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WASHINGTON D.C. Washington D.C. is a fabulous town, very culturally and ethnically diverse, with so much to offer that it makes it one of the top holiday destinations in the country. What I found particularly appealing is the combination of the high energy big-city vibe and the quaint and old-fashioned element. Its atmosphere is truly unique and whether you just stroll around the National Monuments, visit one of the many museums, explore the culinary scene or spend a night out clubbing, you will always find something interesting to do. Unless you are into palm trees, white-sanded beaches, clear blue ocean waters and tropical Babes. That might be a bit problematic. In which case: what the hell did you go to D.C. for in the first place?!  Obviously you should have been better informed. You might still be able to find some exotic Babes though; after all I did say D.C. was ethnically diverse, right? But jokes aside, if you are thinking of spending your vacation there I hope that the little description of the impressions and experiences from my stay can prove helpful in creating your own itinerary. I divided it into short thematically organized sections, so that you can quickly find what you are most interested in. Please enjoy! THE AIRLINE **** Frontier Airlines: http://www.flyfrontier.com/ We flew to Washington D.C. with Frontier Airlines. Considering the times of departure and arrival (during the day) we got a pretty good deal, because for that same amount you could only get a red-eye flight with most other airlines. We did have to catch a connecting flight in Denver both ways. Which proved to be quite unlucky en route to D.C., as we spent a good hour stashed away in some hangar doubling as a tornado shelter because, yes, there was a tornado warning followed by the actual tornado happily causing all kinds of havoc in the greater area around the airport. So we ended up stuck there for 7 hours. In all fairness it was not the airlines’ fault this time, but on the way back they did have over an hour’s delay with no natural catastrophes to blame for it whatsoever. As far as the service goes, it really depended on the flight: it ranged from cheerful and friendly to grumpy and gruff. But it certainly wasn’t so horrible that you would feel personally insulted: a little sense of humor definitely went a long way to make a few of those moody flight attendants seem like a figure more entertaining rather than pure evil. The seats were fairly comfortable and spacious (for a plane, that is), the lavatories all clean (even fragrant) and fully operational. Please note that because of their competitive prices the flights are really, really full, so if you have certain seat preferences you should reserve them in advance (costs $5 a seat), otherwise you might end up sitting in between two rather large and not so fresh- smelling gentlemen. True story, it happened to a girl we bonded with at the airport during our tornado adventure… Which only proves that when you think that things can’t get any worse you find out that yes, they can. After 7 hrs of waiting for a plane to take off you end up sitting in between two guys, who do not believe in soap. Poor girl. But anyway. They will also charge you $20 per bag if you check it in and starting July 2013, $25 for every carry-on item. You will receive a complimentary beverage on board, but if you would like a snack or some alcohol you have to pay extra for that. The planes are equipped with TV screens in front of every seat with DIRECTV running on them, but in order to enjoy that service you would also have to dig out and swipe that credit card of yours. All in all the overall experience was not bad, but be prepared to pay extra for everything and if you are expecting luxury, then this is probably not the airline for you. If you are looking for a reasonably priced flight in the economy class, you don’t mind bringing your own food and entertainment (unless you are ok with overpaying terribly for theirs), then I would definitely recommend Frontier. THE HOTEL **** L’Enfant Plaza: http://www.lenfantplazahotel.com We stayed at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. The definite upside of this place is the fact that it is situated just a short walk away (10-20 minutes) from the Mall with all its museums, as well as other attractions such as the Capitol, the Library of Congress or the National Monuments. So you don’t have to spend money on taxis or worry about public transportation, your feet will carry you anywhere you need to go. The hotel lobby looks nice enough, clean and inviting, the staff seems pretty friendly most of the time. They have a restaurant and a pub on the premises. If you are desperate (as we were a for few evenings, when our poor mutilated feet refused to cooperate anymore) and all you are able for is to crawl to the elevator and ride down, then  it’s all right to eat there, but all in all I would not recommend it. They are expensive for what they offer (meaning food, drinks and atmosphere, which are all average or below) and quite honestly, rather uninspiring (or lame, if you prefer the more straight- forward approach). There is a little shopping area right underneath the hotel though, where you can get some soft drinks, snacks or medicine (CVS), as well as several fast-food restaurants. The room itself did not floor us with its grandiosity, quite frankly for $230 a night you would expect something a little fancier. Well, not in D.C. apparently. Our accommodation can be actually