As you know, I spent Friday with Cowtown Stacy touring around DC. She wanted to take one of those Trolley Tours which takes you around to the major attractions, and since I had never done of those, I thought I'd try it out. What a great way to see the city! The next time you ladies come into town, I'd recommend it to you, too. We were able to cover more ground b/c we drove around some parts - and if we wanted to stop and tour something extensively, we had the freedom to do it.
We only did about half the tour - kept to the sites near the National Mall, but there are two others parts we could have done. 1 was catch a bus to the Arlington Cemetary (hour and a half tour), and the other would have taken us up to the National Zoo, the National Cathedral and down Embassy Row (another hour and a half with no stops). But, I think she was happy with what we did see - all the major attractions were along the orange line of the tour!
We met up at L'Enfant metro station downtown around 10:15. I had screwed up - I thought she was staying along the YELLOW line of the metro system, so I picked a stop along the yellow to meet her. Unfortunately, she was coming up the BLUE, so as part of her DC experience, I made her learn how to change metro trains. Oops! But, she navigated the system well, and we met up without incident. Walked over to the Air & Space Museum, which was stop #3 on the trolley tour, to pick up the tour. The tours are kind of neat - you can start anywhere, and hop on and off wherever you like. Except, because we had purchased our tickets on the internet, we were told that we shoulda gone to stop #9 first to get our voucher. Ah well - we knew we'd get there eventually, and we had paid for our tickets, so our consciences clear, we rode on to stop #4, the Jefferson Memorial.
As you can see, it was a beautiful day in the Nations' Capital. PERFECT day in the nation's capital. Mid 80s, low humidity, blue sky, cool breeze. Ahhhhh.
We tried to get our picture taken in front of the statue of Jefferson, but the first person cut off his head! Obviously not a scrapper. So, we went back in, and found someone else to retake the picture. It's really backlit, so I'll have to fiddle with it some, but at least it shows the whole statue.
It was here that Erin mentioned the plane. Her husband is a pilot, and owns his own 4-seater prop plane, and happened to be taking their kids up that very afternoon. I became giddy, 'cause you know, I'm a ten-year-old boy inside, and I've been frustrated ever since my dream of flying in a small prop-plane became reality, because I'd been forced to sit several seats back while DANI got to ride shotgun! I wanna fly in the FRONT seat and look out the window! Erin said we could make it happen. Right now. Oh my. I can't tell you how close I came to ditching DC altogether and taking off with Erin's hubby in that plane. The airport would've been about a 2-hour drive away, though. After serious contemplation and a couple of close calls, I decided to continue the tour. But I'm going back for my flight! Mark my word!
Moving along, the next trolley stop (#5) was at the FDR Memorial. The FDR Memorial is kind of neat - it's like a series of outdoor rooms with shade trees and waterfalls and statues - it feels more like a garden than a monument. The memorial traces twelve years of American History through a sequence of four outdoor rooms-each one devoted to one of FDR's terms of office. There are several waterfalls, and the statue of the urban breadline showed the despair of the era, while the state of a man listening to the fireside chat recalled the hope of the time, too. I honestly knew nothing about the FDR Memorial, so I had no expectations. It's beautifully done... very peaceful, yet provocative in that it forced me to think about the hardships that FDR led America through: the Great Depression and WWII. It's interesting to note that FDR specified that should a memorial be erected for him, he wanted it to be no larger than his desk. For decades, his wish was honored with a desk-sized stone monument.
The next trolley stop was at the Lincoln Memorial, and from there, we could have peeled off to visit Arlington Cemetery, but we thought it might take up too much of the day. We walked first to the Korean War Veterans Memorial. I hadn't been to this memorial before. The statues of the ground troops walking through the fields was impressive, but the images on the black polished granite were so ghostly. The mural is based on actual photographs of unidentified American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, and you can't see the images when you're right up close to the wall. It's eerie and beautiful at the same time.
(well. Apparently, Blogger has decided to throw a tantrum, and won't let me upload any more pictures. Grrrrr. I'll carry on with descriptions, though.)
