Washington DC in 48 hours

We arrived at Dulles airport on Virgin Atlantic's new Airbus 380. It was Friday, late afternoon, and we had less than 48 hours to see Washington DC. Our hotel, The Liaison Capitol, was welcoming, the rooms a good size and the staff helpful – the service was great all weekend. The hotel is located right by the Capitol Building so our first excursion was to see that renowned centre of political intrigue by night. It was beautifully lit and imposing and we could see stretched before us the Mall, which is where we were heading on Saturday to walk all 21/2 miles of it.

After a much needed, and really good, burger and local beer in the hotel, we had a great night’s sleep and returned to the Capitol Building for our tour early next morning. You need to pre-book to be sure of a place and if you can contact the British Embassy well before you go you may be lucky enough to visit the Chambers of the two Houses. The highlight of the building is the Dome. Completed during the Civil War by Lincoln as a clear statement that the Union was here to stay, it is big enough to house the Statue of Liberty with room to spare. We missed out the Library of Congress as we hadn’t enough time and walked down the Mall to the Smithsonian Science Museum. A must if you are into planes or rockets, it has everything from the Wright Brothers original flying machine to the Lunar Landing Module.

We then moved on to the Washington Monument, taking in the iconic view of the White House to our right that features in so many news reports, before strolling down the second half of the Mall where all the war memorials are located. We stopped on the way to visit to Martin Luther King Junior’s Memorial which has most of his great speeches carved into the wall except, surprisingly, for his “I have a dream" address. Apparently it was considered too well known to feature but I would like to have seen it there.

The Korean War Memorial was, for me, the most effective at capturing the daily trudge of the infantry through the paddy fields. The Vietnam War Memorial, though, is rightly considered to be the most moving. Relatives rubbed the names of loved ones onto tracing paper and left berets and boots under the inscriptions (picture).

At the bottom of the Mall is the huge Lincoln Memorial and the view looking back to the Capitol Building was outstanding. On the way back to our hotel we saw the White House up close and wandered through bustling street market. We walked almost everywhere and always felt safe.

For dinner we had booked a table at Clyde’s of Georgetown. It had been full but they had made room for four tourists from London keen to visit this well-known restaurant. Georgetown is a clapper boarded “village” just a few miles taxi ride from the centre of DC with restaurants, bars and shops that make it the perfect evening destination for locals and tourists alike. After a shot of Mexico’s finest at the Tequila Bar opposite we arrived at Clyde’s. We were given a booth and all ordered fillet steaks, which were beautifully tender, fries and some great red wine. The restaurant was full and buzzing with happy people having a great night, just as we were.

On Sunday we returned to the Mall to visit the National Archive to see the original versions of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights. It was a great experience being able to see these historic documents with their faded signatures close up, and surprising to see how short they were considering their huge importance.

Our final visit was to the moving Arlington Cemetery full of white headstones that stretched into the distance in every direction. Here we saw the graves of the Kennedy family and the flame that always burns for John Kennedy. He is buried directly opposite the Lincoln Memorial, which can be seen in the distance, a clear reference to the connection between these two great Presidents whose lives were tragically cut short by assassination.

After a late lunch in Georgetown and a stroll along the canal bank it was back to Dulles for our flight to Heathrow. The perfect end to a perfect weekend in Washington DC – in less than 48 hours.

Tim Aspinall