Destination: Washington D.C – A Capital Idea

I think it was all those years of watching NCIS that fueled my desire to go to Washington D.C. Even though I know the show is actually filmed thousands of miles away in California, seeing the iconic D.C buildings, monuments and memorials featured in the show added the city to my list of places to visit. 

For my 40th birthday I did a 3 week USA trip that included Waikiki, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. One of my favourite parts of the trip was the 3 days I spent in D.C. I travelled by Amtrak train from NYC to D.C and arrived one afternoon in mid November 2012 (now you know how old I am!). The first thing I saw when I came out of Union Station was the Capitol Building and I was sold. The fact that the dome resembled that of St Paul’s in London probably didn’t hurt either.

Capitol Building
US Capitol Building getting ready for Obama’s speech in November 2012

The first night I did a night tour of the city, which was really awesome. A broken bus meant we actually had time to go and see the Martin Luther King Memorial, which was very moving and rather incredible. The Jefferson Memorial was awesome, and then there was the Iwo Jima statue. But the place that got me the most was the Korean War Memorial.

MLK Memorial
The Martin Luther King Memorial was amazing. The rock entrance is something that needs to be seen to be believed

My father had served in the New Zealand Navy for around 30 years. He had been an engineer and served in WWII, however it wasn’t until he passed away in 2008 that I found out he had been in the Korean War as well. So when I saw the Korean War Memorial that first time, it was a rather emotional moment. Then to see New Zealand listed as one of the allied countries added to that emotion. I managed to go back to the Korean War Memorial during the day and it was just as emotional and powerful as it was at night, but I am glad that I experienced it.

Korean War Memorial
The Korean War Memorial was a very emotional experience

I did a day trip that took me out to Mount Vernon for a half a day. This was a wonderful experience and I would encourage anyone in the area to go out there. Mount Vernon is a working farm and set in a very picturesque part of Virginia. It was a highlight to see the graves of George and Martha Washington. The rooms in the main house have been decorated to be as close to the period that the Washington’s lived here as possible. Each room has a different person in there telling you about the history of the room and a bit of about the Washington’s themselves.

Mount Vernon
I really loved visiting Mount Vernon.
Mount Vernon
Looking out over the Potomac

On this day trip we also went to Arlington. I have to admit, I have strange feelings towards this place. I have been to cemeteries before, many times. I went through a stage a few years ago where I would go to cemeteries and photograph headstones. I really want to visit Highgate Cemetery in London and Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris but for some reason when I went to Arlington, I kind of felt like I was being disrespectful. I am not American and therefore have no ties to Arlington or anyone in it but I honestly just felt wrong being there and seeing all these people essentially treat it like another tourist attraction just felt wrong. It was a very strange feeling, but in saying that I am glad I went. Arlington was a lot bigger then I imagined it would be so that was kind of a shock, so were the crowds gathered to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

JFK Grave at Arlington
Viewing Arlington and Washington from the JFK grave
Changing of the Guards at Arlington
Crowds watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington

The White House wasn’t as large as I imagined it would be. I was surprised to learn that no building could be higher than the Capitol Building. The Mall is huge! And for some of the best views of the city you can head to the top of the old Post Office building for free – the one with a great statue of Benjamin Franklin outside it.

White House at night
The White House

My highlight of my time in D.C,however, was undoubtedly the Lincoln Memorial. I can’t explain why I, a non-American, felt so strongly seeing this amazing memorial. Seeing that giant statue of Lincoln looking out over D.C just overwhelmed me and reading his speech on the wall was very powerful. I loved seeing him during the day but I have to say that at night it was something else. There were still a few people around but you still felt so small next to Lincoln, and I have to wonder what he would think of the world if he were around today.

Lincoln Memorial Lincoln Memorial

Overall I really loved D.C. I definitely want to go back at some stage and see the places (National Cathedral!) that I didn’t see last time and revisit some of those places that I did see – I didn’t even get to the Smithsonian!

Some more photos from my D.C trip:

Old Post Office:

The view from the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue is an awesome place to get some great views of the city of D.C. At time of publishing the Old Post Office is closed for renovations until 2016.
Washington DC US Capitol White House
Washington DC

The writing is on the wall:

One thing I noticed walking around the city is the amount of writing that is on the walls. A lot of buildings have quotes and comments up on their walls.

Washington DC MLK Memorial

Monuments, Statues and Memorials

Washington D.C, being the capital of the United States probably has more monuments, statues and memorials than any other city in the States (I am only guessing there, but there are a lot!).

I really like this photo (even if I do say so myself). Benjamin Franklin outside the Old Post Office
Iwo Jima memorial
The famous Iwo Jima statue
Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial has a great view of the National Mall

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