WASHINGTON, DAY 1
We drive into Arlington Cemetery where we can park the car for the day. We leave the car and set off for a “walk” into Washington. We walk over the Memorial Bridge and the first thing we see is the Lincoln Memorial, after seeing it so many times on TV it is absolutely awe inspiring to be there up close and personal. Lincoln’s Statue inside the monument is huge and there are copies of his first and second inaugural speeches on either side of him.
We stand at the top of the steps and look towards the Washington Monument at the other end of the reflective pool, which was not reflecting at the time because of construction. Anyone seeing Forrest Gump will remember the scene where Forrest and his “girl” friend run through the pool to get to each other.
From there we walk down Constitution Avenue towards the White House. The first impression is how small it is. The OEOB (Old Executive Office Building) next door is much larger and more elaborate. But it is very impressive just the same.
We see a huge line of people and a couple of park rangers letting them through a checkpoint. We ask what it was all about and the ranger told us that there was a “fall” garden tour of the white house and you needed a ticket which was free but that they had
stopped giving out tickets for the day but we could come back tomorrow. Eileen was not very happy about that and told him in no uncertain terms that we couldn’t come back tomorrow because we were heading home to Canada and we walk away. We get about hundred feet away and he comes running after us saying that he needed to “take care of
neighbours to the north” and gave us all a ticket. So as an added benefit we get to tour the
gardens of the white house and get up close to the house itself including the
“outside” of the oval office. What a treat.
From there we start heading back to Arlington Cemetery and our car. On the way we see that there is an awful lot of police presence, we just thought that it was because it was the capital. We find out that, the next day President Obama was giving a speech dedicating the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. There was to be a concert featuring among others, Aretha Franklin. We were also told that there would the thousands and thousands of people in the area the next day. We wondered how it would affect us because we were doing a hop-on, hop off tour. I guess we would find out.
Anyway we arrive back at the car absolutely exhausted we figured we had walked about 6 miles. Eileen and Ed kept us with us but we were all flagging except Frank by the end of the day.
As if that wasn’t enough for us, we decided to drive to Maryland because there was an antique pen shop that Frank wanted to visit. What was supposed to take us 10 minutes took over an hour but we made it. It was all vain because they didn’t have what Frank was looking for. We decide to stop for dinner in Georgetown and oh boy what a happening place that city is.
Georgetown is like Robson Street only bigger, we got caught in the Saturday night traffic on the drive home and saw driving like nothing we had ever witnessed before. I was driving in bumper to bumper traffic. On my right I see a car trying to make its way into the line of traffic, it was a Cadillac driven by a small black lady who could barely see over the steering wheel, being the nice person I am, I let her in, only for her to put her ticker on to turn left. We all thought oh boy, and settled in for a long wait. We didn’t have to wait long, she just slowly pushed her car into the oncoming traffic which eventually stopped
and she did a “u turn”. All of our jaws dropped. We did eventually arrive home in one piece and dropped into bed exhausted, with visions of this happening every day we are here.
We drive into Arlington Cemetery again to park for the day and to pick up our 2-day hop on, hop off tickets. The first thing we do is tour the Cemetery, and the first stop of course is the eternal flame at JFK’s burial site, he is buried alongside Jacquie and their infant son and daughter. A short distance away is Bobbie and Teddy Kennedy. The graves are very
non-descript, just a small cross and a small rectangular marker with their names.
We also see the tomb of the unknown soldier, which was as you can imagine, very elaborate. There was some kind of ceremony going on which we were able to witness, it was very touching. A short distance away is the memorial to the astronauts that lost their lives, among them the Challenger.
There are so many famous people buried at Arlington, it would be difficult to mention them all, but a few of them are; Audie Murphy, General Pershing, Robert E Lee, Teddy Roosevelt, General Eisenhower etc.
Another snippet of information, there is a house on top of the hill in Arlington
Cemetery, called Arlington House. Surprisingly, it was owned by Robert E Lee and when the civil war erupted, even though he was a serving US army officer, he felt loyal to his southern upbringing and served in the Confederate Army. When Washington was taken by the Union forces the house was seized by the Union and Lee’s family was evicted. The house is now a museum and we were able to tour through it.
From Arlington, our tour takes us into Washington DC to tour the interesting aspects of the Mall. We had seen some of the sites yesterday, but it was nice to sit in comfort and listen to the commentary. Of course a lot of the streets were blocked off because Obama and the Vice President were attending the dedication to Martin Luther King. But we saw the outside of all the usual suspects, the Lincoln and Washington Monuments, the Smithsonian, all the government buildings, the Capital and the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and Union Station. We also passed the Korean, Vietnam and World War II memorials. Today was a day for scoping out where we wanted to go in the next few days. We have already decided that we are going to need at least 3 more days.
We have lunch in Union Station and get back on the bus for the tour back to Arlington
for our car. On the way we pass the Jefferson Memorial and because the streets have opened up again, we pass by the site and see the aftermath of where the President was earlier in the day. We also get to see the memorial to MLK. We get back to our car and the drive home is uneventful.
Once again, we drive to ArlingtonCemetery; I am beginning to feel like a local although our GPS lady insists on trying to take us a different way each day. Our first stop is the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and spent a fascinating (Frank’s words) 2 hours here, not nearly enough. There were V1 and V2 Rockets, old airplanes, Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis”, a DC3 in Eastern Airlines livery and much, much more. There are US and Russian
spacecraft; Apollo and SOYUZ satellites and missiles; once again Frank’s words. I wouldn’t know one airplane or rocket from another.
