Washington, DC as a tourist
As you have seen in the last post in the Reserach section, in the past days I went to Washington, DC, where I dedicated some time to sightseeing in addition to the events that I attended. Indeed, apart from the very quick passage that I made last July in occasion of the International Energy Workshop in College Park, I had already been there about ten years ago when I took an on-the-road trip in the South-Eastern states with my friends Fabio and Tino, so I had already seen the city’s most important landmarks. However, the US capital features dozens and dozens of things which deserve to be visited, so if you happen in DC and have time to spend as a tourist, it is always worth it. Therefore I had planned two half-days (one before and one after the events) to dedicate to this purpose… even if I already knew that the second part would be very complicated.
But let’s proceed step by step.
Probably not all know that flights in America are much more expensive than in Europe: we often complain about low-cost companies, but they are really great fron this point of view. Of course distances are longer here in the US, but finding 20$ flights, as we are used in Europe, is basically impossible here. Bottom line, I have to renounce direct flights, and book an itinerary with a stopover. This, by the way, makes the whole trip last about 8-9 hours: America is really wide (a direct flight coast to coast is at least 5 hours)!
On my way to DC, the stopover is in Dallas. Here I post one picture of the promising welcome poster at the airport and one picture from the plane showing the “infinite” extension of the city.
I landed in the evening, so there is not much more to tell about that day. Well, I avoid talking about the efforts that I made to eat something: I landed at 10 pm local time and obviously all bars and restaurants were closed at the airport (American business hours…): eventually I managed to have a pizza delivered in my hotel well after midnight…
The following day the meeting is scheduled for 6 pm, so I have some time to stroll around, even if the three-hour difference with the West Coast makes me lose part of the morning. My hotel is conveniently located: first of all, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are really close to it, and I immediately reach them in my walk. Very cool, even if the buildings per se are nothing special, at least from the outside: in the following picture, the World Bank is in foreground, while the IMF can (barely) be seen on the right.
From here I reach the White House in very few minutes. Naturally I had already seen it in my previous trip, but mysteriously we just limited to one side, while we had not come to the main entrance. As you can see, there was also a protest… even if not against Trump 🙂 By the way, maybe Donald was at home??
Obviously, even if I had already been there, I go to the other side as well (to get there, I pass by the Department of the Treasury):
At his point it is substantially mandatory to give a look at the Washington Monument: this 169-meter tall obelisk is located precisely in the center of the National Mall (or simply The Mall), which is a huge boulevard/park measuring about 4 km somehow “gathering” the main Washington buildings. I take very quick pictures to the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol (i.e. the Parliament) – these photos are a bit blurry, but the objects were really far! – and I can finally reach my main destination, i.e. the National Museum of American History. By the way, this also allows me to spend some time in a warmer place: I am getting used to the fake Californian winter, while here, as expected, I am freezing!
Just a quick note: I had already visited the National Archives, which show, among others, the original documents of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution, otherwise this would have been my first destination.
I do not spend too much time (and space) to describing the hundreds of things that I see in the museum (which by the way I find a bit messy). Here I just attach a couple of pictures with the Apple II and some late XIX century inventions (part of Bell’s telephone, one of Edison’s light bulbs, one phonograph and the device to get real-time stock quotes).
However, the part where I spent most of my time was the sector dedicated to the wars fought by the United States, especially the Civil War. Here you can find three photos of the hundreds that I took… no, honestly I did not take many: I was much more focused on reading and looking! You can see the Confederate States’ flag (by the way, the one with the Saint Andrew’s cross that we all know was the battle flag, not the official flag) and two girders of the Twin Towers.
Tempus fugit and it is now time to go to the MCAA – North America meeting, which I described in the other post. The following day, as I wrote there, there was the official event at the Embassy of France. When my colleagues and I arrived in the morning, we were immediately allowed in the building, so I could not take any photos of the complex, which is very nice, both aesthetically and as a location. Well, a picture of the name outside will have to be sufficient!
For the following day I had originally thought that I could visit the National Air and Space Museum, however, as I wrote above, I knew that everything would be a bit complicated. Naturally, the comic aspect of the story cannot be missing. In the previous weeks some European colleagues had started planning a conference call to discuss about a project to which I will collaborate. Naturally, I had given limited availability, due to the different time zone. Essentially, I could participate only in some days at my 8 am (Pacific time, of course). In the end the picked date was December 12, precisely at my 8 am. “Very good, I can attend the call then!”, I had initially said to myself. However, afterwards the travel to Washington had been fixed, precisely in those days… So the call that I myself had asked to be scheduled for 8 am Pacific time, was finally held at my 11 am on the East Coast! Obviously, the call finished quite late, and there was just time to have lunch and go to the airport without rushing… So no air and space museum! Never mind, I will be back in the future, hopefully!
On my way back to San Francisco, I find time to go to Hollywood… at least watching the poster at the Los Angeles airport 🙂
By the way – becoming more serious – taking off for the last part of the flight to SFO, I could see the fires blazing on the hills around Santa Barbara. I tried to take a couple of pictures, but they were quite poor and above all they did not give a clear idea of what could be perceived on the spot. 2017 is being a really tough year concerning fires here in California: let’s hope that everything will be solved soon.