Last October (again, sorry for the lateness 🙃), I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go on a school trip to the USA. It was such an eye-opening experience, and was in fact my first ever long-haul flight, as well as my first time outside of Europe! First of all (just a minor detail here), I had never been on a plane before on which you could get FREE FOOD, and my flight was 8 hours, all the way across the Atlantic Ocean, so I got a lot of it! 😋 Whilst I was there I visited Washington, D.C. and 3 states – Virginia (briefly), Pennsylvania and New York. What really fascinated me about the US is how they speak pretty much the same language as us Brits, but their culture and mannerisms are strikingly different from ours. When I was there, the people were a lot more open (especially about the fact that they LOVED our accents so much!), and the food that they had there was different to us to – they seem to eat a lot more burgers than we do over in Britain!
When I was there, pretty much all of my expectations which I had in my mind when I was younger about what America would be like were fulfilled: the bright yellow school buses, the interstates, the classic yellow NYC taxis and the breathtaking skyscrapers of New York City all became apparent when I was there. Visiting America also reminded me of just how powerful the USA is as a single country: the most powerful in the world, in fact. Seeing the UN Building in New York, which was international territory (I even got a separate passport stamp from the UN!) is an example of this, as well as the fact that Washington is home to the Whitehouse, where arguably the most powerful person in the world – the President of the United States lives. New York is also where the World Trade Centre and Wall Street are located, which are further examples of America’s power.
So, without further ado, here is a list of all my favourite sites which I visited in Washington. I thought I had better do this post in 2 parts, as otherwise it’ll be super long! I hope you enjoy this mini-series of 2 posts anyways! Visit my Instagram for more photos of these wonderful places similar to these!
Part 1: Washington, District of Columbia
First of all, may I say that I LOVE the names that the Americans have for some of their places: the neighbourhood in which we stayed was called Foggy Bottom, in all seriousness, which I found so amusing! Aside from that, Washington is a stunning city, and feels very European compared to other American cities: very unlike New York, it has no skyscrapers but is instead home to many historic buildings of high significance to the history of America…
I was one of the 40 million people who visited this station last year – it is one of the busiest railway facilities in the country! It’s pretty cool – both the interior and exterior architecture of it are wonderful and you can see the Capitol Building from inside it (it’s just 5 blocks away)! There are also loads of cool statues and a posh shopping area, so it was a great place to have dinner when we first got there!
To get from the Federal Triangle to the Newseum, we strolled along Pennsylvania Avenue, taking in all the sites as we did so. We passed various buildings along the way, including a Trump hotel and the National Archives. When we passed this Trump hotel, we even saw protestors against Trump (we visited literally just a few weeks before last year’s Presidential Election). The Newseum is definitely worth a visit, as it looks behind all of the news stories we hear, and is really good for contemporary history. I particularly loved the bit about the former GDR (German Democratic Republic), as it had a replica headless Lenin statue, a section of the Berlin Wall (Berliner Mauer) and the only watchtower (Wachturm) in the whole of the USA that the Stasi used to control borders.
After visiting the Newseum, we walked along Constitution Avenue, before visiting the National Museum of American History in the National Mall. We walked past the Museum of Natural History, and then made our visit to the museum.
Monuments and the Whitehouse
After lunch at one of those massive food-halls that seem to be common in America, we walked along Pershing Park and noticed that an Italian flag was near the Whitehouse, signalling that the Italian president was paying a visit there. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get a very good view of the Whitehouse (there was a whole field in front of the bit up to which you’re normally allowed), but we still got a glimpse of it 🙂. We then strolled past the Washington Monument and went to the Washington World War II Memorial, where there is a wreath symbolising every state and territory of the US, surrounding one big fountain, which I thought was very symbolic. The view across the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial was simply stunning, especially as it was such a sunny day (28 degrees celsius I think at its peak, which was extremely unusual for October)! After that, we then walked by the side of it and went inside the Lincoln Memorial, which had a massive Abraham Lincoln statue in the middle of it. The top of this memorial was in fact the place where Martin Luther King Jr. held his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, which again I thought was very moving, to stand exactly where he would have stood whilst addressing everyone there. We then quickly walked alongside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was extremely simple and atmospheric, so I did not feel as though it was really appropriate to take ay photos of this.
Arlington National Cemetery
The next day we crossed over the DC border into the state of Virginia (named after Elizabeth I of England, the “Virgin Queen”) to Arlington National Cemetery. I expected it to be big, but not quite as big as it seemed! It is a military cemetery, where all of the nation’s dead in conflicts have been buried, ever since the American Civil War. As well as seeing lots of graves of war veterans side by side in rows, we also saw the resting places of some famous Americans, such as J.F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the US who was killed by an assassin. What I found interesting was that our guide was surprised that we knew who JFK was, as most Americans our sort of age don’t (we watched his assassination as part of a history lesson in year 9). It seemed as though we went on a really important national day too, as we heard loads of gunshots as we were travelling on the buggy between places (does anyone know – is that normal, or was it in fact for a special occasion?). Overall, I found the experience seeing the graves of so many soldiers really moving, as I’d never been to a place quite like that before, and it really put into perspective the sacrifices that people make for the good of their own country.
The Capitol Building and the Library of Congress
We then went to have a tour of the Capitol Building, the seat of the US Congress in Washington DC. It was so interesting, as we were told about how the US Constitution developed since Washington was established as its capital city in 1790 by the first US President, George Washington. My favourite bit was seeing the hall (Rotunda) where the inside of the Capitol Dome (the Apotheosis of Washington) is visible, as not only is that in itself a wonderful thing to look at, but the paintings in the Rotunda itself represent significant points in US history, such as the signing of the Constitution by George Washington.
The next day we departed our hotel for NYC via Pennsylvania! If you’re still reading at this point (which obviously you are!) thanks so much for sticking around and I hope you had fun reading my post, and have learnt something new!
Watch this space for this time next week to read about part 2 of this post on this same trip to America, when I’ll be telling you about when we went to Philadelphia and New York City! Exciting stuff!! 😃