Friday, April 5, 2013

Washington DC - Day 4/5

Good morning from DC. It is amazing that all the anticipation for this trip, that started almost a year ago, is reaching its last few days. However, let me tell you what we all did yesterday.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
It was nice to wake without the worry about packing things up and checking out. Getting up and going to breakfast seemed a little more relaxed. Which was nice, because today's dress code was a little more dressy. No shorts, no sweat pants or jeans with holes. It was recommended that the boys wear a nice pants, a button shirt and tie if they would like. And for the girls, a dress or skirt. However, comfortable shoes and a jacket and/or a sweatshirt were still a must (for it was chilly and we had a lot of walking to do today).

The idea was to dress to be in the right mood - to respect the places we would be visiting today. First up on the list of places to visit was the Arlington Cemetery.

Upon boarding the bus, our tour guide Jeff, gave us a history of Arlington...something that you had to go back to George Washington. George married a rich widow named Martha, who already had two kids. In 1781, George Washington succumbs to the whining of Jackie about being apart of the war. George makes him apart of the army, but not to show favoritism, requires him to bunk in the tents. Here Jackie gets sick and dies of small pox. Jackie had 2 kids - Nellie and Washie. When Jackie died, George and Martha adopt them and raise them as their own...these are the only kids that George and Martha had in a sense.

On December 14, 1799, George Washington develops a bad cough and ends up dying. Washie was devastated  In George's will, he is awarded the land of Arlington where he builds a yellow house on top of the hill.

The yellow house that Washie over looks the now Arlington Cemetary
Washie has a daughter - Mary - who later marries Robert E Lee. They live at the house for a while. Lincoln asks Robert E Lee to command the Union army, but due to his birth place being in Virginia, Lee declines. Thus, he and Mary leave the house. And because they couldn't pay their property taxes of $97 in person, something that you had to do back then, the government took it over and the house & land was turned into a cemetery.  To make sure that Mary and Robert never returned to their home, they began to bury Civil War soldiers near the houe and in their rose gardens.

There are over 300,000 graves at Arlington - soldiers, dignitaries, Presidents, etc. The first site that we walked to was the burial ground/resting place/memorial of JFK.
The eternal flame at the JFK gravesite
The next place we walked to was the Tomb of the Unknown soldier for the changing of the guards
The guard walking his 21 steps one direction...pauses for 21 seconds...turns & pauses 21 seconds...finally is ready to walk back 21 steps. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. Each guard does a 30 minute shift during the day during certain season. In the evening, the shift is 2 hours.
This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The changing of the guards has a lot of ritual and is done in respect of all our soldiers who have fought in war and died. Many we cannot identify and they become our Unknown. One WWI unknown soldier has been placed here and he represent all the hundreds-thousands whom are unknown.

After the ceremony, we moved to the amphitheater, where Jeff (our tour guide) talked to us more about the changing of the guards and all the shining of shoes and polishing of buttons each guard has to do. We also learned more about Arlington Cemetery...and just enjoyed a little time off our feet :)

 Back on tour of some of the graves, we were told about 2 Civil War soldiers, both unknown, were found in a famous ship that had sunk. These soldiers were just laid to rest a few weeks ago...see the place where the grass is still a little brown?

Also in Arlington are a couple of memorials that are somewhat near and dear to my heart...the two that memorialize the 2 space shuttles that exploded:

After leaving Arlington, we stopped at the famous Iwo Jima statue...

It was nice to get a photo with my son :)

Here is the group at the foot of the Iwo Jima
With all the walking we did in Arlington and the stop over at Iwo Jima, it was time to get energized. Today's lunch was in the Ronald Reagan mall food court. This was probably one of the better food courts - great selection and lot of healthier options than in the last couple we have been in.

After lunch, it was time to head to the White House for a photo op. No not with Obama, just along the fence...

However, there was a little complication to getting our photo taken. You see, there happened to be a very important dignitary in town and he was in the process of getting into his transportation to meet with the President. The prime minister of Singapore was getting ready to leave the Blair House to meet with Obama, so the secret service and police were in the process of securing the area

 Never the less, we patience paid off and we were able to get our shot...
The group in front of the White House
 Next up was the Holocaust Museum. This is a difficult museum to get through. Many of the kids did get a little emotional as they walked from floor to floor, learning all about the rise of Hitler, the concentration camps and so on. When you first walk into the museum, you are given a Passport - a little pamphlet that identifies one woman or one man who was part of the Holocaust. On the first floor, before you enter the elevators that takes you up to the beginning of the exhibits, you read about the person. Their name, where they were born and when and a little snippet of their life. Upon passing of each floor you turn the page of the Passport and when you reach the bottom floor - the end of the exhibit - you find out whether that person lived or died.

The front of the Holocaust Museum
After leaving the museum, we headed to dinner....which took us quite a long time due to traffic. Tonight's meal was at Buca di Beppos. Lots of food! We were stuffed! Spaghetti with marinara sauce, Fettichini Alfredo, Chicken Parm, salad, all the Italian bread you could eat and a HUGE chocolate chip cookie for dessert.

Now, energized once again it was time to see a few more memorials around Washington DC. We started out at the MLK Memorial. One of the new fact it just opened last spring.

After the MLK Monument, we walked over to the World War II Memorial. This memorial is really beautiful...if visited on the right conditions. Unfortunately, all of the reflector pools and the fountain in the middle were drained, so you lost some of the effects of the monument. But it is still a wonderful tribute to those who fought in this war.

Next up was the FDR Monument, which is a very large one. It spans almost a football field as it encompassed all 4 of his terms. The monument is made up of four different rooms, each covering what was happening during that term of his presidency. FDR really didn't want a big memorial, for he actually requested something simple, small and plain...a basic stone with his name engraved...which would be no bigger than the size of his desk. While his wish was granted - for there is a stone the size of his desk in DC - there seemed to be a need to really honor him with something that would show his character and work for generations to come. So this memorial was designed and opened May 1997.

The area had metal statues of people waiting in a soup line. There was enough space in between each of  the statues for the girls of our group to stand.

Throughout the monument, famous FDR quotes were engraved in the stone.
Last, but not least, we visited the Jefferson Memorial...
A view of the Jefferson Memorial taken from across the MLK memorial before the sun went down.

Well, this ended our was time to head back to the hotel - early enough for all the kids to enjoy the opportunity to swim in the pool if they wanted to or hang out in their friends' rooms until "lights out".

Until next time...remember,

Live, Love, Laugh and Stitch ofter

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