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Vicki’s Travel Diary

Monday, 21 Nov 2011

Location: Washington DC, USA

MapI've finally found an affordable computer, and the time to do another blog! Since my last one I've been to Niagara Falls, back to New York, Baltimore, and now here in Washington DC.
Niagara Falls was both beautiful and ugly! If you've seen my photos you'll know what I mean. I got there after dark and was really surprized to see a skyline more akin to Las Vegas. I always thought Niagara Falls was fairly rural. The American side isn't too bad, as it's a national park so there's lots of open space and places to walk. But the Canadian side is really commercialised and tacky. The falls were very spectacular - so huge and powerful, and the view was definitely better from the Canadian side. I walked over the Rainbow bridge and got a stamp in my passport. I also went on the ferris wheel to get a better view.
The visit there was a bit weird. The hostel where I stayed was owned by a seven day adventist who was also a pastor. So when I arrived on the friday night he told me the hostel was closed as it was their sabbath tomorrow - but I could stay anyway and it would be free! He invited me to join them for the evening meal. It was very healthy (as was all the food - only drink available was herb tea) but he said grace first and really pushed his beliefs at every opportunity. I was very respectful of-course, but it was a very strange experience, especially as I was the only traveller there (at least I had a dorm to myself for 2 nights).
When I got back to New York I spent a day at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which was excellent. And also went to the top of the Rockerfeller Tower - Top of the Rock - just before sunset. This meant I got a really good view of the city, including the Empire State Building, then watched the sunset. This was a fantastic experience. The sky was really colourful and as it got darker the lights gradually came on across New York. The most amazing thing was that there were loads of people up there, but as the sun set everyone was really quiet! The next day I went on a guided tour of The Village - Greenwich Village and East Village. This was very interesting - the place where many poeple in the music and movie industries started their careers, including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Sprinsgsteen and Lady Gaga, amongst many others.
Then I spent 3 days in Baltimore. This was an interesting city, with a lot of old buildings and history. I went there mainly for the National Aquarium, which didn't disappoint. I spent the best part of the day there, looking at the exhibits and also went to a dolphin show. I went to a 4D immersion movie called Planet Earth. This was actually a collection of David Attenborough's best bits, made into 3D. It included the film of the polar bears sliding down the snow, which reminded me of Scotland in February. The "4th D" is sensations like cool breezes, splashes of water, vibrating seats and the odd poke in the back, which was very entertaining!
While I was in Baltimore I told a barman the pheasant plucking tongue twister, which he wrote down and tried on everyone that came into the bar - I'm still causing trouble!
So I arrived here in Washington DC on Saturday and started exploring. Washington is totally different to New York - it's much quieter and more sedate, also has very huge grand buildings. I went on a tour of the US Capitol which was very interesting. You can't go into the chambers but we did see the rotunda and dome, the crypt and the statuary hall. I then went to the library of congress, which is another amazing buiding. Yesterday was a nice sunny warm day, so I stayed outside as much as possible, walking around the Mall, the banks of the Potomac River, the National Sculpture garden and the Botanic gardens. Today is probably the last dry day for a couple of days so I went to the zoo. Most museums, and the zoo, are free and there's a circulator bus which only costs $1 for any length journey.
Like some of the other hostels, this one organises tours and social events, so I've been on a pub crawl (which ended in a club with Latin American dancing - very enjoyable), a free music concert at the Kennedy Centre and a quick tour of Georgetown. There's a Thanksgiving meal on Wednesday night (Thanksgiving is on Thursday) which is good, as I will be spending most of Thanksgiving on the train to Boston.
A feature of the last 2 or 3 weeks here has been the "occupy" protests - I've seen the camps in LA, Wall Street New York, Baltimore and here. I've also met people who are involved, including a guy who got arrested while making a documentary in New York. I have heard there's also something going on in London, but I've not been following the news.
So 2 more full days here, then I'm off to Boston, which will be my last port of call before ending my travels back in New York. Not long to go before I'm back to reality and home - wherever that is!