Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tue 26 Mar - Washington, D.C.

A fine day dawned - yippee - but we still have a big museum on the day's itinerary.

Just after 9am we head out but as soon as we reach the street we notice people with placards heading towards the Capitol and onto the United States Supreme Court building. A Gay Marriage case is being debated (we are unclear on the details) and we follow the crowds. This was the same case where some people had camped out since Thursday to be in the public gallery. As we expected there were big crowds, representing both sides but the majority seems to be for Marriage Equality. The crowds were mixed together on both sides of the street outside the United States Supreme Court.

Some people seem to believe that history will be made so photos are taken to capture the moment.

These punters had nothing to do with the case, but had their photo taken anyway.

The for and against demonstrations were all peaceful but some signs were really inflammatory. One sign nearby suggested the "Death Penalty for Fagotts".

The police presence was huge and we did like this Harley-Davidson police bike with sidecar.

Our main museum of the day was the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and it's all free to enter.

Hans was last here 29 years ago but as with most collections and buildings we've seen here, National Air and Space Museum has been regularly expanded and renovated.

In this museum ALL aircraft and space craft you see are real unless they specifically say "a model" and these are few and far between. Apologies for those reading this who are not space and flight buffs but we could not help being amazed and capturing lots of photos and information.

As you enter the National Air and Space Museum from Independence Avenue, you pass under the Voyager plane below. It was the first plane to full circumnavigate the globe without landing in 1986. It only flew at about 110 mph and carried 2 people and 7,000 pounds of fuel. It largely was a glider with a small engine.

We joined a 10.30am free tour of Museum highlights, which was supposed to run for 90 minutes but as our guide was very enthusiastic and a story teller, the tour went for 2 hours. The tour provided a fantastic snapshot of about 5 key highlights of the museum, starting with Voyager above.
We then moved to the Pioneers of flights and breaking the sound barrier.
Chuck Yeager's plane is here, Glamorous Glennis, and he was the first pilot to do break the sound barrier when people thought it could not be done.
We then quickly covered the fastest and highest plane ever flown, which was built when scientists were still trying to determine whether space flight would be achieved via a plane or a rocket booster.
The plane was called the X-15 and flew up to a height of 67 miles and achieved a maximum speed of 4,534 mph. The pilot then glided back to earth, as he had used all his fuel (as planned) to reach the height and speed. This is the actual plane so all went well.
The tour moved onto the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur. The brothers commanded a significant display and we learned a lot about their early start as bicycle manufacturers in Dayton, Ohio and how long it took them to be recognized for their flight achievements.
This is the actual Wright Flyer that made the first powered flight of 59 seconds and more than 800 yards.
The photo below is taken from that day of the first flight back in 1903 at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.
Hans is a big fan on Charles Lindbergh and our tour moves on to his historic achievement in the Spirit of St Louis in crossing from New York to Paris in 1927 without stopping. He changed the public perception of flying which up to that point had been for entertainment only through air shows and the like to something that can transport people and become an alternative to boats, trains and other means of transport. Within 7 years we had the first commercial flights.
A self portrait was required.
Onto the space race. They have the actual command modules of John Glenn's Mercury space flight. The first US person in space. They also have the Gemini module where US man first space walked and finally the actual Apollo 11 command module returned to earth after man first landed on the moon.
All wrapped in Perspex to keep it safe.
The back-up lunar landing module made by NASA for Apollo 11 was donated to the Smithsonian after the successful moon mission. The one that went to the moon remains there.
We finished our tour and needed a break. Coffee and a snack and 30 minutes later we are back into it with a focus on pioneering flight and War planes.
A plane flown by Amelia Earhart, which she used to break several flight records, is here.
And a great display of World War I and II aircraft. We know Di's stepfather, Alan, would have loved this.
A Messerschmitt.
A Mitsubishi Zero, one of three plane types the Japanese used to bomb Pearl Harbour.
And a Spitfire.
The story of this bomber, called Flak Bait, was amazing, surfing more than 200 bombing runs in WWII, had 100 bullet holes, but still kept going.
More great pioneering planes, and Di.
After National Air and Space Museum, we decided to travel to Georgetown via the metro. Below is a photo of what nearly all stations that we passed from L'Enfant Plaza to Foggy Bottom station. Very dull stations and gloomy. By the way we love the suburb name of Foggy Bottom. It reminds us of that Coen Brothers movie "O Brother Where Art Thou" where a band was named the "Soggy Bottom Boys"....
And here we are on the train...
Washington Metro has a somewhat convoluted ticketing system, particularly for one off travel as in for tourists. According to their price list, our trip would cost $1.70 (no singular prices here). Now, one would think that you would put in that amount in the machine and get your ticket. No no, when you buy a ticket, the smallest amount you can pay in $3. And, the $1.70 price is only if you have a value card already. One off is $1 more, I.e our trip would cost $2.70 per person. Why all this? Di argues the point with a guy that stops us at Foggy Bottom Metro Station and in answer to her protests of it being "unfair" he just rolls his eyes and says "I don't make the rules, ma'am". Di's protests mean we walk away only paying $3.40 for both but the system remains convoluted.
Anyway, we get off the metro at Foggy Bottom station and wander west towards Georgetown where we suddenly encounter a sign pointing towards the "Swedish Embassy". We are obviously curious and follow its direction.
This is the Swedish Embassy down by Washington Harbour, in facilities shared with Iceland.
Potomac River looking west towards Key Bridge. The state of Virginia is on the left side of the river.
We stumbled onto this unnamed canal in Georgetown, running parallel to Potomac River. Many old warehouses in the area had been converted into presumably very expensive apartments (or condos as they call them here)
Up to M Street, we saw this long queue of people who seem to want to get into a shop selling... Cupcakes. No, we didn't understand it either.
Location shot of M Street in Georgetown. It all looked very nice, quite English in architecture, but with quite a few shops with French names. And yes, it looked trendy and expensive in parts.
We did initially think that we would catch a bus back to the hotel, but we seemed to keep walking eastwards, mostly along Pennsylvania Avenue, and after passing the White House (again) we remembered that we could get into the Old Post Office and it tower as it is supposed to have great Washington views, so we headed there. Unfortunately we arrived 4.55pm when the tower closed at 4.45pm. Of course, the spiel had said that it would be open to 7pm, but that was "summer only" according to the guard.
Instead, we had a tea and piece of chocolate in the indoors courtyard below.
We continue to walk and wanted to drop in at our local CVS (chemist and grocery store) to get some stuff for breakfast. Along the way, we pass Chinatown yet again...
Here, Di is groaning in our room as she removes her shoes at 6.30pm after about 8 hours of walking and standing. Fantastic day but we feel it.
After a decent break, we have a nice soup and bread dinner at Au Bon Pain (a soup, salad and sandwich chain) inside the Union Station complex, and we are back in our room after 30-45 minutes or so.
That's it for today. We are tired in body and in mind. Almost too much to take in for one day. Good night.

No comments:

Post a Comment