USA - Washington

Published: August 17th 2017
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David here...

So our South America adventure was over and we now had only 1 month left of our RTW trip to go. The flight from Quito to Fort Lauderdale was 5 hours and we didn't sleep a wink. We landed just before 5am and had a 10 minute wait on the plane until Customs and Immigration opened. We first went through the automated kiosk area, where we had photos and fingerprints taken, and then onto a real person. We were asked a lot of questions about our time in the US and what we planned to do. They asked about our camping plans and if we had camping gear with us. When we replied that we were going to be buying what we need from K-Mart or Walmart he helpfully suggested that the latter would be better value.

Once stamped through, it was onto the baggage claim to retrieve our backpacks to go through customs. Again, we were faced with lots of questions of where we had been and our plans, before our bags were scanned and we were free to go. Our bags were rechecked in easily before we moved to the correct terminal for our connecting flight to Washington DC. We only had an hour wait once we'd cleared security, which we made use of by freshening up and cleaning our teeth. We left slightly late due to bad weather but touched down in the capital 2 hours later.

We landed at the Ronald Reagan National airport which is on a direct metro line into downtown Washington. We bought a travel card each ($2 each) and loaded $5 onto each card. The journey to our hotel cost $2.40, we were no longer in South America, that was for sure. We stepped out of the metro stop into bright sunshine, the heat taking us a little by surprise. It felt hotter than most of South America. We got to the Beacon Hotel 4 hours before check-in, however they had a room ready for us. We relaxed and freshened up before hitting the streets of Washington.

We were starting to get peckish and we realised that we were nearby to one of the food places we wanted to try, Rays Hell Burgers. Barrack Obama visited twice (in the old location though) when he was President. If it's good enough for him, it is good enough for us. The place had a canteen-y, pop-up, temporary feel, with big paper menus stuck to the wall with thick duct tape. We both ordered a cheese and bacon burger with skin on fries, plus a vanilla milkshake for me. We sat down after collecting every condiment known to mankind, even malt vinegar, and the food came out pretty quickly. Obama knew where to go, that's for sure. The fries were lovely and the burger very tasty. The shake was really cold and thick as well. We left stuffed and happy.

We then wandered through the streets to take a look at some of the buildings on the east side of the famous National Mall; the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the Capitol Building, all very impressive. We then spent about 2 hours in the Museum of Native Americans, though we didn't give it our full attention as we were now flagging a bit after over 24 hours without sleep and as some of the displays were things we'd seen all over South America. Still, well worth a visit. It was then back to the hotel on tired, achy legs via a CVS Pharmacy to buy some essential supplies; shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, water and iced teas. For some reason we were really thirsty and soon finished off the big cans of iced teas.

We popped out for a quick evening meal at &pizza, which is a bit like Subway, where you choose your pizza base, sauce and toppings before it is cooked quickly in front of you. After the mainly woeful pizzas we'd had in South America, this was a real treat, very good, tasty pizza. We really enjoyed it. Then it was back to the hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep.

We enjoyed one of the best nights sleep in a long time. The next morning we left the hotel and went to a branch of Taco District, for some Heuvos Rancheros for breakfast. Very good it was as well. We then walked back down to the Mall area and strolled round the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the excellent Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial, the WWII Memorial and the Washington Monument. By this time we were thirsty and flagging in the heat again so popped into a McDonalds to take advantage of their any soft drink, any size, $1 offer (great value) before walking round the Hirschhorn gallery and the African Art gallery. It was quite a full day. We walked back to the hotel via the White House and were soon relaxing in our room. I also made use of the business centre to print out car and van hire vouchers and some Amtrak tickets.

We picked out The Diner for an evening meal, a good 25 minute walk away. We were surprised to step out of the hotel into rain. Still, we're British and it was only water. We got soaked on the way but at least we got seated straight away. I had fish and chips and Suzanne had a lasagne. All of the food was nice and it was reasonably priced. My vanilla shake was lovely though. I'm becoming addicted to them. The stroll back to the hotel was nice as the rain had stopped and it was another early night.

