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Published: August 19th 2017
One of the pandas at the Smithonian National Zoo.
A very sad day, as we have heard (no thanks to the American media) that Brucie has died. Well at least there is some cheer as yet another member of Donald Trump's dysfunctional all inner-circle has gone. On top of all the Charlottesville controversy, are we here to see the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency?
There were a few final things to wrap-up in Washington before we left to drive to Philadelphia. My wife, son and daughter had not seen the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial, so we drove there first. We all collectively agreed that this is our favourite of all the memorials. Whist we were taking a photo of our kid's standing alongside some statues in a queue, a guide told us that that was a very popular (i.e. unoriginal) picture and the queue is actually the queue of desperate, hungry people for soup kitchen during the Great Recession. We felt suitably admonished.
It was then a short walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and then to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
We had been told that there were some pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo and my wife had a life-long dream
Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Viewed from the Tidal Basin.
to see a panda (second only to holding a Koala, which was covered in Australia several years ago). At first it looked as if the dream was not going to be fulfilled as all three pandas were hiding out of sight and all we could see was some images on the screens in a "behavioural analysis station" - sorry pandas, but you every move is being closely monitored and analysed.
The zoo suspects that the female may be pregnant so she her area has been sealed-off and she is under even tighter surveillance. The baby did come out and make an appearance, but climbed up a tree is just his/her bum pointing in our direction. Not great for photos. Eventually the male made some out to wow the crowd up until he started using a tree stump to scratch his bum. There were some good photos up until that point.
The panda theme dominates that part of the zoo with loads of shops selling panda toys and other memorabilia. There was a restaurant called the Panda Grill, but when I went in and asked for some grilled panda they really didn't look impressed.
It was then time
to say "goodbye" to Washington, a great city and worthy of considerable debate in the car as to whether it would go to the top of our highly prestigious league table of US cities (our son definitely a yes, me probably a yes, my wife maybe edging it over San Francisco, but for our daughter nothing would ever surpass New York).
On the way to Philadelphia we made one of our usual stops at a massive out-of-town Walmart, to get some food and look round. Strangely there were no guns for sale in this one. In this area the "huntin', shootin', fishin'" is just "fishin'".
One thing we noticed is that a lot of the D.C. car number plates have "taxation without representation" amblazoned across them, making a connection between history and the fact that the people of D.C. have no representation in Congress but a population higher than Wyoming and Vermont.
The weather forecast had warned of storms. They hit whilst we were on the interstate and were biblical; thunder, lightening and ferocious rain. It was easily the worth driving conditions we have ever experienced. The lane markings had completely disappeared and visibility was next to nothing. Everyone was crawling along at 10 to 15 mph and we saw loads of coaches that had clearly put safety first and had pulled into the hard-shoulder under the shelter of the bridges to wait it out.
We got to Philadelphia a lot later than we were expecting, but we were greeted with the most fantastic view of a dramatic, stormy sunset and the elegant, modern city skyline. It was a shame we could not pull-over somewhere to get a photo.
Once we arrived, my wife and I went for a short walk to orientate ourselves with the city. It seems relatively compact and straightforward, but we will see for sure in the morning.
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