Well, we are on the train to New Orleans now after three days in the capital. We stayed in a fantastic Airb&b just outside DC in a vibrant, lively and upmarket town called Alexandria. The B&B is run by a guy called Will who was really organised and ensured that we had everything we needed. Top host!
Alexandria is a historic old town (founded in 1765, remember this is America) that was initially a busy sea port with ships navigating up the Potomac river to serve Washington, it was a big union army garrison during the civil war and has been a favourite haunt for presidents since Lincoln. Now with its marina, boutiques, restaurants and replica trolley bus running the length of the main street, it is the weekend playground for the DC movers and shakers.
As for the capital, well it is impressive (and a total contrast with NYC), the wide avenues, low rise classically influenced white stone architecture, cleanliness and a general sense of order is the first thing that hits you. Its almost eerie, this is the nerve centre of the “democratic free world” and yet its so quiet (is it too quiet?). The streets (apart from the organised tourist hoards and the multitude of Lycra clad runners) appear to be mainly populated by lantern jawed, square shouldered and neatly trimmed men that look like they were plucked directly from a 1950’s movie.
The central mall (a proper wide street not a shopping mall) is where the Smithsonian museum(s) are to be found, all large, all free and alright. Well actually some are V good, some so so and I will leave you to make your own mind up about the Museum of American History should you ever visit. We did not explore night time Washington, there appeared to be stuff happening, although the streets were pretty quiet by 7PM so unless you know people that know people it probably is not the most lively place to hang out.
I did have a chat with a solitary anti war protester outside of the Whitehouse who apparently had been there for 24 years complete with a jumble of banners and placards neatly fixed to some railings (not unlike what parliament square used to look like until the law was changed just to remove one man and his cardboard signs).
His reasoning for his one man protest struck me as being very American, yes he was against nuclear weapons and foreign wars, but much of his argument was about the cost of it all and the effect it had on the education, health and welfare for the elderly budgets. He told me that he was proud to be a patriotic American, believed that the US should maintain a large military “for its protection” but did not really care to much for the others on this planet especially those central Americans working “under the radar” not paying taxes and trying to access healthcare benefits when they became sick. Really it was like talking to the bearded, smelly, bastard son of Nigel Farrage and the Dalai Lamar. Only in America can you find a NeoCon peace protester!
So there you have it, in my opinion Washington is the most scary city in the world. The dark shadows cast by those beautiful white buildings conceal the people (men) with all the power, money and influence. The elected (by the people, for the people) politicians dance to the pull of strings that come from the blackness, providing us with what is effectively just a puppet show that mesmerizes us all into thinking we have chosen these leaders and they will work tirelessly for our common good.