Happy to Leave New York and head south to Washington DC
Wednesday 1st April – South to Washington DC (By Paul).
At last I finally got a decent nights sleep :-). Stevie finally got his strips sorted out and I shoved my ear plugs in good and proper.... yee har.
Today’s journal entry will be fairly simple. We caught a New York Yellow Taxi to the train station, yup he dropped us off at the wrong station but it sure beat having to walk and drag the bags behind us from the hotel.
We boarded the Amtrak train at Penn St station. We are travelling “Coach Class”. Each ticket cost us $72. To travel on the express service was going to cost us $140. How good are these yanks!! We wanted to use their train for less time and they wanted to double the cost...hmmm, I don’t think so. Oh if you want to travel 1st Class it’s $250. For less than 3 hours travel!!
The trip is really comfortable and quiet. Along the way we passed through Newark, Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore. From what I could see all of these places looked much nicer than NY City.
After checking in at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, we decide to attend their Happy Hour at the bar. We settle down with a beer and over this beer we decide that we should do one of these open top double decker bus tours of The Capitol. Unfortunately, while I’m out at the concierge’s desk Steve slips in a couple more beers and then while talking to some filly from Philly partakes of a cocktail or 10.
While I’m at the concierge’s desk, Dave (the concierge) starts asking me questions about "Ooorstralia", which finishes up with me giving him a 20 minute guided tour, by Google Earth, of Canberra and explaining how it came to be and how a ‘damned yank’ won the competition to design the place. We exchange email addresses and he’s keen to come to "Ooorstralia".
Sooooo, by the time I get back to the bar, and I am forced to shout a round to catch up, my travelling companion is struggling to stay on his bar stool. We decide to adjourn to the dining room for dinner. After perusing the menu for a few minutes, he gets up and wanders out. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes go by and no Stevie...... hmmm I ring his mobile..... Ohhhh, surprise surprise, he is lying down on his bed. What a big girl. So I eat alone.
Friday 3rd April – Washington (Paul continuing).
To top off his poor performance of last evening, this morning we decide that we should have a bit of ‘down’ day to do washing, ironing and get the web site up to date. First of all, the damned power pack for the laptop shits itself and I’m trying to determine whether I should throw this thing away. After that I head to reception to buy a packet of washing powder, Steve heads straight to the laundry with all of our washing. I arrive with detergent in hand and he has the washing (his & mine) already in the washer. I throw the detergent in and the machine advises us that we should come back in an hour. We come back in an hour and open a clothes drier and he smugly tells me that this machine is a drier as well. I thought “wow” how good is that. I then realise that he has thrown all our clothes straight in to a bloody DRIER and not a washing machine. And the saga went on, reception didn’t have anymore powder, so I had to sprint to the local shops in my shorts in sub zero temperatures to get some. What a laugh. I haven’t run as far and as fast for some time.
We caught a cab into town ($10 taxi fare) they are cheap as chips here. The only place we can find that has a generic power supply to suit this laptop is charging something like $120 for a 16Gb flash drive which normally retails for about $50. Oh oh!! this is going to hurt the pocket. John you owe me $150 for a new power supply for your laptop, plus all the running around time. ;-) For the rest of the day, we brought the website up to date and did our ironing. Oh, did I mention that Steve had a 3 hour sleep.... poor little pet, he was so tired from last night.
When he rose from his slumber, he says “so what do WE have planned for tonight?” hmmm. I suggest that we head across to IOTA Club and Cafe for dinner and some jazz in Arlington. Great call, even if I say so myself. Great dinner for $15 and then a night of some really laid back music by a young fella named Langhorne Slim http://www.myspace.com/langhorneslim
April 03 2009. Washington Day3 - Monuments as Far as the Eye Can See. (By Steve).
We had the option of catching the tour bus at 7:30, or catching up with it later. We strangely choose later. We had a leisurely breakfast and caught the shuttle bus up to the Capital Building at 9.
Here we transferred to one the topless double decker buses that ply the tourist trade in Washington. One slight problem – it was raining (bucketing). So for the first part of our trip, about an hour, we had to travel downstairs. For most of the trip water poured down the stairs, but by some miracle the bus didn’t fill up with water. Of course you couldn’t see much out the window and as soon as a couple of people got onto the bus the windows fogged up. After 15 minutes of playing with the controls we seem to be able to see out the windows again. It seems that these buses are built in Spain and they must not have any rainy or humid days there. Being the adventurous types we purchased the double banger tickets which included the boat ride. So after about an hour in the foggy bus they dropped us at Georgetown with the instructions take the next right and keep walking until you hit the water.
