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Monday, 16 January 2017

Four days in Washington DC. Day 1

I’m sure it’s nice to land in Washington DC on the presidential helicopter, Marine One, but arriving in the US capital by Amtrak’s Acela Express didn’t seem too bad an alternative.

The first and business class train plies the 457 miles between Boston and Washington, calling at New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and other places on its way south. We picked up the train at New York’s Penn Station, the terminus an architectural shadow of its former self (the old Beaux Arts style building shamefully demolished in 1964) and a complete contrast to the magnificent Union Station in Washington.

It was a smooth two and three quarter hour trip - an occasional commentary pointed out places of interest - and then a 20/25 minute taxi ride to our very welcoming hotel, Donovan House, now the Kimpton Donovan.

Within a few minutes of checking in we were back out, heading south down 14th Street towards the White House, 15 minutes away. Like New York, Washington is built on a grid system but, unlike New York, it’s low rise (stipulated by Congress). In fact the centre of the city has a stately, almost imperial feel to it, grand and spacious, with lots of marble, stone and granite in its buildings and monuments. The Jefferson Memorial (pic), modelled on The Pantheon in Rome, is a good example.

Washington’s showpiece is the two mile swathe of green known as The National Mall which stretches from the Lincoln Memorial in the west to the US Capitol, the home of Congress, in the east and encompasses many of the city’s most important memorials, monuments and museums.

Just to the north of The National Mall is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the address - often a quiz question - of the White House, one of the most recognisable buildings in the world. And suddenly we were there, behaving like a couple of excited children, taking in the north front first before moving round to the south side, the one that most people are familiar with. Two and a half days later we were back again and this time there was a lot more going on.

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