The Washington Wash Up

From a young age I always aspired to holiday and ultimately live in the States. To me, it was a country of 50 countries, each as varied and unique as the last - the concrete jungle, huge canyons, Elvis weddings, Disney World, stunning beaches, Hollywood and so on. Having already hit the usual tourist spots (and thus most of the aforementioned list) on prior vacations, it was time to venture to 'the District' on a quest for the "Jar of Proof" (niche American Dad joke).

Being in the capital during its state of transition from Obama to Trump was an interesting experience. There was a lingering uncertainty and hesitation reverberating around the city. Trump is as about as Marmite as it gets, with locals either screaming lavish praise about how 'great America will be again' or fearful at the very thought that the lunatic who hosted 'The Apprentice' somehow now runs the country. Who next? The Rock? Kanye? Bugs Bunny? Iron Man?

Luckily, America has its priorities in order and all political tension dissipated when Black Friday hit. Good deals - what else trumps that? To make the most of it I dragged my fiancee out to a Walmart in a, let's just say, 'slightly less touristy area', at the start of the sales in hopes of finding some bargains.

One word: anarchy. If black Friday was a zoo, in England it would be a petting farm, whereas in America it would be a lion enclosure. Remember Supermarket Sweep? Imagine if they had every guest on at the same time in one supermarket... that's Black Friday in America. Unfortunately it lacks Dale Winton. You can't have it all.

I can see why people do it. The deals are one thing, but the adrenaline rush of it all is almost as rewarding. In this instance the sale began at 6pm the night before 'Black Friday'; 'Dark Grey Thursday' if you will. We arrived around 5pm to an already manic store as customers queued for their desired aisles behind cordoned off tape ready to face-plant in to the shelves.

It pans out like new year. That's not a joke either. The final 10 seconds to 6pm were counted down like we were about to celebrate the millennium, but instead of fireworks going off at the end, a worried employee blew a whistle. Judging by the reaction, this whistle had the power to start a Walmart equivalent of Helm's Deep as customers darted in to the aisles like savages.

I did get some good deals too; not just at Walmart but also whilst shopping at the Pentagon City Mall on Black Friday the following day. I recommend the experience if you're a bargain hunter, but it's certainly not for the faint-hearted or short-tempered.

Aside from my shopping experiences, D.C. has some stunning sights to see, a brilliant selection of museums, surprisingly impressive food and a place called Foggy Bottom, which I found amusing because I have the intellectual capability of a five year old.

If you are a history buff, Washington D.C. is a must as it is home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and a copy of the Magna Carta; all within the National Archives. What's better is that a lot of the museums are free too, allowing you to wander in and out of them at your leisure without the pressure of having to 'make a day of it'.

They aren't all free though and if you are going to pay for one, make sure it's the 'Newseum'. This interactive museum includes a Berlin Wall gallery, an FBI exhibit and a 9/11 tribute to name a few, but the highlight for me was the huge collection of newspapers past and present from all around the world.

The usual sightseeing is perhaps more breathtaking than I first imagined too. The 'National Mall' (to my dismay not a giant shopping centre) is much larger than I anticipated - as are all of its accompanying monuments, including the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool. And then by contrast, the White House is tiny. I had always pictured it a similar size to the Capitol Building, but that certainly is not the case.

It is surprising how much there is to do in this city. We did five nights, but I could have done with a few more days to make the most of everything. In addition to the above, make sure you check out the National Air and Space Museum, the Library of Congress, Georgetown, Arlington National Cemetery, JFK Memorial, the Pentagon, Martin Luther King Memorial and FOGGY BOTTOM.

As for food - hot diddly damn, there was some tastebud tingling magic in this city. My rankings table for all the food I ate can be found below:

&Pizza Franklin Square 10/10
Burger Tap & Shake Foggy Bottom (hooray!) 9/10
Ray's Hell Burger Rosslyn 8/10
Penn Quarter Sport's Tavern Penn Quarter 8/10
Lincoln's Waffle House Downtown 8/10
Hard Rock Cafe Downtown 8/10
Good Stuff Eatery Georgetown 8/10
Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken Downtown 8/10
Shake Shack Chinatown 7/10
Potbelly Dulles Airport 7/10
California Tortilla Chinatown 5/10
I ate a lot of burgers, yet the winner of the holiday was a pizza. That's rare for me as I do not typically favour pizzas, but &Pizza is something special. To put it simply, it's a Subway for pizzas, except it doesn't suck. You can specify the base, the meat, the toppings and the sauces to create the perfect meal -- and it really is. With fresh, high quality ingredients, this small chain is a must for anybody. Make sure you try the soft drinks too; the cherry bomb soda is divine.

On burgers, my top pick is 'Burger Tap & Shake'. With that said, all of the burger joints I tried were great and none of them scored below a 7. If you want a good night, make sure you hit the Hard Rock. If you want good vibes, make sure you hit Good Stuff Eatery. If you want to watch sports, make sure you hit Penn Quarter Sports Tavern. If you want to walk for miles and miles, get lost several times, have to stock up on supplies in a Target and then find out the original restaurant does not actually exist, make sure you hit Ray's Hell Burger. Oh and Shake Shack, because... Shake Shack.

In terms of disappointments, there weren't many. I do a lot of research on places to eat before I vacation to avoid crappy meals. The one restaurant we didn't plan and just wandered in to was 'California Tortilla'. This was purely on the basis that it was Thanksgiving and nothing else was open! As a result, we enjoyed a fairly average tortilla whilst wishing we were gorging on some holiday turkey.

To wrap up the wash up, Washington D.C. is a destination for the history buffs. It's a sightseeing showcase home to some of the best museums and monuments the States has to offer. Make sure you pack some good trainers as you will be walking a lot and refuel at your local &Pizza. And if you want a good burger, you gotta hit the Foggy Bottom!