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Friday, February 24, 2012

Best trip not on a bike! - part 2

The Thanksgiving trip to Washington DC was a great experience to share with my son and wife.  Read about the first three days of the trip in an earlier post.

Day 4 of our visit began with a tour of the White House.  No photography was allowed until we exited the building.  Since no bags, purses, or backpacks were allowed, all we had with us were cell phones.  My son and wife took some photos, but they have been lost.  The tour is self paced, but groups are scheduled for entrance every 30 minutes starting at 9am.  It was inspiring to walk through rooms where great discussions took place and decisions were made.  The guides in each room were able to relate interesting facts about the room and different historic moments that occurred in each room.

The different presidential portraits displayed throughout the White House really caught my attention.  The portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan were my favorite.  The historic furniture accented each room, and it was easy to see why a room was called the "Green Room" or the "Blue Room."  Architecture enthusiasts would really enjoy the tour, as well as many buildings in DC.

After the White House tour we stopped by the famous Old Ebbitt Grill.  This establishment was founded in 1856 and proclaims to be the oldest and most historic saloon in Washington DC.  Many past and present power brokers have enjoyed the bar and grill.  We enjoyed a great brunch, and I would highly recommend eating at the Old Ebbitt Grill when you are in DC - try the Strata, a combination of ham, cheese, egg bread, and egg custard baked in an iron skillet!

After brunch we walked to the National Archives and viewed the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.  The documents are kept in climate-controlled cases.  It was impressive to see the documents in person. Once again photography was not allowed.

Next on our list was a trip to the National Museum of American History.  This building houses an amazing amount of national artifacts - original trains, cars, presidential items, First Ladies' items, national icons, and so much more.
1942 Harley-Davidson was among the many vehicles on exhibit
There were many artifacts not as well known but that have significant historic value.  One such item that really struck me was the George Washington statue that was commissioned for the 100th birthday of our first president.  The statue is rich with symbolism, but many felt he was inappropriately dressed.
President George Washington
The highlight for us was getting to see the flag flown over Ft. McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that would ultimately become our national anthem.  Photographing the flag was not permitted.  It is encased in a climate-controlled room.  The history of the flag is very intriguing.  It was interesting to see some pieces of the flag were cut and given as gifts to different people many years ago.

We strolled through the many exhibits learning many details of our rich history.  I learned that I have a lot to learn.
Martha and Richard near entry to see Old Glory.
 The chairs used when General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House
 Metal from the Twin Towers after the evil terrorist attack on 9/11/01
Dorthy's famous ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz
It was another full day of walking, learning, and absorbing history.  Upon leaving the National Museum of American History, we were ready for a good dinner, and pizza sounded good.  We found  Aria Pizzeria & Bar in the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and decided to try it.  The inviting restaurant was comfortable and the staff was friendly and attentive.  We started with some Garlic Pizza Knots.  They were freshly baked and very good.
Fresh, hot garlic pizza knots
We followed up the pizza knots with a large half pepperoni & sausage and half sausage and mushroom pizza. Once again we were not disappointed.  It was a great way to end day four.
Great pizza that hit the spot
Day 5: Wednesday Nov. 23.  We rode the subway to the Pentagon for our 9:30 tour.  We arrived early enough to visit the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.  The memorial creates a very solemn atmosphere and is a place to reflect and remember.  The empty benches, one for each victim, make an overwhelming impression on visitors. It was a great opportunity to discuss important issues with my son.  I regrettably lost all the photos I took while at the memorial and the Pentagon.  (I borrowed the following photo from www. blog.travelpod so that I could post a photo.)
National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Tours of the Pentagon are quick and no photography near the entrance or inside is allowed except in the small press conference room where we waited for our tour to start.  The size and activity of the Pentagon is impressive.  Our tour guides, current servicemen, were friendly, smart, and attentive to our many questions.

