It is quite fitting that I am writing this post today, it is soooo dark and grey in San Juan. I have even had to turn on the lights as it was too dark otherwise… just like last Friday in Washington DC!
I am following the weather reports closely since we both have a flood watch warning in place, and tropical storm / hurricane Ike is approaching our island – the prognosis has been changed since yesterday though, and Ike is not expected to arrive until Saturday morning (yesterday, it was Friday). Let’s hope that “he” weakens before making landfall here, or on any of the other Caribbean islands on his way.
Despite some traffic jams in San Juan and confusion at the airport – waiting at the wrong gate, it took me 10 minutes to realise that we were at the wrong place, we managed to take off for Washington DC last Thursday evening. Thanks to O’s accumulated hotel points, we were staying for free at a Marriott SpringHill Suites in Herndon / Reston, perfectly located close to the airport and close to my blogger friend Annika! We had an appointment with her to have breakfast in Reston on Friday morning. Fortunately she sent me a text message at 8.30 in the morning to ask if we wanted to come to their place instead of eating out – as we were still asleep! Annika was so kind to actually come and pick us up at the hotel, which also was lucky – since O spent half of the night trying to book a rental car (in the end we could pick it up at the hotel after breakfast)… A very disorganised start to our weekend on the mainland!
The day was grey and rainy but we didn’t mind, the most important thing was to meet Annika for the first time, and to see the nation’s capital for the first time! Our breakfast with Annika and her daughter Karolina was just too short, we could have spent the whole day talking about life in the US, Sweden and Finland, bio-farming (we have to come back and visit the Virginia farm mentioned in the book The omnivore’s dilemma), photography etc, while drinking coffee and eating bagels with cream cheese, blueberries and strawberries. We had such a cosy time in their kitchen – it was quite dark outside because of the rain and Annika had lit some candles – so Swedish! It was sad to hug the girls goodbye at the hotel, but DC was waiting for us! Check out Annika’s post to see photos from our breakfast together. Both O and I hope to see Annika and Karolina again, hopefully next time together with the man in the house 😉
The drive to DC was easy and smooth – we arrived smack in the middle of the city centre, and even found a parking space for free. We spent 3 hours walking around the Mall in the rain – it was that kind of light rain which makes you wonder if there is any point of using an umbrella or not… It didn’t bother us too much but the photos just look so grey and sad unfortunately. The photo-taking was a bit OTT (Over The Top) as we had two cameras – on Wednesday evening we made a dream come true and bought a SLR* (Nikon D60) in Costco!! So, I was using the “old” (from March) small Lumix, while O was playing around with the big camera…
The mall is like a huge park in downtown Washington DC stretching from the US Capitol building down to the Washington Monument, the famous pillar standing almost opposite the White House. Along the Mall there are lots of museums, national monuments and administrative buildings – the great thing is that most of the museums have free entrance. Unfortunately we didn’t really have time to visit any art museums but we did sneak into the National Archives when the rain became too hard, and we got to see the original documents of Magna Charta, the Constitution, Bill of rights and Declaration of Independence! I bought a deck of cards with Barack Obama and his supporters in the giftshop 😀
Our parking time was up (you can park for free for 3 hours along the Mall – if you find parking, I guess that we were lucky that the weather was so bad!), so we decided to drive to Georgetown, the University area and campus, to have lunch. I had found a local hamburger place in the guide book** that sounded perfect for us – cheap and fast but freshly-made; Five guys! I am always on the look-out for great hamburgers and I was not disappointed – the burgers were yummy and the home-made fries as well!
Afterwards we drove around Georgetown and looked at the beautiful old houses, and then went for a walk around the university campus. O is “collecting” American university campuses with visits to Yale, Harvard, Princeton (the only one I haven’t visited), Stanford and UCLA! We were both impressed with our visit to Washington DC, and we felt that we wouldn’t mind coming back – it is a nice city and it would be fun to see more of it and its surroundings!
Our final destination of the day was however Norfolk, in south-eastern Virginia and we had to get going! We had been warned that the traffic might be heavy due to the Labour day-weekend (Monday 1st September is a national holiday) so we had thought about leaving late to avoid some of the congestion. Fortunately we didn’t have any major problem at all, it took us approximately 3½ hours to drive down even if we got a little lost right at the end when trying to find our friend P’s condo. Norfolk is reached by a long bridge and a tunnel under the water, huge naval ships can be seen from the bridge – indicating that the area (Hampton) has the biggest naval base in the world! However, more about Norfolk and the area another day…
*) Single Lens Reflex camera (in Swedish I think we just call it a systemkamera)
**) Unfortunately Borders in San Juan didn’t have the Lonely Planet for Washington DC and I thought that Fodor’s guide book with Washington DC and Virginia (+ Maryland) was a great find… BIG mistake, Fodor’s is just crap!! First of all, the map over the Mall has drawings of all the buildings but half of them are not named!? And when trying to find information on Georgetown University, this is what you get: Foggy Bottom, across the Potomac from Georgetown, has three main claims to fame; the State Department, the Kennedy Center and George Washington University. That’s it! Nothing about the history of the university or the campus – nada!! Isn’t that a little strange, it is after all one of the most famous universities in the US, and definitely the most famous one in the capital…