The nerve centre of the United States, the White House, stands out in all its glory.
The nerve centre of the United States, the White House, stands out in all its glory. Kristy Muir

Washington DC's a monumental place for a nap

I HAD exactly 12 hours to explore Washington DC.

That sort of pressure to soak up the rich and varied history of a city can be exciting and fun, but also extremely exhausting.

I knew I had to make every second count, so I made the inexpensive choice to do my sightseeing on foot.

Walking the city in 40-degree weather in June, with already blistered feet made for a very interesting experience.

I believe you get to know a city better when you are at your most vulnerable and open to the seasonal elements.

You can get up close to the architecture and the everyday people, as well as being subjected to the different smells, tastes and sounds.

The capital city of the US is large, and is divided into four quadrants with the US Capitol Building's rotunda as the centre.

The city, which was once on the most dangerous cities of the US list, has four dividing streets, North Capitol, East Capitol, South Capitol and the National Mall.

Street and number addresses start out at the Capitol so there are many identical addresses.

Which is why it's very important to note the quadrant, otherwise, you will end up very lost.

Like many large cities, DC has a high crime rate. Nevertheless, many areas of the city are safe, and there are ways you can avoid becoming a victim of crime.

Always know where you are going, purchase a pocket map of the city and keep it with you.

You are less likely to have trouble if you do not get lost and wander into a dangerous area. Avoid empty streets.

Funnily enough though, I found DC to be the safest and friendliest city I visited while backpacking around for seven weeks.

The constant presence of FBI agents, local police and security guards was a great comfort to me and made for some interesting chats.

A lot of them warned me to stay clear of particular areas, and not knowing exactly where I was or where the spots were to avoid, I wandered around blissfully unaware.

Other cities in the US felt less safe than they probably were, but the open space, sunny sky and greenery of DC put my solo-backpacking nerves at ease.

It reminded me a lot of the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.

My friend Allison Nieuwenhoven, from Palmwoods, gave me a list of all the places to visit - so I owe my amazing introduction to the US capital to her.

She told me to visit all the best spots to visit including the Lincoln Memorial and its Reflecting Pool, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Second World War Memorial, FBI building, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, FDR Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and United States Capitol Building.

I was staying in New York, when I decided to make the almost three-hour train trip from Penn Station, New York, to Union Station, Washington DC.

Just a small tip, but spontaneity doesn't work when you are travelling with AMTRAK.

The cheapest round trip I could get was about $200 and it meant I had to catch the train at 4am and had to return at 8pm.

I knew there was no way I would be able to walk for the full 12 hours, so I broke up my day with a couple of naps.

I wandered the National Mall for a good few hours before I had a sleep on a park bench in the garden of the Smithsonian Institution (The Castle).

It was so beautiful and peaceful in the renowned museum gardens.

The whole city had quite a serene feeling to its beautiful parks and water features.

After my siesta I walked another few hours before taking another nap, under a tree next to the Capitol Building for a couple of hours before my train back New York.

I have to admit snoozing in public while backpacking alone is quite a feat.

I had everything of value with me; strapped to me and tucked away in my small day-pack, which I tied (almost to the point of cutting off my blood supply) around my wrist and leg.

 

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