Monday, 30 May 2016

USA Day 5 Washington

This trip was not similar to others I had experienced with the same company. It was more like having a driver to take you from place to place and the rest was up to you. I don't think this is how it should be but anyway this morning 7 of us met after breakfast to take the hotel shuttle to the nearest metro station. Buying tickets took us much longer than was necessary mainly because some of us were advised to get a Senior metro card which sounded a good idea but we had to find the distribution desk where all these forms were produced. As we were only in Washington for the day we decided this was not the best idea ever. We eventually got to the Capitol building which is having some renovation  done at the moment as you can see from the scaffolding. We went in via the visitors centre and then decided to split up. Trying to please all seven of us wasn't going to work so  we each moved off in twos and threes .

We hadn't pre booked a tour but one of the very helpful attendants got us onto the next one which started with a video. The content of the video was not what I was expecting. Being British I thought it would be similar to a short documentary on how the American Democratic process works but no, it was about patriotism and how all the States are different but share the same American ideals.
From there we were taken on an interesting walk around part of the building. The guide was very informative but as usual I am hopeless at remembering the facts.

The Hall of Columns with its numerous statues and 28 marble columns. Each State can donate two statues of their own choosing.

This is Rosa Parks who was instrumental in ending segregation.

Overlooking the Hall is Liberty with the Eagle

We were not taken into the Senate or House Chambers as I believe the public only enter the galleries of these when the either body is in session.

After the tour we walked across to the Congress Library. A truly magnificent building.

No building in Washington can be higher than the Capitol building. Stretching from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial is The Mall, a 2.5 mile grassy park. Alongside the Mall are the key symbols and memorials of the City. Only having one day to look around it was impossible to see everything so it was a choice between a Museum or the memorials. We chose the memorials and hopefully I will return to spend more time here one day.

It wasn't all about history and strolling through the sculpture park we admired some of the temporary modern  sculptures on display.
Stacking chairs
Red Horse


One place we had to see was of course the White House

Needless to say a photo was a must. This is myself with Doris from Switzerland. 

Security was high with police everywhere. 

(Don't tell anybody but I'm with the Secret Service!)

We walked a couple of blocks from the White House to get some lunch and noticed this older building totally surrounded by new high rise blocks.

After a large salad for lunch at the Founding Farmers we returned to the Mall and the Lincoln Memorial. Inside this memorial is a 6m high statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln.

Looking along the reflecting pool from the Lincoln Memorial you can see the towering spire of the  Washington Monument. It is 155m high and surrounding by 50 American flags representing the 50 States.

This is the WW2 memorial

We then cught the metro to Eastern Market but unfortunately it was closed. It looked an interesting area.

This was away from the tourist spots and into the residential are. We had a brief look round then a stop at a coffee shop for tea and cakes before getting the metro back. Once back at the hotel we met up with the rest of the group in the bar and caught up on where everyone had been during the day. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

USA Day 4 Philadelphia

We met the group we would be travelling with last night. There are 14 plus the driver/tour manager. It is a globally representative group with travellers from France, Germany, Switzerland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The only American with us was the driver /manager.  Today we had a long drive to Washington DC (385kms). The minibus was OK unless you had to sit on the back seat for any great length of time. Fortunately I didn't today.

After a couple of hours driving we  stopped in  Philadelphia to visit the Independence National Historic Park and the Liberty Bell. The State house bell now known as the Liberty Bell rang in the tower of Pennsylvania State House. Today the building is called Independence Hall. The bell would ring to call lawmakers to their meetings.
The bell bears the message 'Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof'

Independence Hall
It was in here that the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were both signed.

Inside the Hall

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution which is situated in Washington Square.
Two and a half hours is nowhere near enough time for a visit but it was all we had on this whirlwind tour. Driving out of the city we passed the Philadelphia Eagles ground.

I was told, by the guide, that this is a well known baseball team  however it turns out this is an American Football team. So thank you  James
 for putting me right
Another 3 hours and we were in Washington DC. We were staying in a lovely hotel with a decent sized swimming pool but not close to the city centre at all, so not much to do. My room mate and I went for a walk  and discovered a park that was originally a battle ground during the civil war. When we returned to the hotel we went for a swim. Hadn't checked the facilities and didn't realise there were no changing rooms or showers in the pool area. Apparently this is common in the States. It did mean going back to our room in our swimming gear!

In the evening we all went out for a meal. A chance to get to know one another a little better.

Friday, 27 May 2016

NewYork Day 3

Found a different place for breakfast but once again just couldn't resist those American pancakes and fresh fruit. This has got to stop soon  or I'll be rolling home. Walking back along 9th Ave  the street had been closed as the stalls were out preparing for their annual food festival. It was just being set up so a while before anything would be ready.

I was told the hog roast would be the star of the show.

Whilst you would be waiting a long time for the roast to be ready, there was plenty more to sustain you

A real community affair

In a couple of hours I imagine you would have difficulty moving through the crowds.

Hoping for lots of corn sales today.

We checked out of the Travel Inn and hailed a yellow cab to take us to the Holiday Inn in the financial district which is where we were joining the tour group. We would be meeting the tour guide and others for an evening meeting.  This hotel had 50 floors and I was on the 36th with views of the Hudson river between other skyscrapers. It was much more expensive to stay here that's why we spent the first 3 nights at the travel Inn which is in a more convenient place in Midtown Manhattan.

We just dumped the luggage in the room and were off to explore this end of town. First stop was a walk through the Battery to the riverside. It was a warm day so perfect for a stroll by the river. On the way we passed the Downtown Athletic Club built in 1929 and is one of New York's most distinctive art deco skyscapers. The club used to have a swimming pool, tennis courts and miniature golf but it closed in 2002 and is now an apartment block.

Trying to get a selfie with my travelling companion J and the statue of Liberty in the background.

A group of coastguards were holding a memorial service by the side of the river.

There are still a number of ordinary sized buildings amongst the skyscrapers such as this church.

Staying in the financial district meant we were a stone's throw from Wall Street. I was surprised how many people were wandering around the area on a Saturday.

This is 40 Wall Street. Between 1929 and 1960 the Bank of Manhattan maintained banking facilities in this building. In 1995 it was taken over by the Trump Organisation. A name I couldn't escape!

Not far from Wall Street is the historic Seaport District

This area has some of the oldest architecture in downtown Manhattan with many restored early 19th cent commercial buildings.

From The seaport district I went onto the Brooklyn Bridge. My intention was to walk across and have a look around Brooklyn but time had got the better of me so I just walked half way across. I'll have to eave Brooklyn for another time.

The hotel was just 5 mins from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere - One World Trade Centre known as the Freedom Tower. It replaces the twin towers that were destroyed in 2001. I think the building in the foreground is part of the Memorial Museum.