Stepping off the Coach in Washington DC at midday I was greeted with a wall of heat and humidity that that made you feel like you were in the Mediterranean – minus the sea breeze! We arrived at our hostel slightly sweaty and dropped off our bags as check wasn’t for a couple of hours. There was no sign of Kieran at the hostel but we had more pressing matters on our hands – food. This was not just any old food though. Back home in London I often visit the church of the chicken gods, i.e. Nando’s, and devour their scrumptious meals. I had no idea Nando’s was even a thing in the USA, but Dan said there were actually 4 in the USA and he was planning to visit all of them on his travels. Even better, there was a one in DC!
A short walk from our hostel was this rare American Nando’s. Inside it felt like home, the set up was the same and I ordered my usual; a whole chicken and 2 small sides of chips and macho peas – gotta have the greens! I liked the fact that on their menu Nando’s called slices of cooked potato by their proper name of chips, and then put fries in brackets next to it.
Back home I usually just about manage to finish the whole chicken and two small sides. However, when my food came out they had given me two large sides! I knew it would be a tough ask to finish it! I munched my way through it but no amount of breaks or sips of water could help me finish the monster meal. I was defeated for the first time by a Nando’s meal. At the end of the meal I was deep in a food coma and we sat there for a while mustering the will to get up and leave.
Eventually we gained the strength to leave and we went back to check into our hostel where we were reunited with Kieran. There he informed us that the Rocky steps were still closed the previous night where he left us at the karaoke bar and he didn’t get to run up them! I guess It just wasn’t meant to be! We settled in, chilled out in the communal sitting room then had a few drinks in the back garden.
The hostel we had checked into was called Duo Hostel – everyone I knew who was in DC (Dan, Kieran, Raska, Marc and Kyle) had all booked here as it had the best ratings out of all the hostels in DC. The hostel itself was great with great facilities, but the staff, my god the staff were annoying. I don’t often have a bad word to say about hostels but two of the staff just didn’t have a clue how to talk to customers and blamed you if something went wrong. For instance; upon arrival I wanted to book an extra night at the hostel so I did this with the lady at reception. She then told me after i had payed that i would have to check out at 11am then check back in at 3pm as I was moving rooms. I told her she should of told me this before I had paid and she said I should have assumed that was going to happen and she didn’t understand what my problem was. I asked her to keep me in the same room but she said that she couldn’t change it without a manger. A few minutes after this she decided to have little moan to the manager about what had happened, she done this in front of me and my friends! Luckily the manger saw the light and told her what she had done was wrong and he corrected the booking so i wouldn’t have to check out and back in. Justice served, but man she shouldn’t be working in a hostel! Anyway that’s my little rant over with. Had to get that off my chest. That night we had a few drinks and met some really cool people in the hostel who we chatted to for a long time before hitting the hay.
Keeping up the tradition of having one good tourist day in each city, the next day I visited the multiple monuments and museums in DC. The great thing about DC is that all the museums and interesting sites are concentrated in a region of the city that has all been planned out and is called The National Mall. Everything is within walking distance which is great because you don’t have to spend money on transport but it was also a killer walking in the heat. This was the furthest south I’ve been so far; the heat was unbearable and there were no clouds to give you rest from the sun. Due to this I found myself walking into buildings I didn’t intend to visit just so I could have a minute of air conditioning!
First on the list was the White House. This was disappointing and smelly. Disappointing because you can’t see the building that well; it is so far away it looks like a tiny model house. The area where I viewed it from was also reeking of sewage so the whole White House thing was a let-down. Plus, I dint see Obama shooting some hoops. Anyway, on-wards and upwards. The Washington monument was built to commemorate the first American President – George Washington. The structure took 40 years to complete (1848-1888), is in the middle of The National Mall and is the world’s tallest stone structure standing at 169.4m tall. You have the option of going to the top but I’d done the empire state building before so I’ve had my fill of being overcharged to see something from a different angle. A picture in passing was sufficient and I moved onto what I actually came for; the Smithsonian Museums.
The Smithsonian Museums are part of the USA’s Smithsonian institution. 17 of these museums are in Washington DC and 11 of them are in the area of The National Mall. 11 museums in walking distance? That’s a lot to visit! In order to get the most out of the day I whipped out a map and chose the 3 museums that I would enjoy the most. These were the museums of American history, Natural History and Air and Space. If these aren’t your scene the other museums in The National Mall include the museums of Asian art, Arts and Industries, Contemporary and Modern Art, African American History and Art, African Art and Native American History and Art. Other than being really interesting they’re also free!
The Museum of American History was really insightful; it started right at the beginning with the War of Independence and has the huge original star spangled banner that was raised above Fort McHenry during the battle of 1812. It’s in a darkened room and photos aren’t allowed as its slowly disintegrating and light can damage it further. The rest of the museum is also really insightful and has pieces up until the modern era including helicopters from the Vietnam War and steel work from the Twin Towers. The Natural History museum was also great but very similar to the Natural History Museum in London so I’d seen most of it before. My favorite out of the 3 was the Museum of Air and Space. The museum has a large collection of air and space history including rockets and satellites and also has tonnes of interactive pieces that kept my inner child entertained for a couple of hours.
After the Smithsonian’s I was pretty exhausted and walked back to the hostel popping into a few banks along the way to use their air conditioning! That night we went out with the hostel to a dive bar up the road it wasn’t really anyone’s scene but there was a courtyard out back where everyone ended up and had a good chat!
All in all DC was great but probably my least favorite destination so far on my travels. Even though the hostel we stayed at was one of the best rated in DC, the staff often left you disappointed and could really work on their customer service. The nightlife we saw was also a bit dull. Maybe I’ve done too much touristy stuff or the heat got to me but the White House and Washington Monument are just not worth a visit. However, the Smithsonian Museums are great as is the Lincoln memorial and the pristine parks in The National Mall and surrounding areas. Up next was South Carolina where we were to be visiting one of our best friends over the summer and my fellow swim coach – Sasha!