Day 2 (June 7, 2008) Washington and driving to Philadelphia


The visits we want to do in Washington are concentrated on an inverted T in the map.

   If we’ve been able of visiting White House and Hoover building the previous day, we’ll have the whole morning to spend exclusively on the horizontal part. As far as I know about jet lag, around 5 or 6 AM we will be with eyes wide opened. I can go to the obelisk (Washington memorial) to wait the row for getting the tickets they deliver every day since 7:00h, as the number of visitors is limited. The sooner I go, the sooner will be the time for the visit. I need to be early as afternoon visit times are useless for us as we’ll be in another state by then.

   This is the map with our visits:

Washington map

 0- Hotel Hilton Garden Inn. Our starting point.
 1- White House. We should visit it the previous day.
 2- Capitol. Cannot be visited inside on weekends, as it is a Saturday, we will visit it from outside.
 3- Lincoln Memorial.
 4- Washington memorial (the obelisk).
 5- The Mall. It is actually a street full of museums, with Capitol at one side and obelisk at the other side
 6- National air and space Museum. After checking all museums here, I’ve chosen this as the most interesting one. I was attracted by a permanent exhibition in American History Museum called “Treasures of American History” with objects as: Judy Garland’s red shoes on “The Wizard of Oz”, C3PO and R2D2, Kermit the frog, a pipe belonged to Einstein, a Marilyn’s dress, etc… I found out on the dates we’re going to be in the city, the American History Museum is going to be closed because of improvement works and this exhibition will be in air and space museum precisely. A lucky strike here. It’s possible we will have time for crossing the river and go to see Arlington cemetery and, perhaps, the Pentagon.

   All visits in Washington have free admittance.

   After lunching, we will drive to Lancaster County, in Pennsylvania, to see Amish area and, from there, we will drive to Philadelphia. If we arrive on time, we could go to Art Museum. We don’t want to enter on it, just do Rocky’s performance on its staircase. There is a statue remembering the famous scene of the movie and I’ve seen videos from people who go there just to run the stairs up and rising arms after it.

   It’s 138 Km in total for this day, which we should cover in 2h 20’


   As we arrive so late yesterday we couldn’t visit anything in the city and as we were so tired we haven’t wake up as early as expected either, so we go out from hotel around 9:00h, once got breakfast and check out. Car and baggage are kept at hotel until we leave after lunching. We’ve finally eaten the chocolates this morning, but we left the whole champagne.

   I’ve been surprised when the bell boy asked me about where were we from and I answered Barcelona, he exclaimed “Ronaldinho!”. I thought my city wouldn’t be known here and, even less about football (which they call soccer). Anyway, we’re going to start with our tourist tasks but, just at the moment of leaving the hotel we feel the hot from outside hitting us. We’re already missing hotel’s air conditioning.

   We’re walking to White House, which is close, while I’m thinking how to visit whole Washington in 5 hours. We start seeing beautiful buildings and is time to make cameras to work. The Department of the Treasury is here and we can see the obelisk around there, for which I’ve rejected to getting tickets. In our way I’ve delivered a brochure about one of these double decker open-top touristic buses. We reach the White House limits “for humans”. As we cannot go closer than this we make our pictures of the building and the gardens, using the zoom some times.

White HouseWashington's touristic bus

   While they’re taking pictures I’m reading the bus brochure and thinking about it as the final solution for transport and speed. It’s explained the price is 34$ per person for two days, it’s air conditioning on it and whole itinerary takes 2 hours, which is a lot, but as the most of it is for reaching the Cathedral, which is quite far, we could avoid it doing just the small part of it and saving more than one hour. The guy on the bus stop offers me the option again and I answer it seems expensive for me as, although ticket is valid for two days, we only are going to be able of using it for a few hours. He tells me 26$ then and I agree. I’ve solved my main problems by 15€. When I check the ticket it says clearly it is valid for two days, pity all I said was true! Let’s go!

   The air conditioning in the bus is a blessing, but as we’re tourists put up with it and go to the top-open floor, which is almost empty and I do know why. With water and the air coming when the bus is moving it’s not that bad, but I just find out the long itinerary to Cathedral I wanted to avoid is the one we’re doing now. Ok, I’m happy, seated and seeing new things, I will do something right some day in the future! Let’s enjoy this!

