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Washington, D.C. photos


U.S.A. facts & history in brief        U.S.A. Map

Washington DC the capital and administrative centre of the USA.
It is bounded on one side by the Potomac River and by the state of Maryland on the other sides and covers 111 sq km. (69 sq miles).
In 1790, during George Washington's Presidency, the US Congress chose the Potomac as a natural midpoint that would satisfy both northern and southern states to set up the District of Columbia as the national capital.
There was the added advantage, that it was just across the river from George Washington's home in Mount Vernon.
The Congress met in Philadelphia, New York, and Princeton among a variety of cities before that.
It is named after George Washington, in whose presidency it was established, on land ceded to Congress by Maryland and Virginia to create the District of Columbia (named for Christopher Columbus), an area 'ten miles square' (26 sq km).
It was planned and partly laid out by a French engineer, Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant, whose work was completed by Major Andrew Ellicott and Benjamin Banneker, after L'Enfant was fired.
In 1793 work started on the ornate Capitol and torched by British troops in 1812.
A vote to abandon the capital was lost by only nine votes in the years following.
Charles Dickens wrote of 'the City of Magnificent Distances,' complaining about 'spacious avenues that begin in nothing and lead nowhere, streets, mile-long, that only want houses, roads, and inhabitants, public buildings that need but a public', after visiting Washington.
During the Civil War construction of the elaborate Capitol dome was nearly abandoned until President Lincoln remarked, 'If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union shall go on.
After he was assassinated the Washington assumed the nations leadership.
A beautification plan at the turn of the century added most of the landscaping, parks, and monuments for which Washington is now well known.
John F Kennedy, called it 'a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.'
Washington's is a beautiful city with it's tree-lined avenues and impressive architecture with many famous buildings including the Congress building, the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon, the White House, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Art Gallery and many other museums.
Today's Washington is ringed by a freeway called the Beltway, which divides the urban insiders from the suburbans.
The Capitol building isn't just the symbolic centre of Washington.
The city is divided into four compass-point points, N. Capitol St, E. Capitol St, S. Capitol St and the Mall.
Identical addresses appear in all four quadrants, which could be rather confusing for new comers, especially ones that are not familiar with the 'American' street system. (Like yours truly).

Hui Chin and I didn't get the Limousine and red carpet service on our arrival to Washington.
The airport was rebuilt or expanded or something similarly disruptive and chaotic, since my last visit to Washington.
The old lady at the 'information kiosk' probably wished we would disappear for interrupting her doing visibly nothing.
There was no one else there and she was looking at us approaching, but her answers were curt and negative.
She was wearing a name tag with 'volunteer' emphasised on it.
She wasn't volunteering much information our way.
We wanted to know how to get to downtown cheaply and whether there was any organised city sightseeing tour and any good budget accommodation in or near downtown etc.
We were told the only way to downtown was by taxi, for between $35-$50.
(We are talking US dollars here too, poor New Zealanders.
We are very disadvantaged when we travel overseas, because the value of our dollar is very distorted by an 'artificial exchange rate'.
While we can purchase more with our dollar at home we loose more than half at the time of writing at the exchange.) and that the driver will know the best hotels for us.
Great help.
After asking a couple of not-so-pompous and more helpful airport stuff, we found the public bus outside, which took us to the nearest metro station, that took us right to downtown.
After leaving our bags in the lockers at the Union Station, we found the 'sightseeing buses' right outside the station.
It was one of those user friendly service, where you can hop-on and hop-off at the major sights to have time for a 'good look'.
So off we went to see the attractions of Washington, the grand Capitol, sitting majestically on a small manmade hill.
While inside we joined a conducted tour before we visited the Library of Congress, (Some library, they get a copy of every book printed just about anywhere, so we were told) not far away.
The White House was our next stop.
Although, because of 9/11, we couldn't see as much as I did see in 1996.
This applied to many places in Washington and many places in the US.
Our sightseeing included the Federal Bureau of Investigation headquarters where we saw some crime laboratories, DNA testing, many confiscated items before and a live machine-gun demonstration.
We took a lift up the Washington Monument to learn about its chequered beginning (Took more than 37 years to complete) and walked back down the stairway.
The Lincoln Memorial was next on our list, which of course had to coincide with the bus's route.
Than we went to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its many notes, medals, flowers and mementoes left by survivors, family and friends.
One of the more interesting hands-on experiences was the Smithsonian Institution's National Air & Space Museum with it's many full-size air and spacecraft, including the Wright brothers' plane and the Apollo IX.
There are about 13 museums and zoos included in the Smithsonian Institution on the Mall.
As most tours we ended up in Arlington National Cemetery where we visited the Tomb of the Unknowns, changing of the guard and the graves of President Kennedy with its 'Eternal Flame', Robert Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which is just outside Washington, so is the Pentagon, which we couldn't tour inside.
Guess why?
That 9/11 again.
We found our brief visit to the C&O Canal National Historic Park quiet interesting with it's locks and history.

You can click on these photos for an enlargement.


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