A Travellerspoint blog

Land of the Free Museum

all seasons in one day
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Our day began at the notorious Watergate Complex, located on the banks of the Potomac River.


In 1972, the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, located on the sixth floor, were broken into on the orders of officials in the Nixon administration. Nixon's attempt to cover up their involvement ultimately led to his resignation - the only president in history to do so. That it took place here is, of course, the reason that every scandal since has been labelled with the suffix 'gate'.

A short walk south, at the opposite end of the National Mall to the Capitol, is the Lincoln Memorial. Inside the building is a huge statue of the great man himself.


From here, looking back towards the Capitol, is the Washington Memorial and Reflecting Pool. Unfortunately the pool wasn't doing much reflecting - it's in the process of being renovated so was just a large rectangle of earth.


On the National Mall there are a large number of free museums - both government owned and those run by the Smithsonian Institution - so we were spoiled for choice as to how to spend the afternoon. We started with the National Museum of American History. Among the exhibits was a huge flag, raised by soldiers in Baltimore in 1814, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star-Spangled Banner. That it was adopted as the national anthem as recently as 1931 was another reminder of how young the United States is. Nearby, at the National Archives, we joined a long queue to see the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Unfortunately photography was prohibited.

Our final destination was the National Air and Space Museum, a huge building that houses planes...


...rockets, moon buggies and a moon lander. Not a mere replica, but one that was built to be sent to the moon.


The weather has been hot and humid since we arrived in DC. We left to return to the hostel just as a thunderstorm was brewing.


Posted by shoestring 18:41 Archived in USA Tagged memorial museum usa lincoln washington dc smithsonian watergate institution Comments (1)

We See DC

all seasons in one day
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We spent fourteen hours yesterday travelling to Washington, DC. Today, after a good night's sleep, we headed to the centre of the city and the Capitol. It's undeniably impressive.



A newly built underground visitor centre deals efficiently with the large number of people visiting the seat of government in the US - more than six million since it opened at the end of 2008.


We booked our tour online to guarantee admission though there didn't appear to be any problem with just turning up. After being ushered into a theatre to watch a short film detailing the history of the Capitol and the function of Congress we were assigned a tour guide who showed us round the building.


The central dome is huge. It was surprising to learn that it was still unfinished at the onset of the civil war. President Lincoln ordered that work continue to indicate faith in the union.


At its centre is a fresco entitled The Apotheosis of Washington, painted in eleven months by Italian artist Constantino Brumidi, soon after the completion of the dome. It depicts the first US president ascending to heaven.


Immediately beneath the dome is the Capitol Rotunda, where ex-presidents and eminent citizens lie in state. Below this, in the crypt, is a star that marks the place the city is divided into its four quadrants.


We left to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue. At number 935 is the J Edgar Hoover Building, which houses the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


And at number 1600 is Obama's residence - the White House.


Hard as we looked we couldn't see any snipers on the roof. However, to the right of the picture below there is what looks like a tripod. Perhaps the sniper was having a cigarette break...


Posted by shoestring 15:28 Archived in USA Tagged white building house usa tour washington dc capitol government congress Comments (1)

There Once was a Man from Nantucket

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Nantucket is a small island near Martha's Vineyard, off the coast of Cape Cod. It's a two-and-a-quarter hour ferry ride from Hyannis, where our hostel's located, and yesterday we made the trip over. Martha's Vineyard was cheaper to get to but we'd heard it was rather overdeveloped. Besides, we hoped to meet the famous man from Nantucket.


The island was once a whaling port - immortalised in Moby Dick - and we spotted several whales in unexpected places.



Nowadays it's a community of some 10,000 people - with many more than that visiting in the summer. The quaint streets are filled with shops selling souvenirs.


And of course there are plenty of sea views.



As we wandered the island we had great fun composing limericks, only one of which is publishable here:

We wanted to visit Nantucket,
And thought we could cross in a bucket.
But our pail was too small,
And we were too tall,
So after it sank we said: 'Let's get the ferry!'

Posted by shoestring 12:29 Archived in USA Tagged sea boat beach island usa massachusetts nantucket Comments (3)

The Price of an Education

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Boston has more than its fair share of educational institutions. We stayed in a hostel that, during term time, serves as a hall of residence for Boston University. Then there's the Massachusetts Institute of Technology up the road in Cambridge. Also in Cambridge is the country's oldest, most famous and most prestigious (and no doubt most expensive) university - Harvard.

The university was founded in 1636 and named after English clergyman John Harvard. The statue pictured below, with the engraving 'John Harvard, Founder, 1638', is actually modelled on someone entirely different.


The cost? Well if you want to study here you're not going to get much change from $50,000 per year. We wandered around the campus yesterday to see what that gets you.

As a first year you'd get to stay in some nice-looking dorms.



The neoclassical Langdell Hall, part of the Law School, is home to the largest academic law library in the world.


And Widener Library is the centerpiece of the largest university library system in the world.


Time to start saving!

Posted by shoestring 06:01 Archived in USA Tagged university usa cambridge massachusetts college dorm library boston harvard Comments (1)

Where's Wally? Part 5

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It's been a while but he's back! Wally is off to university, see if you can find him hiding in the grounds at Harvard.

Posted by shoestring 05:54 Archived in USA Comments (2)

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