The sun rises for the last morning on Washington DC for us.
I feel as though it would be safe to say that we have had a inquire experience in Washington DC. A very full experience. We have experienced the crazy side of Washington DC, and we have experienced the generosity of Washington DC. We have been blown away by the immense amount of incredible experiences you can have while at Washington, all at your fingertips.
All of them, world class.
With so many of them free to the public.
That is impressive.
Seriously impressive, and the ones that you have to pay for, make it worth you while. We were able to see the White House (from a distance, because you need to book it with your embassy 6 months in advance), Capital Hill, the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery, The Pentagon, The National Archives, The International Spy Museum, Smithsonian Conservatory, The National Gallery of Art and The Air & Space Museum. That is a lot, yes, but it flowed perfectly, and we got it all done through public transport and walking in 4 nights.
For our last day, we have to take our bags into the city and dump them somewhere. We remember that there was a bag check at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), so we head there and dump our bags. We are greeted by this security guard, who is both assertive and polite. Most of the time I have found that the guards are either too staunch to come across as human beings, or they are just your mates straight up.
This bloke balanced them both perfectly. I felt like I knew my place, but still respected. It was a feeling that I’m not used to, to be honest.
We found out that we have mates in Washington right now. Ali and Ryan Davies and Michelle Theodosiou. I grew up at one point in my life, hanging out with Ali and Michelle and doing that whole pool floaties thing together when you were still balancing drowning with paddling in the shell pool.
We told them to meet us at this coffee shop that we stumble across the other day. It was a few blocks away from the gallery, so we thought that since we didn’t want to have to walk back to the coat and bag check, we should just tough it out and walk to the coffee shop without our coats.
I, for some ungodly reason decided that I should just wear a singlet and a shirt, followed by my jacket today. So, all I had was a singlet and a short sleeve shirt on.
In Washington DC.
After it was snowing.
We walk there, and its almost bearable. The door keeps opening and ushering in a new cold snap that sends chills across everyone’s exposed skin each time that someone enters it. Were in the middle of the cafe, and we feel every split second of it. The warm company makes up for the cold winter’s breeze. We tell stories of our respective adventures so far. Ali and Ryan are rather well travelled, and we get the low down from their experiences in Europe. What to avoid, where to spend longer.
I didn’t realise, but we hadn’t seen these guys for 2 years. I mean, we may have seen them in between, but largely, it has been 2 years since we found out what they were up to and properly touched base with them.
Its funny to hear a raw Australian accent again. Not like I’ve got withdrawals or anything yet. Not at all, but it is funny to hear the twangs that I have known my whole life, and in the last month of two haven’t heard at all. Its really kinda odd, but comforting. Its funny what travel does to you hey. I mean, we haven’t seen these guys in ages, but simply on the basis that we are in the same city on the other side of the world, we have so much in common, and spend a few hours talking and laughing.
Its really great to catch up properly with them again.
We head to the Gallery, as they head to the another Smithsonian Museum. It is at this moment that Bec and I realised the error of our ways. The temperature has 100% dropped. Its now freezing, and even the locals give us weird looks and a lady just scrunches her face as us and says “AREN’T YOU FREEZING?!”. I know we replied to her, but I can’t remember what I replied to her. Its largely irrelevant at this point. We were sacrificing layers of our exposed flesh to the winter gods.
My scarf becomes a makeshift shawl.
I’m glad it helped.
How much it helped is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it did help. ALOT.
We get our map out and start scoping out all the art that the gallery has to offer us. We spend the next 3 and a half hours wandering through the gallery, finding ourselves immersed in the skill that these artists had from hundreds of years ago. A few things dawn on me. 1, art has always been around. Its not going to go anywhere anytime soon. 2, paintings were the pictures from centuries ago. If you wanna learn about history, look at it’s art. 3, these artists are on another level.
We have been utterly blown away by the level of skill from these painters and sculptors, and I can understand how people become addicted to collecting art.
When you find the right piece, it just absorbs you. Its incredible.