From the Korean Memorial, we walked back to the Lincoln Memorial. From the steps of the Lincoln, you have a beautiful view of the National Mall. That's the Reflecting Pool in front of you, and the Washington Monument. Off to the left, that domed building is the top of the American Museum of Natural History, and you can see the Capitol's dome on the right. Stacy was impressed with how tall the statue of Lincoln is, inside the memorial. It's actually 19 feet tall! I was impressed with its size! I'd always imagined the statue of Lincoln to be just larger than life-size. Oh. my. It's HUGE. Took my breath away, it did. The Lincoln Memorial was the one I'd most looked forward to seeing, because of Darren's experience there a couple of years ago. He was on DC on a business trip, and visited the Memorial. That night, he called me and described to me the depth of emotion he felt while there... while reading Lincoln's words, which are etched larger-than-life into the walls of the memorial. He said he actually wiped tears away standing there. I must admit that I didn't shed tears, but it was a beautiful experience nonetheless. One of my two favorite photos of the day was taken here... a close-up of Lincoln's face with some of his words in the background.
Funny story at the WWII ... we wanted a picture of the 4048 stars that represented all the lives lost during the conflict, and Stacy said, "I wish these people would clear out for my picture!" Unfortunately, someone heard her, and we got a big "HMPH!" and she walked off. Oops! Anyhow, most people eventually cleared out for one shot ... maybe we can photoshop out the last group. GASP! I was speaking in jest. I wasn't trying to hint at anyone, and I certainly didn't mean to be rude. My mouth - it gets me into more trouble than not. LOL! The WWII Memorial was of special interest to me because just days before my trip to DC, I handed an finished scrapbook over to a client that featured the ground-breaking ceremonies for ths memorial! I'd worked on photos of Clinton, Tom Hanks and other famous faces, along with photos of countless veterans... including my client's own father.... who were all there for the groundbreaking in 2001. It was neat to see the completed memorial in person.
We had to head back to the Lincoln to get back to the Trolley, so we decided to go through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well. It was incredibly moving - while we were standing there in front of the walls reading some of the names, someone pulled out a trumpet and started playing Taps. That was sad and moving enough, but there veterans at the Memorial who stopped to salute, and it became almost unbearable. The crowd went dead silent, though, and nothing stirred except a slight breeze, and even the birds fell silent. Awesome. This was undeniably the most soul-stirring experience of the day. I'd sorta had a blase attitude about the Vietnam memorial... I suppose because I grew up in a place and time when the topic of that war was sort of taboo. We just didn't talk about it. Also, I'd seen photos of the memorial wall and I'd always wondered what the big deal was. It's a WALL. How much of a memorial could THAT possibly be? Walking along the wall, though, I said to Erin, "All these names. So many names. And most of them were just BOYS. Young men who hadn't even had the chance to be adults yet." When the trumpeter was playing taps, I turned and looked behind me, and saw the group of old vets we'd been following standing there with their hats over their hearts, their faces solemn, their bodies rigid as they honored their fallen brothers. That's when MY tears came. When I least expected it, WHERE I least expected it. Suddenly, I needed to touch one of the names. For the first time in my 38 years, Vietnam became real to me. Not just a war that no one talks about. Not just a mention in my high school history text. Real.