Washington's Cathedral   And we’re really enjoying the trip: we can see classic buildings but different, modern buildings but different, a cute park but different, this time because it is full of chess boards built in stone tables; a big bridge but different, because under it – a lot under it – there is a dense forest; A couple of statues but… normal, statues are kind of the same everywhere: a guy on a horse. We can see, as well, a couple of mosques and, finally, the Cathedral, which looks as a good replica of Notre Dame one. We take photos of everything as the bus is rounding the Cathedral and taking the way back to down town. On this trip back we pass by the embassies quarter, one after the next, then we can see what it seems the store quarter as we haven’t seen any until now as we’re expecting to reach the memorials quarter and the museum quarter shortly. I remind Washington is a designed city, I mean, it was drawn, planned, built and then brought people to it. That’s the reason all is that well organized.

   After one hour in bus – and we haven’t started our plan yet – we arrive to our first stop: Lincoln memorial. The heat makes us to reach the monument quickly as it is unbearable to be in the street at open. We wonder if it is air conditioning in it and the answer is no, but its design, as ancient Greek temple, makes the interior be fresh. This freshness is natural as well as the light, which comes in through the original ceiling. The huge seating Lincoln statue is impressive as the views from the entrance are too, to the obelisk and the long reflecting pool. I’m missing Forrest Gump here!

Lincoln MemorialLincoln statue

View from Licoln memorialLincoln memorial's ceiling

   Everything around is a memorial. The trees at both sides of the pool in the picture belong to a park full of these commemoration monuments. The Korea War memorial is three bronze soldiers; the Vietnam War memorial is two black marbled walls with all the deceased names. At the shadow of the trees is hot, but if you go out from it you prefer to die, so we decide to get into a souvenir store shaped as a hut there just because of its air conditioning. We need some rest from the heat and buy some objects once there. We don’t want to go out from there, but we must: we cannot waste time.

Korea War MemorialVietnam War memorial

    I know every 30 minutes there is a bus in each stop. As I think that could be a lot of time I look for our chances of reaching Arlington just by crossing one bridge, the map is clear about this. We go behind Lincoln Memorial and can see two bridges. Eva and Trini notice there is not a single option for shadow along the way I’m pointing to and, also, our target doesn’t seem to be close. I take the map for checking which of both bridges is going to the cemetery and a young woman in her footing session stops to offer us her help. How nice! And how brave running with this weather!. When I comment my thoughts to her she points me the right bridge and advice it is really a long distance. When I try to check that distance over the bridge, I cannot see the end from here, so I agree on going to the bus stop and think I’ve been cheated by the map again. Distances are much longer than it seems on it.

Bridge over Potomac River

   After a short while we’re back in the bus but, this time, we seat in the covered and fresh part. We need it. The bridge is really long and the views to Potomac River are cool. It is a wide river and a natural border as, once on the other riverside, we’ve changed of state. This is Virginia.

   With the first sights of the cemetery we can see stone constructions between a lot of green grass. The bus stops in front of the entrance hall with some exhibits and very clean toilets which we use. All this is a covered part with air conditioning too. I get a map of the whole complex and I can locate the two points I want to visit: Kennedy’s tomb, which is close, and Iwo Jima memorial, with the famous sculpture of the soldiers setting the flag together, which is in the back of beyond. We take a breath and go outside. We walk following a path across green meadows full of organized rows of white tombstones. Then we get Kennedy’s tomb, which is actually a family tomb. I didn’t think Jacquelyn would be here too. They’re flat black gravestones, bigger for the parents and two small ones at sides for sons, watched by a permanent flame. Fire is what we’re feeling all the time, so we come back to the visitor’s center in order to reach quickly its air conditioning. Oh my God, you cannot be outside! Obviously, we pissed off Iwo Jima.

Arlington CemeteryTomb of JFK

   We’re tourists, and that’s our only excuse for posing smiling in a cemetery.

