Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Adventure in D.C.

After our incredible time in New York, my sister and I escaped the crazy snow storms and headed off to Washington, D.C. We arrived late at night so dumped our bags in the back of a cab and gave the driver directions to our hostel. We got there feeling pretty tired after our four hour bus ride down the East Coast, so really just couldn't wait to put our stuff away and find somewhere to eat. We were met with a confused-looking receptionist, and after a long, drawn-out conversation, he told us that he'd given our beds away. Huh? Turns out he'd expected that we'd be stuck in New York because of the snow, so had decided to let the current guests (who were supposed to be heading for NY) stay on. I was mightily pissed, we'd booked two beds in advance and paid deposits, but the guy didn't really seem to care or make any attempt at apologising. He told us he'd sort something out, to leave our bags in reception and that there was a place to eat up the street. We arrived back a while later and met a strange little Mexican man. Apparently he was going to drive us to a guesthouse in Virginia to stay there for the night and return us the next morning to the place we'd actually booked to stay in. I admit, it was a bit of an adventure, randomly going to another state, but it was all quite freaky at the same time.

We were picked up the next day by a man and woman, who drove us back to D.C., but to a completely different hostel to the original one. I, again, was quite pissed off at getting messed about AND this new hostel was a total dump - it looked like the kind of place prostitutes and drug addicts lived, but I was also glad to finally just have somewhere in the city to dump my stuff and go explore.

We were only in D.C. for about three nights, therefore two full days to see the city, and we really did cram a lot in. The Lincoln Memorial (I really wanted to see it after seeing it in a Simpsons episode once), the Washington Monument, the World War 2 Memorial, the White House, the National Mall... A massive highlight was visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It's probably the best museum I've ever been to. I walked around it with my sister, then we eventually lost each other and I came out the exit to find she had been waiting for me for about an hour and a half! I must have spent about four hours total in there, it was so interesting.

We saw a lot in two days, but on our last night it came time to book a bus or a flight down to Florida. The hostel had a grand total of one computer, and we were faced with an angry woman who repeatedly told her kid to stay on the computer, just to spite us. This ultimately led to a bit of an argument between "Crystal" and my sister. When we eventually managed to get on the computer, the flights were all really expensive so we ended up going for the 27-hour greyhound option down to the Sunshine State - that's another story! I vividly remember sleeping that night with my packed rucksack propped up against our bedroom door, genuinely afraid for my life, thinking angry-computer-hogging-lady would break in.
On our last day, we had a tiny window of time between checking out of the hostel, and having to board the greyhound to Florida. We decided to chance it and run down to the National Archives Building, we couldn't go to Washington D.C. and NOT see the Declaration of Independence. (National Treasure is one of my favourite films). We arrived to find a massive queue around the outside of the building, but joined it anyway. Once we got to the front, we realised there was nowhere to store our huge rucksacks, but they thankfully just about fit through the bag scanners. We looked very odd, rushing around the building trying to find the one room that houses the Declaration, with huge rucksacks on our backs and sweaty foreheads. When we managed to find the room, we were met with another big queue (obviously) but after about ten minutes of waiting nervously, constantly looking at our watches, we got in and saw it, and I'm so glad we did. We also got to see the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution at the same time, that was very cool and a welcome addition to the flying visit. We left, hailed a cab, and got to the bus station with a few minutes to spare.

D.C. had been a whirlwind of adventure, but I was quite glad to be leaving. When you think of the city where the President of the United States lives, you think that everything about it is going to be glamorous and sparkling clean and full of warm, respectable people. That is true of the city, but there's another side of it that's dirty and unwelcoming and kind of scary; like you wouldn't feel safe walking down the street past 10pm, whereas I would in New York. However, I'm a massive fan of American History, and this place has tonnes of it to offer, so I'm sure I'll be back sometime in the future to give it another go.

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