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A "Revolutionary" Journey Part II (Washington D.C. & Philadelphia)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
Previous: A "Revolutionary" Journey (Williamsburg & Washington D.C.)
Revolutionary Journey Part II
My Sunday in Washington was busy with lots I wanted to cover. I had made a 9 a.m. reservation and received my ticket by mail to go up to the top of the Washington Monument. This really saved time because people without tickets were coming to the Monument and then having to go back to a ticket office about 100 yards or so away and then back. A very personable National Park Policewoman lined us up and at 9 on the dot the 9 a.m. group was taken in to go through security and head to the elevator.
On the way up the guard gave us a lot of interesting information about the Monument. We could stay at the top as long as we wanted to. Windows offer views in four directions. On the way down in the elevator he pointed out stones from states, organizations, and other countries; these were sent to help with the building of this important structure. Some states seemed to be trying to outdo each other. The architect placed the stones on the inside so that the outside could be uniform. I would recommend this journey to the top, and if you want a specific time make the reservations on line. http://www.nps.gov/wamo/planyourvisit/feesandreservations.htm This doesn't indicate that you can have tickets mailed, but I was able to last fall.
I headed down the Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial. My first stop was the World War II memorial. It took years to get this built with fund raising and much pushing by the likes of Tom Hanks, and it is marvelous. The walls have bas reliefs. There are two towers, one for the European Theater and one for the Pacific, and columns for each state and territory. This very impressive monument also has several water features, and the fountains were running despite the cold.
I then went on to re-visit the Korean and Vietnam War monuments. While I did like seeing them at night, I recommend that day light is much better for understanding and getting the feel of both of these very different monuments. I also had more time to wander. I also re-visited the Lincoln Memorial with more time to appreciate its different features. Hey--there is also a restroom here.
After trudging back up the Mall, I made a brief stop at the Washington Monument store for a book or two. Then I headed to the Holocaust Museum. It is hard to find an adjective to use for this museum, but I feel it is a must on a visit to Washington. It starts with the rise of Hitler then moves to the beginning of the persecutions which included along with the Jews, Romas, homosexuals, mentally retarded and disabled. The many, many exhibits and films discuss the ghettos, the transportation, the camps, gassing, burning bodies, mass killings in towns and the liberation. I spent three hours or more there and really hurried at times and did not head to one section. This is the type of museum that is best seen a bit at a time over a couple of days with other places in between. It deserves more time than I gave it. It was very, very affecting. http://www.ushmm.org/
I set off for the Natural History Museum, but decided to stop on the way at the Smithsonian Castle, an interesting building with several services: information, shop, and a café. I decided since it was mid afternoon that eating a bit might be a good idea. My bit consisted of a bottle of water, a small (35 cent size) bag of chips and a 3 to 4 inch cookie. My bill for this bit$9.05, and this is not a typo! The Smithsonian museums may be free but the food cost is high.
At the Natural History Museum I wanted mainly to see the elephant that seems to be in all the guide books so, of course, I did that. I also wandered through the mammal section. The museum was full of families; I imagine because this was a Sunday. There is an awful lot more to see there, but I was getting too tired to wander much and wanted to go back to the American History Museum.
My main purpose there was to pick up another brochure like the one I had lost to the wind on Friday. But, of course, I had to see more. I spent more time in the Presidents exhibit and a bit more careful look at the Entertainment section. The museum offers entertainment at times in, as described, the "shape" of music. While I was there I heard an acoustic trio of violin, guitar, and another instrument. I also found the transportation section, which I hadn't known was there. This features trains, trucks (old & new) motorcycles, etc. After finding this "new" section, I forgot all about my plan to spend more time in sections devoted to the armed services.
As I left I had to chuckle at the man selling out in front. He was waving and yelling, "Obama stuff for sale; Barrack Obama stuff for sale!" His "stuff" was in an open suitcase on the sidewalk. I spent a bit of time at my favorite evening spot Barnes & Noble and eventually headed to the hotel after a full and pretty tiring day.
Monday was another Gray Line tour, this time to Alexandria and Mt. Vernon. We drove quite a bit through Alexandria. The driver explained the strict housing regulations so that houses on one side of a street were 200 years old and the ones opposite were only 25 years old. They looked the same age. We saw the church that both George Washington and Robert E. Lee worshipped at, the oldest Catholic church and cemetery in Virginia, and lots more.
Once at Mt. Vernon the driver picked up our tickets and turned us loose for four and a half hours. I watched the introduction to the site as well as a good movie about Washington called "We Fight for Freedom." It also told the story of his meeting Martha. The guided tour of the house was very interesting. Most of it was decorated as Washington chose with heavy rich ornamentation and furniture. The exception was the bedroom which Martha decorated; it was lighter and brighter with a bed she had specially made because he was so tall.
I took a picture of the front of the manor from the front yard as well as the great view from there. I wandered down to the original tomb and then over to the final tomb. A docent there explained it and answered questions. The two marble sarcophagi toward the entrance are where Washington and his wife are buried while other family members are buried there in back.
Instead of going to his farm, though it would have been interesting, I headed back toward the house hoping to find the gardens. I also did see some of the livestock that are very similar to the ones Washington owned and some vegetable gardens. I did find the house gardens, and they are fairly formal. An archeological dig is going on in the upper garden where they are looking for the original layout of the kitchen garden.
Near this garden is a small shop with many possible purchases and no crowds so I enjoyed a bit of shopping for souvenirs. I went on down to the museum and watched a film presentation on how they researched and reconstructed the young Washington for the displays there. And, of course, I saw the famous wooden false teeth. A sign asked for no pictures, and these would be sort of disillusioning anyway. I can't imagine how he could wear these.
Near the exit a group of people were decorating Christmas trees, and there was a big Mt. Vernon gingerbread house. I believe I read later that the chef there was the pastry chef from the White House. The area was being set up for a reception that evening.
I walked through the very crowded shops and saw the food court teeming with kids. Luckily I saw the sign pointing to the restaurant. I think the name is the Mt. Vernon Inn, but I'm not sure. I had an excellent lunch there, about the best of the trip so far. I decided to try the same lunch that Pat Sayjack who narrated the introduction to the site had in that film--peanut and chestnut soup with bread pudding for dessert (served hot with whipped cream). I also had sparkling cider. And it all cost under $10, a real bargain in my mind and delicious!
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