Shumpty’s Favourite Places: Washington

The genesis of this blog, as early readers will recall was my recent trip to New Zealand.  Whilst I would not say I am a worldly traveller I have been lucky enough over the years to experience and photograph some places that have had a massive influence on my life.

On Thursday’s for the next period I will be writing a series of blogs called “Shumpty’s Favourite Places” in which I will write about places that I have loved visiting or that have been important to me (or both) over the years.  In starting this series there is not better place to start than Washington.

I wish I could visit Washington every time I travel somewhere such is the excellent time I had there some 16 months ago.

I know I am a nerd but the history of the place just screams out to be enjoyed and celebrated.  The monuments are awe inspiring and yet I found them also to be solemn places it which it was apposite to reflect on not only the effect that the parties celebrated in the monuments have had on the world that we live in but also on the awe with which our American cousins lionise their former leaders.

My favourite monument is the Lincoln Memorial.  Of course I had seen it on TV and in movies and, as is my usual style, I had done some research before I arrived there but the thing that struck me was just the size of the memorial.  It is a massive footprint and is cavernous inside whilst being imposing outside.

Any trip to Washington is not complete without a visit to the White House.  Converse to the Lincoln Memorial I was shocked a little at the lack of size of the place.  Compared again to what I had seen and my perception it struck me as a diminutive structure compared to the ornate and behemoth like buildings that surround it.

I saw a great many of wonderful things in Washington and those who know me will know that there was no way, for example, that I could resist going to the Supreme Court of the United States.  For me, this was law nerd heaven which only was heightened when I was able to watch an argument session in two cases that were before the Court on the day I was there.  I have been fortunate in my time to argue applications before the Supreme Courts of Queensland and New South Wales and the Federal Court of Australia but all of that paled into insignificance with the chill I got up my spine when I heard Chief Justice Roberts call the first case of the day.

Having waxed lyrical about my visit to the Court, you will probably be surprised that it was actually not the highlight of my trip.  That slot is reserved for the four of eleven (in Washington) Smithsonian Institute museums I visited during my stay.  Most particularly I will maintain till the day that I die that the best thing I saw in Washington was the National Air and Space Museum.  I loved it so much I went back for a second look.  From the Wright Flyer, through aviation using the World Wars into the exploration of Space it feels like the sum total of aviation history is all in one place.  It is hard to pick out any particular exhibit that I favoured over the rest: they all were just so good.  I really could have spent at least another day in just this one museum to make sure I did not miss anything.

I would happily go back to Washington again and I would love to live there some day.  As a naive traveller immensely out of his depth in the early days of my first real overseas trip, I found Washington an easy place to get around and the subway the best way to get around it. I have no doubt my next “big” overseas trip will include a Washington component, if only so I can tick a few more of the Smithsonian Institute’s museums of my list of places to see.

I leave you with an image of Washington that to this day is tattooed on my brain.  I took this photo on dusk in the National Mall: the modern day represented by the cars and the history of the Washington Memorial is just the right mix of the day to day hustle and bustle of America’s capital and its history to show the true essence this great city.  This is the image of Washington I will always remember.

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