Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 5 (Sun), Day 6 (Mon.) (Day 7) (Tues) Vacation

I've decided to squeeze the last 3 days of our vacation into one post.  To be perfectly honest by this time we were all a bit weary and I will honestly admit that I was a bit homesick.  We seemed less busy on these days but were still busy sun up to well past sundown.

Day 5 found us up and early and off to Arlington National Cemetery.  I'm not going to lie we would have enjoyed it a whole lot more if it had not reached 103 degrees with heat index while we were there.    We were just wilted by the time we returned to the hotel mid afternoon.  

It was worth every bit of sweat dripped to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony in person at the Tomb of the Unknown.  These young men give up so much to perform this honorable duty and they perform their duties to perfection.  It brings a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye to see their duties performed with such precision.  I would not have missed it for anything.   

Just a fraction of the tombstones in this cemetery.
This is the eternal flame at the graveside of John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis.
Bill snapped a photo of the propane tanks that keep the flame lit.
Beautiful garden up by Arlington House at the top of the hill.
That same evening Bill found out the Nationals were still in town for one last game before we left so off to National Park we went to watch them play the NY Mets.  The ball park was the nicest one I've ever been to and I've been to many.  Nice thick cushioned seats.  Air conditioned hallways.   My one question - when did they start having cheerleaders at baseball games?  I was also surprised by the price of Event Parking for this game - $35.  WOW!  Our taxi ride both ways total was less.

Day 6 started out with Bill having a serious headache.  We took the morning to stay at the hotel and let him relax so it would not turn into a full blown migraine.  Smart move as by noon time he was ready to go again.  We took a short walk down the street (6 blocks) and saw the Spy Musuem. 

 This was a fun little museum.    First thing you do in a little room is pick a cover for yourself and memorize the details. Spent my time in there looking at the Argo exhibit and then took about 15 seconds to memorize my cover.
Appears I might have some skills here as about 30 minutes later you go to a screen where they ask you some questions about your cover story before your can cross the border.  I was 100% correct with my 15 second memorization.  Pretty good considering I was watching several others look at the photo they took on their phones to answer their questions.  It really was interesting to see all the different things used in espionage.  

I loved the Lipstick Pistol.  What woman wouldn't want one of these for protection.

I even found this framed piece of cross-stitch in the exhibit on women in espionage.
The day ended with our usual evening stroll around the White House.  Here we saw our first protest of the trip.
Day 7 and our last full day of vacation started with a tour of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.  It was a fun little tour.  We enjoyed seeing the $1 million on exhibit.  It was fun seeing how money is printed but another one of those tours where no photos were allowed on the actual tour.  

After we finished here as the Holocaust Museum was still next door we took the opportunity to go through it again.  This time we had the place almost entirely to ourselves and were able to really experience the exhibits.  My son is disabled and it really hit me when seeing the part of the exhibit where children and adults with disabilities were the first to be executed.  I still feel the shoe exhibit and the personal items left behind exhibit will stick with me forever.

After these two stops we once again went back to the Lincoln Memorial and War Memorials.  We took the time to listen to the Park Ranger tours offered and found it well worth our time.  This time we also walked around the back side of the Lincoln Memorial and it offered some spectacular views.

This is on the South side standing at the back of the memorial looking toward the WA Monument and the US Capitol.
This is looking off the backside of the memorial toward Arlington National Cemetery.

This picture is also taken from the back of the memorial looking at the Air Force Memorial.
We finished our day and trip with one last stroll around the White House.  We had a stroke of luck and ended up being there when Marine 1 came to take the President to Air Force One for his trip to Sweden.  I actually got video of this but I can't get video to load right now.  I will try again later to share this with you. 

It was the most wonderful vacation ever.  There were some places we still did not have time to see but it was definitely time to come home.  You know the saying "THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME".

Day 4 (Saturday) - Vacation

 Originally we were going to go to Arlington National Cemetery but let ourselves get talked out of it by  a Hotel Management person.  He recommended the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian.  He said it was phenomenal - boy was he ever WRONG!  I've seen much better exhibitions here in the Midwest and it was totally not what I would have expected.  We did, however, go through all levels of the exhibit.  I found one stitching related item.  This is a Mohawk pincushion (1900).  I'm wondering about the swastika on this and am thinking I see some research in my future - that is unless someone can enlighten me.  I've only seen this associated with Germany in the late 1930's and beyond.

After this museum we went back over to the Air and Space Museum and took in a double feature at the Imax Theater.  Really enjoyed the 3D movie (Hubble 3D) but the other not so much.  

