So there I am, sitting quietly in the office minding my own business when Alex says: Claire is running her social networking course in Washington next Monday - can you go and be her backstop? Hells teeth! I've never been to the US, my passport expired in July and I don't even have a suitcase capable of venturing outside Europe...sure I can go. Much scrabbling later (fast track passport: brilliant scheme that gives you a passport in four hours, online visa waiver, John Lewis sale half-price wheelie suitcase, pocket size guide to DC and Washington Post foodie guide) and I'm at Heathrow enduring the secondary security check that makes the flight an hour and a half late leaving...but no matter. On the plane I watch Julie and Julia (Eddie has recommended the Julia Child kitchen exhibit at the Smithsonian) and blag a veggie meal which isn't too bad. Then I'm on US soil for the first time, whizzing through immigration and out into the very cold Washington night. I stayed at the St Gregory hotel, and got a very friendly, typically American welcome.
To unwind and gather my thoughts I headed for the bar and carefully eyed the beer on offer. I've never had a good impression of American beer, almost certainly fuelled by the fact the Budweiser once tried to sue the original, and very good, Bud for copyright of the name, even though Czech Bud was being brewed when John Adams was in short pants. I ordered an Amstel but the lovely bartender asked if I'm sure I didn't want to try something American.
Then the sightseeing proper began. I headed down to the Washington monument then across the park, past a few foraging woodpeckers, to the Vietnam wall and this statue commemorating the work of women during the Vietnam war.