Washington, DC

I spent a long time in Washington, DC seeing everything I could. A very special thanks to Rebekah and her roommate Soo for being so generious in hosting me, I had a great time in Washington.

There were many places I visited where photography was not permitted, where possible I have found substitute photos of the interior of places where I was not permitted to photograph. Unless otherwise noted, all photos taken by me.

The Washington Monument, seen through reflection of the World War II memorial fountain pool at night. Sadly, the giant reflecting pool in Washington is empty of water right now due to upgrade construction. But I still found some water to take this photo at the World War II memorial.

I saw so much in Washington, that I am going to test the attention span of you all, by including a great many photos.

The National Christmas Tree, near South Lawn, White House.

Secret Service sniper on roof of White House.

White House, north lawn.

White House guard house.

The Lincoln Monument, beautiful monument. Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech was delivered here. The monument is around 100 years old and is visted by 6 million people a year.

And introducing, the newly discovered panorama feature of my camera. When you see a flat, wide, panorama photo, click on it for a closer look, then hit the back button on your browser to return to where you were.

The Washington Metro rail system, which I became very accustomed to by the time I was done in Washington. It is a blend of subway tracks, elevated tracks, ground tracks.

Panorama photo of the US Supreme Court.

Very serendipitously, I arrived at the Supreme Court just in time for an in courtroom lecture, went up this lovely marble hallway and was one of a very small group of only five people who had turned up. I never even thought the public were allowed inside the courtroom itself, to my suprise I was an arm’s length from where the justices sit. The US Supreme Court is a place where huge legal decisions have been made, that filter through to the whole world in terms of what rights and laws are to become the status quo in modern society. Sometimes, like in the case of the 2000 election, the Supreme Court decides who wins the Presidency.

A stunning marble spiral staircase in the Supreme Court building.

Photography was banned inside the courtroom. But here is an interior photo taken from online. The top sections of all four walls are decorated with marble friezes depicting historical people and mythical figures related to justice and the law.

I was in the restroom and was stunned to find that every inch of the Supreme Court seems to be covered in marble.

The Vietnam Veterans memorial.

Martin Luther King memorial, opened in 2011.

Washington Monument by night, with tree.

World War II Memorial

World War II Memorial panoramic.

United States Capitol Building by night.

Interior of United States Senate chamber, as seen during the lying in state of Senator Robert Byrd. A member of the Democratic Party, Byrd served as a U.S. Representative from 1953 until 1959 and as a U.S. Senator from 1959 to 2010. He was the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress.

I attended the public gallery of the US Senate at night, night sessions sometimes stretch to as late as 2AM. I had a surreal experience, being the only member of the public there for an hour or so. Nobody but the Senators, the guards, and myself. The ornate interior is quite stunning.

Arlington National Cemetery, a beautiful cemetery where soldiers from all of America’s wars are interred, along with two Presidents.

All sorts of decorated Generals and Colonels are buried here.

As I looked around, I noticed it was common to see the gravestones of soldiers who had fought in multiple wars.

Some of the graves are very ornate, here can be seen the grave of Senator Kellogg-Davis who was instrumental in the peace talks that ended the Spanish American war of 1898 over Cuban independence.

Metal bas relief on the Senator’s grave, showing him at the peace talk table.

Panorama photo of President Kennedy’s grave and memorial site.

The Kennedy grave site and memorial is adorned with various quotations from his speeches. Here can be seen “ask not what your country can do for you…”.

John F. Kennedy’s grave, with eternal flame. To the right, out of frame, is buried Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, either side of them, are the graves of son Patrick who died 2 days old the same year Kennedy died in 1963, and also the grave of their stillborn daughter Arabella. Nearby are buried Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.

Arlington Cemetery memorial for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing air disaster. With a very sad recently delivered bunch of flowers for Christmas from the parents of one of the young victims. An interesting aside about the Lockerbie bombing is that Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten narrowly missed boarding that plane due to delays caused by his wife taking a long time to pack their bags.

Memorial for the Astronauts lost in the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.

