Washington Capitol

I was disappointed to discover that tours of the White House are all but impossible these days. Will just have to go back to watch The West Wing. However, the Capitol building is definitely worth a visit and tour, and we had booked ahead as advised. Some beautiful artwork and many sculptures to see. After our tour of Capitol Hill we visited the National Museum of the American Indian – fascinating, sad and inspiring. Then we walked to the White House for a look – from a distance.



This is the closest you can get to the front of the White House

Library of Congress

If you’ve ever done any study you are likely to have come across something held by the Library of Congress.  It was nerdily exciting to go on a tour of this wonderful institution. We had been advised to get in early for the tours as they fill up quickly. We were lucky enough not to have to wait too long. On the tour our guide casually mentioned the globe collection held in the building next door (James Madison building), which we went to check out too. One of the huge globes was used by Congress admin staff (pre-internet) to work out travel distances and logistics! These two buildings are absolute must-sees if you are visiting Washington DC.

interior, Library of Congress
One of the reading rooms
View of Capitol Hill – there is an underground tunnel connecting the two buildings
Mega globe – James Madison building
Pocket globe – earth and heavens

DC Sunday

On Sundays there is a flea market held near Eastern Market. An interesting way to start your day – and there is a great SH bookshop you should check out too, Capitol Hill books. After marketing we had lunch and then headed to U Street/Cardozo. We checked out the African American Civil War Museum, so interesting as it was history we knew little about. Then walked to the Right Proper Brewing Company and surrounds. A great day out in Washington DC.

Market produce
Street Art Museum – sadly not open when we were around
Black Books anyone?
AfroAmerican Civil War Museum entrance
Legendary warrior Harriet Tubman
Facade, T Street
Right Proper Brewing Co – near Howard Theatre where Billie Holiday used to sing

Walking Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle was great for Kramer’s bookstore and bar/cafe, Second Story bookshop and Pizzeria Paradiso. Then we went home and watched a Godzilla movie.

The Brewer’s House – unfortunately closed during our visit, but a fascinating exterior
Heeheehee cocktail list at Kramers
Second Storey is at the bottom of this building – opposite Pizzeria Paradiso
In the twilight



Washington DC

The DC stands for District of Columbia – it’s not a state. The other national capital. There is so much to see here, it’s hard to decide where to start. Our first stop – on the way into town – was Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home and farm. Definitely worth a visit.

Main homestead
View of Potomac River from George’s verandah
Extensive garden
Spinning room
Ye olde necessary

Richmond, Virginia

We ended up in Richmond for a night’s noisy accommodation (Virginia is for lovers, says the bumper sticker. We were staying in the room next to them in Richmond). However, the next day we headed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which was an absolute joy. A wonderful collection of art deco furniture and art, paintings- and we stayed for lunch. It was so good we didn’t have time to check out the toy exhibition next door – I only had the chance for a quick hi with Gumby.

A discovery for me, photographer Ming Smith
I have never seen complete rooms of art deco furniture – wow
Tibetan monastery door
Wedgwood anti-slavery medallion – another revelation

Fiddle dee dee

So you might be like me and most of your historical knowledge of Southern United States comes from Gone with the Wind and that Civil War doco series. Therefore you would be interested in Plantation Homesteads that you can visit in Virginia. We only had time for one so we chose the oldest, Shirley Plantation. This was a beautiful location, a lovely homestead that has had 11 generations of the same family involved in its running. The family still lives in the floors above and below ground level. One of the tour stories told is that the reason the homestead still exists is due to two sisters living there during the Civil War helping hundreds of wounded Union soldiers that found their way there after a battle nearby. The Union General declared that no Union soldier would harm the family or the property after that. The usual modus operandi was to burn everything. IMG_5489

Archaeological mysteries 
View of the Kitchen and homestead
More about ‘welcome pineapples’ later


Ye Olde Williamsburg

Driving from Raleigh to Williamsburg we called in to the charmingly named Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Actually it wasn’t that dismal, and we spotted a deer with impressive antlers. Then it was on to Colonial Williamsburg which is an American version of Old Sydney Town – recreation of life during the time of the Revolutionary War with the Brits in the 18th Century. With limited time we chose a subversive/unofficial walking tour, which focussed on the lives of African Americans of the period. Absolutely fascinating and disturbing.

Atmospheric Great Dismal Swamp


Revolutionary war cry – now on a soap dish to take home


Raleigh in the USA

So it’s a long story as to how we ended up having a couple of weeks in the USA that we hadn’t initially planned when we were first organising our trip. But here we are, and we get a chance to see one of our favourite bands of late – Mandolin Orange. Hurrah! Raleigh seems like a lovely town, with an excellent cultural institution and venue, the North Carolina Museum of Art. We also enjoyed visiting the Mordecai Historical Park, home to Raleigh’s oldest building and various other relocated 19C buildings.

Mandolin Orange crowd amassing NCMA
Good work NCMA! Pikes Riesling on the menu
Plantation house, Mordecai Historical Park
When people couldn’t read, buildings were colour coded – this is Government Green
A Raleigh squirrel