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British Embassy, Washington, DC
29th Jul 2008
Washington, DC: day 3

I rescheduled my departure plans to allow myself an extra day in this awesome city. 

I'd left my laptop in the car, parked outside the dinner party hosts' house a few blocks away (hence the late blogging), so I went to the local library to plan some surfing.  I dodged the bums snoozing among the books and nearly screamed at the guys snoozing while logged on to the computers that I was queuing to use.

My first real destination was Massachusetts Avenue, aka Embassy Row, where I played the game of "guess the flag" with myself and won, but only narrowly as there were embassies and flags of countries I'd never heard of.   Most of them were in 1800-style houses with minimal security, but when I reached the British Embassy there was no mistaking it:  the Ambassador's house, on campus, is a huge Georgian mansion with massive chimneys.  The embassy itself is as dull-looking and almost as large as the US Embassy in Grosvenor Sq, but nowhere near as fortified.  I asked the Souf Londoner on the gate whether I might pop in for a spot of tea, but he said no. He said I could take photos but needed to be wary of US police, as taking photos on that road is frowned upon.  Land of the free!

I continued past the Navy Observatory and saw their master clock, which I could not understand, and then past the house of that dick, Cheney, before jumping on the metro towards the Smithsonian again.

My afternoon was spent in the wonderful National Museum of American Natural History.  It was another superbly presented museum, but again there were too many children.  They were even touching the dinosaur fossils, the little bastards!  The last time I saw so many dinosaurs I was a child and was not aware of just how incomplete a skeleton can be, the rest being made of resin or plaster.  Sometimes a dinosaur had just a fragment of skull, but the missing pieces were padded-out to a full head. 

I think I must have taken about 200 photos of rocks in the geology section.  I definitely want to do a degree in geology when I get home.  The exhibition walked me through the creation of the rocks in the planet and then to the creation of minerals, crystals and finally their cutting into gemstones. The climax was the 130-carat Hope Diamond. 

My silent chuckle of the day was when one gentleman explained with conviction to his wife that fluorite, CaF2, is so-named because "it glows under fluorescent lights."  Maybe he meant UV light.  Dummy.

 After the rocks I saw the insect zoo, a hands-on zoo for children.  The trouble was, I wanted to hold the grasshopper, but there were too many little boys and girls being given priority over the adults.  Humph.


Erin had kindly secured a ticket for a concert that we'd been discussing, so I went home to change and then headed out to meet with her friend and a series of friends-of-friends.  We saw the Old 97s, an "alt-country" band that are apparently very popular (the venue was packed), who were very good.  I did not know any songs but enjoyed their flawless performance.


All in all, Washington DC is one of my favourite cities in the US.  It's clean, well-oiled, jam-packed with culture and cool people, and it's just the right size for me.  Its downsides are apparently price of living, and the pervasive paranoia, present everywhere, but particularly so here (x-ray and metal detector to enter a museum?!).  I could live here.  I'd even choose it over Massachusetts, though maybe not over Boston.  Certainly over Chicago and Philly.  Sod New York.



Next: Virginia, Shenandoah National Park, West Virginia
Previous: Washington, DC: day 2

Diary Photos

British Embassy, Washington, DC

Ambassador`s house, Washington, DC

Naval clock, Washington, DC

Annoying farecard process, Washington, DC

Use your quiet voice, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

King of the terrible lizards, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

My fave childhood dino, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

Fluorescence, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

Corundum, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

Hope Diamond, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

Black Widow spider, Nat. Hist. Mus., Washington, DC

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