- well almost never!
25.05.2016 - 28.05.2016
Started: Room 326 (again!), Kimpton Hotel Monaco, Washington DC 15.43 EDT, Friday 27th May,
finished Room 504, Hilton Garden Inn, Frederick, Maryland, 18.12 EDT, Sunday 29th May
On Wednesday afternoon, I think it was, (we have had a problem with days, as well as time, this week) we bid farewell, reluctantly, to Anchorage and to the 49th state of the Union, vowing to return in the not too distant to discover more of its fabulous secrets.
We had time in the morning for a potter and even a IHOP (International House of Pancakes) breakfast, at Arthur's behest. We checked out at 12 and drove round the corner to Ted Stevens, the Anchorage airport, returned the car and got checked in with Alaska Airlines, all pretty painlessly.
Then we learned there was a delay to our flight. We had a reasonable connection at Seattle so it shouldn't be a problem though this meant we had rather a long spell in the Alaska Airlines "boardroom" as they call their lounges but it had a great view of the goings on at the airport so time quickly passed. Freight traffic with Asia is the biggest part of this airport's business as we watched one 747 freighter after another land and take off in rapid succession. Any boredom was relieved when one jumbo (we think a China Air) did a go around. There was no emergency as no fire engines appeared so we assumed the captain had not got his landing quite right on the first attempt. This did seem to hold up proceedings for a while, though.
Time was made up on our incoming plane's turnaround and we were only about 30 minutes late getting off. We were greeted by a charming FA (flight attendant) who had come in from Juneau, via Ketchika and Cordova who even had time to show us her holiday snaps from Juneau which, she said, was well worth a visit. Right then! And we were also served a reasonable "lunch" of a turkey and beef roll. We were soon approaching Seattle where we had about 90 minutes in the very cramped "Boardroom" lounge.
Boarding our American Airlines flight to Charlotte we were greeted by a very camp black female FA in very high heels who kept us entertained as she prepared for take off, taking the time to serve our "Pre Departure Beverages" along with doing all the other chores. For the safety briefing she was joined by an equally camp and well-proportioned FA from the back and they proceeded to do their "Oxygen Masks" double act!
No meal on this flight but a very acceptable fruit and cheese plate, except that was accompanied by a dry roll, with a pack of dry crackers as well as a packet of dry Carrs Water Biscuits! This was a flight through the night so we tried listening to a "Paul Temple" episode as these usually send us to sleep. It sort-of worked and we cat napped our way to Charlotte and, before we knew it, we had 15 minutes before landing to get organised.
Charlotte was an old US Airways hub so had now been Incorporated into the AA system. A very busy hub as we found out as we battled with the crowds going in the opposite direction. It was quite a tight connection but we were in early and luckily had time to admire the absolutely splendid old US Airways "Envoy" lounge as they used to call it.
Is Vannesa Feltz still on Radio 2? Well she also has a job on American Airlines as it was she who looked after us on the short hop from Charlotte into Ronald Reagan airport which is right across the Potomac river from Washington DC. As we have since discovered, the aircraft coming in to DCA are ever present on the Washington landscape. Most pictures of the Lincoln memorial, for example, will almost certainly include a 737 bobbing down onto the very short runway there.
The heat, humidity, traffic and hoards of tourists (mainly school kids on organised trips) did come as a shock to us after the cool and relative calm of Alaska. Gosh was it hot and humid, and still is! But with patience, and one detour to avoid hold ups, organised by Lorie our TomTom lady, we arrived safely at our very nice hotel, the Monaco in our silver Nissan Pathfinder.
First off at the hotel, we were given a room that was still occupied (we'd managed to reserve a room from 10am so that we could rest after our long journey) another and better room was soon organised and we went out for a rather bewildering first walk before having a siesta in time for our evening treat.
Free happy hour at Kimpton hotels with wine, soft drinks and snacks
Yes, at first Washington seems totally overwhelming. All those so familiar sights plus countless and very grand government & state buildings as well as a seemingly never-ending collection of museums and institutions along with stores, offices and expensive, very expensive restaurants (nothing is cheap here)!
On our first evening we'd organised a personal tour of the main sights given that we'd never get to grips with the place in the 2½ days we had here. This was excellent and we were driven to the Capitol, then on to the various monuments, dodging, where we could, the hoards and hoards and.... of school kids on admirable organised school trips to learn all about their heritage. Though they got in the way of good photos, they were generally well behaved and respectful. We had our own driver, Khalid and guide, Tom, who was knowledgeable & helpful. and gave us a marvellously insightful introduction to this somewhat overwhelming city.
This town is full of tourist of all ages but the average has to be under 20!
