Washington, District of Columbia
We opened the curtains and could see very little. Snow. Light snow, but plenty of it, if that makes sense – it was never going to form huge drifts, but fell consistently till mid afternoon, chopping any vantage point’s view to four blocks, as I discovered when I went up the old post office tower. I felt lucky that I’d wandered the mall the previous day – it was cold both days, but the day before had bright sunshine.
I still covered some of the same ground; the mall is stunning in more or less any weather conditions. I was making my way to the museums when I spotted the Old Post Office, a rare bit of architectural variety in D.C. It was due to be knocked down, since it wasn’t in common with the new wave of buildings going up in the neoclassical style, but popular pressure saved it, and now tours are offered a few times a day-you can go up the tower yourself any time. I found an entrance and followed confusing directions from security-quick scan of the bag by three underworked guards-to get through the complex. It is a huge place, with only the tower, at one corner, open. Signs announce that the shops and restaurants are closed, which is a little disingenuous, these places haven’t seen action in a while. At some point they’ve tried to turn the ground floor into a destination, with the tower a bonus, but it hasn’t worked. The layout probably doesn’t help, with only the ground floor covering the whole surface area, all the other floors look out over that area from balconies, a huge void in the middle. Whatever has passed, this place may need saving again, particularly as guards for the various entrances outnumbered those actually going up the tower. The exhibits on the history are a little tired, but then there’s no money coming in from free tours. The view would be grand on a good day; I could see four blocks or so, ducking the icy snow blasts on two sides where the tower is open before deciding enough was enough.
I headed to the museums, covering ground in the American (full) and Natural history (likewise) museums before trying the American Indian. I liked the transportation exhibits in the first, the rocks and gems in the second and the building of the third. The latter has a lot of empty space – the exhibition rooms are varying sizes, and I’m not sure there are any permanent exhibits, just a moveable feast, perhaps because other cities have American Indian museums with the artefact angle covered, but it does make for a huge foyer area that is just a meeting place.
After the museums I got out of the cold, though not before spotting a police/FBI car. Is that not just a car with an identity crisis? It was movie night at the hostel, and though that seemed to involve just watching the comedy channel it passed the time. As people disappeared from the too-small living room, I gradually upgraded from hard chair through edge of sofa to proper seat. Good for my sense of progress.