considered excellent value for money if you take into account the hotel’s location, but the Ritz it certainly ain’t. We booked the room with the superior view and king-size bed, as well as a balcony, so that we could gaze at the Washington Monument at night. We did enjoy that and agreed that it was well worth the higher price. Our temporary lodgings were more on the smaller side, but contained everything you need to live comfortably for a week, including a small fridge and a safe. Even though all the equipment (especially the TV set) has certainly seen better days and has served under many presidents, if you catch my drift… The towels were a bit threadbare and the complimentary hotel toiletries’ fragrance more on the stinky side. And even though they cleaned the room every day, it was more of a superficial job and the vents looked as if no brush has touched them since at least the Bush administration. And no, I am not sure which one. Although my guess would be Bush Senior. Last but not least, their piping must be faulty (or just giving up due to its old age), because every time our neighbors were taking a shower, the ensuing racket would wake us up at all ungodly hours. In fact this would have been an excellent technique of torturing terrorists to get crucial information out of them. A few nights in that room and they would sing like nightingales! Also beware of the room service: they add so many ridiculous extra charges that we ended up paying over $50 for a $38 bottle of wine (not including the tip)! Overall impression: considering the prices in D.C. and this hotel’s location I would still recommend it, even though some of the aspects of our stay were less than ideal. PLACES TO VISIT If you are into art, history, politics or simply all kinds of incredibly cool stuff displayed for your viewing pleasure, then Washington will feel like paradise to you! And the best about it all: the museums (at least the ones in the Mall) are free! So you can enjoy days of entertainment without spending a dime. Pretty amazing if you consider everything on offer. There are so many places to go that you must really choose wisely to make sure you will see the ones that mean the most to you. And don’t think that you can visit each one in an hour or so: most of the museums are huge and will take you half a day (or longer) to tour properly. In fact the variety of attractions is so mind-blowing that at the end of the day your senses become somewhat dulled by the excess of impressions and constant stimulation (I’m talking complete sensory overload!)  and you might want to use the evening to just relax and process it all.  You should get a good travel guide; otherwise you will be completely lost in the abundance of sight-seeing choices. I used Frommer’s Washington, D.C. 2013 (please click the link to your right for details) and it served its purpose rather well. Due to the above described tornado scare we got to D.C. so late that in the end we ended up only having 6 days to visit the attractions, so we were a little rushed. Nevertheless we made the most of our time there thanks to the fact than we had everything planned out in advance. Here is my suggested itinerary: it actually worked out really well for us, so I hope it can also be helpful in organizing your own trip. Please note that the hours of operation can change, so always check before visiting any of the described establishments. DAY 1 National Monuments: Park Rangers on duty daily from 9:30am-11.30pm All the National Monuments are located close to one another and you can do the whole walking tour in about 3-6 hrs, depending on how long you stay at each one. Please note that the Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments are built in the more classic and grand mausoleum-style, while the rest are a lot more modern, arranged like a park with nature surrounding the spread-out elements of the Memorial, such as statues or plaques. The M.L. King, Roosevelt and Jefferson Monuments offer the most spectacular views of the Potomac River. - Lincoln Memorial: one of the most famous and instantly recognizable motifs in D. C., seen on countless pictures and movies, this neoclassical structure certainly represents the very best of America, its struggle for freedom and equity. You should not miss the Reflecting Pool, the Murals, the Angel of Truth and, of course, the very hard-to-oversee 19 foot statue of Lincoln. - Vietnam Veterans Memorial: it commemorates all the soldiers fallen in Vietnam.  Their names are inscribed on a long wall and it really gives you a chill just to see how many innocent, promising young lives were lost during that horrible and pointless conflict. - Washington Monument: it is situated right in the very heart of Washington and you can see it from quite a distance, especially at night when it’s beautifully lit. