Friday, 3 September 2010

USA - 2010/08

Our 3rd trip to New York, we were supposed to spend there 9 days - what will we do? Are we actually going to take it easy and do nothing? That was our initial idea but quickly “do nothing” holiday become “rushed” holiday (as usual). We decided to stay 3 days in NY and then head to Washington DC and Philadelphia.

First 3 days in NY passed reasonably relaxing – we opted to skip the main attractions and visit less touristy places like United Nations, which was set up in 1945 to stop wars; at the moment it has 192 members

Our arrival to NY hotel was interesting – we arrived well after midnight and the reception looked more like the night club than a hotel (loud music, lots people drinking and dancing ) so we had to check it twice that we are at the right place; eventually it turned out to be a very cool place and we will definitely consider staying there again (on 18th floor we didn’t hear any music, each nigth we got 2 drinks free and the terrace on the 15th floor was spectacular – we had a breakfast there every day);

Our hotel was only 5 min walk from Central Park so every morning we went for walk/jogging (there were lots of seriously fit people running/cycling there)

One day we spent watching tennis at US Open – we both agreed that from all the Grand Slams we've seen (we’ve been to Wimbledon and Australia Open before) this is the most commercial; it is probably the only place that during the break you can listen to Lady Gaga followed by Metallica; we've seen opening ceremony (with Gloria Estefan and Martina Navratilova, and 4 matches: Kim Clister, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Venus Williams); the courts were 1/3 empty and they main stadion looks much more spectacular on TV that in reality

We spent one day just walking around and admiring high skyscrapers - so tall that the sun doesn’t reach the pavement
below Wall St where US stock exchange is located and the bull - symbol of US market

The Chrysler skysrcaper - 77 floors; designed in art-deco style to be headquarter of the chrysler car manufacture but in reality it never was owned by the corporation, it was privately paid by Chrysler himself so his kids can inherit it

The Rockefeller Centre - complex of 19 buildings, outside the building pictured below each Xmas is big Xmas tree and the plaza outside is converted into the ice ring

The Times Square - the hart of Broadway (theatre district); main New Year celebrations are taking place here

The World Trade Centre - destroyed during 11 Sep 2001 attack; at the moment it's a building site - being converted into a memorial and new skyscrapers

The Statue of Liberty - present from people of France to USA, symbol of freedom; Gustav Eiffel helped design it; it has been built in France and ten transported in pieces to USA and assembled there

The Brookly Bridge
The Citi Fields Stadium - we went to watch a baseball game (NY Mets vs Hudson Astor) but found it a bit boring as we could not work out the rules

Dakota Building - on Central Park West and 71 Str - this is place where John Lennon lived and was murdered outside his apartment in 1973

After an interesting 4.5 hrs bus journey we arrived to the capital of USA - Washington (our driver got involved in the dispute with the one of the passengers, fight started, driver was spraying the passenger with the fire extinguisher – not funny at the time).

Washington DC (Washington DC = District of Columbia not to be confused with Washington state in north west part of USA where Seattle is) - what a positive surprise in terms of the place and the hotel; Washington DC is a very business orientated city with giant government buildings in Italian Renaissance style spread around The National Mall - big park in front of the Capitol with the trees, green grass, lake and fountain adding to the majesty of the place; at the time of our visit the place was almost deserted as it was holiday period; major buildings were offering free tours (which we both enjoyed enormously and took the advantage off); it was great US history lecture and surpassingly we both found it quite interesting;

The address format in Washington DC is interesting - city is divided into 4 quadrants (NE, NW, SE, SW) and each of them have the same address - all streets north to south are referred by numbers and east to west by letters - the counting starts from main streets (axes - North Capitol St, South Capitol St, East Capitol St and National Mall) meaning that there are 2 streets called 1 - parallel on the left and parallel on the right to N Capitol St and S Capitol St; most of the street are crossing each other at 90 degrees;

The capital moved to Washington DC during the residency of the 1st president - George Washington from Philadelphia (biggest city at the time) as it was decided that it will be best to have a capital in the new place not at one of the existing states, so architect Pierre l'Enfant has been commissioned to design the new capital. At the time this area was full of swamps - and still is outside the city.

