Washington – Christmas 2008 (pre Barack Obama)

The bus to Washington was easy enough. I plugged into my mini radio to check out the radio stations throughout the drive and heard Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ three times and my main moving to US theme tune, Journey’s, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’! It was the danced up version but it made me smile anyway as I also heard a few other ‘guaranteed to be played on US radio every day’ tunes.

The West Wing

Even more appropriately, the lady in front of me was watching what I think was the last ever episode of West Wing, quite possibly my favourite TV series of all time. I always wanted to ‘work’ in the West Wing; it was full of committed and witty people who worked so brilliantly as a team, more like an argumentative yet close knit family. A dream team. In a few hours I will be – or I will be pretending to be – part of that dream. For the next 4 days anyway.

I was in the hotel by 4pm and back out the customary 30 minutes later having made sure the wireless was working and returned some emails. Two things struck me as odd and a complete contrast to New York. One was how warm it was, way too warm for a coat and secondly, this place is a ghost town! Apparently it’s the calm before the storm as its holiday week and of course the city, the country is getting ready for next months inauguration. Still it was a shock to the system that I couldn’t find something to eat within 5 minutes walk and the nearby CVS stores were both closed at 7.

I ended up walking all the way downtown, not having a clue how the trains or buses ran and it was too eerily quiet to stand and wait. I knew there was a cinema where the bus had dropped us off along with a few restaurants. It was so warm and as I had already walked 30 minutes, I actually ordered a cold chai – that is not going to happen in NYC for some months!

The other not so good aspect was the very proactive beggars. This was going to be one and only trip downtown so what else is there to do on a quiet Sunday night – I went to the cinema to see Will ‘Will Smith for President’ Smith’s, 7 Pounds and walked swiftly back to the hotel.

Monday 29th December

The next day I walked passed the White House to visit at least some of the museums. I was amazed on researching that they are all mostly free and don’t always have donation boxes. I guess they are very well funded by the (previously wealthy) US government. The Mall, as this whole area is called is rolling in beautiful buildings, mostly museums and galleries but some official houses and offices too. I got to Capitol Hill but needed to get back for a live Man United match so I decided to find out about the Metro service to get back here first thing tomorrow.

After the match, my feet were well rested so I walked the 15 minutes into Georgetown, the main reason I had chosen this hotel’s location and it was everything I had hoped it would be. It was buzzing at 6.30 in the evening and the shops were all open; the little funky ones, the designer stores and the big chains. I will come back tomorrow for more!

Tuesday 30th December

As planned, I got the Metro to the other side of Capitol Hill, having posted a birthday present, card and postcard back to the UK and picked up breakfast to have on the way. It was a beautiful sunny morning and as with the Whitehouse yesterday, the contractors were out in force building the inauguration platforms. I sat for a while in the splendour of the works and couldn’t believe my luck in having such fantastic weather. The buildings are so far apart and there is plenty of green park areas and indeed a lake in between. I found myself being concerned that all these great buildings, that house all these important people, not to mention historic art and artefacts are all in this single contained area.

Whilst sitting there, a couple were taking photos of each other and I wondered if I should offer to take the photo for both of them as I had the absolute best view of the hill from where I was sitting. Had I had a coffee in my hand I would have sat there for quite some time. The lady was walking up the steps backwards to take a photo and suddenly fell knocking her head whilst falling to the ground. I didn’t witness the whole thing but it was one of those moments where I thought I may have added to her shock and/or embarrassment if I offered to help.  I decided they didn’t need any help; she just needed to sit down for a while so I did the British thing; pretended I hadn’t seen a thing.

I went to a couple of more museums before getting the Metro to Dupont Circle. There didn’t seem to be much there although I saw many historic signs but I’d already had my fill of art and history for 2 days. I did accidently stumble upon ‘Gay Street ‘ and looking into the shop windows amused me no end. It was lovely to see a church close by with a huge Gay flag hung.

I sat in comfort and had my first egg nog latte of the Holidays in what seemed like a sauna , not counting the fact that I’d been adding egg nog milk to my coffee at home for some days. The sun was beating down through the large windows so heavily that I actually wanted to curl up and sleep rather than write this whilst also making a good dent into today’s Washington Post.

Onwards to spend a good afternoon in Georgetown, which certainly reminds me of England, quite possibly it’s as English as Stratford Upon Avon!

Bubble Tea

It’s my last evening in Georgetown and I came across a sign pointing to a place serving bubble tea and crepes. I was intrigued enough to follow said sign to a place called Snap and ordered some Thai Chicken in a Crepe (pancake to you and I in the UK). There was no coffee on offer so I had to order the bubble tea, although I much preferred a hot drink going into the much colder evening. After careful questioning, I discovered this highly unusual concoction is just tea with tapioca in it. It tasted, I’m told, like iced tea with gummy bears. A spot on description!

I said goodbye to gorgeous Georgetown, complete with its own Dean & Deluca store and a cave of hidden away little shops. Tomorrow is my last day in Washington and the forecast is snow at home so I’m going to enjoy my last day of ‘heat-wave’ before returning to New York.

New Years Eve – or as I prefer to just call it Wednesday 31st December 2008

Walking down to Lincoln memorial it was so windy that I felt I had to hold onto a lamp post to stay grounded. I then realised said lamp post may topple over so best not to hold on to any thing but hope and faith.

I walked around the war memorials the best I could in the cold winds and then decided to stay local until it was time to return to an even colder New York and a promise of a bright new year ahead.

I really missed home.

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