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to renovations, so visitors are unable ride up in the elevator to the top. - National World War II Memorial: this Monument was created to honor the memory of all the heroes who served in World War II. It’s situated around a large fountain and contains several different components such as scenes depicting important events of the war, as well as open pavilions featuring inscriptions of the most crucial battles. - Korean War Veterans Memorial: commemorates the soldiers who fought in the Korean Conflict; the dominating elements are sculptures portraying them walking through a rice field, as well as a black granite wall with images of the individuals who contributed to this war in any way. - Martin Luther King Memorial: this Monument honors the memory of one of the most important American personalities of the 20th century: Martin Luther King. Tireless in his fight against racial discrimination, he paid the ultimate price and the grateful nation dedicated this site of remembrance to him. It contains a large sculpture of Dr. King, the Stone of Hope and some of his most memorable quotes carved into the walls surrounding the monument. - Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial: a really large structure, this Monument is beautifully blended into a park. It is divided into four sections and consists of sculptures, plentiful waterfalls of different sizes and Roosevelt’s most meaningful statements carved in the walls. - Jefferson Memorial: an impressive part of the D.C. landscape, this monument was inspired by classic Roman architecture, with the statue of Jefferson constituting the centerpiece of the rotunda. The walls are inscribed with some of Jefferson’s most significant quotes. DAY 2 The Capitol: open Mon-Sat 8:30am-4:30pm The most important thing you need to know before visiting the Capitol is that you have to book your timed pass online at http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/ otherwise you will not be able to get in. It is also advisable to order them as much in advance as possible (at least 2-3 weeks prior to your visit), because those tours fill up very quickly and if you wait till the last moment, chances are the only place you will be touring will be the Capitol Cafeteria. You should arrive at least 45 minutes early to allow sufficient time to go through security and pick up your passes. Once you do that, you line up for your tour and off you go. The groups can be fairly large, there were probably at least 40 people in ours, but everybody receives a pair of headphones through which you can hear your guide loud and clear. Bad jokes included. The tour itself is relatively short and really only features two main rooms, nonetheless I would still describe it as very rewarding. You can almost feel the whiff of history knowing that all those great men (and inevitably some douches, too, but let’s concentrate on the positive), presidents and national heroes, all the famous historic figures walked those halls once upon a time. The rooms themselves offer a truly exquisite interior and very interesting art. Especially the ceiling impresses with its elaborate design. A big and very pleasant surprise was the Capitol Cafeteria (the one you’ll be touring if you fail to book your passes). It’s a buffet-type establishment and they do provide a surprisingly wide variety of very tasty dishes. Definitely the best place to eat as far as the museums are concerned: more about it in my “Where to Eat” section. Folger Shakespeare Library: Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. If you have some time to kill (and I do mean it exactly like it sounds, this small exhibit is not interesting enough to plan anything around it), you can pay this library a quick visit, it’s only about a 10-minute walk from the Capitol. There you will be able to view objects associated with its Founders (the Folger family) as well as, of course, Shakespeare and the time he lived in. Also don’t miss the theater: it’s a very cute, quaint little place that will make you feel like you slipped back to the Tudor era to indulge in a play or two and any minute now you might come face to face with Queen Elizabeth I (in disguise, naturally) doing some moderate to heavy Thespian indulging herself. Library of Congress: Mon-Fr 8:30am-4:30pm. Just a short walk across from the Capitol, the Library of Congress is a must to see t if you are in Washington. It consists of several buildings, but if you are strived for time the Thomas Jefferson building really is the one to visit. It features breathtaking inner architecture and even though you are not permitted to enter the actual reading-room (only researches experience this rare honor), you can see it from an overlook above. This building has 3 levels and all throughout it you encounter beautiful statues and works of art. While there, you may also view different exhibitions such as Civil War in America or Exploring the Early Americans. They contain so many fascinating items that time will simply fly while you are admiring all those historic treasures. Something you should definitely not miss is the Gutenberg Bible and the Giant Bible of Mainz on the first floor, both from the 15th century. Or the Thomas Jefferson library, which he sold to the Congress in 1815. To this day the books are still organized according to the method invented by the versatile genius himself. It’s quite riveting to gaze at those titles and actually recognize a lot of them even today! It took us 3 hours to tour the Jefferson Building and we only left because they were closing for the day. So if you want to breeze through, an hour will probably suffice, but for thorough viewing please allow at least 3-4 hours. DAY 3 The National Archives Experience: open daily from 10am-5:30pm (in the summer may stay open longer). If you don’t want to wait in line for 2-3 hrs to get in, you are strongly advised to book a timed pass at http://www.recreation.gov/  Then you can just happily skip over the huge (and very envious) queue and go right in, VIP-style. What you will see here is basically the Nation’s history in an archival form, meaning a vast collection of the most important and cherished documents that shaped the American reality. You will have the rare