Destination of the day: Washington DC

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For a city that is chief claimant to be capital of the world, Washington has that feel of a village.

So what do you do in a village? Take to the saddle, tinkle the bell and cycle the length of its finest sights. The mall is Washington’s viewing gallery of monuments to the fallen, its martyrs and militarists, a map of America’s heroes and hang-ups around a pool of swampy water.

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The tour, led by Tujon Gallagher of Bike and Roll (“it’s as easy as riding a bike,” he reassures us) is magnificent beyond expectations, his stories informed and entertaining as he talks us through the politics of commemoration, of which the Mall in Washington is a case study.

Washington DC by FootProbably the most complicated of all is the FDR memorial, each section of it debated by competing interest groups. America’s wounds are most openly on display with the Vietnam memorial, commissioned and in place 22 years before the World War II memorial. There is no WW1 memorial yet, a hundred years after the event. There is a feisty Korean war memorial. Martin Luther King looks white and Maoist, as befits the Chinese design.

U.S. Capitol with tulips#39There is a big typographical error to the left hand side of Lincoln, his inaugural speech forever in three feet high carving looking to the euture rather that the future. Most impressive of all, slightly eccentric, is Einstein, a short distance from the main cluster.

 

Don’t look for any mention of the losing side in the Civil war anywhere in the city. There are none. “You have to go to Richmond, Virginia, for that,” Eddie Sielenski one of the guides said. “The north won and there was this attitude around.”

Lincoln Memorial credit #30They have drained the enormously stenchy pond and refreshed the water. A pity, because that was part of the story.

You can also eyeball the White House from beyond the perimeter fence, 132 rooms and six chefs.

Korean War Veterans Memo#2FThis is all a prelude to the Hill, all pomp and security and the self importance accorded the political masters of the heaving collection of cultures that is the United States.

A security lock-down in the US Congress meant we were shut in like Holy Hour drinkers in the old days, listening to the valedictory speech of Illinois politician Judy Biggert to an empty House of Representatives. They escorted us in, took our mobile phones from us, and when a distant alarm was activated then told us we could not retrieve our possessions even if we were allowed to leave.

 

Jefferson Memorial credi#2DIn a city where daily life is fuelled by opinion and debate and the people who matter need to break bread together, there is no shortage of places to go.   There are 2,000 restaurants in Washington DC.

First breakfast. Edel McAloon from Trillick welcomes us to Ted’s Dine-In. The signature breakfast is called Walk of Shame, a terrific cholesterol-bomb burrito.

Amnon Pick welcomes us to that anomaly, Cuba Libre, a great Cuban restaurant that cannot sell anything from Cuba because of the American blockade. The décor is set up like a 1950s street in Havana and Argentinean chef Guillermo Pernto does a good job substituting the fare and at $26 for lunch with cocktails it is as close to libre as you can get. The Bloody Mary they serve is like a meal in itself.

Jefferson Memorial and C#2CAt Juniper restaurant they tell us they make their own honey on the roof of the hotel.

The Doyle Collection have three hotels in the city, three slices of Ireland in the embassy district. The Dupont Circle Hotel offers 327 rooms in a great part of the city, near James Hoban’s pub (the man who designed the White House has no monuments in the city but gets an Irish pub named after him) and just round the corner from Kramer Books, a bookshop with a bar, or is it a bar with a bookshop?

Hay Adams Hotel rooftop #28Three blocks away is another slice of Ireland, the Fairmont Embassy Row hotel, where Alexandra Byrne and Stephen Johnston host us for breakfast in their signature restaurant, 2100 Prime.

The best bit of Washington DC is the rooftop bar in the W. This place has some amazing monuments, stunning sights, and an occasional historic avenue. And that’s just the fellow-revellers – there is more to see if you turn around to look at the city instead. The White House is waving distance but a tree gets in the way.

This is one of the coolest places in town, topping a very historic hotel, haunt of Presidents for 150 years. Try their Rock and Eye cocktail made with spices and Jamaican dark rum.

 

Since May 2011 Washington has been accessible from Ireland once more. The route was profitable from the first month United Airlines launched the direct flight. The key to this is the aircraft type, a 169-seat Boeing 757-200, and the fact that Dulles is a United hub with 65pc of their passengers onward bound.

There are other options. Is it worth flying east to go west? Lufthansa is the first customer for the new Boeing 747-8 and is bring used to launch their new business class product and have configured the aircraft for 467 passengers with 98 business in class and 380 in economy.

United Airlines non-stop service from Dublin to its Washington, D.C. hub, Dulles International Airport is operated by Boeing 757-200 aircraft featuring 169 seats, 16 in business, 45 in economy plus and 153 in economy. Fare starts from Eu510.

 

www.destinationdc.org for more information

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