Our day "off" Thursday was quite welcome. Julianne and two of her roommates stopped over for some pool time, but the water was super cold so I didn't get in. She was heading back to Minnesota the next day, so that was our last visit with her while we were here.
Friday we decided to be a little ambitious, knowing things would likely get pretty hectic on the Fourth. We started off at the Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle)
; not much to it, but it was a super cool building. From there, we headed over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
. That place had some very neat exhibits - there are two floors, an Imax theater and a planetarium! We saw tons of planes, several space suits, space exploration vehicles and satellites, huge missiles, and we even watched Journey to the Stars
, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, in the planetarium. I could talk about this place for a while, and we definitely could've stayed an entire day, there was just so much to see. Unfortunately, we had two other museums on our list, so after buying some souvenirs in the gift shop, we headed up to Native Foods Café
for lunch. This place was awesome, a vegan paradise; everything on the menu is
vegan - even the desserts.
After lunch we went to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
. Since it was early afternoon by this point, there was a line out the door and halfway to the sidewalk. Luckily, it moved quickly and we were able to breeze through security and into the cool air conditioning inside. Again, this was a huge museum and we just didn't have time to see every single exhibit. Jason said his favorite one was "Within these Walls,"
though I could've done without the seeing how old houses used to be built. I do remember a fun fact posted about women's role in the war and how the President asked for cooking grease to help make explosives. Not sure how that works, but apparently it was a thing. My favorites were The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
which showcased about a dozen wars and Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection
, though I was a little disappointed at how small it was (they could have shown a lot more in my opinion).
From there, we walked over to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
, which was a very sobering experience. Because we arrived near closing time, we weren't able to get passes to the permanent exhibit, so I don't know what's in there, but we did
go through a remake of a Jewish boy's journey through pre-war and post-concentration camp; there were little diary entries along the route that told the story of how his life was turned upside down. We also watched an informative video on antisemitism and I learned about the book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
. I had no idea such a piece of fiction existed, and that it's the most widely distributed book on antisemitism, even over 100 years after it was first published. I was also surprised to see that the Museum didn't focus solely on the Holocaust itself, but raised awareness the issue of genocide in general, bringing light to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the '70's as well as ones I recognize from my own lifetime: Rwanda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Darfur.
After all that walking and museum visiting, we went back to our place and had dinner in, resting up for what was expected to be a very busy Independence Day.
We were less ambitious Saturday, knowing the crowds would be even worse. There were also issues with the Metro (we found out the next day that there was a fatal stabbing which caused obvious delays throughout the system), but we
managed to get around OK. We skipped the museums and headed over to see some of the many memorials. The terrorist threat level was so high that there was tons of security and the area was fenced off with only one entrance to the National Mall. Because of this, we couldn't get around very easily, so we missed the south side. We did get to see the Lincoln Memorial
and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
before we jaunted over to eat lunch at District of Pi Pizza
, then picked up dinner to-go from Native Foods Café again (it was so awesome, we just had to go back!) to eat while we waited for the fireworks. It started raining, and neither of us had umbrellas, but Jason had this super awesome blaze orange Harley-Davidson poncho.
As expected, there were masses and masses of people at the Mall, even though we arrived about 3 hours early to stake our claim on a piece of much coveted ground. We got a pretty awesome spot directly in front of the Lincoln Memorial facing the Washington Monument. As the night went on, more and more people arrived and they ended up filling in the spaces between blankets in single rows. By
the time the fireworks started, there were people standing in front of us still attempting to find a place to sit, but who instead decided they'd just stop where they were. I got very upset because I'd researched and planned accordingly and played by the rules and these guys were just going to stand there and ruin our view (and the groups behind us) , so I yelled to Sit Down!; half of them did. After another minute or so, I hollered again and one guy turned around and yelled back at me to Stand Up! That upset me even more and I was plotting my next steps when the girl sitting next to us leaned over and kindly explained that if they sat down, she and her group could also sit down, and the people behind her, and so on and so forth. Then everyone sat down like The Wave. I guess being nice helps more than yelling. 😊 The show was spectacular; everything we'd expected and hoped for.
Sunday was our last day, and we slept in, then went to Arlington National Cemetery
. That place is so huge with over 400,000 graves, and is still constantly growing, averaging 27-30
USS Enterprise - CVN 65
This was my brother's ship while he served, our first nuclear aircraft carrier, now decommissioned.
funerals each weekday, plus several on weekends. Because of its enormity, we chose to take a trolley tour and hop on and off at key locations. We got to see the gravesites of JFK and his family, including the eternal flame. We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where we just barely missed the Changing of the Guard
, but witnessed a wreath-changing ceremony
, and observed the Tomb Guard's 21 step march. Our trolley driver informed us that these Guards hold their duty with such dignity and devotion, they never break form or leave their posts regardless of weather and have even refused Presidents' orders to evacuate during incoming hurricanes. Serious dedication; and apparently quite a rigorous training program which results in a very prestigious reputation as being part of the Honor Guard. There were dozens of other noteworthy memorials and memorials, and we couldn't have seen or learned half as much had we attempted to walk around by ourselves.
At the end of the day, we ventured back from Virginia and had dinner at Busboys and Poets
, which had been on the 'must' list for this trip.
Monday was solely dedicated to traveling back home, which was truly the opposite of noteworthy,
During the day on the Fourth
except for the screaming child who sat directly behind me on our return flight. My. Worst. Nightmare.
Until next time (which will likely be to the Florida Keys!), au revoir.
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