Thursday, October 23, 2014

Washington DC

We arrived in DC around 10 and took the metro from Ronald Reagan Natl Airport to our Hotel, the Melrose Georgetown.  I LOVED our hotel.  It was a boutique hotel, and just felt soooo lux and posh.  It wasn't downtown, but I picked it because it was right next to the Foggy Bottom metro stop so we could just hop on to get wherever if we wanted.  It was also right next to George Washington University so it was in a very hip part of town and there were tons of great places to eat and shop nearby.  We walked in from the chilly, damp night dragging our luggage and were met by a bellman who stood at the front door 24 hours a day to open it for guests.  There were people drinking wine right off the lobby in front of a roaring fireplace.  There were big dispensers of ice-cold fruit water that we could access whenever.  Check-in was quick and we went up to a very spacious, comfortable room.  And 24-hour room service :D  we ordered a late dinner and then hit the sack for our early morning.

Day one, Wednesday morning was our White House Tour!  We had written our senator back in February requesting tickets and after a background check and lots of waiting, we were approved and mailed the tickets.  We didn't get to see the West Wing and security was super tight (we couldn't take pictures inside), it was really neat though to see the original paintings, photos, furniture, and decor from past presidents.  It's pretty old-fashioned inside, like things haven't been updated in a hundred years.  I'm sure the first family's quarters are much more modern though.  We then walked straight to the Natl Monument and got tickets to go up in it.  Our tickets were for 1:30 and we were a little tired from the early white house tour, so we went back to the hotel to reset and grabbed burgers down the street.  DC has this bike sharing system that is pretty neat.  You pay for an amount of time (we paid 3 days), then you can take a bike off the rack and ride it to another checkpoint (another rack), and dock it while you see the sights in that area.  You have half an hour between docks before you are charged extra, and can use the bikes unlimitedly for 3 days.  You just swipe your card at each dock and then enter the code it gives you to unlock a bike.  I'll say though that Jack loved this system a lot more than I did.  The only conflict we had on our vacation had to do with these darn bikes.  Let's just say Jack is a lot more experienced on a bike than I am (two years on an LDS mission will do that for you) and was able to weave in an out of crowds at top speed, while I bumbled through, knocking into people, getting stuck at red lights, and slowing him way down.  My un-savvy-ness on a bike made us late for our Monument tour, but we didn't miss it.  It was really neat to go up in the elevator and see all of the mall and the historic sites.  If you look at the pictures, you can see that the stone at the bottom of the monument is a different color than the top.  This is because they ran out of funds and had to wait to finish it, using different rock.  On the inside, going up in the elevator, you can see bricks that have been donated by each state.  We also went in the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and saw the Vietnam Memorial.  All very cool.  We wrapped up the day at the Holocaust Museum.  It was one of the things I was most wanting to go to, and was really amazing and really difficult to go through.  I won't get out my soapbox right now, but I feel strongly that people need to see and know things that happened in our history, even though they may be graphic or traumatizing.  We lead too much of a comfortable life because of those who didn't.  My kids will know that and they will witness that as much as possible. That's all.

Thursday was my favorite day in DC.  We rented a car and drove down to Mount Vernon to George Washington's estate.  It's no wonder he loved his home so much, it really was an incredible place. It originally sat on 8,000 acres (which his great-grandfather received in a land grant).  George inherited it from his half brother, and today it is about 500 acres.  It has an incredible view of the Potomac river, which is right outside the back door.  The decor, paint, and most of the furniture are original.  The estate also has the original servants and slave's quarters, a gristmill, many gardens, and the tombs of George and Martha Washington.

When we were done at Mt Vernon we drove North to Pennsylvania and visited Gettysburg.  The drive was really one of the most beautiful I've ever been on.  It was misty and overcast and everywhere there were green sprawling forests and fields, with big farmhouses and plantations.  Gettysburg was kind of a last-minute add-on on our trip, but I'm so glad we did it!  It was really an experience to see the fields where so many of our countrymen fought each other to keep a nation as they thought it should be.  The museum there has a fantastic film, lots of artifacts, and a cyclorama, which is a painting of the entire battlefield that lines the outside of a whole room.  Different parts of the painting light up as you hear different parts of the battle of Pickett's Charge. It was painted in 1883 by French artist Paul Philippoteaux.  We drove out to the different parts of the battlefield (which stretched across several miles) like Little Round Top and saw the Gettysburg cemetery and numerous monuments.  On our way home we stopped at a roadside barn and bought a whole homemade pie and some goodies.

The following quote was posted around the cyclorama and really made me emotional.  Let's be honest, this whole trip in DC I was pretty emotional.  Some of the best things in our country had to be brought about by some of the most brutal and heart wrenching circumstances.  Again, things that need to be understood and made witness to.

Friday our emphasis was on Arlington Cemetery.  We slept in, rode bikes down the street to do a little shopping....and BAM! A few blocks away from our hotel there it was.  SPRINKLES cupcakes.  There are only two locations on the east coast and the first one we visited 3 times in New York.  The second one was minutes from our hotel.  Joy beyond measure.  ...Our cousin Hilary had recommended an amazing place named Clyde's to eat so we stopped there for lunch and had a really fantastic meal of buffalo chicken wings and lobster pot pie.  Wow.  After riding the Metro to the Arlington stop we walked up through the cemetery and saw the Eternal Flame, which is always burning in memory of President John F Kennedy, who is buried there.  We walked to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is guarded by an honor guard of elite Army specialists 24/7/365.  We were able to see the changing of the guard and all of the respect paid to those who have lost their lives fighting for our country but were never able to be identified and named.  We then rode our bikes down to the Iwo Jima statue and topped the day off with dinner.

Saturday we were able to get a tour of the Capitol Building.  Two cool things about the capitol are: first, that each state has donated two statues to reside in the capitol.  These statues represent individuals who have shaped their state and are important the the founding or development of the state and it's culture.  Utah's statues are Brigham Young and Phylo Farnsworth (inventor of the television).  Second, there is a large rotunda in the Capitol named The Crypt.  When we asked our guide who was buried there she answered that originally the room was built to house the tomb of George Washington, but that President Washington declined to be buried there, and said that we came to America to escape the influence of a King and that he refused to be treated as a king.  That there would be many more presidents after him and he didn't want to be revered more than those men.  He wanted to be buried at his home with his wife because that was his most important place on earth.  We visited the Library of Congress, which was beautiful but very closed off.  You weren't allowed to see any books.  We then hit all three of the Smithsonians we wanted to see, Natural History, American History, and Air and Space.  I could have spent hours and hours in the Natural History museum, but it was packed because it was a Saturday.  We did buy Berlin two books there about animals, that have lots of pull tabs and moving parts.  The day we brought it home she and Olivia had already destroyed three of the pages, which I have yet to fix.

The American History Museum had Julia Childs' exact kitchen displayed.
There are squirrels everywhere in DC

This is the original Wright Bros plane that they flew to Kitty Hawk

I absolutely LOVED Washington DC.  It has such a different feel from NY, and was so clean, travel-friendly, and chock full of history.  I would definitely go back.
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