Day 30 – Washington DC

We woke up to a cold and slightly damp Washington.

After unsuccessfully trying to find a laundromat and grabbing a quick breakfast, we went to the highly rated (but previously unfamiliar to us) museum of the history of news and media, called the “Newseum”.

Spread over 6 floors, the museum chronicles the history of print, radio and TV news, providing a number of interactive and specialist exhibits.  Among the generalist exhibitions of the major news events of the last couple of centuries, the museum includes specialist exhibits on the FBI, the Berlin Wall, sports photography and studios currently used in providing political broadcasts from Washington.

One of the interactive exhibits gave visitors the opportunity to role play being a reporter in front of a Washington landmark.  I chose to present the breaking news from in front of the Capitol building.  Although they provided a script on the teleprompter, ad-libbing is definitely encouraged.

I didn’t quite get my timing right, and the cheesy pointing at the screen at the end was intentionally tongue-in-cheek.  I’m sure the person in charge of multi-media on this blog (ie Jane) will post my novice attempt at reporting somewhere on this site (wearing my sunglasses was also intentionally tongue-in-cheek … )

Having intended to spend a couple of hours in the Newseum before choosing the next museum to visit, we managed to consume most of the afternoon at what turned out to be a fascinating and well put together museum.

By the time we left, it was a bitterly cold late afternoon, with howling winds that ripped through your soul.  Out of obligation more than desire, we trudged down Pennsylvania Ave to get a photo in front of the White House from the Oval Office side of the building.

We felt a bit soft when a group of girls skipped past us, dressed in jeans and t-shirts and seemingly on a hens party, particularly as we looked like we were ready for an Artic Expedition, but consoled ourselves that everyone else on the street were similarly rugged up.

Having secured the obligatory photo, we went for a drink in the “Round Robin Bar” of the historic Willard Hotel.  We perched ourselves at the small round bar to thaw out with a couple of sundowners.

Before long, we were chatting to an older couple from Arkansas, Bud and Tammie.  They were in town for a Conservative Republican conference, with an attendance of a mere 13,000 delegates.  Without saying so, it sounded like the conference had links to the Tea Party faction, so it was interesting to hear their views on the current Republican Primary process.

In addition to their insights on the American political process, Bud was a former pilot in the US Naval, then subsequently American Airlines, and had traveled the globe, including visits to Australia and coincidentally Fraser Island.  He had an encyclopedic knowledge of a whole range of topics and a virtual photographic recall of the many places he had been, so we ended up spending a couple of hours sharing tales.

In addition to their visit for the conference, they were in semi-retirement trying to act as distributors for bottled Alaskan water, which they are attempting to market directly to hotels and restaurants.  With one of the bottles on hand, our conversation was interspersed with sales pitch’s to the bar man and the beverage manager of the Willard hotel, as Bud waxed lyrical about the quality of Alaskan water, and its specialised bottles, complete with blue LED lighting.

Declining their offer to spend the next day visiting a naval base with them, we bid our new friends good night and went in search of a good steak, which we found in the restaurant next door to the Willard.

During dinner, the ubiquitous TV mounted in the corner of the restaurant announced the death of Whitney Houston.  Quite surreal to hear news like that in the middle of a good bottle of red and a good meal.

These headlines were to flood the news wires for the next few days, but for tonight, we braved the horizontal gale force winds and snow flurries to grab a cab and head back to the hotel.

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