I don’t know why this slipped my mind but I was telling a colleague at work about this really cool experience that we stumbled upon in Washington D.C a couple of years ago.
I was with Zoe and we had driven to Vienna/Fairfax metro station from Winchester and parked for the day. As it was after rush hour we were allowed to park in the season ticket holders lot. As with all parking facilities in America there was available parking for thousands of cars.
The metro in Washington is clean and easy to navigate, we alighted at Smithsonian (National Mall) but where I expected to emerge into the sunshine near the Smithsonian Castle but we came out at street level. On the corner was a guy who called out to us asking if we needed a map. I am always sceptical of strangers intentions but said that we could use a map. He then said that the nearest rest rooms were around the corner in the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) building and that there was a restaurant that the public were allowed into. I tipped him a couple of dollars and thanked him for his help.
The official address of the USDA headquarters is 1400 Independence Avenue but we were directed to a side entrance and through some very innocuous doors. Not knowing if this was a wind up or not we entered the doors and security confirmed we were indeed allowed in. So we put all of our accessories and the contents of our pockets through the electronic scanners and were given a Visitors sticker.
It was like entering an office building from all the spy movies of yesteryear. Wide corridors punctuated with austere wood and frosted doors as far as the eye can see. We followed the signs and directions given to the restaurant and our footsteps echoed on the highly polished floor. Turning the corner the scene in front of us took us by surprise. The floor space was probably as large as a football field. The variety and choice of food and drink was extensive and it was like a World Buffet. The prices were so cheap. It was between breakfast and lunch so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. A great experience and a window into the history of government departments. I guess they haven’t changed much over the years.
Note: Image isn’t mine but the sticker was exactly the same style