After a year of anticipation, a very early start and a long journey, a group from Mackie Academy arrived in Washington DC.
Washington became known to us as the museum city as we visited three museums in two days.
The Smithsonian Museum of American History was our first stop and it was home to a wide variety of items such as the Greensboro Lunch counter, Conestoga wagons and original hand pumped fire engines, even a display of Julia Child’s kitchen.
Other highlights included the gowns of the First Ladies, an original Miss Piggy puppet and the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.
We learned a lot about how America was formed, from settlement to the war of Independence and the American Civil War, and we even saw the original Star Spangled Banner, which is significantly larger than any of us expected.
At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum we were surrounded by various rare and historically significant aircraft and spacecraft. There were light aircraft, commercial planes, stunt planes and even one of the first prototypes made by the Wright brothers.
The history of the space race and human exploration of the moon was also all around us including one of the Apollo Lunar Modules. In the afternoon we had a tour of the Capitol building which taught us a lot about the political structure of this vast country and highlighted key figures and features of America’s past and present.
On our second day we started off at the Holocaust Museum which really brought home the harsh reality of the events that took place.
Each visitor was issued with an identity card at the outset of their tour which gave them the background information of an actual prisoner, and then at the end of the tour you found out what had happened to them and whether they survived.
Along with the artefacts on display, including one of the train carriages used to transport prisoners to the concentration camps and a collection of shoes which were taken from them on arrival, this made for an extremely interesting but hard hitting experience for the pupil’s.
Our afternoon was spent doing a tour of the Washington War Memorials and Monuments which reminded us of the active role that America has played in international affairs, not to mention bringing to life so many of the sights we had seen several times on the big screen.
Seeing the statue of Abraham Lincoln in his chair overlooking the reflection pool and down to the Washington Monument was a particular favourite of the staff members.
When we arrived at the White House it took most of us by surprise as the building is considerably smaller than we had expected. The level of security however was in line with our expectations and unfortunately the claims of sightings of Barack Obama turned out only to be on the souvenirs picked up along the way.
Our evening of bowling proved a real hit once we got over the shoe size fiasco, and the competitive natures of the staff and pupils were fairly unleashed.
The well deserved meal at the Hard Rock Café soon brought us back together again however, but only once the gift shop had been thoroughly ransacked.
The basketball match was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip, but unfortunately our home team, the Washington Wizards, came a close second in extra time.
The sights and sounds of the whole experience, from the colourful cheerleaders, the floating advertisements, the enthusiastic drumming mascot not to mention the sporting ability were only to be outdone by the Mackie Academy pupil’s ‘DE- FENCE’ chant. Who knew we had so many NBA fans with us!!
Other highlights of our time in Washington included the impressive architecture of the Old Post Office and Union Station, the main transport hub for the city which also offers historical tours and several shopping and dining opportunities.
The views of the city from the bell tower of the Old Post Office were particularly spectacular.
n To be con tinued next week