And the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

An interesting Astronaut grave not related to a disaster. Astronauts can choose to be buried at Arlington too.

The Tomb of the Unkowns, where sunglasses are part of the uniform for the ‘sentinels of the tomb’. To serve as a sentinel of the tomb is considered one of the highest honours in the US military, and the changing of the guard occurs every hour, all day, all night, even when the cemetery is closed to the public at night, in all weather. It is customary for the guard to walk 21 steps on the carpet in front of the tomb, the number 21 alluding to a 21 gun salute.

I was mesmerised to discover yet another lucky break, because I had been walking around Arlington cemetery all day, and happened to stumble upon the Tomb of the Unkowns at just the moment not only the changing of the guard was taking place, but when the Japanese Foreign Minister was visiting the tomb for a wreath laying ceremony on the occasion of his first visit to the US since the recent 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor which officially occurred a couple of weeks before this wreath laying. Japanese Foreign Minister Kōichirō Gemba had bilateral talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about North Korea.

I took the following video with my camera, which does not shoot very good video, and is mainly a still camera, but here it is… I thought this was fascinating to watch, because of the forever intertwined military history between Japan and the United States.

A photo I was very happy with, Tomb of the Unknowns with sentinel’s bayonet in foreground.

Close up of the ‘circle of the sun’ Japanese flag themed wreath laid by the Japanese Foreign Minister.

International Spy Museum

Aston Martin DB5 with James Bond enhancements added by the museum for effect.

Tyre slasher.

There are more spies in this city than in any other city in the world. I went to the Spy Museum but photography was not allowed. See this excellent video of it instead…

The National Archives

The Charters of Freedom rotunda, home of America’s founding documents, where no photography was allowed. Somehow I managed to get a photo and video taken by others from online.

Here is where displayed to the public, surrounded by armed guards, one can see the real, signed original documents of the beginning of the United States. Here I saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

These documents, three of the most important documents in world history, are stored in glass fronted encasements containing the highest document preservation technology developed by NASA and the National Archives.

The National Archives also contains a museum section, where photographs are allowed, so below, more of my photos…

A civil war era telegraph from Abraham Lincoln responding to a request for a stay of execution for an alleged traitor.

“Instrument of downfall”. An amazing object, Richard Nixon’s oval office tape recorder.

Evidence tag from Watergate investigation still attached to the tape recorder.

Smithsonian Museum of American History

Actual filing cabinet from the psychiatrist’s office of Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg broken into by the Nixon White House ‘plumbers’ digging for dirt files.

Nuclear ‘football’. The US nuclear weapons arsenal launch codes satchel from the Clinton era, handcuffed to the wrist of an American soldier travelling with the President at all times.

The ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz film.

Bill Clinton’s saxophone.

Thomas Jefferson’s polygraph, a device that would hold two pens and make a copy of a letter on the left as a letter was written on the right hand side piece of paper. He called it ‘the finest invention of the current age’, from the early 19th century.

Michael Jackson’s hat.

Farrah Fawcett’s swimsuit. Interesting that it is actually located in the museum right next to Michael Jackson’s hat, and that they both died on the same day in 2009.

George Washington used this telescope during the American War of Independence. One can just imagine him putting his eye to this and seeing the British ‘redcoats’ advancing.

This microscope and light box was used by the CIA to examine satellite photos during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

This wall of televisions from the 1960s and 70s was part of a great Vietnam War section at the museum, one of the best displays in my opinion that I have ever seen. It was set out like a 1960s lounge room in a home, and because this was the first time a major war had been televised, the exhibit has a focus on the TV coverage of the Vietnam war. There is an old couch and coffee table where you can sit and watch the walls of TVs as they play original broadcasts of the time.

Secret Service equipment.

Plastic figurines of every president.

Kennedys board game, circa 1960s.

Lincoln Logs, childrens construction toy named after President Lincoln, invented by John Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Slave Collar, which would have been fitted with a bell on the hook, to locate the slaves on the plantation.

