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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Back in Washington DC

After a culturally enriching stay in Philadelphia, Alex and I traveled by Amtrak train to Washington DC, or rather from 30th street station in Philadelphia to Union station in DC. Both terminals are part of the old Pennsylvania Railroad company (largest railroad, largest transportation enterprise and largest corporation in the world in 1882!) and famous for their architecture.

30th street station in Philadelphia

Upon exiting Union station, the first thing we saw was The Capitol, one of the many symbols of the city and the USA that we would be encountering.

Many of you might not know this but I lived in Washington DC with my parents between 1968 and 1970, and this was my first time back after 50 years! The main attraction for me was therefore my old house in Chevy Chase Maryland. Because the weather was so nice, we used one of the city's "Capital Bike" bicycles to go there via the Crescent trail along the Potomac river. It was Sunday morning, so there were many people on the trail but despite that, we met a deer that looked like it had absolutely no problem with humans passing by. It took us about 50 minutes to get to the house at 4716 Falstone Avenue and when I saw it I did not recognize it at all:( The only thing that looked familiar was the narrow strip between our house and the neighbors' where my brother and I used to play with their kids. It wasn't easy to identify because there were trees on the strip now, but it still looked like known territory and conjured up many memories, like that of the bracelet I had lost in the snow and found in the grass the next spring.

Views of the Potomac river from the trail

Alex, very close to the deer

My old street!

My old house !

On top of this absolute highlight on Falstone avenue, Washington completely amazed us by its "monumentality" and symbolism.

Walking (or biking) on and around the National Mall is a history lesson, the size and quantity of the buildings and monuments makes you feel tiny. It doesn't stop: the Washington memorial, the Lincoln & Jefferson memorials, the amazing Smithsonian museums, the Capitol, the Federal Reserve, the Supreme Court, the Martin Luther king, the FD Roosevelt memorials, the tribute to WW2, to the Vietnam, the Korea wars, all beautiful and impressive. Interestingly, my mother mentioned that when we lived in DC, we only went downtown very rarely because the area was supposed to be dangerous (it was only shortly after Martin Luther King's assassination and there were many protests, also against the Vietnam war). Our experience was the exact opposite, so there has been a lot of change in 50 years.

Washington memorial

Lincoln memorial

Jefferson memorial

The Capitol again

Martin Luther King memorial

Korea war memorial

Supreme Court

Federal Reserve

The IMF and World Bank are also there, a few blocks away

The World Bank building (and reflections of others)

And the Inter-american Development bank- they're all there!

Unfortunately, the Smithsonian museums were all closed due to Covid 19, except the sculpture garden of the National Gallery of Art and the branch of the National Air museum close to the airport which of course we visited as part of our aeronautical education.

The sculpture garden has a beautiful collection of classics:

Balzac by Rodin (same as at Notre Dame des Champs metro station in Paris) and Post-Balzac by Judith Shea (1991)

This one is called Self-Portrait with Model (who is the self ?)

And another couple in the sculpture garden, enjoying a sunny morning

The National Air museum also has its classics: From the worlds smallest airplane, to the fastest; from enemy planes to the Cessna that Geraldine Mock - the first woman to fly solo around the world (1964)- used.

Jerrie Mock went round the world in 29 days (21 stopovers) in 1964 and published a book called "Three Eight Charlie" which I immediately bought of course. The museum also features a glass case with a few of Amelia Earhart's belongings in it, including the scissors with which she cut her hair before her last trip. How fascinating....

Apart from the National Mall and the Smithsonian buildings, we also visited some of DC's neighborhoods, such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Logan Circle, the wharf and Old Town Alexandria. We took the water taxi back from Old Town to our hotel which made for some beautiful night views from the Potomac. And we even went to see the Pentagon, after all we might not be back for another 50 years.

Georgetown harbor and the way some yacht owners there really feel about Trump

An original way to campaign against Trump, on your own yacht !

Fish market at the Wharf (close to Jefferson memorial)

Old town Alexandria (like the Wharf and Georgetown harbor) is another nice arty waterfront area, with lots of restaurants, shops and theaters, the latter being particularly unhappy nowadays.

Water taxi in Old town Alexandria

The Pentagon

This story would not be complete if I did not mention the ubiquitous Black Lives Matter movement. Many, many businesses and private houses have BLM signs in their windows and close to the White House there is an area with peaceful demonstrations. Anecdotally, on our first day, we were having lunch on a sidewalk and all of a sudden we heard "STOP!" and saw a running man being chased by 3 police officers on bicycles. One of the officers shouted "hey, where do you think you're going, we have bikes!" and I mentioned to the server that it looked like one of those scenes that we saw on TV and could end badly. To which he answered in a casual way that DC was very peaceful and that 80% of police officers were African American, so "it wouldn't happen here" (reference to Sinclair Lewis novel intended).

To finish on a more personal note, here are a few pictures of our hotel-apartment on the 2nd floor, only minutes away from the White House and the National Mall. The Ethiopian receptionist told us that there were several apartments occupied by people who could not or did not want to go home because of Covid-19 and had been there since March. I can totally understand them: the city is wonderful and the apartment was great, complete with washing machine and dryer which I really regretted when sitting in the laundromat in Chicago yesterday!

But before I write about Chicago, you will soon see a post about Indianapolis where we traveled next.

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