Tag Archives: d.c.

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Washington D.C.

Forget the White House, forget the Star Spangled Banner, forget all the steak; the best thing about Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Holy fuck, they have some amazing shit here!

I honestly didn’t know where to run to first!  Upon entry, you go through security, then you are PRESENTED WITH THE APOLLO LUNAR MODULE!!  THE FUCKING APOLLO LUNAR MODULE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

3 exceptionally brave men sat in this little thing for a week, going to the moon and back!  And the yanks have it displayed in the foyer!  You gotta love that?  The module is AMAZING, seeing the re-entry burn marks on the blast shield made me feel faint with geek shock; I personally could not fit in the module if I laid across all three seats, so goodness knows how the astronauts managed it.

After regaining my composure and putting my tongue in my mouth, I staggered and looked around the little ‘square’ foyer.  There in all their glory were the X-1 (Which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in), the X-15 (which broke the barrier of our atmosphere before rockets went further) and Space Ship One (The future of commercial space travel?).   Next to those, the Spirit of St Louis, the first aircraft to travel non-stop over the Atlantic.

I could not take it in?  I have loved planes and space travel since I can remember, so to be confronted with Man’s greatest technological achievements was something to cherish.

Around the museum, you can go from seeing the Wright Brothers ‘Wright Flyer’ through to WW1 and the bi-planes, then sample the WW2 planes (one of my favourite parts of the museum) and then into supersonic, before breaking into the space age.  It’s like a timeline of flight.

In addition to this, you also have a fantastic and comprehensive guide to rocket technology, from the Nazi V2 right up to things like intercontinental ballistic missles and a skylab module which was amazing to see.

It’s not all big vehicles, they have space suits, moon rock, the Wright Brothers tools, Gene Kranz’s waistcoat (NASA Flight Director during the Apollo 13 triumph).  More than you could possibly hope to see, if you are as big a science geek as I am.

Look at it all!

 

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Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington D.C.) – Zoolights

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. has free entry and pandas!  Therefore, it deserves some of your time if you are in the area!  (And a generous donation!).

The zoo is situated between two Metro stations, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park; much of the park is on a very steep hill, so it’s a good idea to go the extra stop to Cleveland Park and walk down through all the exhibits.

Considering it’s a free zoo, it’s a fantastic park; I particularly liked the O-line method of transportation that’s available to the Orangutan’s so that they can swing overhead between two habitats.  Very cool!

The American trail is also another great feature, I’ve never seen a spectacled bear before,  beautiful animal.  Kudos for the amazon feature as well; walking through a very humid mini jungle was an odd sensation after having been exposed to chilly weather in D.C. throughout the week.

The Panda enclosure is the big feature and quite right too!  An adult and baby panda majestically sat just in front of me whilst I was inside the centre (well, the adult sprawled out on her stomach like she’d been on a hen party the night before).  I’ve seen pandas before, but it’s always a special feeling; such a cute baby!

I deliberately stayed at the zoo until closing time for the annual Zoolights feature.  The security staff cordon off the exhibits, but leave the main walkway through the park available so that you can waltz through and enjoy the lights with Christmas music (got to love the ratpack!).

Beautiful neon lights adorn trees and are also presented in animal statue forms during the holiday season; it was quite sweet seeing busloads of excited kids disembark and run around the zoo marveling at the dazzling display.

Excellent, excellent, excellent!  Shine on, you crazy diamond.

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Bourbon Steak – Four Seasons Hotel – Washington D.C.

If you like good steak, you simply have to go to Bourbon Steak which is inside the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, Washington D.C.

At $59 just for the meat, the steak is hideously overpriced; but it’s so beautiful in the restaurant and the service staff make you feel like royalty.

They brought out some complimentary fries, all with different seasoning and dips; another complimentary dip included some hot rolls infused with truffle oil.  Utterly scrumptious.

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With my steak, I had a double cooked potato (sounds worse than it was believe me!) and a potato and cheese gratin.