From here we took a cab over to Printing & Engraving (you will remember Bill's back done) only to find it closed until Tuesday.  The Holocaust Museum was right next door so we decided to go there instead.  Not a museum for the soft hearted.  I was pleased to see that they had concrete walls in front of the t.v. screens showing things children should not see.  It was terribly crowded so were not able to see the exhibits very well.  I will, however, never be able to forget the smell at the shoe exhibit nor pile of scissors and utensils left behind by those who were executed.

To finish off this day as we were staying in the next block from the White House we took our nightly  stroll around it.  This was the night I noticed the Secret Service on top of the White House.  I also took the time to find the garden planted by the First Lady.  Is it wrong for me to admit that I was a bit underwhelmed when I caught my first glimpse of the White House.  I was expecting something so much larger.  It looks so much bigger on television that in person.  Still a beautiful building!

Now this is a magnificent building next to the White House.  This is the Dwight Eisenhower building.  The first picture is just the side of it.  Second picture is from the corner looking down the front.  I could not get the entire front of the building into the picture is was so HUGE!

Day 3 - Vacation (Evening)

I'm really going to push myself here this afternoon and try and finish up all the vacation posts this afternoon.  I want to get back to normal posting but want this all finished up first.
The previous post told you what we did during the daylight hours of Day 3 so here is a quick little post about the after dark hours.  After a long day of walking in the heat to tour the outside of the US Capitol as well as the Exhibition Hall, Library of Congress, Supreme Court Building, Senate Building, Japanese American Garden and Union Station we decided on a whim - believe me it was on a whim - to take the night bus tour around D.C.  

It really did sound like a good idea and by the end of the evening we all really did have a good time.  Although you might not guess that by looking at this photo of my guys.  Honestly I don't know what Bill and I were thinking as Keith is ready to settle down for the night by 8:00 p.m. and we needed to board the bus by 7:30 p.m.  Keith was a bit grumpy (putting it mildly) about taking this bus tour and wouldn't go up the stairs to the open air part of the bus.  I know Bill would have liked to been up there but sometimes you just have to pick your battles and let's be honest we were all tired already.  

First stop on our bus tour - Union Station - TO GET ON A NEW BUS!  Yes folks as our luck runs the sound system on the bus would not work and it is pretty hard for the guide to tell you about what you are seeing without it - especially as there is only 1 guide and 2 levels to the bus.

We finally were on our way!  The tour really was interesting and it was nice that at 2 locations we were able to get off and walk around the monuments.  To be perfectly honest the monuments are so much more beautiful at night all lit up.  By the time we got to the first stop which was the US Capitol the driver let any of us on the 1st level go up to the open air part of the bus.  Keith was still having none of it but Bill sent me up with my camera to get the good photos and he and Keith enjoyed a wonderfully air conditioned ride.  Lucky for them they were first off the bus at all our stops so had more time to enjoy the monuments that I did.

I hope you will all forgive the quality of my night photos.  The bus was in constant motion and I was photographing behind 2 rows of people on the other side of the bus most of the time.  I feel pretty fortunate that they turned out as well as they did.

Here we have a picture of the U.S. Capitol and the World War II Memorial.

Here we are driving by the Jefferson Memorial.  I love how this one turned out with the trees in the front of the picture.  

We did get to enjoy about 35 minutes at the FDR Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  You walk within a foot of the Tidal Basin to get from one to the other in the dark.  I'm amazed that no one ended up in the basin as there is no railing along it.

 This is the Jefferson Memorial looking across the Tidal Basin as we walk from FDR to MLK memorials.
We also were able to spend about 35 minutes at the Lincoln Memorial.  It is truly majestic to see at night!  I would not have known where Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at the Lincoln Memorial to give his "I Have a Dream" speech if we had not gone on this tour.  

We also drove by Arlington National Cemetery.  I will say the quality of this photo is atrocious but I was still thrilled to have gotten it.  I captured the Women's Memorial (bottom), the eternal flame (middle) and Arlington House (top) all in one photo at night.  This was amazing as the bus never stopped and most people were never able to pick out where the eternal flame was.  I got lucky and managed to snap the photo when it was flaring brightly.
We finally arrived back at our hotel at 11:15 p.m. and fortunately for us that was their first drop off spot.  Many of the others still had to wait for another stop and then get on the Metro to get back to their hotel.  The trip was well worth a "grumpy" Keith.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 3 (Daytime) - Friday DC Vacation!

Day 3 of our vacation was a truly amazing day!  I apologize in advance for it being such a long post.  As it is, I've already decided a second post will be needed to cover everything we did on this day.  You see on a whim at about 6:45 p.m. we decided to take the night bus tour of the monuments that began at 7:30 pm (but more on that later).