From there we get back on the hop on bus to take us to the US Capitol Building. Security is so tight in Washington; we get searched in every building we go into. At least in the Smithsonian we get to keep our water and granola bars. In any government building we have to throw them away. We are so sick of this that when we get to the Capitol Building and they want us to throw away our water and granola bars, we say thanks but no thanks, we will come back tomorrow and leave. We eat the bars and drink the water while walking over to the Supreme Court.
We sign up for a tour which begins in 45 minutes and while Frank goes to the washroom, I explore the ground floor. I come upon a young lady behind an information desk and she asks if she can help. I tell her that I was just looking around while waiting for our tour, she asks if we are on the 2pm tour and I told her no the 2:30. It just so happens that she was the one conducting the 2pm tour and told us to join her so that we wouldn’t have to wait.
The tour consists of watching a 10 minute introductory movie and then entering the Supreme Court and hearing a lecture given by my new friend. It was very majestic and we felt honoured to even be sitting there, although we were not allowed to take photos, just being there where so many important decisions have been made was worth it.
From there we head across the street to the Library of Congress again I am going to let Frank take over the explanation, it is magnificent and houses many priceless objects – it has one the three best preserved Gutenberg Bibles in the world ( the other two are in London and Paris). There are many rare texts from the Spanish Conquest of the Americas
including an original letter with a very rare Francisco Pizzaro signature. There was also the first world map which uses the term “America”. It was drawn up in 1507 by a German Mapmaker whose name was Martin Waldseemuller, who honoured his friendship with Amerigo Vespucci by naming the new continentAmerica.
While we wait for our bus to take us back to the car, we stop in Union Station and buy a couple of ice creams. The most I have ever paid for an ice cream anywhere, $7. We arrive back at the car to find E and E already there so off we go. Once again our GPS lady took over and we took yet another route back the RV Park. This time however she really screwed up. We didn’t get home until 8pm more than 2 hours for a 45 minutes trip.
Oh well tomorrow is another day.
The double E’s leave this morning to continue their journeysouth then west, we will catch up with them probably at the 4 corners.
Frank and I drive into Arlington again and this time we get a metro day pass and catch a train to the Capitol Building. It is quite early around 10 am, so the crowds were manageable and we manage get on a tour within 10 minutes and we start with a short information movie about the history of the building which in itself is quite elaborate. The inside of the cupola is beautiful and reminds me of a smaller version of St. Peters in Rome. There of course are statues of every president, except we didn’t see one of Nixon, hmmmm. There are also statues of 2 people from every state, which could be a president, senator or congressman/woman. Also in the Capitol Building are the small rooms that were occupied by the Supreme Court until 1935 when they got their own building. We were not allowed into the Senate or House because that needed a separate pass and you
needed to make an appt ahead of time.
After the tour we eat in the Capitol cafeteria with all the bureaucrats and then continue with our day. We take the metro to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History which has exhibits including, dinosaurs, ocean, minerals, animal life and many others. We only had time to cover the first floor so we plan on finishing the next day.
Frank has researched some special interests of his own and we take the Metro to a pen shop on Pennsylvania Avenue, an upscale store not far from the White House. I leave him there for an hour or so and explore the stores nearby on my own. I go back to collect him and of course he has purchased another fountain pen, this one being a “user”. He has
already used it to write a postcard to Danielle.
We head back to the metro to take us back to Arlingtonto pick up our car, the drive home tonight was better and we arrived back in good time to eat, play cards and then bed.
Day 5 our last full day inWashington, boohoo.
The heavens opened during the night and we thought maybe we would be floating down I95 for our last day in Washington. We had done some research, better late than never and find that we can drive to a park and ride and take the metro into DC, which we do. Its only $4.50 a day to park, better than the $18 we had been spending at Arlington. The weather is awful, but we make the best of it because we are going to be inside most of the day.
We take the metro to the Smithsonian and walk a short distance to the Museum of Natural History to finish exploring the exhibits. We see the Hope Diamond which is quite garish actually, but I suppose you have to admire the size of it and of course the blue colour. There were so many exhibits of gold, silver, platinum, crystals and so many other precious stones that I never even knew existed.
There was an exhibit on the earth’s core and there was a machine showing that there were earthquakes happening around the world every second. There was a special exhibit related to the rescue of the miners in Chile which was inspiring, it’s hard to image that they survived in the bowels of the earth for 62 days in good spirits before they were rescued. There was so much to see, we just glanced over some of it.
We stop for some lunch in the old postal plaza and then continue on to the Museum
of American History. This was fabulous, again so much to see and I wanted to see it all, but could only walk through most of it. Frank spent quite a bit of time in the transportation section and I spent time in the sections on civil rights and pop culture which included the one and only ruby shoes from the Wizard of Oz. They even had Julia Child’s kitchen. There were quite a few exhibits missing from pop culture because they were renovating.
There was a section on the first ladies and the gowns they wore for their respective husbands inaugural balls which were given to the Smithsonian for display. It was really
interesting the see the different styles of fashion going back to the late 1700’s.
There was 1950’s kitchen complete with 3 vintage TV’s showing shows from the 50’s. We spend all afternoon here and leave only when the security guards are shoving us out the door at 5:30.
A definite decision to come back again, but next time we will not be driving.
It is raining heavily and we run to the metro to get the train back to the park and ride to pick up our car. Once on the road, it was a nightmare, the drivers are very inconsiderate and are impatient; it’s hard to see with the rain, its dark and bumper to bumper traffic on the freeways. I am driving and am having a hard time negotiating the traffic and having to move over 4 lanes to get to where we need to be, because no one will slow down and let you in. There were times when I just signalled and moved over and hoped that whoever was there would see me, they did, because we eventually arrived home safe and sound after a stop on the way for dinner.
Tomorrow we move south towards, North Carolina and Tennessee.