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Monday, 16 January 2017

Four days in Washington DC. Day 3

Less than two miles west of the Kimpton Donovan is the historic ‘neighbourhood’ of Georgetown where a yellow tour bus took us first thing in the morning. Sadly we didn’t hop off the bus and explore the old streets and 18th century buildings, the Potomac waterfront, the cafés, shops and restaurants, so that’s something for next time.

The reason? We wanted to see some of the 19 museums and galleries that collectively (along with other places) make up the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian is Washington’s great gift to the world although the actual bequest that founded it came from an English scientist called John Smithson. All its museums are free to enter.

After a quick break for a burger we started with the National Museum of American History whose exhibits range from Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and a pair of Muhammad Ali’s Everlast boxing gloves to the original (and enormous) Star-Spangled Banner (1812) and Michelle Obama’s 2009 inaugural gown.

Heading east down The National Mall we passed the press and press freedom museum called Newseum (pic). It’s not part of The Smithsonian but it was another place we earmarked for the future.

Closer to The Capitol we turned back on ourselves, making our way on the south side of The Mall to visit the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Air and Space Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (modern art).

How different the architecture of each building is and what a vast and extraordinary collection of artefacts they contain. Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis, the Apollo 11 command module Columbia (1969) and the cylindrical-shaped Hirshhorn building itself were three special memories. Last year the National Museum of African American History and Culture opened on The Mall so that’s on the future list too.

Of course we couldn’t come to Washington without bringing home a few bits of political and presidential memorabilia. Just as well then that the White House Gift Shop covered every possibility: mugs, coasters, T-shirts, chocolates, mints, books, pens, hats, fridge magnets, ties, blankets, flight jackets and so on, some of it quirky, some of it serious.

We got back to the hotel in time for the complimentary wine hour, and then sampled the Asian-fusion food in the hotel’s Zentan Restaurant. A fine meal to end a great day.

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