CS Experience – part 1: A weekend in DC

This post is part of a mini-series from my Thanksgiving trip.
My trip for my Thanksgiving break began  by going sightseeing in Washington, DC for a weekend. Packed with only one backpack I got myself to the airport.
I had my first interesting encounter even before I had gotten on the plane, when I offered a bored older man one of my news papers. He revealed that he was originally from North Korea and had lived in the US for a longer while. He said that he now lived in Iowa on a missile site which he bought cheaply from the government after the Cold War. He invited me to come visit if I wanted to see the place, so he offered me his business card. I already had a good feeling about this trip.

The Host

I arrived in Washington quite late, so I tried to make my way to my host right away. He hosted another surfer at his home when I arrived, from France, so it was nice to hang out with him and some of the hosts friends the first night and share some traveling experiences.

It quite soon came evident to me that he was quite wealthy. He lived in the penthouse quite in the center of the city, which made it a very good location to explore the city from. He was the CEO of his own architecture company, and apparently made quite some good money. Since he had been traveling when he was younger and knew how expensive it could be, he now wanted to give others the opportunity. He did this not only by hosting people but also by offering food and showing you around. Any offer I tried to make for paying back resulted in him rejecting that offer. In terms of that I was there for sightseeing he was really was a great host.

Architecture in Washington, DC

As an architect my host could tell me some interesting facts about the architecture in Washington, DC, which is quite a bit different from the rest of the country. The city is build in French architecture and it really seems like a European city when you walk around. You don’t see any skyscrapers either, since no building in Washington can be higher than the statue on the capitol. Since many buildings are relatively old or follow a certain design, my host mainly worked with

2013-11-23 01.19.13You could see over the whole city from the rooftop.

Navigation in Washington, DC

Navigation in Washington is another interesting thing. The US capitol building is the center of the city. Streets that go both east or west increase in number. The same goes for streets that either go north or south from the Capitol, except that these are alphabetical. Roads after Z St. the roads continue with names are in alphabetical order (e.g. Adams St, Bryant St.). The connecting “diagonal” avenues are named after states (e.g. Nebraska Avenue NW). To know where to go, you have to know in what compass direction from the capitol your destination is.

So if my host said that he lived in the crossing between 12th street and D street, but forgot to mention which of the four parts (NW, NE, SW, SE) of the city he lives in, it could be any of four different places. As long as you know this however, navigation in Washington, DC is a breeze.

Streets that go both east or west increase in number.
Streets that go both east or west are in alphabetical order.

If you’re more interested, you can check out this article.

2013-11-23 13.23.23
Random tourist don’t always take the best pictures, but hey at least I’m not this person

Sightseeing in Washington

In preparation for my visit I had contacted the representative of Nebraska to see if I could visit the White House. You have to do this 60 days in advance, but I contacted only 14 days before the visit and still had the chance to go. I guess not too many people from Nebraska visit the White House. You can’t take any pictures in the White House, but Google has this awesome virtual tour of the house, if you are interesting in exploring the house. While the tour in the White House was self guided, the Capitol was great with a short introductory movie and a guided tour around the building.

Between the Capitol and the Lincoln memorial you got most of the museums and monuments that you would see in movies. The museums are huge and contain everything you can imagine. While the monuments were interesting to look at they also really got me thinking. Many of the memorials and exhibits in the museums were dedicated to the many different wars that the US had been involved in. While I think it’s important to remember all the soldiers that have been involved, I also felt like many of the monuments where used to justify the wars that the US have been and are in. Everything was made in the name of freedom. The amount of nationalism was quite overwhelming.

2013-11-24 16.57.55I was surprised to learn that this was the original Wright Brothers airplane they used for the first recorded flight in history.

Conclusion

Washington is a great city for doing sightseeing if you like that kind of stuff. Since everything is for free (including government buildings and museums), you won’t go home broke either and can spend money on other stuff. Other than that I felt there wasn’t that much more that I would have liked to do in the city. Two days in Washington, DC was quite sufficient for me and I got more time to explore and experience New York City, which I will get to in my next post tomorrow.

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