August 25, 2011

8/21/11 – Washington, DC, Day 1

We've been in Virginia for a while now, but hadn't made it to the Capitol yet.  "Why not?" you ask.  Well, partly because we didn’t want to drive in the city…but mostly because we couldn’t figure out the train schedule and fares from where we were staying.  So when we got back from the diversion trip to Washington (the state), I scheduled us at another RV park in Maryland, really close to the Beltway.  (If you haven’t been to Washington (the city), the Beltway is what they call the freeway that circles the city and gets clogged with vehicles during rush hour, snowstorms and—oh, yeah—earthquakes.)

We took the bus to the metro station, and the train to the city.  There’s a stop just a few blocks from “The National Mall”.  We’re not talking shopping mall here—it’s the park where most of the monuments, memorials & museums tourists to DC can be found.  It’s about 3 blocks wide and 2 miles from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial.  On a clear day you can see from one to the other.  We had to squint. 
It was Sunday, so there were lots of tourists—but we weren’t looking for Patty Murray.  They had “Pay by Phone” parking meters—high-tech at the curb.  George did point out that the people we saw wandering the Mall were all younger than we are.  (I’m guessing the other seniors were riding on the tour buses, not taking pictures of them.)  George forgot to take his National Park Passport, so we’ll need to get the stamps for what we saw today tomorrow.  Sort of like a real passport, you can get cancellations at each park site you visit, with the name and date on the stamp.

Off to one side is the White House.  To get tickets to tour it, you have to write your member of Congress at least 5 months in advance.  That gives them time to do a background check and find out which political party you favor.   Since we hardly know where we’re going to be, let alone when—and had definitely NOT contributed to you-know-who’s political campaign—we settled for the White House Visitor Center.  It was just like going to the airport and getting checked by TSA—camera, keys, etc. through x-ray; walk thru the scanner; pick all the stuff up again and get out of the way.  The lines were shorter than at SeaTac. 
Inside, we watched a movie (prelude by Michelle, ending by Barack, middle stuff by actual important people).  We wandered around looking at paintings portraying White House history:  19th century balls, presidents signing treaties, the destruction(?) from the 1812 fire.  Somehow it didn’t seem quite the same as being inside the Blue Room. 
We hiked down Pennsylvania Avenue to the 1600 block to get a look at the White House itself through a wrought iron fence, between some trees and across acres of grass.  (A couple of years ago, my daughter Laura and I watched the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace through similar bars.  The British built their fences a lot closer to the building so we could actually see what was going on.)
On the way to visit Mr. Lincoln, we detoured past the Vietnam Memorial.  I’ve seen pictures of the wall, but actually being there is a very emotional experience.  All the names on the wall are in chronological order from 1959 to 1975, so the wall gets taller, and then tapers down again as the years progress.  There’s also a statue called “Three Servicemen”.

By the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial, the thunder and lightning was getting closer and it started pouring!  Joining the others taking refuge at the top of the steps, we gazed over the Reflection Pond.  It’s currently under major reconstruction, so it’s mostly mud puddles most of the way to the Washington Monument.  There were so many people trying to stay dry, you really didn’t get a very good look at Abe.   

 When the rain slowed down, we cautiously made our way down the slippery marble steps.  Everyone we passed was drenched!  (Note to self:  don't wear white pants if you might get caught in the rain!)  We stopped at the WWII Memorial, complete with fountain, reflecting pools, and pillars for each state. 
The Washington Monument is really tall, 555' 5"--the tallest obelisk in the world.  Nothing in the District is allowed to be taller than it is.  I like that.  There are 50 American flags circling it--one for each state.  For a change we didn’t wander all the way around looking for the one from Washington.
By the time we got back to the Metro station, I was wiped. 

Post a comment.

Post a Comment

Please leave comments here: