09.10.2013 - 09.10.2013
Woke up early in the morning for the day-trip to Washington D.C. The bus departed from 125 Park Avenue at Grand Central Station at 7am. A fully seated bus with air-conditioning and Wi-Fi, thank God. Our guide Eddie was born and raised in the United States but had Albanian parents. He guided our tour in both English and French. One couple from India had to complain about pretty much everything! Before the bus even left Grand Central Station they wanted to get off the bus (on the way back) somewhere along Interstate 95. They claimed the bus driver had promised them that. Eddie, who must have had an angels patient, tried to explain that they had bought return-trip tickets to Washington D.C. and that they couldn’t let people off on the highway. The Indian couple then changed their request and just wanted to get off the bus somewhere in Maryland. Once again poor Eddie had to explain that he and the driver had the responsibility to get all passengers back and forth. But if they wanted to they could get off the tour in Washington D.C. They said they had to think about it for a while.
And eventually after long discussions with the Indian couple the bus could leave Central Station only 20 minutes late. About an hour later Eddie announced the bus would make a stop at a service area in Baltimore for breakfast. We had only 40 minutes before the bus where leaving again. And the Indian couple just had to argue with Eddie again. They wanted more than 40 minutes and demanded at least 1 hour. Sigh! And poor Eddie (with a heart of gold) had to convince them that 40 minutes was all the time they would get but we were more than welcome to bring the breakfast with us on the bus to eat. Finally they accepted it and everyone was back on the bus after 40 minutes (even the Indian couple). We continued our drive south towards Washington D.C. After a while the Indian couple was argumentative again. Now they thought the bus driver looked tired and they wanted him replaced. And once again Eddie had to discuss with the couple. It was actually a second driver on the bus just in case but Eddie explained that if the driver would get tired they would switch immediately. All passengers on the bus just shook their heads and sighed loudly and got annoyed over the Indian couple. We finally arrived in Washington D.C. The first distinctive feature knowing you are in Washington D.C is the lack of sky-scrapers.
Facts about Washington D.C...
Washington D.C. or Washington District of Columbia is the US capitol city with wide avenues, parks and many white buildings and monuments. The city doesn’t belong to any state but its own district geographically. District of Columbia covers a 180km2 area along the Potomac Rivers’ west side. But later on the city has been counted in to a big metropolis area together with Baltimore, the so called Baltimore Washington Metropolitan Area, which makes Washington D.C. the fourth biggest city in the United States (after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago).
The city history begins July 16 in 1790, when the Founding Fathers liberated the country’s capitol city from the states and was placed in its own district, District of Columbia. United States first president George Washington had personally chosen the area by the Potomac River in Maryland. They bought a rectangular area from privet owners and in 1791 the city got the name Washington honoring the president. Officially Washington D.C. became capitol city and home for the government in December 1st 1800. Since the city is outside the state system the region answer directly under the congress. Washington D.C. has been spared from violence with exceptions from the war in 1812, when British troops invaded the city and lit the White House and Capitolium on fire. The city development was difficult because of the partially non drained swamp in the area and not many people wanted to settle there. First around 1900 when the city plans came alive the drainage pipe systems developed and avenues and streets planted with trees. New monuments (Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington among others) were built and the city government grew. In year 1945 the United States military headquarter Pentagon was ready.
The White House is the official residence and primary office for the United States President. The White House was built after a congress decision in December 1790 and the architect James Horban got the honor to design. The blue print of the White House was greatly influenced by Leinster House where the Irish government is seated in Dublin. The White House was open for the public until beginning of the 20th century.
Washington D.C. suffered from the 9/11 attacks when Pentagon was attacked by one of the hijacked airplanes. The airplane had just taken off from Washington Dulles International Airport. Some believe a fourth hijacked airplane, United Flight 93, was meant to hit the White House or Capitoleum. The airplane went down in Pennsylvania most likely after the hijackers were overpower by the passengers.
We were supposed to start with a visit to Smithsonian Space Museum but it was closed due to Government Shutdown. So Eddie took us to Arlington National Cemetery instead. It is a famous graveyard that has been sets in many movies and TV series when they are having military or naval burials. On the way over there we passed Pentagon.
Then we stopped at Lincoln Memorial which is a memorial for both Vietnam and Korean War. The security here was extreme. Mounted police officers rode the streets, helicopters flew in the air and K9-units patrolled the ground.
A visit to the city’s local Madame Tussauds was included, but it wasn’t as big as in New York and I think my friend and I walked through the museum in 10 minutes. Then we had time for lunch before gathering at the bus again. The bus was parked on the same street as the theatre where the president Lincoln was shot. He died in the house just across the street though.
When everyone was seated on the bus again we headed for Capitoleum and later the White House. Outside United Secret Service guarded the White House and Eddie told us that sometimes you can actually see the snipers up on the roof. But I couldn’t see anyone. Outside on the street a woman named Conchita has lived since 1981 protesting against pretty much everything. And she was there even today.
This was the last stop in Washington D.C. before the bus drove back towards New York again. And thank God the Indian couple had decided to stay here in Washington and not travel back to New York. I think all passengers on the bus could exhale now, even Eddie. We managed to drive into rush hour traffic in Washington D.C, Baltimore and New York which made us coming back at 10pm. So this trip took 15 hours instead of 13 hours as promised.