There was this one sculpture that I particularly liked. It was small, but it was epic. It was a piece called Neptune With a Hippocamp, by Michaela Anguier. Because all these pieces are completely exposed, I am beginning to question their authenticity. Naturally, I am going to find the answer. I head over to one of the guards, who is sporting the finest of toupees, and ask “Mate. All these sculptures… are they originals?”
“Oh yes. Every one”
I have a whole new found respect for this place. Every now and then you will come across a painting or something that is behind glass, or they don’t want you to photograph, or something like that, but 95% of the gallery is completely exposed. There were only 2 or 3 of the modern art exhibits that you couldn’t stand within maybe 20cm of, but that is all. All the old gear, is right at your fingertips. Everything is right there for you to grasp.
Naturally, you don’t touch them, cos everyone that works at the gallery there, is ex-military. Its one of the big things with Washington. They will give preference to anyone who served in the military. I mean, it is pretty cool that they do that for their boys. I guess if anything was to happen in Washington DC, you would pretty much have an entire military presence at your disposal.
Anyways, my intention was to ask this bloke whether these were all original pieces.
What I was not expecting was for him to tell us that he is from Holland, and that in Amsterdam, you would never be able to get anywhere near the art. I found out (involuntarily) that our mate can pronounce Van Gogh’s name correctly. Unlike most of the global populous. VERY swiftly followed by an expert demonstration. A demonstration that was a little unnecessary, and by a little, I mean completely unnecessary.
He then proceeds to inflict us with fact after fact of how his father was posted to certain areas throughout the war. But thats cool. His name is Albert, for short. He keeps going on and on, and when the inevitable question: “So where are you from?” comes, I nervously look to Bec “Ahhh…. Australia”, “Oh Australia! That reminds me…”, and on he goes with another story.
Bec and I genuinely can’t help but laugh. It is absolutely crazy. I am about half a second away from just loosing it laughing, while Bec keeps her eyes turned downward, so as not to make eye contact and incite an out burst of laughter.
We end up escaping the verbal clutches of Albert. To this day, it is a mystery to me how, but nonetheless, we make it out alive. We eat our sandwiches, have laughs and I start taking the images out of context by the use of snapchat and add my own captions to the images. It’s grand. We head back to our mate who is holding our bags for us. She willingly said that she does nothing all day and spends the entire time on the phone.
We pick up our gear, and begin the nearly half hour walk with our packs to Union Station. We are shuffled around in bus queues for a while before boarding a bus that we weren’t booked for. It’s still headed to NYC, but I make sure I check with the guy running the show so many times, that he asks me “Do you want to go on this bus?”
“Mate, as long as I get to NY, I couldn’t care less”.
I sleep a bit.
I cramp my neck.
I visit the toilet.
…sweet little baby jesus, the toilet…
Its a good 1sqm if you’re lucky, there is no taps in the sink, and the idea of flushing the toilet is missing the edges on the way down. Its that bad. I’m not sure if I should hover. I’m not sure if I should just ask the bus driver to pull over at the Maccas. The wall of the toilet isn’t even sealed. There is a gap between the window that I could fit the flat of my hand through. The poor bastard in front of me can probably smell everything happening. He can definitely hear everything.
We read books and recover from cramped necks from dodgy sleeps.
Finally, we see New York peer through the Industrial Sky Line.
Its just mesmerising. Maybe its because you know that among those lights is everything that people sing and write about. I really don’t know, but it just demands your attention. As we get closer to the city, and am feeling more and more at peace. As much as Washington DC is clean, tidy, people are nice, and everything is readily available to you, free of charge, I find that there is almost a tension in the air.
The only thing I can think of, is that there is such a heavy military presence all the time, everywhere you go throughout Washington, that subconsciously you feel as though there has to be a reason for these pop-up road blocks, bulk security guards and extra cameras. Don’t get me wrong.
Yes. Go see Washington. It is a must. But, you can feel the fact that America is a military superpower. Its in the air. I don’t feel that so much about NYC. Just talking with Bec about it too, I feel as though NYC is a lot like Melbourne, but just on a different level. Same city, just a fair few years ahead.
Its kinda feels like home.
Its a good feeling.
Its a warm feeling.
Come back tomorrow,