Wednesday 17th September – Friday 19th September
Washington DC, USA
Although there is a huge amount to do in DC, we managed to have a relaxing five days there. We stayed in an apart-hotel in Georgetown, a very nice suburb of Washington (which is actually older than the city itself). On the first evening, we ate a wonderful meal at a restaurant called Unum, which was literally at the top of our street, including a starter featuring basil ice-cream.
Smithsonian Museum of American History, Washington DC
One of the best things about Washington is the multiple Smithsonian museums (which we learnt were named for an English guy called Smithson who never even visited the US, but who promised to leave a large legacy to the US government if they named an institution of learning after him – some good fundraising there!).
They are all free, and there are way more of them than anyone could cover during even a two-week stay, so on Thursday we chose to focus on the Museum of American History. Even that one venue is too big to cover in one visit, so we decided to take a free, ninety minute highlights tour with a docent (a volunteer), which was an excellent introduction to the various exhibits.
The crowning glory of the museum is the actual flag about which The Star-Spangled Banner was written 200 years ago (see Simon’s previous post), which is thirty feet high and was originally forty feet long. It is now somewhat shorter (and is even missing one star) as sections were cut off and given as souvenirs to various dignitaries in the 1800s! Seeing it tied in neatly with a theme of our trip so far, as the flag was made in Philadelphia and flown in Baltimore, and is now displayed in Washington. Photos of the flag itself were not allowed, but the picture above shows the artwork at the entrance to the exhibit.
Washington Nationals ballpark, Navy Yards
Unfortunately the Nats were playing away while we were in Washington, so we were unable to see a game here (though we did see the team play back in New York, at the Mets). However, it gave us an opportunity to do an ‘access all areas’ tour of the Nats’ ground. This included visiting some of the best seats in the park, in the Presidents’ Suite (not actually where the President sits when he comes to games, but the suite features photos of all the Presidents that have thrown a ceremonial first pitch, back to William Taft in the early 1900s). Tickets for this area, right behind home plate, include access to an all-you-can eat restaurant, which includes a view of the room where press conferences take place and of the indoor batting cages (so you can watch players warming up before they go and play or keeping warm in the even of a rain delay).
The tour also included a visit to the home dugout:
Finally, we were given a chance to throw a pitch in the home bullpen (where substitute pitchers warm up during the game). It was brave of everyone to stand so near to Simon, given that he has never thrown a pitch before! The tour was great fun, and was made even better by some very excited Nats fans on the tour with us!
Quote of the day
“When I was a small boy in Kansas, a friend of mine and I went fishing and as we sat there in the warmth of the summer afternoon on a riverbank we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him that I wanted to be a real major league baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he’d like to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.”
President Dwight D Eisenhower [from a display in the Presidents’ Suite, at the Nationals’ ballpark]