 20005

If you are going to look up a person who is buried in Arlington you need to catch the metro to Arlington Cemetery and in the visitors centre is a bank of computers that will pinpoint any grave and print out directions all for free. As we arrived a military funeral was in progress with a Guard of Honour and with full 21 gun salute but we kept our distance as a token of respect.

There are main roadways throughout and with the trees in colour it is very calm and restful. The views from the cemetery looking back across the Potomac to The Washington Memorial and Capital Building remind you how close you are to the centre of DC despite the calm.

We made our way to the spot where Denise and Lynn could pay their respects to their friend Bob Wallace - a plaque is for those that are cremated rather than buried - close by we came across The Memorial to The Challenger crew that died in 1986.

The plaques commemorating President John F Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline. This is the view Kennedy remarked he loved and why he is buried where he is with the eternal flame burning and where the Flag flies at permanent Half Mast

This is where the Tomb of the unknown soldier is situated and the army has the equivalent of changing the guard every hour. There is a Marble auditorium with seating inside for state funerals. The changing of the Guard happens on the hour every hour. The Changing of the Guard Ceremony and Rifle inspection during the changing of the guard is a spectacle that always draws crowds of sightseers.

A 30 minute walk from Arlington National Cemetery across The Potomac River using The Arlington Memorial Bridge will bring you to another of the most famous sights from DC The Lincoln Memorial close to which is lesser in size but not emotion The Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The Potomac River from The Arlington Memorial Bridge and Arlington Memorial Bridge with Lincoln Memorial in the distance and The Bridge from DC side just to prove we made the walk.

We reached The Lincoln Memorial and still more steps after all that walking but at last a familiar image for film goers and historians and one for my scrapbook with "Honest Abe" not on "ilckley Moor" but definitely bar his famous stovepipe tat.

The view from where Mr Lincoln sits overlooking the reflection pool and if you could see beyond the Washington Memorial he would be keeping an eye on the senators in the Senate at Capital Hill - well someone needs to!! Close by in Constitution Gardens The Vietnam Veterans Memorial with the names of the fallen on the walls.

The metro in Washington DC has one big drawback in as much as it goes nowhere near most of the monuments or the Mall so another 30 minute walk to get us to Georgetown which is a very picturesque area with Universities and eateries but not for us the pleasure of food and drink just yet. First we visit animals.

The Smithsonian Zoo is a short walk from Woodley Park Metro and is unbelievably free to get in when you see the variety of animals on view. There is a Visitors Centre with toilets before you start the tour and there is a map for sale $3 but no need as everything is clearly marked. Meanwhile outside the cages is a temporary enclosure where they are getting ready for the moonlight Halloween tour.

The American Buffalo - and to think that once upon a time out west, if you stood in one place it could take three days for a herd to pass by that spot - was it really necessary for man to prove his superiority to the extent that we did?

I don't know why she is smelling it - who else's is it likely to be ? There are hardly any Pandas left in the wild and not that many in captivity either, something to do with the females always having a headache at bedtime I believe.

I am not sure if this one is watching the TV as it eats but it sure looks that way - Hmmm that was good, now I just need to use the toothpick to get that leaf out of there - ah, got it - glad that bamboo was there.

Did you know the Indian Elephant - the second largest mammal on the planet is now an endangered species with only 30 - 50,000 left on the planet - I think this guy in the next cage heard about the Indian Elephant and he doesn't look very happy about it. That's his mate as in "significant other" who isn't too happy either from that look - they all stick together in here

I think this is the pose Rodin should have gone with for with The thinker, it sums it up better, what do you think - All these years to develop and he still uses his hands to eat with - what would Darwin say if he was alive today and after just checking the manicure - sorry Gorillaicure.

Meanwhile the Silver back is waiting and pondering - Hmmm it's getting late and that producer who promised me a part in that King Kong remake hasn't shown up think I'll call it a day, Hang on are you someone to do with the movies - Oh the heck with this movie lark I'm sticking with the day job it gives me room and board and three square meals - who needs fame and a good looking Dame anyway. It never ends well.

Meanwhile back in the cages - Hi my names Gloria where did you get your hair done darling? Do you think I would look with the Blonde look?

Well it's been good talking to you now I have to get back to the photo shoot before Kong gets back from his appointment.

The pride of the pride touching up on their tans and on the look out for a snack for the Big Fella who is keeping an eye on the stripey guy burning bright in the forest of the night in the next pen as well as watching The Los Lobos Wolf Pack over the other side of the road.

To the final exhibit a lesser Spotted Brit who when asked said "I didn't think I had to sit here all night to be part of the Halloween Exhibit?

After all the walking we had done, on the way back to the train we decided we needed to partake of Vitals (food & Drink) and we found a welcoming establishment called Lillies Restaurant & Bar with a witch on the door to welcome us in so it would have been foolhardy to refuse.

Afterwards as we made our way back for a final nightcap we came across a guy who as street musicians go was good enough that he could actually make a tune on the empty drums that you could understand. Then we passed the gate to Chinatown and although a little early for Christmas lights it certainly made the trees look good at night.

