Kiwis in DC
25 September 2016
After an epic 25+ hours of travelling (from Auckland via Houston) we made it to our digs in Washington DC at 10pm last night: knackered and well ready for a shower, but having had no disasters en route.
Our home for the next five days is a room in the George Washington University Inn, a well-equipped 1970s time warp with a kitchen and plenty of space.
First stop this morning was the Lincoln Memorial. Beautiful, but still smaller than it looks on TV.
And right out the front ‘door’ of the Lincoln Memorial, is what I call the Forrest Gump pool.
(It’s actually really rather green, and very shallow…)
Not too far away was the Vietnam War Memorial, a large black wall with all of the names of America’s war dead engraved upon it. It was early tourist o’clock, and the tour buses had just arrived. There were people (often older) from one end to the other. A sombre memorial to pointless loss of life.
From there we walked across the Potomac (site of the infamous 1982 Air Florida crash)…
…to the Arlington National Cemetery.
The Cemetery is huge. It’s a weird mix of honouring America’s war dead (and other notable public figures who served in the military at some point) and, for me, a foreigner, somehow glorifying war. New Zealand has nothing even remotely like this — probably because most of our war dead never made it home; having fought and died for foreign nations on foreign soil (including Vietnam, which most Americans don’t realise).
I’m not entirely sure what “No Recreation” means, but I think it basically prohibits running, cycling, walking the dog, having a picnic and so forth. There were joggers everywhere else, and cyclists, but none in the cemetery; so I’m presuming that such activity is deemed inappropriate for hallowed ground.
Most of the graves were simple, white marble headstones with the solder’s basic details on the front, and often his child(ren)’s name(s) on the back. Many had their wives buried with them. The soldiers had a list of their various military achievements; the wives were listed merely as ‘wife’ or ‘beloved wife’.
JFK lies beside his wife and the eternal flame. On the half-circular stone wall around the landing next to his grave are a number of his quotes.
The cemetery is positioned on a hill, one side of which looks back over all of DC.
And the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a magnificent marble structure, guarded assiduously by a solitary soldier who walks back and forth along a piece of dark-blue cloth about 20m long. He performs a rigid ritual at each end, and then stands stock still for about a minute. He was constantly surrounded by a significant crowd of people, who were all completely silent.
On the way home, we thought we’d drop by Barack and Michelle’s place. We were right up next to the fence when a Secret Service guy (and I know he was Secret Service, because it said all over his uniform) told us all to move away from the fence. We moved back behind the next-closest fence, and were allowed to resume gawping from there. We could see some vehicles out the front of the White House, so presumed someone important was coming or going. As we walked away we discovered that all of the roads around the White House were blocked off by police, so something was certainly up. We’d seen an official looking pair of Iroquois fly over earlier; and another very much more modern fling-wing– so maybe it was the First Family themselves.
Next to the Washington Monument (the big obelisk at the end of the Forrest Gump pond) we found these guys.
As a long-time owner of a piebald, I thought the gentleman on the left had great taste in horses (although my late Toby was much more fine-boned than this behemoth).
On the walk home we succumbed to the need for caffeine, and happily stumbled across a cafe on I Street more worldly than many others: flat whites and with correctly attributed origin (even if they did share it with the Aussies).
So, enjoy your small cups of coffee in your coffee shacks, fellow Kiwis!