It was the day scheduled by our Senator's office to tour the U.S. Capitol.  Even though Bill's back was at the end of his ability for long walks - we did make one last long walk up to the Capitol.  As our tour was not scheduled until 2:30, we spent the morning exploring the grounds around the Capitol.  The above photo is actually my favorite I took outside the Capitol.  It shows just a corner of the Capitol from the front left side.  I thought it looked so beautiful with the green grass and blooming bushes.
When we arrived, there was a film crew actually shooting something there.  We have no idea if it was a t.v. show, movie etc.  Funny thing was it seemed like there was a lot of standing around and not a whole lot going on.  It was another hot day and most of them looked pretty miserable.

 This is a gorgeous fountain located right in front of the Capitol straight down from its' dome.  There was this little gated open building on the grounds as well with another lovely fountain.

After exploring the grounds outside we went into the lower level and explored the Visitor Center.  There is an Exhibition Hall in there with some wonderful exhibits to see - alas photography not allowed.  However, there were some marvelous statues on display in the main hall of which Sakakawea was my favorite.  If you've never read the book about her guiding the expedition for Lewis and Clark, I think you should add it to your list.  You can visit to find out more about the artifacts on display.
After a lunch in the cafeteria we ventured out into the heat again for a bit more exploring before our tour.  We stopped by and took a couple of photos at the Library of Congress.  We did not get into this building.  It was a grand building to look at with a huge fountain in front.  I'll not show you the closeups of the statues in the fountain so as not to offend anyone but they were very beautiful!

From there we wandered by the US Supreme Court Building and we could see it was under some work - in fact I don't have a photo as there was a photo canvas of the building covering the entire front.  Imagine our surprise as walking by that the security out front called us over and said we could actually go in and tour it.  I never dreamed it would be a building you could tour.  I took a few photos of exhibits but by far I was mesmerized by the two marble and bronze spiral staircases.  They are 5 stories tall and are only supported by the overlapping steps and their extensions into the wall.  Amazing!

 From there we headed over to the Hart Building to Senator Grassley's Office to meet up for our tour.  If you ever make the trip, I highly recommend going through your Senator for a tour as it is so much more personal.  There we 7 of us total for our tour and the ones purchased at the Capitol had like 40 people in them and everyone had to wear headphones to hear the guide.  I so enjoyed all the history (Emily) our staffer shared with us during the tour.

The first photos are from the lowest level of the Capitol.  I was truly dazzled by the arched ceilings and chandeliers found here.

Next photo is standing in the center of the rotunda (where dignitaries lay in State) looking up into the dome.  The rotunda was truly a thing of beauty to behold.  Can you spot George Washington in the painting at the top?  
This photo below is a full 360 photo of the rotunda.  I stood again in the exact center (there is actually something that marks this spot at each level) and used the panoramic feature on my camera.  So may paintings, statues, etchings, etc.  
 The next 2 photos represent an amazing thing.  The picture on the left you will see an arch along the top.  In the picture on the right we are standing at a spot to the right and our guide is straight across on the other side of the room waving her hand.  She is starting to talk in a whisper and it sounds like she is practically yelling right beside you.  As she leaves this spot and heads toward you, you can no longer hear her talking until she is right beside you.  Something to do with the arch and the acoustics.  Amazing!  Oh, by the way the ticketed tours didn't get to experience this.

These next two photos are of the Old Supreme Court located in the Capitol.  It was an absolutely magnificent room.
We also got to go in and sit in the Senate Chamber balcony (where the State of the Union Address is given by the President).  You have to go through a second security check to enter this room and a staff person from the Capitol security goes in with you.  Again another place where no pictures are allowed.  I will tell you the room is much smaller than I expected after seeing it on t.v.  Still a beautiful room as were all rooms in this magnificent building. 

A couple of others places of note was seeing the audio/visual room where Senator Grassley usually is when t.v./radio interviews are taped.  We also saw where Speak of the House John Boehner's offices were located.  Didn't actually see the office but his name plate on the hallway leading to them.  To end our tour as the Senate was in recess we rode the Senator's train back through the tunnel to the Hart Building and once there we got to see the Senator's Office.  
From there - yes there is more but I will keep it very short.  We walked over to the Japanese American Memorial.  Beautiful park area with flowers and a couple of fountains with lots of green space.  After that we walked over to Union Station.  Took a couple of quick photos, had a fast bite to eat and hailed a taxi for the long trip back to the hotel as Bill's back would not make the trip back.  I'm thinking it would have been a trip better taken carrying Bill on my back and pushing Keith in his chair.  This particular taxi driver on a Friday night in rush hour traffic - well let's just say I'm amazed I'm still alive to write about it.  Truly terrifying and I've ridden with Bill, my dad and my younger brother!

 Well, I'm out of time for now and I'm sure your thinking how much more could they do in a day.  This day started at 8:00 AM and did not end until after 11:00 PM.  A lot can be done in that amount of time.