USA congress structure:
- The House - overall 435, number of members is proportional to the state population elected every 2 years
- The Senate - 2 members from each state elected every 6 years
- The president - elected every 4 years, max can stay for 2 turns
each legislation needs to be approved by the Senate and the House; the president can veto it but veto is not valid if the congress has 2/3 majority

The Capitol - US parliament; the cornerstone was put by George Washington and it took 7 years to complete; the House and Senate occupy the opposite sides of the parliament, the flying flag over each part indicates if the session is in progress;

Library of Congress - today library consists of 3 buildings, over 170M books/materials; main building standing today is from 1897 and is named after Thomas Jefferson

- the original library was small and was burned by the British in 1812, the replacement has been provided by Thomas Jefferson, who after retiring from being the 3rd president sold his books collection consisting of 6.5k books to the government for 24k USD to pay his debts (he loved whisky and books and always was in financial trouble); he had a biggest private collection at the time; there was some opposition from some members of the government that not all the books are on the needed subject but he responded famously by saying that there is no subject that the congress may not need to refer to;

- once the government passed the law that 2 copies of each book/printed material that is protected by the copy rights must be given to the Library of Congress, it's collection has been growing rapidly

- in 1870 government allocated 6.5M USD to build a new library (unfortunately no money were allocated for the deco so the architects come out with the idea and convinced the best craftsman in Us to do it for almost free for the opportunity to have their work being admired by next generations); It turned out to be successful move and surprisingly it has been completed 6mths ahead of the schedule and under the budget (200k US from the original budget have been returned back to the government) - hard to imagine today under budget and ahead of the schedule :); it was built by US army as the original company that was commissioned could not deal with the swamp (soft grand);

- new library that can be visited today has been completed in 1897, has 13 reading rooms; everybody incl foreigners can access the library but only members of the congress can take the books off site, others need to use them in one of the rooms; library is in the process of digitising their materials but it will take years to complete; at the moment 7M materials are available on the internet incl maps from the time of Columbus
White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is the house of each president of USA; unfortunately tours around the White House are at the moment not available for non-USA Citizens;

FBI Headquarters used to offer tours incl DNA centre and crime laboratory - but after Sep 11 all tours have been stopped

The Lincoln Memorial - it's on the $5 note; Abraham Lincoln parents were illiterate and he only spent 1 year at school - he was self learner; most famous was ending the slavery; has been assassinated on Good Friday in 1865 when watching the performance in the Ford's Theatre

The Pentagon - US Department of Defence; what can be said - it's big - it's the largest office by the area; it has 5 floors above ground and 2 below

Mount Vernon - the estate of George Washington, 18 miles from the centre, overlooking Potomac river;

after spending day visiting all the museums in Washington we decided it's time for a change so we rented the bikes and headed to the eastate; we pretty quickly discovered what do they meant saying that Washington DC was built on the swaps

- the eastate was nice, self sufficient and it's worth noticing that George Washington was a keen farmer

- he leaved happy at the eastate with his wife Martha for lot's of years and died there from the throat infection (that made his throat swallowed and he ended up suffocating); he was buried on the eastate

- his wife after his death closed their bedroom and ever open it again - this was common for that time period; she passed away 2 years later

- Martha Washington was a strong woman, she refused sit at home and every year, when George was away she was joining him for a few months and was looking after the soldiers in the hospital and provided moral support to the soldiers

The Jefferson Memorial - Thomas Jefferson was head of comitee writting Decraration of Independednce and later become 3rd president of US; he sold his library to the congress

The Washington Monument - dedicated to George Washington, it's the tallest structure in Washington DC with 169m (In DC there is no skyscrapers)

Philadelphia is between Washington DC and NY - it's the birthplace of USA

On 4th July 1776 the Declaration of Independence has been approved by the congress in Philadelphia; at the time Philadelphia was the biggest city among 13 states that signed the declaration (it's hard to believe because it only had population of 40k but at the time it was big)

below room were the Declaration of Independence has been read for 2nd time and approved

the city hall where all the work on the declaration took place

we could not leave Philadelphia without trying philadelphia steak sandwich

One week in USA passed really quickly (and we were worried what we will do there as it was our 3rd trip to NY); it was strange to travel without the bike but we both enjoyed it and surprisingly found it interesting learning about US history (have to admit that we didn't know too much)
We will probably never return to Washington DC again (as there is so many other places to visit) but will always have a good memory; if you have the opportunity visit it
Travel is more that sightseeing - it's definitely true :)

1 comment:

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