Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Zoo!

It is well know that I love going to Zoos. Any Zoo. So when Rachel and I finally made it to Zoo, it was close to closing time, and so we did a bit of a rush around. It's a very informal zoo and is one busy place, full of people, families and crying kids! What's really cool is the animals that they are able keep there, they have an elephant, two lions, a tiger and some very famous pandas (both of who were sleeping when we arrived). We were really lucky to get to see the elephant up close, he was lovely!

A long, long walk along Embassy Row

After visiting the Cathedral, Rachel and I had lunch at a little Mexican restaurant, and decided we would walk to the National Zoo, which supposedly wasn't too far away. We decided we would walk along Embassy Row, which is basically an extension of the road where Rachel lives. It was a very hot day, but it was a pretty walk, past all the beautiful embassies. Also along the road we saw the Naval Observatory and the Vice President's house, as well as the embassies for Britain, France, Denmark, Iraq and lots of others. It was a really long walk, and we ended up going completely out of our way, we ended up taking a really long route - thank goodneess for Baskin Robbin's ice cream else we would have died!

One Whopping Cathedral

On my last full day in D.C Rachel and I walked to the National Cathedral. It looks remarkably like Notre Dam in Paris and is massive and clean and lovely. We took a lovely walk around the
cathedral, and admired all the stained glass windows. I couldn't get over how many they were, all different. My favourite was the NASA Space window, which was really unique and had a piece of Moon rock right in the middle. I had to get a postcard in the gift shop because Ijust couldn't capture how beautiful it was. We came at just the right time too, all the columns down the centre were speckled with colour from the windows. The garden outside was just beautiful too - it really reminded me of home!

Madamme Toussauds, DC Style

Often I would go sightseeing during the day while Rachel was working at her Internship, but after work she would join me. On the Friday, we went to Madamme Toussauds. I was really interested to see if it was different than the one in London. It is a lot smaller than the one at home, but has lots of American celebrities, like the Jonas Brothers, all the old Presidents, but my favourite was President Obama and his wife. They had a photo oppourtunity to sit with him in the Oval Office. Rachel and I had good fun posing with people like Oprah and Katie Couric and just being goofy!

Shrine of Immaculate Conception

Right on the Catholic University of America campus is the Shrine of Immaculate Conception. It's pretty far north in the city, so it was a Metro ride away, and really was in the 'burbs. but was a really good experience to see some real D.C. The Shrine is located right in the centre of the campus, and is absolutely massive. I couldn't believe how big it was. We couldn't go in for some reason, but we could take some photos of the amazing mosaic dome roof and all the carvings all over the wall. It was seriously, seriously hot so we didn't stay long and decided to get back to the city and the Hard Rock Cafe's air conditioning!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

CUA: Catholic Uni of America

After visiting Rachel's university and Gallaudet, I went to visit the Shrine of Immaculate Conception, which is even farther north, but it's actually right on the campus of the Catholic University of America.It seems that DC is an awesome place to study, and there's lots of Universities in the town. The school was really pretty, even though I didn't see much of the campus, I did see some science buildings!

Gallaudet University

Because I love sign language so much, I thought it would be cool to visit the University for the Deaf in DC. It's the only University which has all their classes taught in sign language. It's pretty awesome. I went out on the Metro to the North of the district, a completely different area compared to the main city centre and it was really nice to see something different. The University is lovely and based on a massive campus. The school was quite quiet when I arrived, and so I took a walking tour around some of the main buildings, which are really pretty. They even have a hotel and conference centre! I wish I just knew more ASL! All my BSL exams have held me in good stead for signing in England, I was a bit hopeless here!


Back when I last visited Nice, we saw this Nana sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle. When Rachel and I were walking by Metro Centre, I saw one, and we didn't have time to stop and look, so the next day I walked there to explore. They had 3 absolutely astounding Nanas, so bright and pretty. It's really modern, but I love them. What I found out was that they were attached to a museum dedicated to Women in Arts, showcasing different types of art done by women from around the world. There are lots of paintings and sculptures, both modern and old. There was even art made out of tyres! I loved the building, it was an old Masonic building, with huge chandelliers and a double staircase. But my favourites were still the Nanas outside on New York Avenue.

Along Chinatown: National Historical Society

As I was walking, I noticed a really beautiful building, so I went to check it out. It was the National Historical Society building. I didn't go in, but it said they had exhibits and such. It was surrounded by a little park, and what was so odd, it was in the middle of a bunch of office buildings too. It was so pretty, and looked so clean too! On the front lawn there was a massive hand sculpture too!

Walking along Chinatown: Baptist Church

There are a lot of churches in DC. And unlike other places, they are all really grand and pretty impressive. I walked from Chinatown to the next metro station, Metro Centre, and I did a little bit of a detour to see this Baptist Church, tucked in a side street. Amongst all the office buildings, it was so completely different than all the buildings surrounding it. It's stained glass was so pretty!

