Powered by our sister site, Family Vacation Critic
A "Revolutionary" Journey (Williamsburg & Washington D.C.)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
I had planned an early day for Friday. I headed by Metro to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a huge Catholic church on the campus of Catholic University. It is quite far from the center of town and doesn't appear on many maps of the city. I attended 7:30 Mass and ate breakfast in the cafeteria there. This is a huge complex with many different areas. I spent well over an hour and a half touring and taking pictures and visiting the shop. I knew I had to drop off purchases at the hotel and needed to rest a bit so I did that and then set off for the zoo.
I did not intend to visit all of it, and that's good because it was a 10 or 15 minute uphill walk from the Metro. My main purpose was to see the panda's—like most every other visitor's purpose I imagine. I swear they are the most lazy animals! I have never seen anything but balls of black and white fur in several different zoos I have visited. However, I actually was able to see one walk when I was in the Panda building and looking at one of the many TV screens they have trained on them all the time.
I visited the elephant house too where the hippos also hang out. A pygmy hippo was wondering around, but the big one was just staring malevolently with only the top of his head and eyes and nose out of the water. A researcher was by this area and had the skeleton head of a hippo—the grandfather of the one in the water. He showed us the tiny brain cavity in the huge head and said a hippo is a very dangerous animal. The live one looked it.
The way out of the zoo was all up hill so I was glad for the down hill walk to the Metro. I saw a sign pointing to the National Cathedral, which I had planned to visit next, a short metro jump from the zoo. But this turned out to be one time I had to give up! I decided I was churched out for one day. I headed back to the hotel and ate lunch. I took a half hour nap and a shower and felt much better.
The newly refurbished Museum of American History reopened and held its grand opening on Friday and was staying open until 7 pm so I walked down there. What a great museum! Not all the exhibits were open yet, but even so I could have spent more time there. I started out with Julia Child's kitchen, set up here behind glass just as it had been in her home. There were also videos of her. In one she was explaining some of her stranger kitchen gadgets. In another she was with a younger, thinner Emeril eating a crab boil with him. Delightful to watch.
Some of the other areas I had time to visit had lots of information on Jewish immigrants, slaves, the Presidency, where they already had Obama's picture with the other 43. Another large area is titled "Protect and Serve." This is about the armed forces and deserves more time than I could give it that night. I also went to the Entertainment section, which I think is not all done. Dumbo (glass I think) was there as well as Dorothy's ruby slippers and some display cases of athletics, comedy and musicals. After 7 pm closing I went to Barnes & Noble, worked on my journal and drank hot chocolate. I bought a pretzel and chips and took those back to my hotel and ate them for supper along with a small bottle of wine I had bought at a liquor store I passed. Sounds strange but it all tasted good.
Saturday's plan was to take an early Metro to Arlington National Cemetery. I arrived shortly after it opened. Because my knee had been bothering me, I decided to take the Tourmobile to begin. We stopped first at the Kennedy grave site, but we only had eight minutes there because we had to make the Changing of the Guard, which in late fall and winter only happens hourly. A large group of Navy men and women was also present so there was not really enough time to read the quotations carved into the wall around the tomb.
We arrived at the Tomb of the Unknowns with plenty of time. The guide had told us about the guards. They follow a 21 second schedule. The guard on duty takes 21 steps, turns very sharply, slapping his feet together; counts 21 seconds; turns again and takes another 21 steps. The guide had also said that they dress for the weather because an hour in the cold can be really tough. I expect they have lots of layers, and their head gear reminded me of World War 1 pilots' hats with the ear flaps.
The ceremony of the changing is very formal. A sergeant comes out and requests quiet from the audience. Then he meets the new guard and they go through the ritual of changing, always with the count of 21. The sergeant then marches off with the old guard. It was a very impressive and solemn time.
Near the Tomb of the Unknowns, I also visited the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle monuments, the Iran Rescue Mission monument and the grave of Audie Murphy, the most decorated service man of World War II.
Another Tourmobile picked us up there and we went to the Custis-Lee Mansion where Robert E. Lee lived at one time. A lot of rehab work was going on there and the view of Washington from the front yard is great. After arriving back at the visitors center, I walked up to the Kennedy graves and was able to spend the time to read the quotations and take some more pictures. Robert Kennedy's grave is marked with the only white wooden cross in the cemetery. This was his request because he did not want to detract from his brother's grave. I guess I am displaying my age when I say I can't believe how much these two graves can still affect me after so many years. I happened to be there on the 45th anniversary of JFK's assassination and flowers were being brought and left on the grave.
I also visited the large Memorial to Women in War. You can see this as you come in the gate. Inside are many interesting displays tracing the history of women serving their country in the armed forces. One of the most interesting is the story of the WASP's. These women flew transports and other planes in WWII. At the end of the war returning male pilots were afraid they wouldn't get their commercial jobs back so because of their lobbying the WASP's were disbanded immediately with no benefits and no credit for service. They even had to pay their own way home. It took 33 years before they were given veterans' status.
I took the Metro to the Pentagon and walked from the station to the 9/11 memorial, a long windy walk. The memorial is impressive though simple. Each victim has a bench which reaches out over a little rectangular pond of water. The names on the benches are hard to read; they are just engraved in the metal on the end. The benches and water are surrounded by an area covered with small white pebbles. A man was raking them—I would think a constant job. Also it was obvious that pebbles do get kicked into the water.
Back at the hotel I dropped off my packages and took the Metro to the Ferregut stop. I was heading to the National Geographic building and then to St. Matthew's Cathedral. Seeing the church first confused me until later study of the map showed me I had exited the Metro up to a different street than I had planned. Luckily it wasn't one that lead me too far astray.
I thought maybe this would be a day of no lunch since I walked for 15 or 20 minutes before finding a sandwich shop open near my first stop. I think I was expecting more at the National Geographic building. The main building had only one open exhibit. It was an excellently done and interesting exhibit about whales and included different types of media and also some interactive exhibits. The other building contained an interesting exhibit of photographs taken by three of their top-notch photographers.
I headed to St. Matthew's and took lots of pictures before the evening Mass started. Many beautiful mosaics decorate the church and there are some interesting frescoes about St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua.
This is the church where JFK's funeral was held.
After the Metro ride back to the hotel I went to Barnes & Noble to read the day's paper and write in my journal. I believe there were several people in the café who were homeless. One was a woman with many bags and packages and another was a man who at times would mumble and sort of hum. The manager asked him to be quiet and he was. I'm sure they were allowed to stay there because it was so cold, and I was glad to see that. It is sad to see the number of homeless I saw on my trip.
Related Trip ReviewsWashington D.C. Trip Reviews
Mid-Atlantic Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!