I grouped this photo here, but it is not from the Smithsonian. It is from Arlington House, a historic home overlooking Washington. This is the slave quarters.

Interior of the slave quarters of Arlington House.

Other large museums I went to included the Natural History Museum, Portrait Gallery, Crime and Punishment museum, but I did not take photos at these, for some, photography was banned, for others, I neglected to bring my camera, and one very annoying time, I left the photo memory card in the laptop, and was left with a camera that could not store any photos.

As with the New York City post, I have saved the best for last again…

National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Dulles, Virginia

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, named in honour of the billionaire philanthropist and airline magnate who donated $65 million to the Smithsonian to help build this $300 million facility, it is part of the Smithsonian museums, and located about 30 miles away from Washington, in Dulles, Virginia. I had read about this place a couple of years ago and was very keen to see it. I spent all day there, from opening to closing, and even when there was 10 minutes to closing, I was still running around trying to see everything.

The exterior of the hangar complex with its observation tower. The facility is located right near the Dulles International Airport, and the tower enables visitors to watch aircraft coming and going from the airport. A live feed of the air traffic control radio can be heard in the observation tower. This place is the premier aviation museum in the world.

Housing over 100 aircraft and over 122 space objects, it has sections on modern military aviation, sport aviation, aerobatic aviation, extensive sections of WWII combatant nations’ aircraft, business aviation, commercial aviation, interwar military aviation, pre-1920 aviation, human spaceflight, satellites, rockets, missiles, space probes, hot air balloons and blimps, world record attempt aviation, and more.

The aircraft are on the ground, perched high on pillars, and many even hang down suspended from the ceiling. I took 475 photos at this museum, so I cannot include them all, and even some of the best ones have been excluded from this blog.

A Vought F4U Corsair from the Korean War.

A general panoramic shot of the interior of the hangar.

Another general shot, showing the Air France Concorde and the prototype of the Boeing 707, America’s first jet airliner.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane. Capable of flying at 85,000 feet, and speeds of up to 2,193 mph or 3,529 km/h. This very plane in the photo flew from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes on its final flight in 1990. A dangerous plane, over one third of those ever built were lost to accidents.

Panoramic shot of the Lockheed Martin Joint Strike Fighter F-35 B Lightning II. Fifth Generation figher, and the most modern example at the museum. This $400 billion program will produce two and a half thousand of these aircraft for the air forces of the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark. This one is the B variant, which is worth $300 million a piece. It is the short take off / vertical landing version. Why is an advanced, new, fifth generation fighter in a museum already? this one was used in the research and development phase with test flights and then donated to the Smithsonian.

The short take off, vertical landing engine of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 B Lightning II, a very advanced engine that will see this variant put into service on aircraft carriers for the next 30 years.

Panoramic shot of Space Shuttle Enterprise. There were not many visitors on this Monday when I went here, and I was alone with the Space Shuttle. Just me and a Space Shuttle, thank you very much.

Next year, this Space Shuttle is moving to the New York City Intrepid Air and Space museum, as seen earlier on this blog. In its place here at the Udvar Hazy Center, will go the retired Space Shuttle Discovery. Both will be flown on top of 747s to reach their new homes.

Panorama of the Enola Gay, this bomber is the one that launched the world’s first nuclear strike in combat, the first in a series of nuclear strikes against Japanese cities that would culminate in the ending of World War II. Named for the pilot’s mother.

I found myself having a moment of pause as I stared at the bomb hatch doors. When these doors opened up the world would not be the same…

A newspaper from the time, and below, a video about the Enola Gay pilot who died aged 92 only last year.

Now, when we think of high technology from World War II we often only think of the atomic bomb. In the final months of the war, the Nazis had developed jet aircraft and rocket powered fighters. Here, a Nazi Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket powered fighter.

A panorama of a wall of military aircraft machine guns.

A shot of a WWII era plane’s nose with machine guns. I cannot remember the specifications of this plane.

Panorama of a Lockheed Constellation or ‘Connie’. Civilian airliner and military transport during the Berlin Airlift.

