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Sunday, November 18, 2007

U.S. holiday - New York to Washington D.C.

Alarm kept ringing but I kept ignoring it. Only realised how late I was when I heard my cousin's room door open. Realised that it was 5:45pm! Rushed through wash up and changed and packed. Luckily, I had already packed most of my stuff the night before. Left the house at about 6am, record time.

Arrived at Penn Station with 15 minutes to spare. Said goodbye to cousin, then went into station. Gate was still not open. Bought two doughnuts and hot chocolate from Dunkin' Donuts, then went back to concourse to wait for train. Finally boarded on the dot at 6:45am. Carriage was about half full, so had two seats to myself. Train ride was smooth. Finished eating and drinking, then went to sleep for rest of 3-hour journey.

At Washington D.C.'s Union Station, followed the directions to Metro subway, paid $2+ for one-way ticket of four stops to Metro Center. Then walked four blocks north to Hosteling International. Actually quite tiring to drag suitcase that far, because I was going uphill. City was dead quiet, forgot that it's Sunday.

Checked in at hostel and realised that I could only collect keycard at 2pm. Browsed through maps and directories on attractions, figuring out what to do for the rest of day. Surfed the Net at $6 per hour, spent two hours on it. Called my cousin and made tentative arrangements to meet for dinner that night. Napped for remaining half an hour, but got woken up by an old guy who was snoring.

Picked up keycard at 2pm, settled into room, found out that I was assigned the lower bunk bed, fine by me, easier to move around. Stuff suitcase in locker then went out.

Went to Old Post Office, had a late lunch at 3pm of chilli hot dog and orange juice. Listened to a live performer while eating lunch. Finished up quickly, then went to National Mall, took pictures of Capitol and Washington Monument.

Stopped by Smithsonian Castle. Learned that "Smithsonian" actually refers to the network of museums and research centres, not just one building. Wanted to see National Museum of History, but it was closed for renovations.

Went back to National Mall, then walked up to Washington Monument. Tickets for free tours to top of monument were all given out, but figured it was no big loss. Saw Lincoln Memorial in the distance, reminded of scene from "Forrest Gump", decided to check it out. Walked downhill, came upon World War 2 Memorial. Was surprised to find out that it had just been open only about three years ago. Took some pictures, then went to Reflecting Pool, took pictures of Lincoln Memorial from afar.

Sky was getting dark, so went to National Archives. New exhibit: Education of Presidents, breezed through it to get to permanent exhibition upstairs. Took pictures of the Declaration of Independence, saw other documents. Amused by a video on presidential sound bites, e.g. George Bush Sr. talking about him hating broccoli, FDR stating that his opponents were now criticising his pet dog, etc.

Was really getting into the exhibits, but security guard chased visitors out at 5:30pm, 45 minutes after I had gone in. All other museums were also closed at that time. Returned to Old Post Office thinking that it was still open. With nothing to do, called my cousin to arrange for dinner. He wasn't sure of where I was, so I went to Hotel Harrington and gave him the exact address. While waiting there, bought a magnet from a gift shop there. Then walked out to E Street Cinema, considered stopping by to relax one night.

Got message from cousin to meet at District Chophouse, 509 7th Street. Had dinner with him, his wife and mother-in-law. Ordered a New York steak, came with baked potato and salad, but could only finish two-thirds of the steak and half the potato. We chatted about life in Singapore and Washington D.C. and what else I could do in the city, if I had time.

Still an early night, so drove around the federal buildings, saw the World Bank building where my cousin worked, then was driven back to the hostel. They were surprised to find it so close to the city.

Went to bathe, but was let down by weak water pressure from shower, left half of body exposed to cold while washing the other. Returned to room, listened to other two roommates from University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign talk about differences between Korean and Chinese languages. Went to sleep around 10pm.

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