Cross Country Tour Begins

Washington DC, 09/02/2016

2 September

First day of the bus tour today, our bags get picked up about an hour before we all meet in the lobby for a 8am departure.

Both Matt and I are very wary of the crowd as they all look very old and some look very odd, our initial perceptions are oh my god what are we doing. We also get some odd looks from some on the tour because I am much younger than most on the tour let alone Matt, most are old enough to be his grandparents. We board the bus and Doris begins her morning briefing in her very American accent.

We head back through the Lincoln Tunnel and make our way out of the city.

First stop Philadelphia just a couple of hours later, the bus is quite comfortable but Doris has mentioned something about rotating seats which has got Matt and I worried as we are not overly keen on sitting with others. We stop in Philadelphia and Doris gives us some tips on what to see and the meeting point back to the bus.

Had a look at the Liberty Bell display, then wandered over to Independence Hall, the lines to get inside were long so we didn’t go in rather opting to explore the area a bit; we found Washington Park and a fantastic old mall which looked like a good place for lunch.

The food hall was over 100 years old, a vintage mall if you like something very different from our malls in NZ the oldest is Lynnmall from the 70’s. It was quite ornate we climbed some stairs to get a better look and were stopped by a security guard who very politely explained that the next level was off limits unless we had an appointment, he was cool about it and understood we were just trying to get a better view.

We headed back to the bus and got on board, it wasn’t a huge place all the attractions to look at were no more than a couple of blocks, but one bloke managed to wander off and get lost, we had to wait around while he was located, the tour director was very understanding in her words but her tone and facials told a different story. Poor Edward as we got to know him over the trip it’s clear he was in early stages of dementia or something. His mind wandered off a lot.

However it never pays to write someone off and Edward turned out to be quite an interesting bloke when you got him talking about his past he was good as gold and he had quite some stories to tell.

Back on the bus and off to our next food and watering stop in a couple of hours, there is a loo on board but they ask we don’t use it except in emergencies. Much to our horror Doris then handed out card and stickers for everyone to make name tags to hang by their seat despite our amusement at such kindergarten type of activity we went along and our seat was marked by a large shark and planet Jupiter, the least “girlie” things we could find lol.

Our break stop was Maryland House, which is basically a giant truck stop in the middle of the Interstate, literally in the middle the interstate runs either side and curves around it to make space for it, the food hall has loads of food places, and they call it a travel plaza.

We arrived at our hotel in Alexandria just outside Washington DC in the afternoon. It overlooked a tennis courts and dog walking park, in a leafy suburb. The Plutomic River is just a stone’s throw from the hotel and as soon as we got our bags stowed we went exploring.

We wandered down to the river first and there were brick villa’s lining the river with a park running between them and the water, stood on some rocks on the riverbed looking out at the view, some local guy came up to me and very kindly informed me that he had seen a snake in the area I was standing in and decided to warn me as I was in Jandals, nice bloke needless to say I moved away from the rocks pretty quickly.

From there we walked back up toward the hotel and to the grocery store to grab some supplies.

Alexandria is a really nice little town, it has a festive feel to it reminds me a little of Devonport, the nightlife is mostly down around the riverside, and there are ferry’s and a paddle-boat taking people out on cruises as well as loads of folk walking the riverside, heaps of really cool pubs and restaurants in the riverside area which is just a short walk from our hotel.

We wandered around the local area for a bit looked for a Laundromat as we were in need of doing some clothing, then we headed to the

downtown area, and checked out the cafes, restaurants and bars. We dropped the laundry off for a pick up tomorrow.

Stopped at John Strong bow’s tavern for a couple of pints, old English style pub they had a good selection of ales on tap. After the beers we walked up and down the main road looking for somewhere nice for dinner and settled on a Greek restaurant called Taverna Creteko turns out it was a bloody good choice, fantastic service, friendly staff great atmosphere and the food was amazing.

After dinner we walked down toward the river again, this time in the downtown part and explored all the goings on, some street entertainers and loads of bars and restaurants down by the shoreline it had a vibrant but not crowded feel to it, I liked it here.

After we had a look around and watched some of the street entertainers we headed back to the hotel via the river front.

We stopped off at Harris Teeter a local grocery shop and picked some supplies. Then we made the short walk back to the hotel at about 9PM.

3 September

Saturday morning and we wake up in Alexandria opened the curtains to a great day and people playing tennis and walking their dogs, including some family walking their dogs who were having some kind of argument which we were trying to figure out, ha ha people watching at its finest.

We head down to the lobby for today’s bus tour of Washington, I am looking forward to seeing the iconic monuments, also need to find out if we can get across to the Aerospace Space Museum in Chantilly Virginia a sister museum to the Smithsonian in Washington and where the 3rd Shuttle I will see on my visit is on display.

Took us about half an hour to drive to Arlington Cemetery where we picked up a local guide who gave us the grand tour.

Loads of amazing memorials in the cemetery marking the various wars and the soldiers that gave their lives for their country, a highlight for me was the John F Kennedy memorial which looks out over the

Capitol building and has an eternal flame along with monument containing some of Kennedy’s inspirational words.

The Vietnam and Korean war monuments were spectacular and a little different a lot of thought has gone into them.

From there we headed back on the bus and off to the Lincoln Memorial, so cool to stand by something I had seen many times as a child in text books and travel brochure movies etc. It is an inspiring sight and has a great view of the Washington Mall.

We walked around and had a look at the Korean War monument before getting back on the bus and heading to the Whitehouse.

After a quick look at the Whitehouse and some snapshots, we only had an hour here we headed off to the Smithsonian Museums.

If there is one place I would really like to have had more time it is here, there were so many museums to see and we had so little time.

We are a bit rushed today so it was a flying visit to the Smithsonian

and grabbed a quick McDonalds before getting a cab out to The Stephen Udvey Center in Virginia.

It took about an hour by cab to get to the Stephen Udvey Center and $90 odd bucks US, but so worth it given what we saw there.

Some highlights were the Shuttle the Blackbird and the Horton Brothers Stealth Bomber as well as the Enola Gay.

2 hours later and over 200 photo’s later we stopped off at the gift shop and grabbed some more McDonalds to fill Matt’s ever present hunger.

Then had a minor panic as we realised we were going to be pushing it to get back in time to collect our laundry, and I could not get her on the phone.

Another expensive taxi ride and we got back to Alexandria just in time to pick up the laundry we had dropped off the day before.

All and all it was a pretty full on and rushed day.


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