Leaving the breakneck pace of New York behind it was time to start my trip around the USA in earnest. The plan was pretty simple. I’d gradually make my way down the East Coast, then across the Southern states, make a turn in Texas towards Colorado and then head towards the West Coast. All of this would be done using a mix of busses, cars and flying. Whatever was the most affordable and the most practical at the time I needed to decide. I took one look at the price of Amtrak and decided it was never going to happen, even though rail is my favourite way to get around.
Taking the bus to Philadelphia was pretty uneventful but a lot more picturesque than normal with the whole route being countryside covered in snow. The reason I’d chosen to make a stopover in Philly was because of the important place it has in American history. A lot of the events leading up to American independence happened in the city and many of those places have been preserved to visit today. There main attractions like The Hall of Independence, The Liberty Bell and the National Coin Mint are all free to visit with many other museums you can pay to visit. Just by fluke the Philadelphia Motor Show was in town on the same weekend I was there and made a great attraction to break up the historical things.
Philly itself isn’t a bad city, but is a completely different world to NYC. The slower pace of life was noticeable right away and the hostel was more comfortable and welcoming than the massive 400 bed places from before. The night life is also pretty big on the weekend. While I was there a massive pub crawl happened with rumours over 4000 people were involved. After spending a couple of days exploring I’d run out of things to do and it was time to move on again to Washington D.C.
Every city in the states so far has shown a massive contrast between the have’s and have not’s. Washington displays this to an extent that was kind of sad, but not really surprising. My first look at the city was walking out of Union Station to see a group of homeless sleeping around a steam pipe while it snowed.
Having the chance to plan the city from nothing the architecture of D.C is pretty incredible. Wide avenues are lined with the biggest and grandest government buildings which wouldn’t seem out of place in ancient Rome or Greece. At the centre of all this is the National Mall which contains the Smithsonian Museums, White House, Capitol Building, War Memorials, Library of Congress and Monuments. It’s a really pleasant place to just walk around and enjoy the space. Moving further out are the areas of Dupont Circle, Georgetown and Alexandria which are all worth a visit.
The Smithsonian museums are immense, the good rule of thumb I was told is that if you move fast you can probably see 2 per day and if you’re interested in reading everything it will take far longer. With upwards of 19 main museums this means you need to pick the most interesting ones carefully. The Air and Space Museum is arguably one of the best in the world and actually took me 2 days to finish. Following on from this I managed to go online and book a tour of the Capitol Building which is impressive both inside and outside. Following on from the tour I managed to get myself an invitation to see the senate chambers which was a lucky turn of events and worth doing if you have the chance.
Over the river from the mall is the Arlington War Cemetery for fallen soldiers and presidents. The sight of white gravestones reaching to every horizon is pretty sobering and in the short time I was there 3 funerals processions passed through. It was strange to see that life in the outside world just continued completely oblivious to the fact that there were still this many dying overseas.
I could go on explaining a little about everything but it would just take too long, all the things mentioned above are worth a visit. I ended up spending 5 days in the city and still didn’t get to see everything which was really surprising considering that D.C isn’t really on the tourist trail. The next stop after D.C is Texas by flying. I was originally going to travel by land and see the southern states but the public transport is virtually non-existent and what is there is more expensive than flying. Maybe another time when I have someone to split the cost of hiring a car.