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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: NEW YORK VS WASHINGTON D.C.

It started out as a fairytale in New York – bar the soundtrack of honking taxis – and ended with a trip to the historical district of Georgetown, Washington D.C. Sure, there’s a political storm headed for America but, luckily for us, we visited just in time to realise that opposites attract…

June 2016. We’re in the gift shop of the Fairmont Washington, located in the idyllic Georgetown. There’s a small, but dedicated section of Donald Trump paraphernalia, none of it positive in the slightest. ‘Oh come on, let’s buy it,’ my wife Karen implores about a T-shirt poking fun at his comb over. ‘They have been popular,’ interjects the shop assistant, ‘people are having a good laugh about it’.

November 2016. Nobody is laughing any more as the improbable scenario of President Trump has become a reality. It’s fair to say that the future of America is shrouded in doubt right now and threw a rather large dollop of hindsight on my visit back in the summer of 2016.

It all began as a fairytale in New York, with my wife and I venturing out to attend the wedding of a close friend. First stop was The Plaza, arguably New York’s finest hotel. Entering on Fifth Avenue and being greeted by the stunning Grand Ballroom, this is opulence of the highest quality. There’s tradition oozing from every wall, but modern day conveniences haven’t been disregarded judging by our suite.

There are wonderful views of Central Park and the décor is grand, traditional and elegant, but technology is prevalent throughout, particularly with the in-room iPad controlling everything around us.

Attending a wedding at City Hall proved to be a great way to see New York. Now, I have no idea why this hasn’t been done already, but there’s a TV show to be made revolving around the goings on here. I found it utterly bizarre that you could walk in, dressed in whatever you liked, take a ticket and wait your turn to be proclaimed husband and wife (or husband and husband, or wife and wife, considering we saw both).

The characters I saw within the space of an hour were beguiling and I am sure all had a story. It would have made brilliant car crash TV, rather apt considering the taxi jam outside.

Attending a wedding at City Hall proved to be a great way to see New York – there’s a TV show to be made revolving around the goings on here

When time came to check out of The Plaza I was exhausted. That’s what New York does to you. We always knew these couple of days would be tiring, hence why we planned a trip to Washington post-wedding for four days. Stepping out of Washington station, taxis politely queued up awaiting a fare without a beep to be heard (the opposite was a constant in New York), but I didn’t notice as the first thing you see is the truly awe-inspiring sight of the Washington Monument in the distance.

A short trip from the station, Fairmont Washington, D.C., is a much more modern hotel compared to The Plaza, but equally as beguiling. There’s the central outdoor courtyard, which was a wonderful spot to enjoy an early evening drink, and the Juniper restaurant that served up a terrific menu on each of the nights we visited there. Our room was cleanly designed, spacious and comfortable, a fabulous base to prepare for further exploration.

Arlington Cemetery was quite the experience. I haven’t witnessed such an emotional event as the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

And there’s certainly plenty to explore. Georgetown is a 10-minute walk away and is a truly wonderful place, picture perfect and straight out of those TV shows you wish were reality. A 15-minute stroll the other way from the hotel and you come across waves and waves of history. A trip to Capitol Hill was an eye-opener, and the many museums dotted around each had the ability to enrapture. Arlington Cemetery was quite the experience and I haven’t witnessed such an emotional event as the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

But the stand-out, of course, was the White House. In the flesh it seems much smaller than when featured on TV, but no less powerful. As I took a seat on a swelteringly hot day, I reflected on a holiday with two very different parts to it, but like Marmite on toast it was a combination that just worked. Will life in America be just as exciting under the next occupant of the White House? One can only hope the joke isn’t on us.

TRIP NOTES

Accommodation at The Plaza, New York, starts from £450 per room, per night on a room only basis. Accommodation at Fairmont, Washington D.C, starts from £225 per room, per night on a room only basis.


 

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