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The steak was cooked to perfection, I could honestly have eaten it twice (it was a smaller steak that I got at Clydes!); washed down with a couple of glasses of Riesling ($11), a fantastic meal.  Yes, I know you should have red wine with steak, but that’s just me innit!

Washington D.C. Moonlight Monument Old Town Trolley Tour

I went on a fantastic ‘Monuments by Moonlight’ tour run by the ‘Old Town Trolley’ company on Sunday the 14th of December; I caught the Metro from ‘Foggy Bottom’ (my local stop) and had a quick look around the old Union railway station before I get on the trolley bus.

Union Station is a spectacle in itself, it reminded me greatly of the old Kansas City train station and also from the footage of the station in the film ‘Silver Streak’ (one of my favourites).  The architecture is absolutely amazing and it’s easy to wander around, bumping into travellers whilst being distracted by all the details on the walls and ceilings.

The Old Town Trolley is beautiful, a lovely old rickety thing with wood interior and huge glass windows; perfect for seeing the many sights in and around D.C.

During my tour I saw:

  • The Jefferson Memorial
  • Martin Luthor King Memorial
  • Vietnam Memorial
  • The Washington Monument
  • The World War 2 memorial
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) memorial
  • Abraham Lincoln memorial
  • Iwo Jima Memorial

Adam, the driver and tour guide, was incredibly knowledgeable and it was an honour to sit and listen to him talk passionately about the history of the memorials and various other places that we passed during the tour.

The memorials are stunning at night, all lit up and much more poignant I think where they are not quite as populated as I imagine they are during the daytime.

Personally highlights for me were the Roosevelt memorial because I admire him an awful lot, same can be said for the Martin Luthor King memorial which is an exceptional sculpture.

I felt an amazing rush of emotion seeing the Iwo Jima memorial, I’ve seen images of the photos behind the statue in many books over the years and it is fantastic to see in the flesh.

My favourite memorial was Abraham Lincoln, I climbed the many stairs that lead up to Lincolns statue and had my very own Rocky moment when I got to the summit; atop you will find the statue of a very great man.

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The view from the top of the memorial is beautiful because you get to see the Washington monument all lit up over the memorial pool water; seeing the pool made me think of the Vietnam protests.  So much history in such a small space.

The tour is excellent value for money, highly recommended.

Fairmont – Washington D.C.

I had the pleasure of staying in the Fairmont hotel in Washington D.C. for three nights between the 11th to 13th of December.

Upon my arrival in a taxi from Dulles airport, I was greeted (very genuinely) by some very cool valet dudes and made my way through the stunning lobby to check in. Again, all very professional.

The lobby is beautiful with a centrepiece Christmas tree right next to the bar; just at the back of the lobby area is a concept fireplace (lots of photo opportunities to be had) and plush armchairs are littered about which make for a nice place to sit and plan out your days in D.C.

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I had a really nice cheeseboard with a beer one evening whilst watching some American football and the prices are very reasonable.

There’s also a gorgeous courtyard full of trees and plants which are currently covered in Christmas lights for the festive season; animal statues made up of wireframe Christmas lights are on show here, their heads move with little motors which was a nice touch. Perfect for when you are totally fuzzed following a transatlantic flight and just want to watch some pretty lights.

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The rooms at the Fairmont are big and are generously furnished along with a very, very comfortable bed. The bathroom I had contained a nice sized bath with shower next to a really big sink and counter, massive mirror for a shave (if you are so inclined!).

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As you’d expect for a luxury hotel, the TV is bloody massive and has lots of channels to enjoy after trudging around the Capital. I watched the United vs Liverpool game, up yours you Scouse slags!

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What makes the Fairmont stand out, is it’s concierge team, particularly a chap named Chris, for whom nothing is too much trouble in going above and beyond the call of duty for people staying at the hotel. Chris provided us with a reservation at nearby Clydes restaurant in Georgetown (excellent) and provided me with a handy ‘family’ discount at Macy along with general advice about the metro. Huge thanks to him for that.

Absolutely fantastic value for money!