opportunity to view the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Be warned though: those displays are incredibly crowded and you might have to wait in line for a good 15-30 minutes to be able to stand directly in front of the exhibits. Besides those treasures you will be able to see the Magna Carta, as well as all kinds of really interesting official records, photographs and interactive displays. You can even listen to recordings of presidential phone-conversations concerning national issues of great importance. If you want to have a chance to tour the National Archives thoroughly you should probably plan to spend about 2 hrs there. National Gallery of Art: open Mon-Sat 10am5pm, Sun 11am-6pm. The National Gallery of Art consists of 3 different exhibition areas: the West building, the East Building and the Sculpture Garden (which is open later than the two buildings most of the time, please check for seasonal changes). The West Building was the main attraction for us: it accommodates a mind staggering collection of paintings (Main Floor) and art such as sculpture, ceramics or even furniture (Ground Floor). The Galleries are thematically organized, ordinarily by the time the piece of art was created and the country of origin of its creator. They feature an amazing collection of paintings by the most famous artists throughout the history of humanity. A true art lover will have a nearly orgasmic experience viewing all those gems, especially that the Gallery usually has several (in many cases as many as 5-8 paintings) by the same master. So you can admire the likes of Blake, Botticelli, Cezanne, Degas, von Dyck, El Greco, van Gogh, de Goya, Holbein, Kandinsky, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Munch, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens Titian and Whistler, to mention just a few. It even possesses an original Leonardo da Vinci, namely Ginevra de’Benci. I think we all know how rare having one of his paintings is: only a handful of institutions throughout the world can boast of this unique honor. To be honest with you, you would probably need about 3 days to tour this museum properly: 2 days for the West Building and one for the East. We did it in a day (an afternoon on day 3 and morning on day 4), all together maybe about 6-7 hours, but we felt very rushed. We did not even visit the East Building at all, there simply was no time and since we do not care for contemporary art (which is on display there) so much, we decided to skip it all together. If you don’t want to spend so much time there and prefer to just breeze through to get a general idea, at the Information Desk you can pick up a list of all the highlights and just concentrate on those. This tour should take approximately an hour. The Sculpture Garden: a small park belonging to the National Gallery, it’s a lovely place to make yourself comfortable on one of the benches or at the fountain and relax after a long day of touring. Scattered throughout the grounds are numerous sculptures, if you want some refreshments the Pavilion Café will welcome any weary traveler (http://www.pavilioncafe.com). In the summer you can enjoy live jazz performances on Friday evenings, but please be warned: it gets very crowded there, so if you want a place to sit, you should arrive early or you will be sharing the lawn with lot of jolly strangers (if you’re lucky enough to find a spot even there, that is). We did enjoy this experience a lot, the music was great and the atmosphere charged with fun and good will. If you want to start your Friday night partying there you can, they do sell beer, wine and Sangria. The Sculpture Garden stays open any time between 10am-9:30 pm depending on the day and season, so make sure to check the details before you visit. DAY 4 National Gallery of Art: West Building As mentioned before, we spent the morning and early afternoon touring the Galleries in the West Building. National Museum of Natural History: daily 10am- 5:30pm, extended hours 10am-7:30pm, please check the website for dates. This is probably one of the most popular museums in the city, as well as the largest of its kind in the world. It attracts thousands of visitors of all ages every day (children just love it!), so be prepared for some serious crowds. Especially the Museum’s most famous exhibits like the Hope Diamond or the gems might be a little hard to get to. But if you have patience and perseverance on your side and are not afraid of a little elbow action, victorious you shall be! The displays are presented in thematically diverse galleries, each named after the exhibits it showcases. Some of them are permanent, some temporary, but even if you have been there before things change all the time, so there is always something new to tour. You can go back in time all the way to the era of the dinosaurs, view some incredibly well kept fossils, be astounded by the creatures from the Ice Age or just admire the modern day mammals in all their glory. You can also salivate over the stunning Hope Diamond (and lovingly picture it around your neck if you’re a girl, oh yes my Precious), ogle some of the most valuable gems in the world or examine the vast collection of minerals. You can even play a Forensic Anthropologist and witness some century-old crimes and mysteries solved at last. You’re more interested in the Universe? Or perhaps it’s insects that strike you’re fancy (ok, that’s a bit weird, but who am I to judge:-))? An Egyptian Mummy anyone? Well, you can find all of the above and more in the Museum of Natural History… We spent about 3-4 hrs there, but to be honest we did not have enough time to view all the galleries. So if you want to be thorough, you should probably plan for a longer visit.