Chinatown, DC style

Having recently gone to the Chinatown in London, to collect my car, I was excited to go to the one in DC. They have a beautiful arch, but the rest of the place is pretty much American shops with Chinese characters. I saw FedEx, Urban Outfitters, Subway all in Chinese, but the best was by far the Starbucks! I really enjoyed the visit, and one night Rachel and I had dinner there and it all gets lit up at night.

Union Station

One morning, when Rachel had to work, I took the train over to Union Station. I had heard that it was pretty impressive, so I figured, I better try it out. Not only is it huge, it's really beautiful, with massive columns. On the inside, it's just HUGE, and all covered in gold accents. It's quite a nice place to be, they have a whole bunch of nice shopping on the main level, and they lots of lovely restaurants on the lower level. I was there early enough to get to Johnny Rockets to have pancakes for breakfast!

Natural History and American History

I've put these in one because we did them quite fast one rainy afternoon. Sadly, it did rain while I was in DC, so Rachel and I headed over to the Natural History museum, where they have massive dinosaur bones, and the Hope diamond is kept there. After we popped just next door to the American History museum where the have the first American flag on display, as well as all the First Lady's dresses through history.

More sculptures

DC is a very green place, and they like to fill these spaces of lawn with awesome statues. During my time in DC I went to so many parks and gardens. Across from the Archives is the Art Gallery's own sculpture garden. We didn't get to see much, but there was some very funky red animal looking art, a big silver tree, and a proper replica of the Metropolitan station entrance in Paris! It was such a shame we couldn't stay and enjoy it longer because of the rain!

Some more Space

Being an Astrophysicist, everyone says I should visit the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I've been many times, but as it's free,I figured I might as well go again. They have the first SpaceShip One, which won the X Prize, they have the Soyuz-Apollo spacecraft which was done to promote peace between Russia and the USA, and they have lots of rockets and space suits. And a full size Hubble replica! Most exciting to me was that they had Christer Fugelsang's Mission spacesuit, which is so exciting because on my course in Sweden, he was a BIG DEAL. The museum is set to get a Space Shuttle when they retire, I can't wait for that!

Lincoln Memorial

Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to visit the Lincoln Memorial. It's just one of those things that you see in films, but the last time we came to DC, it was too much of a trek to do in one day. And it was a major trek. With all the walking in DC, it just about killed me! It's really nice walking up to the big monument, there are lots of low flying planes above (which Mike would have loved) and lots of geese around too. It is of course, bigger than it looks and terribly imposing, but well worth the trek in 90 degree heat!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

World War 2 Memorial

One of the newest memorials in DC is the World War Two memorial which opened in 2004 on the Mall. It's between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It's a really interesting layout of fountains and pillars, representing all the states and nations who fought in the war. It's exceptionally clean and lovely, the American's really respect their armed forces, which is so lovely. It was such a nice day, so the photos turned out fab!

Executive Office

Right next door to the White House, but on the other side to the Treasury Building is the Executive Office Building. I'm not sure what it is, or what it's used for, but it does look distinctly French. It also has a massive number 1 constructed out of red flowers, which I could see when I was up at the top of the Washington Monument. Sadly, it's mostly under construction, but I still got a few snaps of it.

A Big White House

Obama is a serious big deal here. They have Obama plates, shirts, everything. They even have a little Bo Obama stuffed dog. When we went to the White House it was really really busy. But we could get up to the gate, which was great. Until a whole bunch of Helicopters came and we had to move back. Rachel said if there's 3 helicopters, it mean's Obama is coming home! It looks a lot smaller than it does on TV!

Treasury Building

Right next to the White House is the Treasury Building. In a way it looks quite similar to the White House from the side. AS well as having lots of important people standing on the steps!

555 feet up: Washington Monument

Along the Mall, the most prominent thing is the Washington Monument. It's apparently the world's largest free standing stone structure. And its very very pretty. Tickets to get up it are free, so we got tickets for the 2nd morning and came along for the tour. It's only about a 72 second lift ride up, which is lovely (no walking) and from the top you can see about 30 miles on a good day. We were really lucky that it was mostly clear. Only to the North was it still a bit cloudy, and because >it wasn't hot enough yet, we still had the cloud. We could see lots of things, all down the Mall, the While House, the Capitol Building, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, and the National Cathedral. I could even see the airport, where the runway is right next to the water, so you feel like you are going to land right on the water. I also could JUST see Arlington Cemetery, and the JFK Concert Hall. It was really worth the trip up there, I was surprised it wasn't busier.

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Castle!

Being British, I was exceptionally pleased to see a Castle on the Mall. It's the Smithsonian Castle. I'm not quite sure what it houses, or how long it's been there but it didn't look terribly old! But it was made of a lovely stone, and is attached to the Haupt gardens, which are lovely and structured and have lots of wrought iron benches to sit on. I probably should find out what goes on inside it but for now I just took photos.

