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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 12 Jul 2014

Location: Washinton, USA

MapA visit to Washington D.C. is actually a lesson in American history, and if you had six months to spare, you could visit all the memorials and museums to get a thorough grounding in how the United States came into being. Unfortunately we only had four days, so we had to decide on what we would see.

My personal favourite was the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute. Yes, I admit to being a flight nerd, but to actually see the Apollo 11 command module, and a real Lunar Module (that wasn’t sent to the moon), and a Gemini and Mercury capsule, was mind-blowing to me. Couple that with a Spitfire, Mustang and German Messerschmidt from WW2, and I’m away with the stars. Perhaps the most amazing exhibit was the original Wright Brothers flyer that flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, as the first powered flight machine in 1903. Back then, that must’ve been akin to science fiction coming true. Speaking of science fiction, the only fictional piece on show was the real model of the starship Enterprise that was used in the original Star Trek series in the 1960s.

It was difficult to visit some of the Washington monuments without conjuring up a scene in a famous movie. The Lincoln Memorial with its reflecting pool, into which Forrest Gump jumped to run to his sweetheart Jenny, or Jim Garrison met Mr X in Oliver Stone’s “JFK”. More importantly, we felt a feeling of deep respect when standing at the spot where Martin Luther King made his “I have a dream” speech in March 1963.

Eight months after Dr King’s speech, came the assassination of the American president in Dallas. We visited John F Kennedy’s tomb at Arlington, where he has also been joined by his brothers Robert and (most recently) Edward, and his wife Jaqueline. What was particularly poignant was that we will be seeing where that murder took place in a week’s time, on our way home to Australia.

Everything in Washington seems to be soaked in symbolism, and it’s hard not to learn a little about the country as you explore this city. We made it to the top of the Washington Monument, which is a tall granite obelisk giving amazing views of the city, even to the Pentagon a few kilometres away. This lookout brings the whole vicinity into view and into perspective. This was another place that I left with the feeling that I must return to it one day, and allot more time to roam the many memorials and museums.