Friday, 27 February 2015

Washington DC 2014 35th Anniversary Trip

I usually look back on the past year to see what geeked me out and what didn't, well 2014 was the year of our 35th wedding anniversary so as far as geeking me out nothing could top that.
Below is an overall review on the things we did on our anniversary trip as I'm not good at taking notes or remembering what happened on what day, so the report will be a broad reflection on the places we visited during our time in Washington, Las Vegas and New York.

Washington DC

We stayed in the Doubletree Hilton Hotel on Rodao Drive, the location was perfect as you could see the White House at the end of the main road, and you were only a 15 minute walk to the Washington monument. The hotel was clean and the staff were mostly friendly (I will explain later), our room was of an average size but it was clean and that is the most important thing to us. The bar area was small but there were places to sit either outside, or in the restaurant area so we were never stood up looking for seats. The only issue I had with the Hotel was with one member of the bar staff, who I believed then and still do made up the drink prices on a day to day basis. Where it came to a head was when were given two complementary drinks vouches for a value of up to $10, one of which we used on our first night at the bar buying 1 bottle of beer and a glass of wine came to around $8. We handed over the drinks voucher as payment with no problems, on the second day the barman wanted $11 plus the voucher for the same drinks. His reasoning was the voucher was only valid for the bottle of beer and the wine was $11 a glass. I went to talk to the manager and while we were talking the barman came up with the drinks in hand, wanting to know if I still wanted them and if so could he have the $11. To cut a long story short I finally got the drinks for the price of the voucher, and the barman was rebuked by the management for his aggressive behaviour or so we were told. Later that night we went to the bar on two separate occasions and ordered the same drinks, and were charged two differing prices one $7 the other $11 by the same barman. Having said all that due to the friendliness of the staff on the main desk I would stay at this hotel again, as barman aside we had no complaints. Helen was also a big fan of the free warm chocolate cookies, that we were given every day by the front desk staff.

The first night we had a quick burger meal in the hotel which was fine but a standard bar meal, the cost was $61 for the two meals and two drinks which I didn't think it was too bad.

On our second night we went to Bertuccis Restaurant next to the Shake Shack in down town DC where we had the first of many great pizza meals, a freshly made 18” half and half mixed meat and pepperoni for $18 you could not go wrong. With drinks the whole bill came to $28 given the fact that there was live music in the form of a saxophone player this was one of the bargains of the holiday.
The next night we went to the Daily Grill on the same street as Bertuccis, where we both had a steak meal which was very good, it was around $85 for starters and a main plus two drinks a great restaurant that's worth checking out.

The Sights:
After arriving at our hotel at around 3:30 it was a quick change then out for a look around to get our baring’s, turning left outside our hotel we walked straight down to Lafayette Park which is just in front of the Whitehouse. We spent quite a while looking round the park and taking photos of the Whitehouse, I think we both found it hard to believe we were stood outside one of the most iconic buildings in the world. Helen also couldn't believe how close you could get to the Whitehouse, and was in total awe of the place and its surroundings. We later walked round to the park at the back of the White House, where there seemed to be a lot of construction work going on. We were later told that the White House fence was been repaired, and that the White House Visitors and Information Centre was been refurbished. We sat in the park for a while taking in the sights, then began to make our way back to our hotel as it was getting dark it had been a long day.

On the Saturday we visited the White House again then on to the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill all of which took up most of the day. One tip to share is that although the monuments look close to each other they are not, and the walk between them can be quite long and tiresome particularly if it’s a red hot day. It was memorial weekend so there was a lot going on at the memorials around the reflecting pool, they were both inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. The service for the fallen of the Korean war was particularly moving, as there were a lot of Veterans and their family’s paying their respects.

Later visits to the Smithsonian museum the US Botanic Gardens and lunch in Lafayette Park, topped of with a visit to see the spectacular sight of the White House all lit up at night. Brought our first visit to Washington DC to an end, there is still so much more to see and do in Washington and we barely scratched the surface. We did however leave DC with great memories, and it is a place we both want to visit again in the near future.

Not too much shopping was done on this visit to DC it was mainly sightseeing, however we did pay a visit to the White House shop and the White House information centre. The shop has a vast selection of great and not so great souvenirs for sale, so whatever taste you have in souvenirs it is catered for. I found it strange that bobble head figures of the President and First Lady were for sale, but they did seem popular and we saw more than one person buy them while we looked around. For the life of me I can’t understand why someone would want one, and I don’t think a Prime minister or Queen bobble head would sell well in the UK but I could be wrong but I could be wrong. We did buy a few souvenirs ourselves (not bobble heads) a Washington Baseball cap, t-shirt and some White House coins for the Grand Kids. All of which enabled us to have our photo taken for free in the mock ups of the White House interior, given that we cannot go on the White House tour we figured it was the closest we would get.

On the Sunday we visited George Town and went to the fleamarket that is held there every week, we love rummaging around car boots at home so we were in our element as we rummaged around the stalls. I managed to pick up a few old Batman comics from one vendor (I always find comics), and in truth there was so much we both wanted to buy but couldn't due to the cost of getting it home. It was however for us a great way to spend a Sunday morning, we loved talking to the vendors and people we met and we would do it again if the chance arose. Across the road from the flea market was a Spar supermarket with a Starbucks in it, so we went there to refuel with coffee and cakes, before a look round George Town then back on the bus back to DC for the princely sum of $1 each.

Then before we knew it our visit to DC was over and it was an early call 4am for a 5am pick up to the airport, to catch the 8:30 am plan to Las Vegas.

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