Korean War Veterans Memorial Jefferson Memorial Martin Luther King Memorial National World War II Memorial Jefferson Memorial Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial
VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!!  VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!! VIVA    LAS    VEGAS!!! CARPE DIEM!!! CARPE DIEM!!! CARPE DIEM!!!
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WASHINGTON D.C. Washington D.C. is a fabulous town, very culturally and ethnically diverse, with so much to offer that it makes it one of the top holiday destinations in the country. What I found particularly appealing is the combination of the high energy big-city vibe and the quaint and old-fashioned element. Its atmosphere is truly unique and whether you just stroll around the National Monuments, visit one of the many museums, explore the culinary scene or spend a night out clubbing, you will always find something interesting to do. Unless you are into palm trees, white-sanded beaches, clear blue ocean waters and tropical Babes. That might be a bit problematic. In which case: what the hell did you go to D.C. for in the first place?!  Obviously you should have been better informed. You might still be able to find some exotic Babes though; after all I did say D.C. was ethnically diverse, right? But jokes aside, if you are thinking of spending your vacation there I hope that the little description of the impressions and experiences from my stay can prove helpful in creating your own itinerary. I divided it into short thematically organized sections, so that you can quickly find what you are most interested in. Please enjoy! PLACES TO VISIT If you are into art, history, politics or simply all kinds of incredibly cool stuff displayed for your viewing pleasure, then Washington will feel like paradise to you! And the best about it all: the museums (at least the ones in the Mall) are free! So you can enjoy days of entertainment without spending a dime. Pretty amazing if you consider everything on offer. There are so many places to go that you must really choose wisely to make sure you will see the ones that mean the most to you. And don’t think that you can visit each one in an hour or so: most of the museums are huge and will take you half a day (or longer) to tour properly. In fact the variety of attractions is so mind- blowing that at the end of the day your senses become somewhat dulled by the excess of impressions and constant stimulation (I’m talking complete sensory overload!)  and you might want to use the evening to just relax and process it all.  You should get a good travel guide; otherwise you will be completely lost in the abundance of sight- seeing choices. I used Frommer’s Washington, D.C. 2013. Here is my suggested itinerary: it actually worked out really well for us, so I hope it can also be helpful in organizing your own trip. Please note that the hours of operation can change, so always check before visiting any of the described establishments. DAY 1 National Monuments: Park Rangers on duty daily from 9:30am-11.30pm All the National Monuments are located close to one another and you can do the whole walking tour in about 3-6 hrs, depending on how long you stay at each one. Please note that the Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments are built in the more classic and grand mausoleum-style, while the rest are a lot more modern, arranged like a park with nature surrounding the spread-out elements of the Memorial, such as statues or plaques. The M.L. King, Roosevelt and Jefferson Monuments offer the most spectacular views of the Potomac River. - Lincoln Memorial: one of the most famous and instantly recognizable motifs in D. C., seen on countless pictures and movies, this neoclassical structure certainly represents the very best of America, its struggle for freedom and equity. You should not miss the Reflecting Pool, the Murals, the Angel of Truth and, of course, the very hard-to-oversee 19 foot statue of Lincoln. - Vietnam Veterans Memorial: it commemorates all the soldiers fallen in Vietnam.  Their names are inscribed on a long wall and it really gives you a chill just to see how many innocent, promising young lives were lost during that horrible and pointless conflict. - Washington Monument: it is situated right in the very heart of Washington and you can see it from quite a distance, especially at night when it’s beautifully lit. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to renovations, so visitors are unable ride up in the elevator to the top. - National World War II Memorial:  this Monument was created to honor the memory of all the heroes who served in World War II. It’s situated around a large fountain and contains several different components such as scenes depicting important events of the war, as well as open pavilions featuring inscriptions of the most crucial battles. - Korean War Veterans Memorial: commemorates the soldiers who fought in the Korean Conflict; the dominating elements are sculptures portraying them walking through a rice field, as well as a black granite wall with images of the individuals who contributed to this war in any way. - Martin Luther King Memorial: this Monument honors the memory of one of the most important American personalities of the 20th century: Martin Luther King. Tireless in his fight against racial discrimination, he