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.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

DC Trip: Day 2

Saturday morning we got up (much to our sore feet's dismay) and rode the Metro to Federal Center.
We saw the Department of Education.
the American Indian Museum (Smithsonian)
and the Bartholdi Park and Fountain. The fountain was sculpted by Fredrick August Bartholdi (he also sculpted the Statue of Liberty) for the 1876 Centennial. It was originally lit by gas and changed to electricity and is made of cast iron. The fountain is surrounded by small model gardens meant to inspire urban gardeners.
I must say that with the fountain, gardens, and welcoming seating that was around it was very inviting and quite the unexpected retreat in the middle of the city.
We then saw the U.S. Botanic Gardens which was established by Congress in 1820 to cultivate plants that could be beneficial to Americans.
We then made our way around the Capitol to the visitors center where we had to wait in line to get in the building for 20 minutes. And when they say no food or drink they mean not even any empty bottles (so if you have a reusable one you want to keep don't take it). 
Once inside there is a great hall and another line to sign up for a tour time (I recommend requesting a tour through your Congressman, you get to go to a separate shorter line and get your set time despite the rest of the crowd). While waiting in line for the tour you get an amazing view through the ceiling of the visitors center to the statue of Freedom on the dome of the Capitol.
They have a 13 minute introductory video after which you are sorted into your tour groups and given these great headphones with a receiver through which we could hear our wonderful tour guide as he led us through the Capitol (they do break up as you go room to room so try to stay close to the tour guide).

The rotunda with the fresco painting of Washington
In the mural around the rotunda notice the face at the base of the tree (just above the tallest fern on the right side of the trunk). It is supposedly the likeness of the 2nd artist added in by the 3rd artist.

The white star is where there used to be an opening meant to look from the rotunda all the way down to where a crypt was saved for Washington himself.... his family however refused to move him here and his body lies at his home Mount Vernon. So it was subsequently filled.
There are statues throughout the Capitol and visitors center (2 from each state) of prominent citizens. This statue of Ronald Regan had a great feature....
notice the white and black stone in the center... those are pieces of the Berlin Wall which Regan worked to bring down.

Back outside we walked around the other side of the Capitol and found this small fountain that seemed to be hidden.
Looking down the mall from the Capitol building.
I enjoyed trudging through the leaves and hearing them crackle beneath my feet.

This statue of Ulysses S. Grant that stands in front of the Capitol is one of the most complex equine statues and is a three part statue overlooking the reflecting pool.

We then walked past the Newseum,
Federal Trade Commission,
National Gallery of Art Museum (Smithsonian) and the National Archives (which had a huge line which is why we kept moving that day).

to the Old Post Office. This buildings architect was Jim's great great great uncle Willoughby J. Edbrooke
The building happened to be one of the sites in my NPS Passport book and had a food court on the bottom floor. Three birds... one building!
We took the elevator up to the 12th floor observation deck which has breathtaking views of the city in every direction.
 Hirshorn Museum (Smithsonian) known for it's odd doughnut shape.
The National Cathedral (which also happens to be the building in the city that sustained the most damage during the recent earth quake.)
We then made our way back to the hotel to catch the Buckeyes playing Illinois.... and I am happy to say the Bucks won! We got showered and ready for our next exciting event.... Les Miserables at The Kennedy Center!
On the way to the Metro I caught this reflection of a crane in a building on the opposite side of the street (Made me think of you Dad).
On my favorite escalator. Also notice the Gatorade bottle, after two days of not being able to carry around water or drink lest it be taken away at the security gate I was feeling a bit dehydrated. (I also got protective of my drinks and several times prepared excuses ahead of time for why they should NOT take away my water bottle... thank God we didn't go any where else they did that or someone may have been hurt.)
If you are going to the Kennedy Center you are able to take the Metro to the GWU/Foggy Bottom stop where a Kennedy Center Shuttle bus will pick you up and take you to the Kennedy Center.

Jim found the South Carolina state flag.
There was also a display of costumes through the years.
We were sure to check out the view on the deck before finding our seats.
The chandelier in the Opera House a gift from Austria.

The musical was wonderful and as an added bonus it was uninterrupted span of three hours in which we did not have to walk... well a little during intermission through the beautifully decorated (for Christmas) gift shop.