Officaldom in Washinton DC

Travel review by Brenda Daniels

Like many South Africans, the closest I get to the American culture is through the many Hollywood films I enjoy watching. But a recent trip to Washington DC allowed me to see a small part of the USA in stereo – that is, with and without the movie lens.

On my first hot and sunny DC day I set off from our hotel with just a few dollars and a camera in my pocket. Not very good when it comes to reading maps I decided to walk in a straight line and then when I’d had enough, to simply turn round and retrace my steps. The turning point came when I reached a sign that stated “This is the most famous address in Washington DC”, after which I encountered a large white building behind a fence. Despite the desperate condition of the White House at the end of the film White House Down starring Gerard Butler, the state building I saw before me looked well-kept and pretty. And the few police personnel on duty outside the barriers looked calm and relaxed. Concluding that this attraction was indeed the intact office of President Obama I freely took photos before heading back.

The White House, I walked in a straight line from the hotel and happened to walk right to the President's home.

The White House, I walked in a straight line from the hotel and happened to walk right to the President’s home.

The next day my husband and I enjoyed a tour of the National Cathedral, a beautiful, Gothic structure, complete with a bell tower and enormous organ. Famous statesmen, artists, architects and war heroes are represented in this well-maintained church, from Martin Luther King to Mother Theresa and many others in between. Although not a science fiction fundi by any means, like many theatre goers old and young, I did enjoy Star Wars. So it was with great interest that I learnt that none other than Darth Vader features as one of the gargoyles ensconced upon this marvellous edifice. We didn’t actually get a view of him though and had to take the guide’s word for it; perhaps he was on the dark side.

The National Cathedral, where there was a Darth Vadar Gargoyle.

The National Cathedral, where there was a Darth Vader Gargoyle.

Many action-type films like The Interpreter and the teen First Daughter feature mysterious secret service agents and ear-piece-clad bodyguards who invariably race around in blue-light brigades, leaving excited onlookers in their wake. We got to experience this first hand while strolling through the quaint suburb of Georgetown later the same day. Loud sirens stopped shoppers in their tracks as a cavalcade of cop cars and black 4x4s hurtled down the street, pulling up to the kerb right next to us. Bodyguards leapt out of the vehicles and cleared the path for a very important looking general to walk into one of the shops. Starbucks.

Phew, I didn’t know their coffee was that good!

The secret service or CIA or something like it, escourted to Starbucks.

The secret service or CIA or something like it, escourted to Starbucks.

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