Thirty eight History & Politics students, accompanied by four members of staff, met at 3.30am in Manchester Airport to begin a journey across the Atlantic that started In New York and ended in Washington DC.
Following the flight and transfer we settled in our hotel, located a short walk from Times Square. Having taken in the iconic sights in this famous area of Manhattan we took the next day exploring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where America’s rich history of immigration was explored. We alighted the ferry to visit Wall Street and the site of George Washington’s presidential inauguration before moving on to the ground zero memorial where all took time to reflect upon 9/11 and a day that changed the world forever. After a well-earned dinner and sleep it was off to the Empire State Building the day after to take in the extraordinary skyline of the city, attempting and failing to spot our hotel amongst a sea of skyscrapers and multi storey blocks that make Manchester seem like a village!
Lunch in the Grand Central train station food court enabled us to marvel at the architecture as well as spot the backdrop of many a favourite film. When we arrived at the United Nations in the afternoon the sun shined perfectly across this piece of international land in the heart of New York and we enjoyed a tour of complex, moving into rooms that have shaped history and politics since world war two. Over dinner it was reflected that the weather had been kind to us and although sad to leave such a unique and inspiring place, we looked forward to second leg of the trip.
Our coach journey to Washington was punctuated with a stop in Philadelphia where the US Constitution centre gave context for then visiting Liberty Hall where the continental congress met to make their set of decisions that gave birth to the USA. It was hard to not consider the magnitude of the place as we moved towards the modern day capital, yet to be built at the time of the founding fathers initial conversations.
Reaching our hotel in the Chinatown district we’d already caught a glimpse of Capitol Hill which whetted the appetite to explore more the following day. A short stroll from the hotel was the interactive ‘Newseum’ which focused on the first amendment to the constitution and the history of media in the US. A two hour slot was not enough to take in all the brilliant exhibits so a further forty five minutes was added due to popular demand from staff and students alike. Having seen the practice of the constitution we then moved to the National Archive building to see the real thing, housed alongside the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Seeing the original documents, separated from touch by just glass, was enough to spark many conversations about their origins and also relevance today.
With the weather seeming like spring rather than the bitter winter we were able to then take in the Washington monument in its best light, pausing to see the sunshine bounce off the water leading up to Lincoln’s memorial. These constructions, shown in thousands of newsreels and movies, were now being seen through fresh eyes and the view from one to the other caused all to take time to consider the significance of these leaders, their legacy and the continued use of the American’s tributes to them. As we made our way back to the hotel via the sobering architecture of the Vietnam War memorial, it was evident to all that this was a day never to be forgotten.
Our final full day in Washington saw us see the White House, explore the attached visitor centre before a tour around the Capitol Building, home to the US Senate and House of Representatives. By chance as we left we passed by a peaceful demonstration on the adjacent parkland. As we observed the various speeches on the future of education in the country it was a surprise and pleasure to end up walking away in step with Massachusetts senator Ed Markie. Following talk about the Manchester in his state and the one we live in, he took the time to answer questions and give the group a priceless interaction with a member of the legislative branch of government. Yet again the journey back to the hotel was filled with awe at what the city had given us.
As we made use of the final morning shopping and taking in last minute sights it was the reflection of all that the trip had shown the very best of the USA and in just a week we had left much more interested and with very special memories.