So what do you do when jetlag forces you out of bed at around 4:30 am in a city where civilized life won´t start before 7 am the earliest? Right, having breakfast in bed and some coffee (to at least reach a state of mind, that understands where you are and why you are there).
I always carry my “Survival Kit” with me. Consisting of packets of instant oatmeal, a box of mixed nuts and chia seeds and a large container of instant coffee. This might not be the most gourmet snack that someone dreams of when speaking of breakfast in bed, but these items can (at least currently) be brought into almost every country in this world without fearing troubles with local authorities or violating food restrictions. And since these days almost every hotel room features a coffee maker (or at least a water heater), they can be easily prepared at any time of day. And they deliver energy.
Something you particularly need when your body must function out of its rhythm and in a different time zone that it is used to.
But back to the topic. Our SightWalk begins at 6:00am at the wonderful Mayflower Hotel, a Washington landmark itself.
President Harry S. Truman was a frequent guest at this historic place. During the 2014 refit of the “Grande Dame of Washington”, the guest rooms received wallpapers carrying the printed signatures of other celebrity guests, such as John F. Kennedy, Walt Disney, Sophia Loren, Bob Hope or John Wayne.
From here, take a left out of the main entrance and walk down Connecticut Avenue NW. When you reach K Street at Farragut Square, you will find a Starbucks and a Prêt a manger (if your “Proper coffee-craving ” should be at heights) that are already open at this early time of day.
Cross Farragut Square and continue for another block on Connecticut Avenue. This will automatically bring you to LaFayette Square, a neat public park right in front of the White House, our first stop.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is probably the most popular street address in the entire world.
Thomas Jefferson was the first president to move in in 1801 while George Washington was the first of the presidents not to live inside at all.
It features 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 412 doors, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases and 3 elevators.
While the main entrance facing Pennsylvania Avenue is already an impressive background for selfies, yet it is the rear facade with the extensive President´s Park that is most famous from many news broadcasts that underlines to me the special aura that this building is surrounded by. For this vista, simply walk around the estate and turn into E Street NW. The street runs right in between President´s Park and The Ellipse.
If you decide to walk around the White House down 15th Street NW, you will pass another highly important construction for the U.S. Government: The Department of Treasury.
The institution was established in 1789 and manages the goverement´s revenue. This place is responsible for printing and minting the entire US currency, bills as well as coins. It collects all federal taxes and takes care of all U.S. debts, just to name a few.
Thinking of somebody paying the bills of the United States with a credit card inside is a silly thought, yet it makes me smile. In an abstract way, this is, among other things, what happens there.
By the way, the W Hotel on the other side of the street is highly popular for its rooftop terrace, the P.O.V. Lounge. If you are into sneak peek onto the White House, that is your place to be for cocktails on warm summer nights!
Continue down on 15th St NW until Constitution Avenue. Now you are right at the Washington Monument.
The obelisk was built in commemoration of the first U.S. president, George Washington. It was the tallest monumental column worldwide actually until 1889, the year the Eiffel Tower in Paris was completed.
The 50 American flags circling around it represent the 50 states, with Hawaii and Alaska joining last. Its iconic presence marks it as one of the most recognised landmarks in D.C. (and the visitor terrace on top offers and excellent view on clear days!).
Washington Monument marks the center of the so-called Washington Mall. This area is referred to as a National Park in downtown Washington D.C. and runs from the Capitol to Lincoln Memorial.
The Mall was erected on an area that was originally planned by Pierre Charles L´Enfant as the “Grand Avenue”. But it has never been realised.
The Washington Mall is a regular site to rallies and/or demonstrations. One of the historically most important ones was the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom led by Martin Luther King, Jr. .
From the Washington Monument, it is only a stone´s throw to the National World War II Memorial.
This site was dedicated by president George W. Bush to Americans served in the Armed Forces or as Civilians during World War 2.
The Washington Post called the design of the site “overbearing”, “bombastic”, and a “hodgepodge of cliché and Soviet-style pomposity” with “the emotional impact of a slab of granite”. Quite a statement.
Being German and therefore having ancestors that were responsible for this awful act of inhumanity makes me concentrate more on the idea that stands behind the site.