At this point, we were both starving, so we absolutely had to get lunch next. Hopped back on the Trolley, and the next stop was the Museum of American History, but it's closed for renovations right now, so we went on to the Museum of Natural History. A wonderful museum, but frankly, all we wanted was the cafe, so we ate lunch there. All Smithsonian Museums have free admission, so we walked in, ate lunch, and it was the best Coke I have had in a long, long time. Before this trip, I never realized that everything in DC is free. Well, not EVERYTHING. I paid $2.40 for a 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke. But all of the museums... the zoo... the monuments... all free! We hopped the trolley, and this was our one grumpy tour guide. There were two guys working on the roof of one of the buildings, and one of the tourists asked what they were doing. After finally finding them, the tour guide was, "What are you freakin' out for? They're working on the roof. They're not assassins for Pete's sake." Stacy decided that this guy was at the end of a very long shift, and just didn't care any longer. Sure enough, at our next stop, he announced, "This trolley is going out of service, so everyone out!" The next stop was infamous stop #9, so we got our "official" tour voucher, and looked at the souvenirs, but there wasn't really anything there. This is where we could have switched trolleys to head up to the National Cathedral, but we knew we had to be back at a certain time to make dinner in Virginia, so we didn't risk it, and went for the bigger bang for the buck portion of the tour. Next stop was the White House. You can no longer tour the White House unless you have an official thing from your Congressman, so we had to settle for pictures at the fence. Ever seeking a good photo op, I pondered how to get a photo of me without the wire mesh and iron fencing in the background. "How soon do you suppose they'd shoot me down if I jumped the fence?" I asked Erin. "They're surprisingly slow," she answered. I cracked up, because really. Me, climb a fence? I was watching one of those CSI shows the other night, and even Mariska Hargitay had a hard time scaling a similar fence. LOL!!
Next stop was the National Archives, but we were losing steam, so we didn't get out there. (Not only were we losing steam, but the line to get in wrapped around the building!) Rode past Union Station as well, and learned that there are 56 flags around Union Station - one for each of the states, one for DC, and one for each of the US Territories. Learned something new about the statue in front as well. This was the most excellent tour guide - he would pause the trolley for pictures at the best places. (We were lucky enough to hop on his trolley TWICE during our tour! I left him a $5 tip the second time.) One of them was a Memorial I didn't even know about - the National Japanese American Memorial. It's on the road from Union Station towards the Capitol Building, and it honors the Japanese Americans who fought in the war while many of the countrymen were kept in the Internment Camps.
Our last stop on the tour was the Capitol itself, and we had missed the last tour time, so we stood on the steps and enjoyed the view. (My second favorite photo was taken here. MAN, I wish Blogger would cooperate tonight.) Interesting facts our tour guide told us about the capitol building: The Statue of Freedom (on top of the Capitol's dome) is 19 feet, 6 inches tall. There's actually a law in DC stipulating that no statue may be taller than Freedom, because "nothing is more important than Freedom." Freedom faces east, and many perceive that to be the front of the capitol. In fact, there is no "front" or "back". Over the years, people have argued that the statue should face west, overlooking the country which spreads to its east. But Freedom faces east for this reason: so that the sun will never set on freedom.
The US Capitol Building was the last stop on our tour, so we rode back to Air & Space to catch the Metro on Smithsonian Station to head back to Virginia. A group of us were able to meet up for dinner at That's Amore in Vienna, and we did remember to get a group picture!
It was so much fun meeting more of my ScrapShare friends! Tracy met up with us again for dinner, along with Nancy, who I've had the honor of creating scrapbook pages for. There were 9 of us, and everyone generously pitched in to pay for my dinner, after telling the waiter it was my birthday. They all sang to me as I blew the candle out on my chocolate cannoli! :)
Back row: Nancy (nowimscrappin), Stacy (Cowtown Stacy), Gayle (babybugcarter), Tricia (tkleber), Erin (LvHmBirth) and Cheryl (Memaw2Wm)Front row: Tracy (turtle), Pat (gigglets), and Sheri (sahva) with her daughter, Natalie
Dinner was delicious, but I think we all ate too much! After dinner, Cheryl, Gayle, Stacy and I rode back to my house to sit on the couch (Jill in FL, you have to come back b/c my couch collection isn't complete!). (I think Erin's couch picture collection rivals my porch swing picture collection!) We drove over to meet up with Terri in VA and Heidi V who weren't able to meet us at dinner because of their class at the GASC - someone has that picture on their camera, but it wasn't me. And then Cheryl and I drove Stacy back downtown to her hotel in Crystal City. A full day, but a beautiful one for touring the Capital!
It WAS a full day, but so much fun! The next morning when my feet hit the floor, I groaned. My legs were wobbly, my feet were sore, and if my sister-in-law hadn't been on the road for 2 hours already, coming to meet me from Delaware, I'd have crawled back into bed and stayed there!