Smurfies American Adventure

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Smurfies American Adventure

Post by david63 »

This is some random jottings about our recent trip to America - it is not a day by day account (that would be too boring!). The reason for the trip was to see family who have been posted to the Washington area for three years.

Photos from the trip can be found in my photo album here

We were staying in Annapolis - well to be precise we were in a district of Annapolis called Parole which is about three miles from downtown Annapolis and is a newly created "community" about 10 years old and has everything that you want on the doorstep. The only downside is that there is no public transport and, of course, nobody walks anywhere in America. To get anywhere you have to use a car - even to get to the nearest Metro station it was a 20 minute drive.

A couple of things that we noticed whilst we were there:
  • Since we were last in America (which was about 15 years ago) the type of car has changed dramatically. Gone are most of the big American cars which have been replaced with the likes of Toyotas, Volvos, Nissans, Lexuses etc. It was just like seeing cars in the UK - only there were more of them!
  • America, or at least that part of America where we were was very expensive. Food in the supermarkets was at least the same price as in the UK and in many cases (even with home produce) was more expensive. Whether this was because of the area we were in or is general I cannot say, but it seems that the days of cheap food in America have gone.
We flew from Manchester, via Amsterdam, to Washington Dulles airport with KLM. We have never used KLM before and whilst the level of service was as good as, if not better, that most other airlines that we have used the overall "product" was not that good and it is not an airline I would be rushing to use again - and don't get me started on Amsterdam airport which has to be the worst airport for finding your way around that there is.

As expected getting into America was a pain taking the best part of two hours queuing up to meet the nice Homeland Security man who stamped our passports! (Incidentally the Customs forms are no longer required when entering America)

So where did we go and what did we see (there are not in any particular order)

This is about 30 miles outside Washington and is on the main tourist route of American history. Its claims to fame are:
  • It was the first capital of America.
  • It was the place where George Washington resigned his commission and effectively gave the country to the people.
  • t has the oldest continually used State House in America.
  • It is the place where Kunta Kinte of Roots fame arrived as a slave in America.
  • It is the home of the American Naval Academy which you can, and we did, visit. This is effectively a university where students go for four years and when/if they graduate can then go into the Navy or Marines. The curriculum has three aspects - academic, military and sport and the sport budget alone is claimed to be in the region if $38 million.
Washington was a place that we really liked. It was nowhere near as manic and busy as London and getting around using the Metro was far easier than using the London Underground.

One really good point is that virtually all the "attractions" are free to enter as they are either Government buildings or are owned by the Smithsonian Institution (which incidentally was founded by the Englishman James Smithson who never visited America)

The sites that we visited were done over the course of several days. I should point out that most of the time that we were in Washington the temperature was in the low to mid 30's which did impact on the amount of walking that we could do in one day.
  • White House - could not really see much of it due to the security and that work that was being done to the perimeter fencing.
  • Washington Monument - the tall obelisk that you see on the photos of Washington. We were unable to go up to the top of it as it was being "renovated". Why is it that wherever you go these days that everywhere is covered in scaffolding and being restored?
  • Space Museum - interesting but far too big and much of it closed as it was being extended.
  • Native Indian Museum - disappointing as there was not much about the Native Indians but a lot about things connected to the Indians.
  • Botanical Gardens - these are in the centre of Washington and are a nice quiet place to spend an hour or so but unless you are an expert of tropical plants are very much the same as any other botanical gardens that I have visited.
  • Capitol Building - the equivalent of our Parliament and is quite an impressive building but you can only go on an organised tour and are strictly controlled as to where you can go. The only thing that I would have liked to have seen that was not included on the tour would have been to see the two chambers.
  • Library of Congress - this is accesses via a tunnel from the Capitol Building and is another spectacular building which houses, amongst other items, the Jefferson collection and a Gutenberg Bible.
  • Ford's Theatre and Peterson House - this is where Abraham Lincoln was shot and the house to which he was taken where there is the bed in which he died. There is also a very interesting museum about Lincoln's times and the Civil War in the basement of the Theatre. The theatre is still a working theatre.
  • Chinatown - just to look at the Chinese Arch.
  • National Archives - where the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights are on display - although they are virtually impossible to read.
  • Monuments - There are quite a few monuments in Washington but fortunately they are all in one area and it is possible to visit them all in a couple of hours:
    • WWII Monument - Impressive.
    • Lincoln Monument - Probably the most famous (after the Washington Monument) and is spectacular with its reflection in the pool in font of it. Lincoln himself is massive!
    • Korean War Monument - This is excellent (it is the one with all the soldiers in a representation of a field) and has a wall with etchings of many servicemen on behind it.
    • Martin Luther King Monument - A large stone stature of MLK
    • FD Roosevelt Monument - this was probably the most interesting of all of the monuments as it showed various scenes from his life with many profound quotes on the walls. Unfortunately over the winter there had been a problem with flooding so none of the waterfalls were working!
    • Jefferson Monument - Another monument that is currently undergoing restoration.
Arlington Cemetery - This is actually walkable from the area of the monuments in Washington but in the heat it was easier to go on the Metro. A very impressive cemetery and is just as you see in the photos or on TV. There is a Ho-Ho that takes you round and stops at the mail "attractions" such as JFK's grave and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where the changing of the guard takes place.

We were told that anyone who has served in the US Military has the right to be buried there and that a headstone will be provided. Also within the next five years Arlington will run out of space.

Mount Vernon - This is the home, and burial place, of George Washington and is about an hour's dive from Washington. Much of the site has been, or is being, restored to its original condition and is a very pleasant place to spend a couple of hours. We also took a short "cruise" from here on the Potomac River.

Fort McHenry - This is in Baltimore and is significant in that it is where the American believe that they defeated the British in 1812 and is considered home to the Stars and Stripes and the American National Anthem (The Star-Spangled Banner) - did you know that the tune for the The Star-Spangled Banner was written by the Englishman John Stafford Smith?

Shenandoah - This is a national park about two hours outside Washington and is famous for its Black Bears - none of which made an appearance whilst we were there. We spent a couple of days there and a a couple of walks. On the return journey we visited the Luray Caverns which are probably the most spectacular stalagmites and stalactites that I have seen.

Sorry for the long ramblings!!

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Re: Smurfies American Adventure

Post by GillD46 »

Sounds a very interesting trip.

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Re: Smurfies American Adventure

Post by Manoverboard »

Brings back a few memories :thumbup: .

As an aside we went during the Springtime when the cherry blossoms are out …. it's a wonderful time to go.
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Re: Smurfies American Adventure

Post by cruisin_duo »

David, thank you for the report. Like Manoverboard, it brings back a few memories, not least that it was in the 30s when we went, and was very hot.

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