Saturday, June 21, 2008

In the Capital

I would like to dedicate the following post to our precious GPS and our beloved Chrysler which I now appreciate more than ever... Our time we shared together was so special and we miss you very much... (Especially the old GPS. New one is shit!)

The drive away from the Appalachians, up the Blue Ridge Parkway was a long one, but gratefully I was not driving and enjoyed a sweet slumber along the lush mountain road. A sweet sleep that is until we realised we were about to run out of gas and so turned to our trusty GPS for guidance. I think somewhere along the lines she was a little confused that we were looking for a gas pump to refill our tank and not looking to dig for oil, because somehow GPS took us off the road and through some undergrowth, over a brook and down towards a number of rickety old houses with signs warning, "Trespassers will be shot first and asked why they were here after the corpse has been identified." We were certainly not in Kansas anymore and although we trusted our beloved GPS something told us that perhaps she was mid flow or just having a bad day, so at the next gateway we did a speedy 3 point turn and headed back the way we came. Back past the menacing looking houses, over the old brook and back up to the main Parkway Road... thankfully with no bullet holes to show.

After finding a Yokel gas station and refilling we decided that enough was enough of the wilderness and it was time to head back to civilisation. Next stop on the route was Washington DC, or to be precise Potomac, Maryland to the house of my cousin Marilyn.

After days in a strange surrounding, in the middle of redneck nowhere and surrounded by nothing more than trees it was such a shock to drive down my cousins beautiful suburban street and even more of a treat to arrive at her door just as she arrived home from work... this trip is all about timing.

Finally we were in a real home. Shoes off, bags thrown in our room, orange juice poured we sat in the living room and regaled my cousin with stories of our trip so far and caught up on family news from her. Both of us were exhausted from our long travels and were very much looking forward to some home comforts and to sleeping in a real bed... goodbye tent!

Our first evening was a relaxed one with a family meal and an early night. The next morning we slept in a little and then headed towards Washington DC via the metro. Arriving at Union Street station we were immediately overpowered by the historical monuments that surrounded us. Having been used to trees and rocks for so long I was a little overwhelmed by the giant American flag that greeted us as we exited the station and the 7 foot bell, the 10 foot Statues and the buildings... all the building were stone and white and had pillars.... we have gone from nature to industry in one step and I was ready to lap it all up.

Rightly or wrongly (ok it was wrongly) we decided to spend our hard earned cash on a bus tour of the city. It all started well, however we made the classic mistake of being a little too eager and got off the first stop we were told about which was the Art Museum, the West Wing. Two and a half ours later it was already past noon, we were starving and realised that we still had 4 other museums, 6 other monuments and Arlington cemetery to fit into our schedule and we only had a couple of hours left before the tour buses stopped running. We decided to carry on on the bus, not getting off at any other stops and then get off at the White House, walk through the Mall and see the monuments ourselves. The idea was a pretty good one, apart from the fact that it was Friday, traffic was a mess and our tour guide decided not to tell us about the history of monuments were were passing, but talk about the state of Washington traffic instead for half an hour.

Finally we could take no more.... However, in the time we spent after getting off at the White House and heading back to Union Station and back for Friday night dinner at my cousins we managed to see the following:

The White House
Washington Monument
The Lincoln Memorial
The Second World War Memorial
We walked the length and breadth of the Mall
The Korean War Memorial
The National Art Museum - East and West Wing

Day 2 in Washington DC, my cousin and her husband took us on a day trip of the capital allowing us to see some of the things we missed the day before:

The Natural History Museum (2 hours)
The Air and Space Museum (1.5 hours)
The Native American Museum (.5 hours)
Arlington Cemetery (1 hour)

After a long day, we were then treated to a meal on the other side of the river, back in Virginia. With a sunset view of the Capital, a cocktail in hand and the best company we had had so far on the trip I felt like a very lucky girl... could I simply stay here forever?

Our third day in DC we arranged tickets to go visit the Holocaust Museum. After so many days of museum hopping, we decided to dedicate one day to this final museum and then return to Potomac for a home cooked BBQ and an early night. We were also warned by my cousin's husband, who had been very much involved in the Museum from the outset, that it would be a long day. I think I must have underestimated his words because we were shocked to find that 3 hours had passed and we were little over half way around the Museum. It was a amazing experience and although I have been to a few Holocaust museums and memorials, it was most interesting for me to see and hear about it again from an American perspective. US reactions to the concentration camps and US papers with headlines of news from Germany between 1938 and 1948 came from a slightly different view point to the ones I had read and seen in the UK, and it made the experience all the more new and fresh for me... and ultimately all the more poignant.

The next day we decided to see the other side of DC and walked around Dupont Circle and Bethesda. I think I now understand why my cousin loves Maryland and DC so much. And there was no other place that we both felt so at home.

Sorry I know it was a long post... and to be honest I feel I have still missed out so much...

Oh well on to New York!

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