A week ago, Chris and I got to visit Washington D.C.!
Washington D.C. had been the top of my places-I-want-to-go-but-have-never-been list for something like 15 years. Chris’ brother Steven and his wife Bel live a short ways out of D.C., and they kindly let us stay with them for the week, and provided us with food and transportation back and forth everywhere. Staying with family also allowed Chris and I to meet our 3-1/2 month old niece for the first time. However, I think I need to work at this whole “aunt” thing, as I arrived home and realized that I did not take a single picture of her all week!
After an overnight flight, we arrived into the Baltimore at something like 6 am. Leaving from the airport, we went to breakfast and then straight to Arlington National Cemetery. Our visit there included getting to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was pretty cool to see. It was also very cold – the high on Sunday was something like 18 F. After that, we went back to Steven and Bel’s house and pretty much crashed for the rest of the day. Our day ended with a wonderful Valentine’s Day dinner cooked by the guys for the gals.
We woke up Monday morning to find a coating of SNOW on the ground, and it continued to snow all day. We didn’t let that stop us. Steven joined us as we rode the Big Bus around town and were able to see several things, including the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials. The Lincoln Memorial was really neat to get to see. There were a lot of memorial wreaths in front of it, which may or may not have had something to do with our visit occurring on President’s Day. Our day ended a little early, as we were concerned that the snow would keep us from being able to get back to the house.
On Tuesday we had a second day of use out of our Big Bus tour. We used it to get us to a wax museum (which we got for free with our Big Bus tickets). It wasn’t something I would pay to go see again, but for free it was a fun thing to see while we were waiting for our timed entry into the Ford Theater. Standing in that theater, just feet from where President Lincoln was shot, was surreal. I felt that way about several things over the week. History really seemed to come alive. Across the street we saw the Peterson House (where Lincoln was taken after he was shot). After that we went to the Holocaust museum. Then, Steven picked us up and drove us by the Iwa Jima memorial on the way back to the house.
On Wednesday morning we got to tour the east wing of the White House! It was really pretty. After that, we went to a museum called the Newseum. It had come highly recommended, but we didn’t fully know what to expect. It turned out to be a museum about American history, the news/media, and how they interact. For example, they had an exhibit on the Vietnam War, complete with artifacts and new articles, and explained the impact of the media on American perception of the war and ultimately the war itself. The most emotional part of the Newseum for me their exhibit on 9/11, which included a piece of the antenna which had been on the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Thursday was by far our longest day. We started with a little bit more time to finish up at the Newseum (our tickets allowed a second day of entry). Then we went to the National Gallery of Art. I wrote a paper about “A Little Girl in a Blue Armchair” by Mary Cassatt as a junior in high school, and a pre-trip internet search had revealed that the original was on display in Washington D.C. The docent at the desk when we walked in was very helpful, looking up and telling us which gallery in the museum we wanted to go to, and then providing a map to show how to get there. Then we went to the Air and Space Museum for the rest of the morning/afternoon.
In the evening, a friend of Steven’s had been able to get us in to tour the West Wing of the White House. For the most part, pictures were not allowed, but I can say that it is really pretty. Our tour included getting to see the Oval Office.
Friday had a simplest agenda of the week. We drove out to the Udvar Hazy Center, which is basically everything that the Air and Space Center has, that doesn’t fit in the Air and Space Museum. I think I would have enjoyed it more if we had not done it on back-to-back days with the Air and Space museum, but it was still interesting.
On Saturday the name of the game was catch-up. Go see the things we weren’t able to see earlier in the week for one reason or another. We started at the National Archives, where we got to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. From there we went to the Capitol building, where the tour we had scheduled for Monday had gotten cancelled due to the snow. Even without reservations, we were able to get in to a tour starting just a few minutes after our arrival. A tunnel allowed us to move directly to the Library of Congress even allowing us to bypass the security line (a small plus after walking through metal detectors to walk into nearly every building all week). However, the Library prooved to be somewhat underwhelming, as the set-up didn’t allow us to see much. After that, our attention turned to the get-there-if-we-can list, starting with the Natural History museum. We ended up finishing there quicker than expected, and with our last hour and a half before the Smithsonian museums closed for the day, we went to the American History museum. The highlight for me there was getting to see the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star Spangled Banner.
Overall, we had a fun week. There were things that we would have liked to have seen but weren’t able to. I guess those things will have to wait for another trip.