Not-so-Secret Service agent
Tom, our brilliant guide... and photographer.... for the evening
Next day we got up early to try and achieve John's ambition of having the Lincoln Memorial to ourselves. We got there before 7 and, though we were far from being alone, the others mainly being joggers as well as Japanese trying to achieve that perfect but for-ever-elusive selfie or group photo. (We've concluded that so many tourists only take in what they have come to see through a viewfinder or phone screen. And, the further East you're from, the more anxious you get about the whole process!)
Even at that time, the heat and humidity was exhausting though we persisted and wandered through the National Mall, past the very impressive WWII Memorial, to the Washington Memorial (the needle) then over toward the Jefferson Memorial and then back to the White House.
The National Mall has many memorials and there are more planned. This one, remembering the Korean War, was particularly evocative. War.... we must remember what devastation war brings
A fairly recent addition is the WWII Memorial. Very thought provoking
From there we hailed a cab and went for breakfast at the Library of Congress canteen where we had a great breakfast at cheap prices with ne'er a tourist in sight and just a few civil servants, the rest, we presumed, having taken a long Memorial weekend.
We struggled through the heat past the Congress building to magnificent Union Station. This was particularly busy with people arriving and departing for Memorial Weekend. We sat, illegally, in the waiting area (we should have had a ticket) to recover some of our strength and have a welcome bottle of soda.
On the way back we spent a couple of happy hours in the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art, which is dead opposite our hotel. Brilliant!
We had a little rest and another wander, looking somewhere affordable for a meal, ending up at a Fudruckers (Arthur, quiet!).
Trump already buying up Washington? He has bought the old Post Office building and is converting into a hotel
At the back of the hotel was a "Spanish" restaurant. Not quite Mazarron prices! We gave up waiting to place an order and ended up at aforementioned Fudruckers.
You will all know the famous sights from the capital city so we've tried to select some that give a slightly different perspective.
Yesterday, Saturday, we again got up fairly early and got the car out of valet parking to see what we could see at Arlington Cemetary (sic). You may have realised that this is Memorial Weekend so it was expected that the cemetery would be particularly busy. But despite scores of tour buses and many cars and motorbikes arriving we were surprised how easy it was to get tickets for the trolley tour which saved our poor old feet when exploring this massive cemetery. We saw what we went to see, the Kennedy grave and the eternal flame. We also watched the changing of the guard at the Unknown Soldiers' tomb. We came through the visitors centre to pay the parking fee and, by then, it was jammed with people as were some of the roads thereabout. But we made it safely back to the hotel, by a somewhat circuitous route.
I have to relate that dear old Laurie really did let us down on the way to the cemetery. Perhaps I misunderstood one of her directions but, to get us back on the right road, she wanted us to drive right into the Pentagon (which is on that side of the river and is not in DC). I decided we did not have the correct passes to get past the massive security there. But then, she took us right into Fort Myers. A heavily guarded fort on the edge of the cemetery. There was no way back. We had to enter the camp but, luckily, I don't think we could ever have been the only ones to have gone wrong and the heavily armed guards cheerfully waved their butts at us (rifle butts that is) towards the Uturn loop specially designed for idiots like us!
Though even more exhausted, we battled down F Street to find somewhere for a late breakfast. We ended up in a Pot Belly sandwich bar where breakfast had finished and they did not make coffee at the weekends. Never mind we had a nice sandwich. Then we staggered into the cool of the magnificent Willard hotel (hotel to presidents). By this time they were serving afternoon tea for a cool $49 (plus tax) per head. We resisted the temptation!
We got back to the hotel to find at least 2 weddings being prepared for. With wedding photos going on outside our room, the adjoining room being apparently used as a nursery with at least 2 kids screaming in there and music pouring down the stairs, we decided to try and get moved. And they did, move us, but to one of their "basement" rooms. At least it's quiet down here and will be negotiating a reduction to our bill tomorrow!
It's difficult for us to assess Washington. It' s very busy. very hot and overrun with visitors (like us!). It's expensive and almost has just too many attractions to cope with. Probably the best thing said is we probably will not be rushing back. We've come to see and do what we wanted to do. Unlike a New York, it is doubtful it will be beckoning us back anytime soon! But we did enjoy our stay here and found it most rewarding, if a bit tiring.
Stop Press: Knock on our door and a tray of red wine + cheese & biscuits with a note of apology from the Manager has arrived. We'll see what happens with the bill in the morning. Watch this space.!
Stop Stop Press: On checkout, the delightful clerk said "anything we can do to make things right". I suggested waiving the valet parking fees which she duly did!
And finally, our thoughts following the moving experience of Arlington where the results of war were all too obvious. We just hope and pray that any changes that may or may not happen in the next few months on both sides of the Atlantic will not make war more likely!