Monday, November 14, 2011

D.C. Trip Day 4

   The last day had quickly filled up with all the other things we had wanted to see but accidentally passed or our sore feet didn't allow us to walk to. But first and most importantly we went to the Library of Congress. (Seriously big building with tons of books, it is where I belong).
Our tour guide was wonderful she talked to us extensively about the meaning behind the architectural details.
Notice the cherubs? They are to signify that the Library of Congress is open for everyone. Each cherub symbolizes a different trade.
This little guy is a farmer... he is harvesting wheat.
Even the floor has intricate details.
After much discussion about the architectural details and a tour of Thomas Jefferson's library (they are seriously recreating it using his detailed list of his library. It is composed of Thomas Jefferson's books that survived the fire in the Capitol building during the war of 1812, books the Library already had, and the same books that have been acquired (thanks to the owners of the Dallas Cowboys). We then made our way to the balcony of the main reading room. I thought I would definately find the perfect souvenir here, but alas nothing caught my eye.
After that we made our way back to the White House visitors center so I could stamp my passport, and see Lafayette Square and several other buildings  on my checklist as we made our way towards the Lincoln memorial.
How the White House looks from the outside.
Seriously felt like I was back at OSU circa 2007 walking through here... thankfully this was minimal although there was a lot of areas fenced off during our trip in D.C.
I helped hold the Washington memorial in place while some engineers came in to fix it... I think we may have been over tired and feeling silly at this point. (We also saw a Segway tour of D.C. and debated joining them to save our poor feet.).

As we walked down towards the WWII memorial we realized there was something special going on.
There was an Honor Flight group gathered at the memorial. I felt it made it that much more moving to experience the memorial in the presence of those it was honoring.

Each star on this wall represents 100 service men or women who died or are still missing.
This is one of those points where we encountered all that fencing. All the way down the mall towards the Lincoln Memorial we were surrounded by chain link fence.
We made our way to the Korean War Memorial.
And then on down to the Lincoln Memorial.

And a look back at why there was so much chain link fence. The reflecting pool has been completely removed and will be replaced due to leaking concreate.

   You will have to ask Jim about these statues as he knew all about them and talked about them the entire trip (I think it was the only part of all the various tour guides I researched he actually read).
We then walked over to the Vietnam Wall.... it was rather busy as you can see but one of the most quiet memorials we visited.

We used the directory to find my Uncle Allen's name.  A moment I knew would probably draw a tear or two.Although I never had the opportunity to meet him, all my life I have heard stories about him. My mom was 9 when he was killed and I can retell the story of when they were notified of his death, of the letters and gifts he sent, and how great of a big brother he was as if I were there myself.
Sgt. Allen K McElfresh USMC
We also saw this relatively new statue to the nurses who served in Viet Nam.
We then began the long walk back to the Metro to go back to the hotel. It was a bit longer of a walk than we had estimated.
Overall I was very pleased with our D.C. trip. The Metro is easy to navigate and use for travel. I do recommend carrying a map with you so you know what you are seeing (there is stuff everywhere) and getting the unlimited Metro passes (especially if you will be there for several days) We didn't have to second guess a trip back to the hotel for a brief break or if we should take the Metro to a far away location (we mostly rode the orange and blue lines and didn't really use the others but orange and blue were easy to figure out and navigate). There was also no akward loading of money onto a fare card. The sidewalks are wide and clean and there is tons of green space. We stayed in a wonderful hotel that was within a reasonable walking distance to the Metro at a very affordable rate. Many of the museums and attractions are free and there are more than enough options for almost any interest. The biggest drawbacks were waiting in line to get in every building (which I will gladly go through for the protection) and the restriction of water bottles (again for safety but I was THIRSTY! Water fountains please?) There was also the added perk of attnding an event at the Kennedy Center (which again was a reasonable price). I should say here that we did this entire trip for under $1000 including -fuel, food, hotel, parking for the car, Metro passes, tickets to Les Miserables, souviners (for Jim- I never found one), and new camera batteries.
 I recommend getting ahold of your Congressman/woman well in advance and checking out websites for events that will be going on during your visit. Even the NPS which puts on walking tours or talks at specific significant locations.

Monday, October 24, 2011

D.C. Trip Day 3

After a few non-walking related activities on Saturday we were pretty ambitious about how much we could walk Sunday... plus we (and when I say we I mean Jim) were a little more familiar with the Metro.
Our first stop was Arlington National Cemetery

Painting in the visitors center.
JFK's memorial... it may have been the most quiet that group of teenagers that was wondering around near us was the entire day....
The view from here back toward the city was beautiful.
Arlington National Cemetery was the home of Robert E. Lee and was taken over by the Union after he turned down the job of commanding the Union troops and led the Confederate troops instead. The first soldiers were actually buried there with the intention of offending Robert E. Lee and were buried around his garden.
RFK's burial site.
View from Lee's front porch. It may have looked a little different back then... not sure but maybe.
Next we wondered around until we found the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers where we watched the changing of the guard.
We also got to watch two wreath laying ceremonies... including one done by Boy Scouts from Charleston, SC. The most touching part to me was hearing that same soldier who had given the command of silence and respect during the ceremonies give the Boy Scouts direction, a totally different tone.
Then however the Italian Minister of Defense had a wreath laying ceremony.... in which he 1) Did not understand the meaning of the phrase "Please put both hands on the wreath (at least 6 times) 2) Did not salute or cover his heart during the playing of taps. AND his military personnel there to watch the ceremony not so nicely pushed the adorable Boy Scouts out of their front row standing place before their wreath was even removed. Boo to those Italians.

Over the archway there was an inscription that says,
"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."

We took the Metro back up near the mall where we ate lunch and then went to the Air & Space Museum (Smithsonian). It was the most child friendly museum that we went to that weekend with lots of interactive displays and even one whole display that was geared toward children exploring (we may have played in there for a little while).
Medals all won by one man in WWII.

We then made our way toward the National Archives in hopes that the line would be much shorter (and that they wouldn't take away my water bottle). We did not get pictures of the outside and they were not allowed on the inside. We got to see the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.
 Here I should mention that by this point we had been through just about as many gift shops as we had sites we had seen and I had yet to find a souvenir that I wanted. Jim had already acquired several small items and was concerned that I was going to go home with nothing and be disappointed. But I reassured him that when I found what I wanted I would be sure and maybe rather than several small items I would find one large souvenir.
We also walked past the Naval Memorial
The Verizon Center, the Fallen Police Officer Memorial,
the National Portrait Gallery,
 and the Spy Museum in our quest to find... can you guess?
A Fire Station. Jim happens to work with several people who used to work in and around the D.C. area who gave us a lot of hints on planning our trip. We (again I mean Jim) talked to one of the Firemen who worked here for quite some time and left with a D.C. Fire t-shirt.

After that we decided to ride just a little further to see Union Station so I could check one more item off my "To See" list.... once there we decided to take advantage of this stop and get dinner instead of stopping at Chipotle on the way back to our hotel again.

We also got to see the Postal Museum just across the way while at Union Station. Again by the time we got to the Metro stop in Rosslyn our poor feet resisted the little uphill walk toward the hotel.
With only one day and A LOT of important sites left to see Monday would be busy.