Monday, July 13, 2009

Day Seventeen - DC

The final proper day in DC came along not any quicker nor any slower than I expected to. I wasn't glad that today was the last day here nor I was sad to know this either because I expected that by the end of the last full day I'd have done all that I would have wanted to do. It's not quite as random as other cities and so you can leave with your canvass full so to speak, ready to come back another day maybe but in no real hurry to do so. Or misty eyes. This was only going to happen though if I got up and actually did the things I wanted to do and as I promised myself I did indeed get up early having enjoyed only about 5 hours of sleep.

This was a trait of DC, free internet meant staying up late updating this blog. The things I do for you people. I had promised to try and wake Donal to see if he wanted to come to the Capitol Building too but I guessed that this was to be a futile exercise and so it proved. I put my hand on his shoulder after rising from my own bed across the room and rocked him a bit but he didn't seem to like that, showing his distaste by throwing an arm against me, so I left him be. The arrangements, if this were the case, weren't the clearest really, for Donal has no US mobile. We were to meet in the National History Museum later that real times or anything but we trusts that it'd work itself out and so I went off alone to get to Capitol South, the metro stop I reckoned was closest to what I needed.

Being alone wasn't all that novel but being alone for that period of time, pretty much a whole day was and I reveled in it. You can do what you please, take your time and see and just gather your own thoughts together for no matter how close a traveling companion you may have, time alone is necessary. It is in all walks of life. I do hate being alone in queues however and that is how I stood in the long line that filed out of the Visitor Centre of the Captiol Building. Still I couldn't complain too much as I waited in the line looking at Dad's wearing denim shorts and long socks, the type of socks you normally wear when playing football. The baseball cap and dodgy 80s style shirt completing the look. Actually that shirt as even poor in the 80s. Pity the kids.
The line moved on and through a security check which wasn't all that bad even at this unholy hour and I should mention this now, I hadn't had breakfast yet, I skipped it to ensure I got here in good time...i.e., before 9am.
And I was lucky I skipped breakfast because the overweight, bearded and jovial man looking after the line inside the centre gave me the last ticket for the next tour. He wasn't Santa although he was wearing red.

The tour consisted of an ultra-patriotic movie, then a tour of the actual building which suprisingly didnt last all that long but was impressive nonetheless. By about 10:30am it was all over and I went in serach of some breakfast or at least a coffee. I thought that eating in the Capitol Buildings restuarant would be a nice idea but the prices were expensive even for a coffee which was actually out of one of those big thermos flasks. And it was Dunkin yes, America really does run on Dunkin, as the slogan says.
Instead of any form of edible sustenence I headed for some literary sustenence in the Library of Congress. Taking the tunnel from the Capitol Building meant I didn;t have to go through more security on the way but I was disappointed to fid you couldn't actualy access the books casually. You had to arrnage for that in advance but then this is the biggest library in the world, or at least in the top 5, so I thought it fair enough and besides I was hungry.

Walking out of the Library of Congress I proceeded to walk into the city centre to the Verizon Centre where I came upon a Dunkin Donuts. Having been able to check my exam results that day in detail and having dne very well I tucked, without shame, into a coffee and a few donuts. Now if these weren't good enough, the action inside was. A guy in a wheelchair, apparently a veteran, came inside and rolled over a womans foot by accident. He was outside being helped by some charity workers who he didn't seem to get on with and decided to take refuge in the Dunkin Donuts when this happened. The thing was though, the shouting match wasn't between the man who seemed to be not fully wheelcahir bound but perhas semi-whellchair bound, but was actually between this black woman in her forties and some other woman in there. In fact they seemed to know one another. The staff carried on with their work, perhaos used to this sort of altercation but by thsi time the wheelchair vet had scouted off outside to avoid any of the tongue lashings that were flying back and forth. Some Muslim women in there watched the show too, smiling at the comicness of it all. I was too, you couldn't help it. Even when a public apology was issued by the, er, lady who started it all. You know the way you have stererotypes who seem to match the moment? Well she was not that match.

Leaving from here the donuts were taking their toll and needed walking off so I proceeded to walk around the downtown area in the sun where I was stopped by a young woman who had just done a model photshoot it seemed. She showed me all of the photos, very arty mind you, and then went on her merry way. I think she was trying to make the boyfriend jealous. My camera was the thing that set this off by the way.

By now the coffee needed an escape route so I walked around and stumbled upon the library of the Washington Historical Society for which I had to sign in but it was nice and the exhibit of painting on Lincoln caught my attention. I also got some directions that put me on the right track to the Old Post Office Tower which the guidebooks say is a nice alterntaive to the busy Washington Monument if you are looking for a nice view. No trip is complete without a wild goose chase and this was mine for the directions I recieved, all in all from about 4 different people, all turned out to be wrong. How does this happen?! Well it happens when you don't have a map I suppose but I eventually found the building, the old post office building which was now a pavilion for shops and cafe's in a nice indoor setting. I went through the security and a National Park Service Ranger guided me to the lift which took us to the 12 floor..well it did between two lifts anyway. The view, even thought I had been up almost ten times as high in New York, was really nice. Not overawing or anything but serene and calming in a way that is hard to put into words. You're kjust happy to enjoy the view with no crowd to block you for it never got busy while I was there. You could gaze out and see the Capitol Building, the Washngton Monument itself and a load of the city.
On the way down in the lift I enjoyed a chat with a guy who goes up their regularly when he is on lucnh from work. It tunred out he had moved over with his job from California which would be the equivalent of a laid-off Limerick worker moving to Poland to work in the Dell plant there. It's amazing the length that American people go for their work, it seems to be a whole other ball game here.

Finally I went on to the National History Museum which was quite impressive but which I won't go into detail due to time constraints right now but Ill say this..I dind't meet Donal here!

I went on to Arlington National Cemetary taking the subway and saw the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldiers before walking abck the considerable diatance to the Jefferson Memorial, a very expensive text asking Donal to meet me there, which he did. It was a beautifil setting on the banks of the Potomac away frm the busier Mall exhibits.

We had promised we would eat dinner in a Senegalese place next to the hostel and though we were both very hungry we went and saw that it was closed. Next stop, Popeyes fast food, concentrating it seemed on chicken and biscuits, a combination I had never thought of before but those biscuits were actually scones. Now this place was something else altoghether but I'll leave that explanation for when I have more time for it deserves it so watch for updates on this post!


  1. Loong posts - in the words of a Cork singer songwriter, fair play you! Especially for the voluntarily forgoing three hour's sleep, definitely worth it by the sounds of it though!

  2. Ah, man.... Wish I could have seen Arlington. Keep up the good work of the blog! :)