The Ford Theatre where President Abe Lincoln was shot down by James Wilkes Booth and Peterson House opposite the Ford Theatre it was in The Petersen House where Lincoln died after being shot in The Ford Theatre.

Finally we arrived at our destination where we could enjoy an nightcap to finish off the day in peace and quiet -The Hay Adams Hotel and Bar - You can see a picture of Hay Adams Hotel Foyer but inside is called the "Off the record Bar" and that's the reason for NO PICTURES.

Day 3

Today I had intended to spend best part of the day visiting The Capital Building but a word of warning if you are not an American don't bother going as you can only get a special tour to see the place by contacting Your Congressman and booking an appointment time.

First time I turned up it was Closing Time - Second Time I had a bottle of water in my bag 2 granola bars and an aerosol antiperspirant that meant I couldn't go in - Third time lucky, only one problem, you can't see any of the building being used, only three rooms from the old part that aren't used anymore, Hey Ho, I was there so I went in - you decide if you would bother to go there.

We start with The Capital Building as seen from The National Mall as you get closer you get to The Capital Building on Capital Hill visitors entrance and the dome with scaffolding as there are a lot of cracks appearing and they are going to fix it - The inside of the dome with scaffolding and drapes to stop any debris from hitting you on the head as you pass through the entrance to the visitors information table.

Ronnie Reagan with the greatest part in his acting career but he had a good leading lady in Maggie Thatcher - Andrew Jackson was president twice I believe - Abraham Lincoln statue and Ulysses S Grant who took the surrender of the south from General Lee.

Never was told the name of the room but it has pictures depicting scenes in American History and one statue from each of the thirteen original states who can swap their statues periodically - Loved this picture of a white man meeting with the red man before telling them everything would be alright before stealing their land (or something like that).

Above is what was the original congress meeting room when there were only thirteen states but this was quickly outgrown and back in those days each member had to bring their own desk and place it on the position marked out for them see John Quincy Adams marker next picture I loved the next one as it showed Our very harassed Tour Guide - The headphones didn't work, she lost the invalided group in a lift somewhere and half the group didn't speak English Ha Ha - just another day on the hill folks.

Final Picture deserves to be here - the white spot in the middle of the crypt is an empty tomb. Why, because when George Washington died no plans had been finalised of where to bury him. Someone came up with this idea and his wife said Yes that would be a good idea, but before they had time to implement her wishes she died and the rest of the family said NO - hence there is an empty tomb. You couldn't make it up could you!!!

Statues have to be either Bronze or Marble and are commissioned by the state or sometimes are a private commission this one stood by the door to the Old Supreme Court Chamber before they built that enormous big building across the road - this is much more inviting to me.

It isn't used for anything any more shame really it is a lovely room, nice ambience, low lighting and love the high back chairs.

Back in the day there were were only two sets of council that could attend and they were limited to 30 minutes to put their case something we should bring back nothing has been changed very much and the clock was dead on even after all this time.

Day 4

My last day in Washington DC saw me first head out to The Pentagon to pay respects at the 911 memorial although the area is a NO GO for taking pictures I was able to take pictures of the memorial only - The Pentagon Memorial for the 184 people who lost their lives in the 9/11 incident with their names inscribed on the plaque Each person is also represented by the marble and steel image set out in the area with the Pentagon in the background with their names on the front and a water theme beneath which is lit up at night.

It was then a journey back across town for a Tour of The Library of the Congress which turned out to be one of the most beautiful interiors of all the buildings I have seen here.

A view from the ground looking up and taking in the ceiling and the Entrance as seen looking down from 1st floor of the Library where marble columns abound and every picture represents something to do with learning throughout the Library.

The depiction of Minerva is a mosaic made completely of glass amazing - Looking down into the main reading room instantly recognisable from films The National Treasure & The Da Vinci Code, but so much more impressive in real life.

Anyone can use the library for research but no checking the books out - plus everything is online and they guarantee to have or get anything you want to look at.

After the original Library burnt down Thomas Jefferson who was an avid reader donated his whole collection of 6,500 books for the start of the new Library and believe it or not there was another fire a few years after and all but 2,000 were lost in the fire - there is now an exhibition with the original 2,000 plus a lot of the ones that were lost replaced and others that couldn't be replace represented by an empty box - it was quite a collection for the day and a lot of priceless pieces worth a look if you visit.

This is impressive - The original German Mainz Bible hand written on parchment + Just as impressive one of only six original Gutenberg Bibles left in the world printed on The Gutenberg Press.

When I had finished there it was off to my final destination The Archives to see that original Declaration of Independence and The Bill of Rights where again you are not allowed to take photographs inside the building. Not a good day for souvenir pictures you might say.

That was my last day in The Capital and I shall be again boarding a Mega Bus at 9.30 this evening for the 13 hour overnight trip all the way south to Atlanta Georgia arriving on Halloween and staying in an AirBnB with a lady whose birthday it is - a real White Witch (I hope).

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