   We wait for the bus seated on the air conditioning hall and I, every when and then, I’m going to take a look through the glass door for checking if the bus has arrived. In one of these checks I can see the bus there and, as we must take it, I tell to Eva and Trini and go out running to reach it and make it to wait if necessary but in my way, a big woman with the bus company uniform stops me by shouting “Don’t run, don’t run”. At that moment I stop and think maybe is disrespectful acting like that in a cemetery, but the clarification is about to come: “Don’t run, by God’s sake! With this heat you’re making me sweat by seeing you!”. I smile but I’m still concerned about the bus and ask if it is going to leave now. She answers me: “Calm down, man, Easy. Relax, refresh and overall, don’t
Jefferson memorial run, because you’re going to die ”. It’s not good to hear that in a cemetery…

   It’s around 12:00. Are we going to finally manage it? The next stop is at Air and Space Museum, that’s the longest stop too, but we’re going to be protected by the air conditioning in there. Then, the only remaining visit will be U.S. Capitol, and from outside. I’m keeping in secret one more visit in case there is time for it – I always keep one more visit in case it is enough time for it, which I use to do although there is no time -.

   We do this trip on the top of the bus again and it is even more beautiful than the previous ones. We pass by the obelisk, at left, Jefferson Memorial, at right. This monument is very nice but it’s quite far. We can see it at the other side of a lake. There are more memorials until reaching the museums area. We can see one with a pyramid of glass built in front, as in Louvre, but smaller. We’ve already seen Notre Dame today, only Eiffel Tower and Arc du Triomphe missing for having Paris here, but no, they are in Las Vegas.

   This museum is huge, full of planes and rockets. And they’re not models but the real ones. The most of them are hung from the ceiling. I can see “Spirit of Saint Louis” among them, the one Lindberg used for crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It is really small!, for being a plane, I mean. There are a lot of things to see, so we plan an itinerary. We can see Wright brothers’ first plane and prototypes – actually there is a whole hall dedicated to them with a replica of their house, real size! – the space module, vehicles and stuff from the Apollo XI expedition which were over moon surface, Red Baron’s plane,…
Space module Apolo XI
Air and Space Museum

   There is a stone from the moon, which I read could be touched here, but it can’t. While walking along all the halls we find a London metro station “Elephant & Castle” life size replica, which I don’t get what is doing here. At one corner of the upper floor I can see a sign which points to the “Treasures of American History” exhibition I want to see but, when I’m in the place I can only see an empty room in improvements which is not allowed to get into. Then I go to the information desk at museum entrance and ask about it. The lady tells me the exhibition has been removed and then I ask if there is any place where I can see it today and the answer is clear: No.

   We agree on lunching in the museum when we see the big hall with great light because of the glass walls and two fast food restaurants in it. We choose one called Boston something. Each of us order the desired sandwich or salad with fries, chicken, etc… They take note of everything in the cash desk and we must pay now: around 10$ each. They deliver a ticket to us and say “Number 12”. I look in front and can see a kind of long bar divided into small departments with a number for each of them, the 12 is just here. We can see a tray full of things and we look like “Who forgot this here?”, but there is nobody and we start to match what is in the tray with what you’ve just ordered. So… What!? We’ve got our food from cash desk to here!? There is just 2 meters and we haven’t seen any human! It’s like magic. We take our tray and notice the cups are big but empty. We look around for seeing what the people do and we then discover the Coke free bar. Can I really fill this cup all the times I want? The answer is yes and, besides, there is available like ten different kinds of Coke: vanilla, candy, cherry, honey… I only know I’m going to taste them all!

Union Square   Everything was delicious. We leave the museum to go to the bus stop. Buf, I didn’t remember about the heat. We take the bus and are in it during all its way to Capitol, which includes a long stop in a Union station parking. A nice building from which I can take the picture at left showing the American version of our press boxes. This point is the start and end of the bus route and the staff is changing shifts now. We say good bye to our big hostess, who kept joking with us since she saw me running in Arlington. Once leaving the station, we’re in Capitol in no time. We visit its frontal by walking along where the staircases born and round it until we reach the back, and it’s then when I bring my secret visit up: The Library of Congress. It is one of the next buildings and there is one of the Gutenberg’s bibles in it. That’s the first printed book in history and there are so few in the world now. Eva decides to rest in a bench while we’re going as where I’m pointing saying “Just there” cannot be seen anything. So my sister and I go for a quick visit. While going, I’m looking back to my wife often until she is out of my sight. We’re in USA and I’ve just left my wife alone in a park: I must be a terrible person… What a nice building! The building is beautiful outside but amazing inside: statues, white marbled staircases, day light coming into it through windows on a nice decorated walls and, yes, there are books too. I’ve got a map of the place in order of locating the Incunable. It’s downstairs, with a medieval hand written book, with a lot of colors and those drawings they used to do to the first capital letters. The rest of the letters are “drawn” in black with a perfect calligraphy. Gutenberg’s one looks soberer, though. Actually, their pages look identical than the manual one with the exception of these colorful images on capital letters. If you remove those from the medieval one, both look the same. Now I can appreciate Gutenberg’s work merit.