The Washington National Cathedral is about 5 miles north of the Pentagon.  We rode the subway to the Cleveland Station and walked 1.4 miles to the cathedral.  It was a cool, overcast day with a light breeze.  The cathedral could be seen many blocks away.  The spires of the fourth tallest structure in DC rose above the trees and surrounding buildings.  The cathedral is the sixth largest in the world and second largest in the United States.
The Washington National Cathedral
We could see scaffolding around several of the spires where repair was underway due to the damage caused by the August 23, 2011 earthquake.  Once inside we saw several pieces that had fallen during the earthquake on display.
Broken pieces from the cathedral spires
The workmanship of the building was inspiring.  My photos do not do the building justice.  Tours are free, but a donation is recommended.  We viewed the foyer, the fallen pieces exhibit, and part of the sanctuary prior to the tour.  The stained glass is so pretty.  There are over 200 stained glass windows with many depicting scenes from the Bible or national events.
One of the amazing stained glass windows
The tour allowed us to see many great works of art and amazing architecture.  It was impressive to see where funerals, memorials, and prayer services for many historic figures took place.  We viewed the pipe organ which has 10,647 pipes!  The tour included the different rooms/worship centers (not sure what terminology to use).  We enjoyed our time at the cathedral.
 An impressive pulpit
 One of smaller alters
 Painting of the risen Christ
The front of the cathedral
On the walk back to the subway we strolled down Massachusetts Avenue a.k.a. Embassy Row looking at the various national embassies.  It was time to head to dinner and back to the hotel.

Day 6 - Thanksgiving
We slept in and enjoyed a relaxing morning.  I was ready to head out before they were so I took off to get some photos of the Capitol and to enjoy the sunny day.  On the walk around the Capitol I stopped by the Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon, the Peace Monument, the General Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, and the James A. Garfield Monument.
Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon
The Capitol dome
 The Peace Monument east of the Capitol
While I waited for the family to catch up, I visited the National Museum of American Indians.  The collection of artifacts was extensive.  The exhibits were informative, interesting, and lively.  I met the family on the ground level and enjoyed lunch in the museum's cafeteria.

After lunch we made our way to Arlington National Cemetery.  The visitor center exhibit was inspirational and humbling.  We walked passed many rows of the white iconic headstones.  The sheer number made a lasting impression on all of us.  We arrived at the Tomb of the Unknown a few minutes before the changing of the guard.  

The rows go on and on - very solemn
Tomb of the Unknown Solider
We watched reverently as the guard made his rounds.  Everyone respectfully stood during the famous changing of the guard ceremony.  It is nearly impossible to explain the emotions and reverence experienced being there and viewing the tomb and the ceremony.
 Changing of the guards
After the ceremony we visited Audie L. Murphy's grave which is directly in front of the amphitheater.  Audie was the most decorated WWII combat solider before becoming a successful actor in Hollywood.  We walked over to the John F. Kennedy Eternal Flame and grave site.  It is located on a hillside below the historic Arlington House, Robert E. Lee Memorial
The JFK eternal flame and grave site
Seeing the Pentagon, the 9/11 memorial, the changing of the guards, and the graves of so many of the brave men and women who sacrificed for our country was quite appropriate for Thanksgiving Day.  We discussed the many reasons we are thankful, not the least being our country, our freedoms, and our prosperity.  It was a great day, and we celebrated Thanksgiving with a great dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  

Day 7:
After packing our luggage and checking it with the hotel doorman, we began our last day in DC.  All three of us wanted to see the Giant Pandas at the National Zoo.  It was at the zoo that we experienced the largest crowds of the trip.  It was a nice sunny day and families were taking advantage of the holiday and the weather.  The zoo has a great collection of animals and some very creative exhibits.  We enjoyed them all, but the highlight was seeing the Giant Pandas.
Bengal Tiger - one of many cats at the zoo
video
Everyone loved seeing the Giant Panda
We left the zoo and had time for one more site before catching our flight home.  The Marine Corps War Memorial a.k.a. Iwo Jima Memorial is outside Arlington Cemetery and next to the Netherlands Carillon.  The cast bronze memorial honors all Marines who have served our country.  The size is so powerful and makes an awesome impression on all who visit.  
 Amazing memorial
Powerful image and fitting memorial
Great conversations, grateful and solemn moments, contagious laughter, and times of intense reflection were part of this trip.  We learned and experienced a lot.  Our national pride grew as well as our concern for the future of this great country.  We left DC with big smiles, a lot of photos, and lifelong memories.

I hope you get the chance to visit DC.  It is a great experience.

2 comments:

  1. Now you've made me want to go to DC.

    What a great write up. I appreciate the detail and all of the photos. It looks like you had a wonderful vacation and were able to soak up a lot of history.

    Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Fabulous account of your trip. I've never been to DC, always seem to be flying around via the bypass, perhaps one day I'll make it a destination.

    ReplyDelete