When most of us think of Washington DC we think, America's capitol city, home of the president, monument after monument steeped in U.S. history, a city of sophisticated suits who'd rather partake in a lively debate instead of a night out on the tiles!
Well for most part this is pretty much the case, Washington DC is the capitol of America, it is the home of the president (Barac Obama for a second term in case any of you have been hiding under a stone somewhere) and it does feature more monuments than most other states in America can swing a baseball bat at! But these are all good things, amazing things if I'm honest because this is why you go to Washington, to experience America's capitol city and all the history it has. One of the things that struck me about it was, it's not a typical high rise American style city, it's a lot more subdued and respectful to it's surroundings which I really liked, it felt less manic and more suitable to an Irishman.
Now I'm not forgetting about the stereotypical idea of the people here all being either business people or, perish the thought, politicians! But the fact of the matter is there are a lot of these guys floating around, HELLO! it's the policital capitol of the U.S. what do you expect? But in saying this, Washington DC is such a tourist attraction for both U.S. citizens and international tourists alike so chances are you won't really notice an overwhelming amount of business people apart from maybe in and around the White House itself.
I suppose I should give a quick intro into why and how we travelled for this trip. First off there were four of us from Tour America who were travelling to take part in the Marine Corps Marathon which boasts over 30,000 participants and takes over the city for one day of the year. We were joined by Terry Smith from Virgin Atlantic, Terry was also joining us on our marathon quest, taking part in the madness. Terry was kind enough to get us upgraded to Premium Economy which gave us access to the Virgin Lounge and allowed us to travel in style all of which was out of this world and something I'd recommend to anyone taking this long trip. Kick starting your holiday from the airport in style is the only way to go in my opinion.
Where we stayed:
We stayed in the fabulous Dupont Circle in DC and the location could not have been any better, it's in a lovely area, smack bang in the middle of DC so great access to transport links, restaurants and bars and just a really good 4* hotel. The staff were fantastic and even had fruit, energy bars and Gatorade laid out for us the morning of the marathon at 5am (it's the little touches isn't it). The bar in the Dupont is well known to locals, a great spot with big floor to ceiling windows so you can people watch to your hearts content.
Things to do:
The bike and roll tour is without doubt the best way to get around DC when doing the tourist trail, it is really so easy and even though we didn't do the actual tour and were left to our devices, we still took in everything we wanted to see. People might think, oh no, cycling around Washington for the day sounds like too much hard work, I promise you it isn't, Washington is a relatively flat city so you won't find yourself out of breath at all. We also took a trip to the highly recommended Newseum, this is a must see although it's not well advertised locally and not many of the staff in the hotel knew where it was so you'll need to research this a bit before you leave the hotel to get there. You can easily spend a few hours wandering around as it has 6 floors!!
We also took an interesting but not that well known tour called the 'Washington Food Tour' which takes you on a walking tour of the streets of Washington including a history lesson at various points on the way all while stopping off in four restaurants to sample different types of food. We sampled Indian, Greek, Italian and traditional food which was amazing and we met some lovely people from different walks of life that we would never have had the pleasure to meet if we had not done the tour. We all thought this was a real hidden gem of an experience.
Then of course there's the famous monuments and museums like The White House, Capitol Hill, Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian, Constitution Gardens, the list goes on and on and a must for anyone visiting DC.
Without doubt the Metro system is the best way to get around Washington DC. It's cheap, regular, very safe and one of the easiest systems I've seen to understand when working out what line brings you where. Word of warning, don't get alarmed when you take the elevator down into the stations, Washington DC has some of the deepest underground stations I've ever seen, it's like taking a 'journey to the centre of the earth', or at least it feels like that at times :-)
The big one, the marathon!
I couldn't finish without giving a quick piece on this. So we joined 30,000 other people and ran the world famous Washington Marine Corps marathon and my God it was hard! It may have taken us a bit longer than we thought (quickest was Gabriel in 3 hours 50 minutes) but we all did it and received a stunning medal as our reward, something I think we'll all cherish for the rest of our lives. If you are thinking of doing something like this you could do a lot worse than the Washington marathon, the buzz of the crowd is electric with official U.S. army personal everywhere, it's a strange feeling but one you can't help feeling proud to be part of.
So did I like Washington? Yes, I loved it, the history, the sense of grandeur and the wonderful bars and restaurants the city has to offer, for me it's a great place to go and so much I didn't even get to see and do while there which only increases it's appeal to me. If it's culture, history and a less hectic kind of place you're after, Washington DC is definitely the place to go and one that won't brake the bank.
United Airlines now operate a daily service from Dublin airport to Washington, direct so you've no excuse to ignore this wonderful city.