And so every time I go there, and I go often, it is a silent reminder of unspeakable evil to me. Something that shall never happen again!
WW II Memorial merges right behind into the beautiful Lincoln Memorial Reflection Pool with the Lincoln Memorial towering above at its end.
The Pool is the largest of the reflecting pools in D.C. and was designed by Henry Bacon. Completed in 1923, it holds 25,5 million litres of water. The simplicity of its architecture and design fascinates me every time. It is fabulous for taking strolls or running errands, but be aware: In the mornings, there is lots of dog poop lying around!
Mount the steps to Lincoln Memorial and breathe in the gorgeous view from up here. With Abe in the background, the vista on the entire Washington Mall is simply amazing. The site is one of the most visited in entire D.C. . With Abraham Lincoln being one of the utmost popular presidents ever so far (ranked permanently one of the third bests).
He was the first Republican president and the first in history to die of assassination. Lincoln abolished slavery and led the Nation through the Civil War.
But before you descend the marble stairs, take a walk around his hall of fame underneath the enormous columns. There is some nice photo spots of the beautiful Arlington Memorial Bridge and another great perspective of the Washington Monument and the Capitol in the background.
Back on the ground, take a right and walk past the Korean War Veterans Memorial on Daniel French Drive towards Independence Avenue.
Cross the avenue and continue on Ohio Drive that runs along West Potomac Park just until West Basin Drive.
Take a left into the street and then walk right hand side to the entrance of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
The memorial is not a typical indoor construction but is designed as a public outdoor space with lots of large rocks, statures, lush vegetation and various scenes out of the moving life of Roosevelt and his wife, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.
It personally reminds a little bit of Superman´s home Krypton actually. Yet it is very informative and fun to walk through, as the walls are covered with philosophies and quotes of both personalities. In my opinion, it is the most personal memorials of all of the president´s ones.
From here, take the steps down right to the shores of the Tidal Basin.
This partially man-made reservoir was intended as a visual centerpiece as well as a means for flushing the Washington Channel.
Continue to walk to the left. You will pass Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and on the way to Kutz Bridge, enjoy the various picturesque views of Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the reservoir.
The many cherry trees growing in this area were a gift of the people of Japan in 1912. Tidal Basin is a focal point of the annually happening National Cherry Blossom Festival and also very popular for paddle boating, promenade walks and picnics.
Unlike most landmarks in D.C. and due to its offshore location to the Washington Mall, Thomas Jefferson Memorial is not as much visited as its counterparts.
Which is quite awkward, as I find. Thomas Jefferson was one of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States, the principal Author of the “Declaration of Independence”, the first Secretary of State ever, American minister to the Kingdom of France and his supremacy, King Louis 16th, and the third president of the United States.
So when you come to Washington one day, make sure to pay tribute to all the achievements that this man has accomplished.
At this point, our walking tour now slowly comes to and end as you cross Kutz Bridge and take the next possible pedestrian crossing and head over to Washington Monument again. From here, it is up to you wherever you continue your exploration through the Nation´s capital, or to return to your hotel for well-deserved rest.
If you kept a swift yet not too speedy paste within the last two hours, you have completed a fantastic and effective morning workout with enjoying some of Washington´s greatest sights at the same time.
That is much more fun than being on a treadmill, right? And the best thing, you can do this kind of exercise in almost every city around the world!
After a refreshing shower and a lazy hour on my hotel room bed, I take another short walk into one of Washington´s most beautiful neighbourhoods: Georgetown.
Home to Georgetown University and counting celebrity citizens such as John Kerry, Madeleine Albright or Bob Woodward, the “city” features many great restaurants and cafés for energy refueling.
I love sitting on the terrace of the local Dean & Deluca branch with a freshly prepared sandwich or some sushi, fresh berries and one of the green power juices while watching the hip and trendy University crowd taking lunch breaks.
It´s been a great day! Looking forward to come back soon:).
I hope, you enjoyed this walk through Washington with me as much as I did. Feel free to let me know your thoughts and/or suggestions! Feedback is always highly appreciated.
Until then, safe travels, folks! See you on the road…