Monumental Washington

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At the Einstein Memorial in front of  bronze statue

At the Einstein Memorial by the National Academy of Sciences. We found the bronze statue accidentally during our cold night walk. Albert was wearing sandals…

Finally! Our family escaped the cruel cold winter of Toronto to wander through the less-cruel, cold winter of Washington DC over the Family Day weekend in February. Last year’s frosty adventure to Canada’s capital city during this time was a little too glacial for us parents, however fun it was. But little did we know that America’s capital city was to be dumped with a foot of snow two days before our arrival! So we still had to wear our boots but Washington DC is roughly 10 degrees warmer than Toronto, so freezing temperatures of 0°C plus the wind chill is still better than the Big Smoke.

The National Archives Building, c.1935.

The National Archives Building, c.1935.

Washington DC is not a cheap place to stay since it is full of money-making bureaucrats but due to the free Smithsonian museums and the like, it is very attractive to tour with kids in tow. We visited the National Mall several times where many of these free attractions are located and you get the feeling that whoever designed this area had been to Paris. Near The Mall, the National Archives Building, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and Emancipation Proclamation (all of which we viewed on display), reminded me of La Madeleine church in the 8th arrondissement of Paris..

L'église de la Madeleine is neoclassical building built in the 18th C.

L’église de la Madeleine is a neoclassical building, built in the 18th C.

The Capitol Building, where the United States Congress meets, was definitely influenced by that wonderfully, shiny Église du Dôme at Les Invalides in Paris.

The Capitol Dome on Capitol Hill sits stoically at one end of the National Mall.

The Capitol Building on Capitol Hill sits stoically at one end of the National Mall.

The view from la Madeleine Church leads directly tothe National Assembly with its mirror-like image architecturally. The Egyptian obelisk with flanking fountains is in the middle and oh, that golden dome peaking out is the shining beacon where Napoleon is buried.

The view from La Madeleine church leads to Place de la Concorde [defined by the Egyptian obelisk and bordering fountains], and the National Assembly building with its mirror-like façade to the Church. Oh, and that golden dome peaking out is the shining beacon where Napoleon is buried [Les Invalides].

And then you have those sightlines, of which there are many in Paris — you know, where you are at one major site and you look down the grand avenue to see another beautiful monument, which leads to another amazing building directly behind it. The most famous one in Paris is known as the Axe Historique, whereby you stand at Le Louvre to view the Arc du Carrousel, which leads you through the Jardins des Tuileries to Place de la Concorde (Egyptian obelisk), down the wide boulevard of the Champs Élysées to Arc de Triomphe and further on behind that, L’Arche de la Défense.

My poor photo of Axe historique looking from le Louvre museum. You can only see the obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe through  the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. You should really go there and see it for yourself.

My poor photo of Axe historique looking from the Louvre museum. You can only see the obelisk and the Arc de Triomphe through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. You should really go there and see it for yourself.

So when we stood at Lincoln’s Memorial (which definitely looks like a Greek temple), and looked out from where his statue gazes, we see a wondrous “reflecting pool” that further leads the eye to Washington’s Monument (obelisk), continuing through the expanse of the National Mall to General Grant’s statue on horseback (Paris had a lot of equestrian statues too) at the foot of Capitol Hill and pinnacling at the Capitol Building. You can’t really see all of that mentioned but there is a fabulous, panoramic view that is as good as being there if you click here.

The Lincoln Memorial, built 1914-22. It looks amazing when lit up at night.

The Lincoln Memorial, built 1914-22. It looks amazing when lit up at night. Like Paris, Washington DC knows how to use lights for its city.

So I think Washington DC can give Paris a quick wink for inspiration because there were several awesome sites to see for free if you took a walk west of the Mall.

The Washington Monument is a 169 m building that you can actually go into. (Well not now -- still under renovations from the 2011 earthquake.) It is the tallest obelisk in the world but not as old as the Egyptian obelisk in Paris.

The Washington Monument is a 169 m building that you can actually go into. (Well not now — still under renovations from the 2011 earthquake.) It is the tallest obelisk in the world but not as old as the Egyptian obelisk in Paris.

The Jefferson Memorial is even more fantastic to approach because you can see him waiting for you. All 19 feet of him. Another venue not to be missed when lit up at night.

The Jefferson Memorial (1939-43) is even more fantastic to approach because you can see the former president waiting for you — all 19 feet of him. Another venue not to be missed when lit up at night.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, walkable from the Lincoln Memorial and with a view of Jefferson Memorial. What an inspiration to visit great American leaders fighting for freedom and equality.

Martin Luther King Jr Memorial: “Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Near the Lincoln Memorial and with a view of Jefferson Memorial, how inspiring to visit the memorials of these great American leaders fighting for freedom and equality.

We only visited a few museums and art galleries, which happened to be free and on par with those in Paris. Next time, we’ll have to seek out the pastry shops and restaurants in DC for further comparison….