After 2.5 months in Canada that lasted an eternity (not fun when you just go to the dentist), here we are in the United States. First stop: Washington DC (which we will call Washington for short in the article) 😉
After spending Canaday Day (July 1) in Ottawa, we would like to travel to the United States to experienceIndependence Day (July 4) in Washington. We were warned about US immigration which can be very fussy but in the end everything went well (I will tell you in detail in another article).
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
Our hotel(Pod Hotel, Booking link) is rather central, 10 meters from a subway, and is right at the entrance of Chinatown. Small surprise bonus, it is next to a chain of Italian restaurants that JB : VA PIANO likes very much.
We are going to stay here for 3 days but in reality we only have 1 and a half days to visit because we have to work the rest of the time.
I recommend the Vietnamese restaurant across the street: Pho 88, not bad at all. And the Korean fast food BIBIBOP, next door too.
The metro is frequent and efficient. However, the purchase of tickets is a bit complex. You must first buy the card (2$), then add some money and pay. But the instructions aren’t very clear. The daily rate does not seem very interesting (13$) because short trips are cheap (2$ to 3$) and we still walk a lot. For 1 day and a half of visit, we spent about 16$/person.
Day 0.5 (half-day visit)
Tickets are taken in advance on the official Capitol website, so that we can choose the time we want. In reality, many come unexpectedly and are given the time of the visit. The visit is obligatory guided (in English) and free. I don’t see if you see “in god we trust” on the photo of the reception?
Note: everyone can access the reception area, even without a ticket (type The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on Google Maps), as long as they pass a security check. You must not bring water, food or bags that are too big.
We visit a total of 3 large halls: one with columns constituting pillars (there are 13 in all, representing the first 13 states). Another room just below the Capitol dome, and a last room that served as a congress hall, until the number of senators became too large. The visit lasts more or less an hour, but we have to count the waiting time and security check (1 hour in total, although we made an appointment beforehand).
I let you admire the beauty of the place. My favorite room remains, of course, the one where you can see the dome from the inside. The construction of the Capitol was not interrupted during the Civil War. On the contrary, it was considered the symbol of a united nation.
It is when I am under this dome that I really realize where I am, and I am seized with incredible excitement, as if I am soon going to Egypt or Cuba 😀
Library of Congress
After the guided tour, we are free to stay in the lobby, exit or follow a long corridor to the “Library of Congress”. On the way, I intercept some conversations of the American tourists who are going there at the same time as us. They seem to be very familiar with the history of this library, many of them are explaining to their children or relatives the history of this library: the oldest federal library in the country; the largest library in the world in terms of books & references; Thomas Jefferson donated his own collection of books, after the original library collection was destroyed by the English during the war in 1812.
Note: I have heard several people talk about Thomas Jefferson’s donation to the library. It may be part of general American culture.
Having never heard of this library in our lives, but having only seen a comment on Google Maps, we discover, gawking, the beauty of this building, considered one of the most beautiful in Washington (it reminds us of Vienna). We can also access it without going through the Capitol (it has its own front door), but with such a warmth, we are happy to have taken the tunnel.
There are several exhibition rooms, and we can admire one of the first Bibles published by the Nuremberg printing house (there were 120 for the 1st edition), in perfect condition. The reading room is closed to the public, but it can be admired from above. Some visitors are allowed to go there because they have contacted their senator directly and aren’t only entitled to a more detailed tour of the Capitol, but also have access to certain closed areas of the complex.
The US Capitol (bis)
We have to, reluctantly, leave this highly air-conditioned place to throw ourselves in the oven (i.e. the street): 32°C, but 37°C felt. We aren’t in India as far as I know. The little fat I have in stock is starting to melt. By Miami, I will only have muscle left, yyyyyyy. It will take us long minutes to walk from one end of the Capitol to the other. Why do they need so many places, huh? There are only a hundred of them.
However, we are motivated to go all the way around and go back to the Capitol for a souvenir photo.
Then in front of the Supreme Court, just across the street, for another souvenir photo. Everything is too white, too clean, it hurts the eyes. Besides, I can feel my beautiful burn despite the sun cream spread this morning. It’s horrible! Fortunately, in the toilets of the Capitol & sometimes in the street, there are many fountains to quench your thirst.
Two dried and burned zoombies – that we have become – try to continue the visit. Come on, the White House is only 20 minutes away (on foot + subway).