A bit casual for my liking. Surprisingly their instructions were accurate and we did find water after three blocks. Unsurprisingly there was no boat, no promotional material, no signs, no people and when we called the number we got a voice message directing us to their web site which wasn’t much use since we were standing on a dock. I then checked the ticket which told us the fist boat didn’t depart until 11:30 and it was currently 11. Why this little gem had escaped the notice of the guides on the bus who sold us the tickets was a little mystifying. This was a crisis that we were up for! We retreated to the adjacent shopping centre and were really surprised to find a Starbucks. When they say that there is one on every corner in the US, they are being literal. So the non coffee drinker and Paul slip into Starbucks for a London Fog tea (tastes like Earl Grey) and some form of coffee. We emerge at 11:25 back at the dock and are greeted by an unchanged scene. Is this some form of humour that the folks in Washington play on the naive Aussies? Some 10 or 15 minutes later a small boat sails down the river. It docks and out comes all the promotion material. Billboards, pamphlets, you name it. Paul and I along with 4 people from one of those religions where everyone wears hats (Quakers we think) get on the boat and off we go. The good news was that the rain had stopped and the sun had emerged. This is a pleasant trip lasting around 50 minutes where we sail down to the International Airport and back.
Our four companions didn’t have prepaid tickets and wanted to pay in cash. As we walked away from the boat the four follow travellers and the crew were discussing how they were going to complete the transaction since all they had was cash! Go figure?
We reboarded the bus and continued on our merry trip. This time we get to sit upstairs and can take pictures. The down side is that I left my cap and sunnies in the hotel when I noticed the rain that morning. After another hour on the top of the bus I was really regretting the no hat bit. I suspect that Washington has more memorials that any other city in the world. After travelling through Arlington (this is where JFK is buried, and they have 39 funerals each day, over 200,000 buried here) we departed the bus near the Washington Monument. I purchased a cap to try and avoid skin cancer and off we when on our review of the memorials (and monuments).
We did the Washington Monument,
the World War II Memorial,
the Lincoln Memorial,
the Korean Veterans Memorial,
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
but missed out on the Jefferson Memorial.
Back on the bus a bit footsore and we complete the tour. We make a list of the high points so that we can go back tomorrow and do those in detail. Paul has contacted the sister on a friend and we arrange to have dinner with Sheryl and Dave her husband. Sheryl and Dave pick us up, drive us to a very nice Malaysian restaurant and then return us to our hotel. This is unexpected but very welcomed generosity on their part. Thanks guys.
Saturday 4th of April. Washington Day 4 – Museums as far as the eye can see.
Today we started with a leisurely breakfast. We then caught the 9am shuttle bus up to the city centre. From the comfort of our hotel the day looks perfect. Clear blue sky, lots of sun. On emerging from the hotel we were assailed by a bitterly cold wind. Looks can be deceiving. Today it was Cherry Blossom Festival day. There was a very large procession through the centre of town. Lots of bands, marching girls, entertainment and mustangs.
The parade was lead off by a group of Motor Cycle cops (what’s the group form for Motor Cycle Cops – Copcycle?)
Then followed by three cops on horses – Clydesdales no less. Very big horses.
Some marching soldiers.
Out next stop was the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This was just a couple of blocks from our parade vantage point. They have the original Wright Brothers plane in there. Lots of other historic air and space vehicles.
Oh, and the biggest McDonalds I have ever seen. They have people taking the order in one place (just like a drive in, only for a walk in) and then the people proceed to the next window to pick up their food. If they order a drink they receive a cup. They then need to fill the cup with the contents of their desire, as many times as they like. This is true commercialism.
After lunch we went to the National American Indian Museum. This seems to be funded by the government and run by the Smithsonian Institute. We went on a tour which lasted about an hour. Our guide was a South American Indian and was very informative. He really added colour to the talk. During the tour we hooked up with a lovely young lady from Pennsylvania who had been to this Museum a couple of times previously. We spent the next couple of hours walking through the building while she gave us insights to the exhibits. Another very friendly local. Thanks for your help Trish.
Back to the Hotel on the really easy to use Metro. This system appears to be new and is run very well. Our two rides costs us $5. Their stations have been designed with hidden lighting which gives them a nice feel. This time the train was a bit more crowded as there was a baseball game at the stadium which is the same stop as our hotel. We had dinner in the hotel and Paul was forced to retire after returning to our room. I heard this happens as you get older.