Published: May 20th 2012May 20th 2012
One of my life's dreams come true
After a much anticipated arrival into Reagan airport and a not so surprising piece of lost luggage, I checked into my hotel in Alexandria last night. Eager to explore King Street and wanting to take my mind off of the fact that I might have to wear white linen pants for five days, I strolled carefree down the cobblestone streets of Oldtown Alexandria. The evening was perfect. It was still early enough that the crowds were low and I was able to find a prime seat at an Irish bar call Murphy's. My Bushmill's and Coke made me homesick for Jimmy, but I had a nice time.
I had dinner in my hotel's bar area and enjoyed a beautiful steak salad. Medium rare filet mignon on a bed of spinach with gorgonzola cheese and candied walnuts. Truth be told, I ate half the salad and picked out the steak which was our of this world. After a couple of glasses of wine, I was ready for bed. Not taking into consideration the lack of pyjamas and the time difference, it was a less than peaceful night. I finally fell asleep at 3am and woke LATE at 9:30am. Not exactly the early and productive start to my first full day of adventures!
At noon, I was checked out and headed for the Metro Station at King Street. In less than thirty minutes for for a $5 ticket, the Metro ride was a breeze. Terrific people watching, everyone eager with anticipation to arrive at the National Mall. Once off the underground Metro, you take a long escalator to the street level and as soon as you step off, you see the Mall. Having seen it for years in pictures and in movies - it was so much better in person. I know I had a huge smile on my face!
George Washington University's commencement was set up and they were doing a sound check on the PA system. Off in the distance, I could see the Washington monument and decided to head in that direction. Closed indefinitely having suffered earthquake damage, the obelisk stands 555 feet tall. It really was a an exciting sight.
I continued down the tree lined path wandering on and off to enjoy the sunshine and green grass of the mall. I next came to the World War II monument. On the opposite end of the reflection pool from the Lincoln Memorial, the WWII monument is a circle of 56 granite pillars each representing a state or territory. I quickly found Utah and California, representing our home towns. In the middle of the memorial is a huge water fountain.
I continued on to the Lincoln Memorial - a visit that I have dreamt of my whole life. I walked slowly up to the site and took it all in. The Greek temple that houses the sculpture of Lincoln is made of white marble and sits at the top of 58 steps - two of the steps represent the number of terms as president and the other 56, his age when he was assassinated. When I entered the temple, it was cool and dark and the statues presence was overwhelming. Even though there are literally several hundred people crammed in there at any one time, you feel almost alone with Lincoln. The south chamber is inscribed with the Gettysberg Address and I really enjoyed the veterans who had made there way for photos. Each wearing ball caps signifying their unit of service and which foreign war. I sat on the steps for about an hour - great people watching and a welcome rest from the long walk.
I decided to loop back and see the Vietnam Memorial which was sober and very, very touching. The black stone engraved with soldiers who died or are missing in action was hot to the touch. I found it particularly moving to watch the national park volunteers help visitors find their loved one's name and carefully trace it with paper and a black crayon. That process was heartbreaking but I can also see how the memorial itself is cathartic to healing that hurtful time in our country's past.
Now, I am embarrassed to say that I hit the road for my adventure today on a totally empty stomach, so by 2pm, I was running out of gas. I knew I wanted to take in at least one of the many Smithsonian Museums, but over my left shoulder, I caught a glimpse of the White House! I nearly ran through the park seperating the White House gate from Constitutional Boulevard. Spectacular and captivated my imagination! Say what you will about the state of politics, that building does nothing but instill a great sense of patriotism and pride. Considering the entire world was represented by people in that little grove, I wasn't alone.
I decided to pick the American History Museum as my last stop. And it was phenomenal! I saw the hat President Lincoln wore when he was shot, the flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner, the original kermit the frog, Dorthey's ruby slippers and the dress Michelle Obama wore to the Presidents Inaugural ball - his first and hopefully not last!
What an amazing day! My jet lag has the best of me tonight and I tried to go to bed early, to no avail which is why I am typing this post at 3:30am. Best to capture my memories when they are still fresh in my mind.