paid the ultimate price and the grateful nation dedicated this site of remembrance to him. It contains a large sculpture of Dr. King, the Stone of Hope and some of his most memorable quotes carved into the walls surrounding the monument. - Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial: a really large structure, this Monument is beautifully blended into a park. It is divided into four sections and consists of sculptures, plentiful waterfalls of different sizes and Roosevelt’s most meaningful statements carved in the walls. - Jefferson Memorial: an impressive part of the D.C. landscape, this monument was inspired by classic Roman architecture, with the statue of Jefferson constituting the centerpiece of the rotunda. The walls are inscribed with some of Jefferson’s most significant quotes. DAY 2 The Capitol: open Mon-Sat 8:30am-4:30pm The most important thing you need to know before visiting the Capitol is that you have to book your timed pass online at http://www.visitthecapitol.gov/ otherwise you will not be able to get in. It is also advisable to order them as much in advance as possible (at least 2-3 weeks prior to your visit), because those tours fill up very quickly and if you wait till the last moment, chances are the only place you will be touring will be the Capitol Cafeteria. You should arrive at least 45 minutes early to allow sufficient time to go through security and pick up your passes. Once you do that, you line up for your tour and off you go. The groups can be fairly large, there were probably at least 40 people in ours, but everybody receives a pair of headphones through which you can hear your guide loud and clear. Bad jokes included. The tour itself is relatively short and really only features two main rooms, nonetheless I would still describe it as very rewarding. You can almost feel the whiff of history knowing that all those great men (and inevitably some douches, too, but let’s concentrate on the positive), presidents and national heroes, all the famous historic figures walked those halls once upon a time. The rooms themselves offer a truly exquisite interior and very interesting art. Especially the ceiling impresses with its elaborate design. A big and very pleasant surprise was the Capitol Cafeteria (the one you’ll be touring if you fail to book your passes). It’s a buffet-type establishment and they do provide a surprisingly wide variety of very tasty dishes. Definitely the best place to eat as far as the museums are concerned: more about it in my “Where to Eat” section. Folger Shakespeare Library: Mon- Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. If you have some time to kill (and I do mean it exactly like it sounds, this small exhibit is not interesting enough to plan anything around it), you can pay this library a quick visit, it’s only about a 10-minute walk from the Capitol. There you will be able to view objects associated with its Founders (the Folger family) as well as, of course, Shakespeare and the time he lived in. Also don’t miss the theater: it’s a very cute, quaint little place that will make you feel like you slipped back to the Tudor era to indulge in a play or two and any minute now you might come face to face with Queen Elizabeth I (in disguise, naturally) doing some moderate to heavy Thespian indulging herself. Library of Congress: Mon-Fr 8:30am- 4:30pm. Just a short walk across from the Capitol, the Library of Congress is a must to see t if you are in Washington. It consists of several buildings, but if you are strived for time the Thomas Jefferson building really is the one to visit. It features breathtaking inner architecture and even though you are not permitted to enter the actual reading-room (only researches experience this rare honor), you can see it from an overlook above. This building has 3 levels and all throughout it you encounter beautiful statues and works of art. While there, you may also view different exhibitions such as Civil War in America or Exploring the Early Americans. They contain so many fascinating items that time will simply fly while you are admiring all those historic treasures. Something you should definitely not miss is the Gutenberg Bible and the Giant Bible of Mainz on the first floor, both from the 15th century. Or the Thomas Jefferson library, which he sold to the Congress in 1815. To this day the books are still organized according to the method invented by the versatile genius himself. It’s quite riveting to gaze at those titles and actually recognize a lot of them even today! It took us 3 hours to tour the Jefferson Building and we only left because they were closing for the day. So if you want to breeze through, an hour will probably suffice, but for thorough viewing please allow at least 3-4 hours. DAY 3 The National Archives Experience: open daily from 10am-5:30pm (in the summer may stay open longer). If you don’t want to wait in line for 2-3 hrs to get in, you are strongly advised to book a timed pass at http://www.recreation.gov/  Then you can just happily skip over the huge (and very envious) queue and go right in, VIP-style. What you will see here is basically the Nation’s history in an archival form, meaning a vast collection of the most important and cherished documents that shaped the American reality. You will have the rare opportunity to view the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Be warned though: those displays are incredibly crowded and you might have to wait in line for a good 15-30 minutes to be able to stand directly in front of the exhibits. Besides