Air France Concorde Panorama shots.

The only surviving example of a Boeing 307 Stratoliner. The world’s first pressurised cabin passenger aircraft. This one has Pan Am livery, and seeing this made me picture Alec Baldwin playing the Pan Am boss Juan Trippe talking to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Howard Hughes through a door in the film The Aviator.

Panorama of a Soviet Mig.

Below, some assorted shots of aircraft engines and engine parts from the propulsion exhibit.

Below, a selection of space suits, helmets and gloves from the space exhibit.

A child sized astronaut suit designed for a publicity tour in the 1960s.

A space suit test dummy.

This is the control panel of a very early computer used by NASA. It reminds me of the computer from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory where the computer prints out a statement that reads “what would a computer do with a lifetime supply of chocolate?”.

This control console was used by NASA to communicate with, fly and move a planetary probe.

More consoles and control panels from various space experiments.

A science module, placed in the payload hold of a Space Shuttle, where Astronauts carried out experiments during a shuttle mission.

Five years old, This is a Raytheon RIM 161 Standard Missile 3 anti-ballistic missile defence missile. This ship based missile is a three-stage antiballistic missile that carries a Lightweight Exoatmospheric Projectile Kinetic Warhead in its nose. This warhead homes in on and destroys other missiles, and also this missile system has been used in antisatellite missions to destroy satellites in low Earth orbit. Of course, the one you are seeing here has been rendered harmless.

Interesting to note the evolution of the missile, here is an early German missile with wooden fins.

The theme of advanced weapons from World War II continues, with this Yokosuka E14Y seaplane from Japan. It was held on board Japanese submarine aircraft carriers. Yes, there were submarines that had planes inside them, in World War II. I did not know this. The captain of the submarine that housed this plane visited the Udvar Hazy center museum a couple of years ago, I was told by a tour guide. He told museum staff that the only purpose of this aircraft carried on his submarine was for kamikaze suicide attacks against US warships. This example was captured by the Americans at the war’s end.

This is a Japanese balloon bomb from World War II. Launched from Japan and designed to be unguided and be carried by the jet stream across the pacific to America, between November 1944 and April 1945, Japan launched over 9,300 of these balloons. About 300 balloon bombs were found or observed in North America, the single lethal attack was the killing of a pregnant woman and her five children, who discovered the balloon in an Oregon forest. The only known deaths in the continental United States from enemy action during World War II. Hawaii excluded. It is figured hundreds of these may lie unxploded and undiscovered deep in rarely trafficked parts of the Oregon and California forests.

A CIA transmitter disguised as dog poo, used during the Vietnam war.

A Japanese Kamikaze ‘manned missile’. Designed never to land.

These are the floatation devices attached to the Apollo 11 module upon return from the moon, it needed to float while the astronauts waited for the ship to come pick them up from the water.

The actual quarantine trailer that the first men on the moon had to live in for a few days upon return from the moon. It was erroneously thought that such a thing as ‘moon germs’ might exist. And to be safe, this precaution was taken. The practice was later abandoned as NASA learned there was no such thing as ‘moon germs’.

Apollo 11 Quarantine Trailer, interior.

An early concept model from NASA for the space shuttle, late 1960s.

One of the most fascinating sections of the museum for me was the one on the golden age of airships. A hundred years ago, the rich could float slowly over days-long journeys from New York to Berlin. These blimps had giant cabins, sometimes three stories high, with ornate lounges and dining areas. Even grand pianos were to be found on board. Here we have some fine china salvaged from the wreck of the Hindenburg disaster.

Airship over Manhattan early 1930s.

Charles Lindbergh’s flying goggles.

Like I said, I stayed there until the place closed. Lights out.

If you read and looked at ALL THAT, you officially have a good attention span. Washington was wonderful. It is a place of monuments, museums and artifacts, where you can see all of America’s achievements and history all in the one place.

Scroll down for a SHORT blog post on Philadelphia.


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Ryan in America travel blog 2011-2012
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