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Send My Conscience Home in a Taxi

Externalised Memory

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Washington Mall (USA Day Three)
Catnip Cat macro
Monday I finally made it into Washington proper. (Please follow along with the pictures displayed here).

My friend and host Luke dropped me off at Glenmont station, which is the end of a line that runs into and then out of Washington. The Red Line in fact - all the lines here are identified by color. More on the public transport later :-)

I had vague plans to meet a bloke called Andy at the tourist information center. Which was a great idea because I had not even a map of Washington. I'd looked it up quickly on the internets, but had really only the vaguest idea what I was doing. Not a good way to start my first day, on my own, in a strange city!

So I got off at Metro Central station, and discovered that my sense of direction had completely abandoned me. I think I wandered around the block once, and headed in a direction that looked kind of right - there was a little grassed area I recognised from the map. And by some miracle, I stumbled upon the Tourist Info Center, in the Ronald Reagan building no less! Exactly where I was meant to be!

Most buildings in this town seem to have security, so I had to have my bag x-rayed. I got inside fairly quickly - I don't look too suspicious.

The nice lady in the info center gave me a map of Washington, and since I was early, I popped down to the food court downstairs and had a bagel of some description, and an almost undrinkable chai.

Andy turned up not long afterwards. He's a naturalised Australian, but grew up in the UK and, as it turns out, had lived in the US for many years, on and off. He had family there and everything, this being why he was there. It was actually most handy to have someone who knew what he was doing and knew his way around.

Central Washington is arranged fairly simply. All the north-south streets have numbers, all the east west streets, letters. Although they do repeat themselves after a while, and one needs to say "1st Street West" for some addresses.

And it is dominated by the "Mall", with the Lincoln Memorial at one end and Congress at the other. And the Washington memorial about half way along.

Andy took me on a quick wander around F street, looking for a particular Mexican joint (because I hadn't had enough in few days I'd already been here). Then we popped briefly into one of the many art museums, which a rather good collection of portraits and some Nam June Paik's which were quite interesting.

The white house is sort of off to one side of the mall. So then we went there, after a quick trip to an AT&T shop for a SIM card for my phone, and a quick drink at the "famous" Ebitt Bar and Grill.

No sooner had we arrived at what was apparently the inner fence of the Whitehouse, than a couple of cops shooed us away, before even got close to getting a picture! I had to console myself by finding a friendly local squirrel and giving him a pecan. They are a bit cute!

We found a spot further away that still had a good view of the Whitehouse, and took some photos.

We then wandered over to the Washington Monument, which is a pretty impressive piece of architecture. Although Andy was a bit dismissive of it, saying it wasn't much to look at.

Then we walked past the reflecting pool to the Lincoln memorial. Which is quite an impressive spot. I was moved somewhat by it - although it suffered an infestation of school children which distracted from the atmosphere. We also encountered a video blogger trying to record something to camera, and a choir which spontaneously burst into patriotic numbers on the steps!

We then visited the Korean War memorial, which is quite well done, a series of sculptures of figures on patrol. Quite detailed sculptures.

And then we popped over to the Vietnam War memorial, which is impressive. It's a black granite wall set into the earth, with the names of everyone who was killed in Vietnam etched into the surface, in chronological order. People make rubbings of the names and take them home, and leave mementos. It was a genius piece of public sculpture, I have to say...

We toddled off to a passable pub for some dinner, then got caught in a downpour. That travel umbrella was a handy item!