those treasures you will be able to see the Magna Carta, as well as all kinds of really interesting official records, photographs and interactive displays. You can even listen to recordings of presidential phone-conversations concerning national issues of great importance. If you want to have a chance to tour the National Archives thoroughly you should probably plan to spend about 2 hrs there. National Gallery of Art: open Mon-Sat 10am5pm, Sun 11am-6pm. The National Gallery of Art consists of 3 different exhibition areas: the West building, the East Building and the Sculpture Garden (which is open later than the two buildings most of the time, please check for seasonal changes). The West Building  was the main attraction for us: it accommodates a mind staggering collection of paintings (Main Floor) and art such as sculpture, ceramics or even furniture (Ground Floor). The Galleries are thematically organized, ordinarily by the time the piece of art was created and the country of origin of its creator. They feature an amazing collection of paintings by the most famous artists throughout the history of humanity. A true art lover will have a nearly orgasmic experience viewing all those gems, especially that the Gallery usually has several (in many cases as many as 5-8 paintings) by the same master. So you can admire the likes of Blake, Botticelli, Cezanne, Degas, von Dyck, El Greco, van Gogh, de Goya, Holbein, Kandinsky, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Munch, Picasso, Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens Titian and Whistler, to mention just a few. It even possesses an original Leonardo da Vinci, namely Ginevra de’Benci. I think we all know how rare having one of his paintings is: only a handful of institutions throughout the world can boast of this unique honor. To be honest with you, you would probably need about 3 days to tour this museum properly: 2 days for the West Building and one for the East. We did it in a day (an afternoon on day 3 and morning on day 4), all together maybe about 6-7 hours, but we felt very rushed. We did not even visit the East Building at all, there simply was no time and since we do not care for contemporary art (which is on display there) so much, we decided to skip it all together. If you don’t want to spend so much time there and prefer to just breeze through to get a general idea, at the Information Desk you can pick up a list of all the highlights and just concentrate on those. This tour should take approximately an hour. The Sculpture Garden: a small park belonging to the National Gallery, it’s a lovely place to make yourself comfortable on one of the benches or at the fountain and relax after a long day of touring. Scattered throughout the grounds are numerous sculptures, if you want some refreshments the Pavilion Café will welcome any weary traveler (http://www.pavilioncafe.com). In the summer you can enjoy live jazz performances on Friday evenings, but please be warned: it gets very crowded there, so if you want a place to sit, you should arrive early or you will be sharing the lawn with lot of jolly strangers (if you’re lucky enough to find a spot even there, that is). We did enjoy this experience a lot, the music was great and the atmosphere charged with fun and good will. If you want to start your Friday night partying there you can, they do sell beer, wine and Sangria. The Sculpture Garden stays open any time between 10am-9:30 pm depending on the day and season, so make sure to check the details before you visit. DAY 4 National Gallery of Art: West Building As mentioned before, we spent the morning and early afternoon touring the Galleries in the West Building. National Museum of Natural History: daily 10am-5:30pm, extended hours 10am-7:30pm, please check the website for dates. This is probably one of the most popular museums in the city, as well as the largest of its kind in the world. It attracts thousands of visitors of all ages every day (children just love it!), so be prepared for some serious crowds. Especially the Museum’s most famous exhibits like the Hope Diamond or the gems might be a little hard to get to. But if you have patience and perseverance on your side and are not afraid of a little elbow action, victorious you shall be! The displays are presented in thematically diverse galleries, each named after the exhibits it showcases. Some of them are permanent, some temporary, but even if you have been there before things change all the time, so there is always something new to tour. You can go back in time all the way to the era of the dinosaurs, view some incredibly well kept fossils, be astounded by the creatures from the Ice Age or just admire the modern day mammals in all their glory. You can also salivate over the stunning Hope Diamond (and lovingly picture it around your neck if you’re a girl, oh yes my Precious), ogle some of the most valuable gems in the world or examine the vast collection of minerals. You can even play a Forensic Anthropologist and witness some century-old crimes and mysteries solved at last. You’re more interested in the Universe? Or perhaps it’s insects that strike you’re fancy (ok, that’s a bit weird, but who am I to judge:-))? An Egyptian Mummy anyone? Well, you can find all of the above and more in the Museum of Natural History… We spent about 3-4 hrs there, but to be honest we did not have enough time to view all the galleries. So if you want to be thorough, you should probably plan for a longer visit.
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