After the familiar hurly burly of New York, 2 days in Washington DC was always going to be too short, so we hit the ground running on the first evening with a night time tour of the notable monuments.
It was impressive.
Heading to the Thomas Jefferson memorial first, our guide explained that Jefferson’s statue was aligned to look back to Capitol Hill. The idea was that, as a ‘founding father’ of American independence and political system, his unwavering gaze on The Hill would keep future encumbents ‘honest’. On hearing this, there were a few muffled snorts of derision from fellow passengers on the tour bus.
Be that as it may, the figure of Jefferson was imposing up close.
Not a perfect man by any means, a slaveowner who occasionally fought for the freedom of slaves who were seeking emancipation, as one of the principal authors of the Deceleration, he is still a magnificent figure in American history.
And it brought a lump to my throat to read on the wall over his left shoulder, the famous opening lines of the Declaration of Independence: ‘These truths we hold to be self-evident….’
Next was Roosevelt’s memorial.
One of many sentiments in Roosevelt’s memorial, which carries a poignant irony in these recent times. Fair to say that as we’ve travelled around, ‘providing enough’ for the disadvantaged is failing the test of progress.
And then we came to Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s memorial. In the subdued light, milling around with family and the predominantly African-American crowd, I quietly cried. Max consoled me, and was sombre in turn, himself. He pretty much understood why, as we’d talked about civil rights recently in the trip.
And yet, the celebratory reverence with which the gathering African-American people showed to the figure, had every sign of saying – ‘he is our Man, he fought for us, he even died for us’. An African-American boy at the foot of King’s statue expressed it so well. Pointing up, with two hand raised, it was symbolic in an instant.
‘He is the man!’.
On out last day in DC, by Gracie’s request, we took off for the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.
‘One small step’….and so on.
Oh my goodness! Oh lordy, lordy!
Walk, in, and what’s the first thing you see?
An Apollo Lunar Module of course!
Or how about the original Wright Flyer?
We spent nearly a whole day there, to the point where Gracie was so exhausted- but wanted to keep going – we hired a complimentary wheelchair to push her around in.
After the Smithsonian was done and dusted, and we staggered out into the sun, the dissonant tinkle of a soft serve ice-cream van was the only way to celebrate the experience.
Oblivious to the symbol of power on the hill behind, the only thing that mattered was a chocolate and peanut encrusted vanilla ice-cream.
Well, actually, this is where the journey really begins.
A 9 day road trip from Washington DC, via Nashville, Memphis, Clarksdale and Natchez, to New Orleans.
Let’s do this!