Little Haupt Gardens

The Haupt Gardens, located between the Smitsonian Institute building and the Smitsonian Castle, is one of those places that you don't read about in the guide books but everyone should visit. They are really lovely and quiet, and while we were there, being set up for a lovely party. Because we arrived as the Sun was starting to set, they were even better.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Smithsonian Institute

Again, walking along the Mall, we discovered the Smithsonian Institute. As far as we could tell, it doesn't seem to house anything anymore but is attached to the Smithsonian Castle as well as the Museum of Africa. It's a really beautiful place - I remember it from the last time we visited DC. It was really lovely in the sunset, just beautiful

The modern world of the Hirshhorn Museum gardens

Along the mall is a museum called the Hirshhorn museum, and along side it runs a little garden playing really eclectic music, and has all sorts of modern sculptures. It's quite a weird place, with very abstract things, my favourite was the large blobby cow!

Hanging outside the Archives

I met John after his work so we could go to the Archives. It's a very important building in terms of National documents, it holds important documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and lots of other Immigration papers and Federal documents. It was really exciting to see the Declaration of Independence, though it was very dark and very faded. I was most excited to see Albert Einstein's Immigration papers. We couldn't take any photos inside the building at all, so instead I took lots of photos outside of the massive building.

Naval Memorial

While waiting to meet John, who lives in DC, I wandered around outside the National Archives, and came upon a really interesting memorial for the Navy, complete with fountains and flags. It was right near to a busy Metro station so was quite busy with people. It even had comments about the Navy's contribution to collecting Astronauts when their capsules landed in the ocean!


Before I left England, I'd asked for lots of ideas on what to do in DC. Everyone and anyone suggested I go to Newseum. It wasn't there the last time I visited the city, so I was keen to check it out. It's the only museum so far that I've had to pay anything to go into. It's got a lot of unique things like some segments of the Berlin Wall, a bunch of Pulzier photos and lots of other things. It's particularily famous for it's massive 9/11 news section as well as a big section on Hurricane Katrina. It's really interesting and the best part is going up to the roof section where you can see all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue, and I took some awsome photos up there!

Bartholdi park with an undercover fountain

DC is full of little green spaces, and lots of tress. There is a little park near the capital called the Bartholdi park, and I've heard it's small but cute and lovely. It also has a fountain, so I hightailed it there, only to find some big construction going on, and I couldn't see the fountain at all. It was such a shame. I did see a lot of locals sitting in the park, just relaxing, probably because of all the lovely weather!

Smithsonian Native American Museum

One of the most striking museums of the Smithsonians on the Mall is the Museum of the Native American. It's not a really exciting museums, but is really quite a beautiful sandstone building. It also has a super cafe in the basement, with all sorts of different Native American foods, from different tribes and some really great Mexican food. I had some amazing beef and apricot tacos!

Botanic Garden

Tucked away in a massive greenhouse next to the Capitol is the Botanical Garden museum. And to say it is beautiful is an understatement. DC is a very green city in general, but they really like all their plants and flowers. The gardens were all divided up into sections of Jungle, Desert etc for all the different types of plants, and outside they also have a beautiful sculpted entrance garden.

One morning, Two rallies

Being the centre of government and all, DC is bound to have some political events happening somewhere at every moment. Luckily for me, while I was wandering around the Capitol building, a very noisy crowd alerted me to a rally which was going on just on the west lawn. There were tons of people, all there from Kentucky, Virginia, and Maryland, who want to keep jobs in the Coal Industry. Being American, they were all so happy to see me and tell me their stories. Turns out Obama isn't so keen on coal and they really want to keep their jobs, especially considering the current economy.After, there was another rally on a 9/11 medical bill, where they wanted NYFD and emergency personell who were sick as a result of 9/11 deserve to have their health care plans.

The Capitol Building

So when people think of DC, they generally think of the Capitol Building, and it's a really big deal around here. It's right in the centre of everything. And it's beautiful and white too, like everything else here. It's the main place for government here, and so there were a lot of political rallies going around it, trying to get attention. It's an amazing place to be!


Right next door to the Library of Congress is the Supreme Court Building. I'm not quite sure what they do there, but it's pretty immense. To say it is HUGE would be an understatement, and it is so white and clean. There was a tour, but I opted out as there was a queue, but took some pretty photos instead.

All alone in the Library of Congress

So on my first day, I set off with Rachel to work. She has a really cool internship that means she works just across from the Library of Congress. So that is where I started my sightseeing. I have been here before, but just forgot how pretty the building is! It's lovely on the outside, but even nicer on the inside. Apparently, not many tourists come by at 9am in the morning, so I had the whole building to explore myself. They have a copy each of the Mainz and Guttenburg bibles, which are really pretty. They also have a massive round reading room, but because of all the researchers who do their work there, I wasn't allowed to take photos. I didn't think that mattered, the rest of it was fabulous! And outside is a fountain!!