The White House
It’s still crazy to think that the POTUS could be just behind this poor little fence. Of course, the security measures must be at the maximum (snipers can be seen on the roof), but it’s nice to be able to offer such a beautiful view of such an important building to tourists. Twice a year, we can even visit the gardens of the White House (without the Trump on the other hand, ouffff) !
In front of the White House, there are always signs of protest. One woman even made herself a kind of tent, she will be found 2 days later in the same place. I find this freedom of expression very healthy, especially in a place like this.
One is still motivated, still, to take the subway (20 minutes) to go to the Pentagon, on the other side of the river. It is forbidden to take photos, this building seen from the front is very ugly, and not so high. It is the biggest building in the world. The second largest in the world, but just as ugly, is in Bucharest.
One might have thought that such a building would be kept secret, hidden in the jungle, or made invisible by self-reflecting mirrors. However, there is even a subway station called “Pentagon”, passing almost under the building. When we arrived, we even wondered for a few moments where it was when we were literally at the entrance.
One metro station away is the famous military cemetery, which welcomes military personnel, veterans and their families. I find the place, although very peaceful, less impressive than the cemetery in Normandy, because in Normandy, the land is flat, the graves are as far as the eye can see, while there are many hills here (they are old plantations). I think it’s good that one isn’t allowed to walk in the middle (except to visit a particular person).
A little further on are the graves of the Kennedy family. Rest in peace!
USMC War Memorial
A 15 minute walk away is this very famous memorial, paying tribute to the Marines.
It must be said that the program of each Independence Day in Washington is quite light: a parade in the morning, a concert in the evening followed by fireworks. Very light compared to France and many activities to promote the French army. As a result, Trump, sick with jealousy after attending the French July 14th, decided to do something more quali. Except that Washington DC refused to finance his whim, so 1 week before the national holiday, the official program is still not communicated – because everything was under negotiation and Trump had to find funding to put himself – himself – ahead this year, whereas traditionally, July 4th is an apolitical day in the United States.
To protest against this intervention, which was deemed undemocratic (the national holiday should not be politicized), several protests were held in Washington, including the women’s Code Pink movement, which won the right to protest right in front of the Washington Monument (the thing that looks like an obelisk).
As usual, the morning is reserved for the parade, associations, individuals who have requested it (you can apply on the official website!) … and a little bit of the police force in a jovial atmosphere, typically American, with choreography, balloons … Unfortunately, there aren’t enough trees to shade everyone, and the sun is too strong. After an hour, we can’t stand it anymore, and have to spend several hours recovering in the hotel – in our air-conditioned room #too much life #dehydrated and almost dead
One wonders how we could survive the 43°C in India, and not bear the 37°C in Washington. We have either aged a lot or spent too much time in cold countries.
Trump’s speech, which he pompously calls “Salute to America”, takes place at 6:30 pm. We motivate ourselves to leave the hotel at 5pm but it’s raining cats and dogs. We delay the departure until 5:30 pm, and even Trump has to encourage everyone to go out on Twitter, saying that the sky will clear up soon. Anyway, even the sky can’t stand Trump, it was a heat wave and just before – and during – Trump’s speech, it’s raining.
So, we manage somehow to get in front of Lincoln Memorial, taken hostage by the POTUS (we would have loved to visit it, but it was occupied by the President’s teams these last days, access was blocked). It’s been years since a president has made a public speech for July 4th. We are mortified to think that he is going to count us among his supporters and be able to boast that JB and Anh from Tourdumonde5continents came for him 😀 as well as xx million people (in reality, there were still a lot of free seats).
And when you think that it was in this very place that Martin Luther King gave his famous speech. Ahalala!
In short, we quickly pass the security checks (which we found surprisingly light for a POTUS speech) and we come face to face with the Code Pink movement, which puts a Baby Trump there, just like that. As the Baby Trump was not allowed to be inflated with helium today but only allowed to stay on the floor, people took revenge and put, in addition, a Trump in the toilet (which tells nonsense and makes prouts ahahha). they are too funny these americans. And above all, freedom of expression respected at 100%. Bravo ! Imagine the equivalent for a Macron’s speech in France, it would be cleared in 5 minutes.
It is very difficult for us, with so many umbrellas, to see the giant screens. The sound system is bad, so the applause is done by mimicry (those who understand applaud, and those behind follow the movement). The crowd shouts “USA, USA, USA” many times. What an emotion!