The next day we decided to take a break from museums and galleries so headed off to Alexandria, a suburb of Washington. We stopped off at Sunrise Cafe for a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee before jumping onto the metro. We spent about 3 hours walking up and down the famous old town area of King Street. We bought some sandwiches and drinks from CVS and sat in the main square in shade for lunch before making our way back to the metro station. There isn't much to do at Alexandria but it is a lovely place to stroll.

On the way back we stopped off at Arlington cemetery to see JFK's grave and the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, getting there just in time for the changing of the guard. We wandered round for a while before making our way back to the hotel to freshen up before our evening meal. We had a reservation at the Hill Country Barbeque Market and set off in plenty of time. On the way the wind picked up and an almighty storm blew in. Lightening was going off everywhere and it hammered it down. We had no choice but to take shelter until it let up, which then meant we were 20 minutes late to the restaurant. Fortunately although they had just marked us as a no show, they had not given away our table so were seated straight away.

The concept of the place is that you go to a counter, order your meat and they wrap it up for you to take back to your table. There are also sides you can choose from. The only table service is for drinks and dessert. We opted for the Pitmaster selection which was brisket, pork ribs, hot link sausage and chicken. It came with 2 sides, which we chose Mac n Cheese and Sweet Potato Bourbon mash. The food was very nice, the sausage and brisket being a highlight, though we prefer normal table service. Suzanne was happy as she got a can of Austin Eastside dry cider, as good as English cider apparently. I went with a lovely wheat beer. We stopped off on the way back to our hotel at the famous Post Pub that has been in Washington for 40 years now. We had 6 drinks in there, only being charged for 5 of them, we think they gave us 1 free so we tipped well. The bar was a sports bar with music playing but low enough that you could chat. It was friendly and comfortable and a good choice for us.

Our last full day in town started with another trip for Heuvos Rancheros before we hit the Mall again. It was to be a gallery day. We visited the massive National Gallery and the American Art gallery. This took up the whole day and by the end of it, our feet were killing us. Well worth it though as both galleries were amazing. Every era of art is covered and there are some amazing works in both galleries. Between the 2 of them, we did again stop off for a drink at McDonalds to refresh ourselves. We'd left the hotel at 10:00 and got back at 18:00, a long day.

We decided to avoid the usual pizza or burgers for our evening meal and went to an Ethiopian restaurant called The Queen of Sheba. We ordered a lentil dish, a chicken dish and a lamb dish. This was brought out on a tray with injera bread laid on it. The 3 dishes were then poured onto the bread along with salads and other veggies and dahls. You also get more of the bread to pick up the meats and veggies, no cutlery here. Suzanne loved it, however I was not too keen on the bread. But we both left stuffed full.

We left the hotel the next day at 10:30 and headed to the metro and caught the silver line to West-Miele, the end of the line. We then jumped onto the Washington Flyer Airport Shuttle bus ($5 each) to Dulles Int. Airport. From there we got the courtesy rental shuttle for Thrifty to pick up our hire car. We decided to pick it up from Dulles as; a) it was outside of the city in the direction we wanted and b) was over £300 cheaper than anywhere else. We picked out a Toyota Yaris and were soon on our way.

We were completely taken by surprise by Washington. We like America, and places like LA and New York, but Washington is completely different. All the major sites are in walking distance of each other and it is a place good for walking as it is a little more low rise than some cities and feels very open and spacious. The metro network is also really handy. We loved the place and left with tons still to see and do so firmly believe we will be back in the future.

Additional photos below
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27th August 2017

D.C. is one of our favorites
An amazing city full of history, memorials and fantastic museums. D.C. is easy to get around and user friendly. Hopefully you'll go back some day. And tons of great places to eat. Consider going for the 4th of July fireworks. They are incredible.

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