Library of CongressWashington's Capitol


   Now we can leave. We join to Eva, who was watching a squirrel and a bird, and come back to hotel. Our idea is driving directly to Lancaster, the Amish county. We take the baggage and the car and stop one minute on Hoover building, just for a few pictures. Then, we’re in our way to North. I’ve checked the map and shouldn’t be any problem this time as we’re in a long street which goes to the highway and its entrance. Let’s see if finally we can do a trip without getting lost. We get the highway and we haven’t got lost, but the entrance is closed because of an accident and we need to look for another entrance, but how can I look for something in a completely unknown place? Well, I only can think about following the cars in front of us hoping they’re locals with the same problem and know where to go now. But they’re not and when we lose the car we’ve been following we’re somewhere in the city or its outskirts but lost again. One time I’m driving the right way!

   We keep driving randomly through the streets of Washington outskirts area which looks very different than magnificent city down town. I stop on a gas station as the fuel tank is getting empty after so much driving lost these two days. It’s not pre-paid so I fill tank up while a car with louder rap music stops letting three teenagers come out. They’re dressing as gangs members do in movies. I try to avoid being prejudiced and go to the cash box to pay. Actually, I don’t know what neighborhood I am and it’s not helping arriving to the cash box and check that it is more a bunker than a box. A man is inside, behind a thick bullet proof window, and you can barely see him. As one of them is waiting behind me, I don’t want he can see more than one bill coming out from my pocket, so I try to get one apart with a single hand inside it. I put this bill in an iron drawer which swallows the money into the deep of that dark place. It opens with a metallic noise and some coins on it. I need something more from that place so, although the young man is still waiting and the rap song is giving the atmosphere to the whole place, I use the intercom in order of asking for indications to the highway. The man in the darkness answers me quick and I come back to the car. Eva and Trini point me about the situation with those teenagers and I try to look confident and say all those thoughts are prejudice from movies and series, but I leave the place as fast as I can.

   Indications are good and I arrive to the same spot where I’ve been one hour and a half before. The police keep being there, but the access to highway is opened. We can see car pieces round and some blue little flags pointing something in ground, but we don’t need to know more. Once in the highway, I drive direct to Philadelphia. Trini wished to visit Amish area too much, but I explain it is not an option anymore: it is getting dark and Amish are famous for not having electricity so, if we would go there now we couldn’t see anything there anyway.

   We reach Philadelphia with no issues around 20:00h and completely dark. We’re welcome with fireworks we can clearly see over Delaware River at our right. We couldn’t do afternoon visits one more time: we are not going to see Amish on this travel and the Rocky thing on museum staircase will have to be tomorrow. Hotel is just at riverside and beside the bridge, two great references for arriving to it with no lose. This is one of the hotels I don’t know what to expect in terms of quality. We leave the car in the parking area and the bell boy takes brings our baggage to our room, which is big and comfortable; and we’ve got amazing views to Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Great place! Actually, this picture is taken from our room, once fireworks were over.

Benjamin Franklin Bridge by night

   I ask for our options to dinner: we must take the street at right of the hotel and keep walking under the beginning of the bridge until we get into a lively street, with a lot of bars and restaurants. We do that and the way until that street is dark and lonely as per recalling horror movies scenes. IT looks like the beginning of a “Cold case” episode, which are all happening in this city, by the way. The street is full of bars with a lot of people smoking in the street, close to each door. It is really lively and the buildings are all low and with bricked walls, giving a special atmosphere to the whole place, but we’re looking for a specific restaurant, the one the man in the hotel called “the best place to eat crab in the city”. And we find it, as it is under a sign with the name and, with great logic, a big crab drawn on it. The name is Dinardo’s famous seafood. We eat a lot of seafood, with good and big plates and therefore it results to be an expensive dinner: around 52$ per person. Then we learn how to deal with the typical tip when using a credit card: just use a pen to write the tip and add it to the price giving the total amount to be charged, 188$ in this case. We return to the hotel after midnight but our stomach is very grateful.