Washington, DC

The first thought that crosses one's mind when Washington is mentioned is political capital. However, there's more than politics in this vigorous city. The superb museums of the Smithsonian Institution make it the art capital of the US. What's more, with its many monuments and memorials it is unique, totally unlike all the other American cities I've visited.

Where to start? At the Potomac and then on for the tour of those incredible monuments and memorials, the most well-known being the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. But there are also the Roosevelt Memorial with four open-air rooms, one for each of his terms, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Second World War Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which I liked most because of its unique and poignant beauty. Nineteen statues of soldiers on patrol are quietly moving across a field. It's so real, so much larger than life.

The Mall stretches from the Washington Monument at its western end to the Capitol at its eastern end. On both sides it's bordered by the Smithsonian and other museums. They cover a huge range of exhibits, from masterpieces by Giotto, Tintoretto, Degas and Cezanne to space shuttles in the National Air and Space Museum. And best of all, admission to most of the museums and galleries is free.

The Smithsonian may be widely known and esteemed, but little is known about the man who left around $500,000 to the people of the United States. Although James Smithson lived in several European countries, he never visited the US. His motives remain unknown. More...

We stayed at Barry's, a computer teacher from Fairfax in Virginia, whose school participated in the School Connectivity Project. He took us for a stroll in Mount Vernon, where George Washington used to live, we walked among the headstones of Arlington National Cemetery, participated in open tennis and ping pong tournaments. All in all, it was great.