Apparently his speech tells in a succinct way the history of the USA (with some historical mistakes – because of the prompter that doesn’t work well – he justifies), and he takes the opportunity to make his carpet merchant / animator M6 Boutique, presenting each plane that passes in the sky.
note: his carpet merchant side never leaves him. He has even decided to put on sale some VIP seats (on the bleachers) at a golden price instead of reserving them all for the guests #soupir
We were able to see an Air Force One, the POTUS aircraft and above all a stealth bomber, very impressive. On the other hand, there must be 20 planes in all, which pass by at 10-minute intervals. Less impressive than in France (when we must be much less well equipped), and especially the planes aren’t always well aligned, it’s weird, but the public is delighted because it’s the 1st time they see this kind of shows. Trump seems to gain a few points.
At one point, an anti-Trump group, megaphone in hand, protests against Trump and calls him racist and anti-feminist. And we realize with horror that all this crowd, who “boo-hoo” the anti-Trumpers, are with him. OMG! If the public is representative, he might be re-elected hands down in 2020. At the same time, JB thinks that since most of them are civil servants in Washington, it’s a bit normal for them to be pro-Trump. Hats, T-Shirts, Mugs, … “Trump” are selling like hotcakes on the street.
After this long speech of one hour, we are released and look forward to the fireworks. But there are already too many people to make it to the Capitol for the concert. The good news is that it has stopped raining.
So we try to find the best possible place, just in front of the “lake” of Lincoln Memorial, and watch the concert broadcasted on the giant screens. At 9:07 pm, it’s the beginning of the fireworks. People can see them from the Capitol (even if it’s not as good as us) or from the other side of the river. The first 3 minutes are impressive, we are really ideally placed.
These fireworks are financed by 2 private companies, and it is Trump who decided to move them behind Lincoln Memorial, surely to attract more people (we have twice as much space). They cost 750 000$.
So, the first 3 minutes were very impressive, but with Trump you are never disappointed. The bad taste from A to Z. The fires are fired on 3 levels from the beginning, so that after 3 minutes there is already so much powder and smoke that during the remaining 27 minutes you just see red and white flashes. On Twitter, people compare the show to Baghdad or a bombing scene 😀 everywhere in Washington, the smoke generated triggers the fire alarms and for hours, the whole city (and the suburbs) is immersed in a smell and a fog of gunpowder. It looks like an apocalypse.
Just after the fireworks, we hear 2 dry noises on our left. People aren’t in panic but very surprised. Honestly, I thought of gunshots. We discover a few seconds later that there is a second firework shot by who knows where. It will last another 30 minutes but we can’t see anything because of the cloud of smoke, and people are so fed up with it that they all prefer to go home. 750 000$ for 3 minutes of visibility.
Trump will surely blame the sky, the rain, or the anti-Trumpers for this failure, I’m sure. But it still made me laugh to see how he fought to revolutionize this event, promising a crazy 4th of July, only to end up bringing nothing but bad luck and being criticized #karma #ahahahahaha
We all walk home, walking in silence. We see very few policemen, but the feeling of security is there. In Paris, for the same event, the CRS would be rather busy neutralizing the breakers. Here, alcohol is forbidden from the moment we enter the site, and the Americans have not smoked for a long time and there are no breakers. I’m really impressed by this very safe and relaxed atmosphere. It is finally not so different from the relaxed atmosphere during the canada day in Ottawa (Canada).
Most tourists stop in New York, but Washington has so much to visit. I recommend that you go there on July 4th, like us.
The city is super safe, well served, and you can recognize a lot of monuments. If you’ve also watched House of Cards, you’ll like it even more.
Bonus: some pictures of Washington, so clean it looks like Disneyland.
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Hotel: 80€/night Pod Hotel, Booking link: central, cheap for Washington, next to a subway, we recommend!
- Restaurant : between 20$ and 25$/person taxes and tips included. Yes it’s expensive!
- Transportation : we paid 2$ for the transportation card + and added about 15$/person for our different trips
- All of the above visits are free of charge. To register for guided tours of the Capitol, go to: https://www.visitthecapitol.gov/ the tour is in English only, but if you don’t speak English, the guide can give you a document in French to read
- You can register to visit the Pentagon as well: https://pentagontours.osd.mil/Tours/tour-guidelines.jsp you have to book early (between 14 days and 90 days before the visit)
Did you like this article? Read all our articles about the United States here