There is something magical about being a tourist in a foreign city. I can’t quite pinpoint it exactly – maybe it is the thrill of exploring a new geographical area or even the mystery that comes with having no plans or agenda. Maybe it is camera constantly strapped to your hand or interacting with other random strangers when you ask for that special photo. Regardless of what it is, my recent trip to America’s Capital city was by far one of my greatest experiences of all time. First of all, just having the opportunity for a break in the middle of first semester was an awesome concept for me. Normally as Canadian students, we do not get a significant break from classes until Thanksgiving (and even then it is sometimes not enough). In America, the Fall Break is a 5 day vacation in October that occurs midway semester one and while some students used that time to study for their upcoming exams, for me it was the perfect opportunity to travel! Three other guys and a car rental later, I found myself on the road to Washington, DC.
Arriving in the big city was everything I thought it would be. Towering each of the side streets stood massive buildings and historical monuments while various vendors selling hotdogs and t-shirts worked below. Compared to the small, comfortable town of Greensboro that I have grown accustomed to, this place was huge and it took me a few hours at least, to adjust to the busy, crowded lifestyle. For my European counterparts, the change was welcomed – to them it reminded of home. The jumped right into the new environment and it took all of my wits to stay with them as they directed me through the streets. I finally adjusted and after that moment things became more smooth and I was ready to take in all the sights, sounds and sometimes even the smells of Washington.
The first stop on our trip around town brought us to a small white house behind a feeble iron fence. Aside from the fact the building was white and that there was a small crowd admiring the building’s simplicities while taking pictures it did not occur to me that what I was actually seeing was THE White House. Seriously…I’ve watched the movies and even seen my fair share of “The West Wing” – I think I would have been able to know the White House when I saw it and this building did not fit the bill. I guess I expected there to be more grandeur, with several men in black suits standing guard and flags proudly waving form every orifice of the place. My friend attempted to convince me and the two others that were in disbelief that it was what it was. He even went as far as to film us verbally stating that the building was not the White House. It took us asking a security guard down the way for the answer we were all so eager to here and of course it WAS the White House. It was like the hand of the President himself had slapped me across the face. I felt so embarrassed and you better believe that the guy that was right all along made sure to remind the rest of us throughout the entire day about that moment in time. At least it was worth a good laugh. J We continued to make our way to the backside of the White House and Eureka! That was the White House I had grown up knowing. At least I know that I am not entirely crazy – it turns out that the back of the building is more visually well known than the front anyway so I don’t feel so bad not recognizing it from the front.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by. To save us the hassle of walking around the city (which could have taken us hours to walk from one memorial to the next) we rented bicycles from these conveniently located bike stalls. So not only did I get to see the American Capital, I got to feel European as I did so. Let me just say that I haven’t ridden a bicycle in almost 5 years so things were slow to start off. In the end the bikes were the greatest idea anyone could have suggested. We saw the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Capital Building, Jefferson Memorial, The Korean/Vietnam/World War II Memorials and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial all in a span of a few hours. You can imagine that pedaling around such a big city can take a lot out of a person – and it did. Once my head hit the pillow of my hotel bed, I instantly fell asleep. What a great way to spend my first ever Fall Break in America!