After a brief interlude in the city that never sleeps, i found myself en route to the Capital of the United States of America....Washington DC. Not to be confused with Washington the state, which is nowhere near here, and i believe has probably caught an unsuspecting tourist off guard once or twice before.
Washington DC, or the District of Columbia as referred to by the locals, is the home of the political heart of the US; the White House, the Capitol, Department of Commerce as well as a giant Abraham Lincoln statue that was erected as a tribute to his legacy and continues to represent a monument of freedom and truth to the American public.
Riding my bike around the streets i was surprised about how European it feels. With a similar streetscape to cities like Vienna, Paris and parts of London, there is a strange familiarity to it that i found welcoming. Well until you hear the shrill cry of a drink vendor or a food truck purveyor enticing you with sugary sodas and fried chicken, rudely returning you back to the streets of Washington.
So why do the streets feel so European? The answer is simple. The streetscape was designed by a Frenchmen who was solicited by the newly formed United States, after their emancipation from the British rule, to design a city to handle the influential decisions that this government would be making. The town was planned and designed to mimic the imperial capitals of the world. America wanted to show its European cousins that 'anything you can do I can do better'. And DC locals are extremely proud of what they have created and have made every attempt to sustain its integrity.
Adorning the spire of the Capitol is a 19ft statue of Lady Freedom. The statue depicts a female figure wearing a military helmet and grasping a sheathed sword in her right hand and a wreath and shield in her left. She has been placed in a position that means that her face is never exposed to the sunset. This is because 'the sun should never set on the face of freedom'. A lovely, however idealistic philosophy. Additionally, a rule exists that states 'no statue can be bigger than lady freedom herself in the District of Columbia'.
In fact building height restrictions have a historical reference that dates back to George Washington himself. President George Washington ordered that the new capital have a height limit of 40 feet, or 'no taller that the width of the street on which it would reside'. This was implemented to prevent the construction of tenement buildings that were appearing in New York City.
My time in DC conveniently coincided with 4th of July or Americas Birthday. A great time to be in Washington DC not only because of the exceptional fireworks show that they put on but because all Museums are opened to the public for free and for extended hours. I was able to visit the Museum of American History, which is colloquially known as the Americas attic as it is filled with iconic things that they don't know where to put. It was an interesting insight into celebrating Americas development. Kind of fitting given the reason for my visit.
After my educational fill and a quick refuel at one of the food trucks I headed to the Washington Mall with some new friends to get amongst the festivities of 4th July. Locking down the best location adjacent to the Washington Monument, we were prepped. A lot can be said about American pride or patriotism. Yours truly has criticised their blind devotion of their country many times in the past, but sitting here in the centre of Washington DC, surrounded by 20,000 people, watching them be moved by 'God Bless America' being played by the Navy Band, donned in the Red, White and Blue, it is hard not to appreciate the sense of community and unity that the people of the United States emulate.
The night finished with the awe inspiring fireworks event, and I feel like I am going to cherish this moment.