Monday, June 6, 2011

Touring Washington D.C.

Adam had some time off at the end of May, so we decided to drive down to Washington D.C. to visit our friends Melissa and Earl Ardales and do some sight-seeing. Melissa and Earl live in Alexandria, VA, which is about 20 minutes outside of D.C. I had been down a couple of times by myself and really enjoyed it, so I was excited for Adam to finally make the trip. It took us just under 7 hours to get down there, which is not bad considering the ages of our two little passengers. Melissa and Earl were amazing hosts and tour guides. Earl took us into the city on the first day, showing us Arlington National Cemetery, the neighborhood of Georgetown, and then down through the National Mall to see many of the memorials and also the White House. We spent the next day relaxing in Alexandria- the guys went golfing, while Melissa and I stayed home with the kids so they could get caught up on naps and playtime. That evening, us gals went out for a great dinner and then to my absolute favorite bar- PX, which I've written about before- genius cocktails. On Sunday, Melissa took us into D.C. to see the grounds of the Capitol (the visitor's center was closed). We then parted ways with Mel, and took the kids to the American History Museum and the Museum of Natural History. On our last day, Melissa and Earl kindly offered to watch the kids so that Adam and I could go check out a couple of other museums that are less kid-friendly. I really can't believe how much we were able to see in just a few days, particularly with two small kids. Even more, we still had a very relaxing time. We spent the evenings back at Melissa and Earl's home making dinner, and staying up talking after we put the kiddos to bed. It was really an enjoyable vacation.

I've been trying to decide how to write about our trip- so many pictures and details. I decided to just organize it in sort of a "notes" style. It's a city filled with history, memorials, museums, and a politically charged spirit and culture. All of these things move people on an individual level. I will say, I was amazed how different it is to relearn history as an adult, and then relate it to what is going on with current events. It is surprisingly emotional. Anyhow, here are the things I feel are worth mentioning.

Arlington National Cemetery:
There are many reasons people visit this cemetery. When Adam said he wanted to visit, I agreed, wanting to see JFK's grave, and other famous headstones. But, once we got there, what moved me most was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We watched the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place every 30 minutes- 365 days a year. Both Adam and I found it extremely emotional and poignant. I don't really care what your opinion is about any of our country's wars- past or present- I think it would be impossible to stand before this tomb and not be humbled by the sacrifice soldiers make on a daily basis. I felt saddened and proud. Mostly humbled. I don't know about you- but I take an awful lot for granted. If you are going to D.C. - I would argue that you are obligated to pay your respects by visiting Arlington National Cemetery.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
The Kennedy Gravesite
National Mall and Memorials:
There are countless memorials throughout D.C. - we walked the length of the National Mall, stopping at the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. These are all awesome to see- I don't have anything particularly insightful to offer. However, the Vietnam Memorial will blow your mind, when you realize how many names are etched on the memorial.
World War II Memorial 
Korean War Memorial
Walking through the National Mall towards the Washington Monument
White House- Clearly both Gavin and Olivia were impressed
Smithsonian American History Museum:
Keep in mind- we had the kids with us so we had a pretty brief tour. We even split up so Adam and I could go see exhibits that jumped out at us individually. For me, I loved the exhibit with all the inaugural gowns worn by the first ladies. I also enjoyed seeing the Julia Child exhibit and seeing how her kitchen was set up. There is also a great exhibit dedicated to the Star Spangled Banner, with the original flag, sewn by Betsy Ross.
Michelle Obama's Inaugural Gown
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History:
One word: Dinosaurs. Gavin couldn't wait to go see the dinosaurs. I was way less enthused about going to this museum, but have to admit- it was pretty awesome! They have collections of skeletons of all sorts of species - from a little, tiny mouse, a turtle, an alligator, all the way up to a great whale. Gavin was so impressed with all of the skeletons that he almost forgot about the dinosaurs! We also saw the exhibit where the Hope Diamond is on display- have to admit, while pretty, it's way less cool than the skeletons!
One of the few privately owned museums in D.C., so it's not free. This was my second visit to the Newseum, but enjoyed it so much that I wanted Adam to see it. I find it fascinating to see how media has evolved and its importance in narrating history. There was an exhibit on Hurricane Katrina on display this time- really interesting to read about the journalists' experiences. Many had to choose whether to save someone's life or meet a deadline. I really cannot imagine having to capture stories while people are suffering right before your eyes. Yet, it was important to get the stories out- to make a plea for help and show the rest of the country what was going on.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Adam really wanted to visit this museum. I have to admit- I was not excited about it. We never go on dates- so selfishly, I thought- really- the holocaust museum? This is going to be depressing. Reluctantly, I agreed to go and I am so glad that I did. It seems weird to say this, but it's one of the best museums I have ever been to. I had no idea how little I knew about the holocaust. The museum is designed extremely well and walks you through the entire history. It's just unbelievable to me how fast Hitler was able to take control. Even more unbelievable is how easily he was able to convince people to commit such acts of hatred. I know that all of those statements seem extremely obvious, but I for whatever reason, just didn't have an accurate understanding of nazi propaganda. How could professors, doctors, and other highly educated people buy into this? Again, I'd put this museum on the list of places you must visit- probably before any of the others. It's a reminder of how easily people can become intolerant due to what seems to be an innate quality of blaming misfortune on others. Extremely powerful.
Ok, so there you have it- a novel about our trip to D.C. If you're still intrigued- here are some additional pictures from our visit with Melissa and Earl. Enjoy!
Look closely- Melissa and Gavin found a turtle in her back woods!
Olivia- good at being cute
Girls night out!


jenny goodman said...

I totally agree with you about Arlington Cemetery and the Changing of the Guard...for one thing it is a beautiful place. And just thinking about the ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier gives me goosebumps. Truly a powerful place.
And I too LOVED the first ladies exhibit. So amazing. You guys really packed in a lot! Looks like so much fun.

Eileen said...

wonderful post and pictures jenny!! love that area and the conduit to history. our country is so fantastic--with warts and all. so much packed into that small area to help appreciate it. loved every time i've been there and got to taste part of it. so impressive