Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Washington D.C.

It was a long weekend in Canada - Victoria Day. Since I neither have any knowledge nor desire in celebrating the birth of a monarch who has never set foot in Canada (nor do I think, most Canadians), I will cheer ANY reason for a holiday. So, we suddenly decided to check out the capital of our neighbour to the south. On to Washington D.C.

However, any trip to the US by any Canadian would not be complete without shopping. En route to D.C., we stopped by Grove City Prime Outlets.

With just a short time to spare, shops had to be selected and sacrifices made to maximize shopping time!

Our first stop in Washington next morning was the White House. We made our way to the rear of the building, where, for about 29 years and running, Concepcion Picciotto has been protesting over the atomic bomb.

The White House is indeed a glorious building. Did you know that Canadians (then British) burnt it down completely in the War of 1812? Of course then they got bored and came home.

Here's a view of the White House from the front. Unfortunately this is as close as they would allow us to approach. For tickets to visit the White House you have to reserve one up to 6 months in advance.

One can see the famous Washington Monument from almost any spot in the D.C. area.

Walking to the Monument on the way to the Mall.

A view of the Monument as seen from the World War II Memorial.

The Washington Monument as seen from near the Lincoln Memorial.

The setting of the Mall, with the White House, Monument, the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial reminded me very much of the layout of Paris. You will see further down in the post, from the pictures I took from atop the Monument, that Paris has inspired Washington (as have ancient Greeko-Roman designs) a lot.

Abraham Lincoln's statue at the Lincoln Memorial.

Any visit to D.C. will be incomplete without visiting the Smithsonian museums. Due to time restrictions, we only could pick one and I chose the National Air and Space Museum. On our next visit, inshAllah, I plan to visit the Natural History Museum.

A mirror of the Hubble Telescope on display.

This was the toilet on Skylab space station. If you use your imagination, you can see what the function of the hose and the large hole on the wall was!

The first controllable air craft to fly - Kitty Hawk.

The next day was cloudy and overcast, unlike the previous day which was blazing hot. Even then, the long walk from downtown Mall to the Jefferson Memorial was very tiring - it was really humid. D.C. may have a much more connected subway system than Toronto, but one stupid rule they have is the day pass on the trains do not work on the buses - you have pay a separate fare.

Now, if you have read the The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, you will know that it's set in Washington D.C. The Jefferson Memorial is mentioned in the book as America's Pantheon.

The Jefferson Memorial on the banks of the Tidal Basin.

Next, it was time to visit the Monument (or, as the Lost Symbol refers to it, America's obelisk). For this, you have to line for the (free) timed tickets they distribute. The office opens at 8.30 am but people line up from 7.30! We reached there at a leisurely pace at around 10 (after breakfast) and were very, very lucky to get the last 4 tickets left! As soon as got our tickets, the notice went up - "All tickets for the day are gone".

An epitaph at the entrance of the Monument.

The following images are those of Washington D.C. as seen from the top of the Monument. Now you can see why the city reminded me of Paris. I remember seeing a similar layout from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

The Capitol building, as seen from the top of the Monument.

The Lincoln and the WWII Memorials, as seen from the top of the Monument.

The White House, as seen from the top of the Monument.

In the final scenes of the Lost Symbol, Peter Langdon is atop the Monument and while descending, the book describes the commemorative stones placed in the stairwell. This is actually true, as we saw when the elevator taking us back down stopped for a bit for us to see those stones.

Our final visit was to the Capitol. For this, we were lucky enough to get a tour reservation during our stay.

Our tour started at the Capitol Visitor Center, then on to the Crypt, and then to the Capitol Rotunda and finally, to the National Statuary Hall.

The painting "The Apotheosis of Washington" on the Rotunda, which plays a part in the Lost Symbol.

Other famous paintings below the Rotunda of the Capitol Hill.

The Supreme Court of the United States.

Washington D.C. is a city with a lot of history and pomp, and is full of museums, especially for those interested in American history. The highways leading to the city pass through some gorgeous scenery. It's definitely a must do for someone interested in visiting America.


Azra said...

I never ever thought Washington DC would be on my list of "must see's" when visiting the US, but these pics are great and my interest has piqued.

I love reading a book / watching a movie where the facts match up in real life. It makes it so much more authentic.

Anonymous said...

Suroor said...

I love your travel posts (your WHOLE blog actually); they make me envious and I want to see those places too :)

mezba said...

Azra, I put Washington DC on a must list for US cities because not only do you get a sense of the US's power base and their attitudes while reflecting the city, it showcases the history of US quite well. Also, some of the collections at Smithsonian are not to be missed!

Anon, ?

Suroor, thanks for that comment! InshAllah come to the US and Canada and we can all show you around. Now I have to make a post about that "flowchart" ;-)

'liya said...

It sounds as though you drove there. How long was the drive?

I have to admit I don't really have an interest in visiting the States much (with the exception of Hawaii, Vegas and maybe Chicago). I'm curious to know what overall from everywhere you've been, has been the absolute most fascinating place? Maybe a blog post is needed? :)

Muslim Girl said...

I've still never toured DC even though I've been to the US so many times! I took US Politics this year and liked it so yeah I think I'd be pretty interested in adding it to a must-see list :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Wow, thanks for posting these pics!

Hope you did lots of shopping :D

Nadia said...

Wow, I love the fact that all the tickets are free of charge!

Thank you for taking us on this interesting tour of Washington DC.

Great pictures, Mezba!

mezba said...

'liya, it was a 9 hour drive, but the Grove City trip added more overall on the way to D.C.

When you say everywhere, did you mean the States? Well if there's one city in the USA I really liked visiting it would be San Francisco - what a beautiful city it was.

But one place in the States I would return - it would be Vegas. I would just love to do all the bling and the trip to Grand Canyon in the summer, and raft the Colorado river.

The difference in visiting the States and visiting somewhere else is that the culture is the same in the USA and things more or less are same (and now our dollar too is same!). Visiting Europe was such a nice experience - because you got to do a different culture with its own language and mannerisms.

That's why even Quebec is such a good break sometimes.

Muslim Girl, I think for Americans the D.C. would be a must visit, especially if they are interested in Politics. As a Canadian, although I liked how the city was planned out and how their system is supposed to work in theory, I realize in practice it's much different. Money talks big over there in politics. Campaign donation limits has been a saviour here.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam, thanks, and yes, shopping was indeed done fully! I don't do retail much in Canada - it's overpriced, overtaxed and the selection is quite limited. So I save my dollars for US trips.

Nadia, thank you. Yes, everything was free. Though even in Ottawa, all these government stuff is pretty much free too.

Muslim Apple said...

What program do you use to watermark your photos?

mezba said...

Muslim Apple, if I say Paintbrush, is it embarrassing? :-P

Muslim Apple said...

Paintbrush, awesome, thanks just downloaded it. You saved me the $20 I was thinking to pay for iWatermark.

mezba said...

Muslim Apple, There's a ton of other software, free, that are good. one of the better ones is Gimp, used by many.