I awoke early. I tried my best to stay in bed as long as possible but by 6:30 I had to get up. I was excited to get out and about and it was nice to feel that again; I'd lost it a bit over the last couple of days.
A quick peek around the curtain revealed a clear sunny day. I double checked the weather report and it looked as if I'd have good weather for most of the day.
When I looked out my hotel window on arrival yesterday the streetscape looked orderly and ordinary. That's a bit how I'd expected DC to be. A quick look down one of the cross streets reinforced this view.
I headed towards The Mall where many of the monuments and museums are. Before long I noticed the sun on the buildings. I hurriedly finished the coffee and pumpkin bread I'd grabbed on the way so I had both hands free to take advantage of the great light.
And it wasn't long before I started to notice a grandeur in the architecture that I hadn't expected; columns and neo-classical architecture everywhere.
As well as the neo-classical I could see, what felt like, a definite European influence.
Most of the monumental buildings appear to be made from sandstone or similar, so the vivid red brick of this building really grabbed my attention.
Soon followed by this amazing detail on the Hotel Washington.
Within 15 minutes I was at the northern entrance to the White House. That was the less familiar side but it was THE place for people taking pictures and organised groups of school children; probably because of the wide avenue. I later made it to the other, more quiet side where I took this shot.
Along from the White House I'd strolled into another area which didn't appear to be restricted. I was in the midst of taking this shot when security men on bikes made it very clear that we needed to move on; and I wasn't going to argue with them!
As I strolled towards The Mall, it was beautiful to walk through the neat rows of trees.
Commanding the most attention is the Washington Memorial. When you see photos you don't really get the scale of this monolith. It's only when you see the tiny people dotted around the base that you realise.
It's impressive, and the centrepiece for The Mall.
By now I was starting to get a little déjà vu. I'll explain more later. A quick turn around revealed another majestic building.
Right by the Washington Memorial is the World War II Memorial. It was beautiful but it didn't really move me. That would come later.
One monument I definitely wanted to visit was the Lincoln Memorial, so I headed that way along the reflection pool; the pool lives up to its name.
The use of the word "temple" in the inscription resonated with me because, so far, that's how many of these grand monuments and buildings had felt. Temples in the Greek or Roman traditions.
I paused to look back at the pool.
Beyond the Lincoln Memorial I came across this sight and that's when the déjà vu made sense. Paris! These grand boulevards, the monuments, the pool, these golden statues at the end of the bridge; they all reminded me of Paris.
When I got back to the hotel I did some research and it appears that a Frenchman did design Washington and that it does have some deliberate similarities.
Anyway, I love a good bridge so I eventually made my way to a vantage point to take some pictures.
After that I wandered for a little, grabbed some lunch, doubled back and looked around. That brought me to the Korean War Memorial.
Now, this one moved me! It's an incredible piece of sculpture and placement. This picture only shows part of it, but I found the sight of these soldiers making their way through the garden "field" quite harrowing.
Beside it was another small water feature and this inscription. It made me stop and think. I felt really disturbed; I don't know that I can bring myself to agree.
After those moments of deep thought, this chap popped up out of a bin to lighten the mood.
I made my way along The Mall. Along each side are the various Smithsonian museums, most of which are further examples of classical architecture. But there were a couple of modern ones too.
When I made it to the Air and Space Museum I went inside, only intending to get information on how to get to the other part of the museum further out from Washington that I really wanted to see and planned to visit tomorrow. In fact, that part of the museum was the original reason for my visit to Washington. Well, needless to say, 10 seconds after walking in I was hooked and couldn't drag myself away. I saw lots of real gear such as space capsules, satellites, rockets, planes and ballistic missiles. This picture is just one small part. As you can see it's jam packed.
With my "big kid" moment now satisfied and my feet feeling increasingly sore I decided to start making my way back to the hotel; past more grand buildings and more grand monuments.
Out the front of one of those grand buildings this light pole amused me. Not only did it ruin the aesthetic of the building behind it but, with all those different signs, how on earth are you meant to work out what you're allowed to do anyway?
Shortly before reaching my hotel I noticed these pigeons sitting on the head of the poor eagle. How indignant he looked.
So today has really surprised me. I guess I wasn't expecting anything on this scale. And what surprised me most was the sense of grandeur, the epic, almost imperial. The centre of Washington is more than a city; it's a deliberate statement. And it reminded me of another city besides Paris. As we drove in last night past some massive buildings set apart and lit up, it occurred to me how it may have felt to enter Rome in its day. Today reinforced that association.
Now to rest my aching feet. It's been a fantastic day! And I made it back just before the rain started.