Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 31 - Morning City Tour in Washington DC

This morning was going to be fun touring around Washington and seeing the beauty of Arlington.  Just grabbed an apple as I walked out the door and that was breakfast for the day… hmm I need to rectify the lack of food.
The Sunrise from my hotel Room 
Our first stop this morning was Arlington cemetery where we picked up our city guide who I swear to god in another life was a St Major… she was scary and no personality. While yes she was really interesting in terms of her facts and figures she just didn’t have that ….  I don’t know … the right feel.
Arlington Cemetery  
Arlington is truly a beautiful spot and quite sacred but she just didn’t convey that.  Luckily I was near Christina so she was giving me some other facts – she did it a lot better than her.  It was a warm morning and had us standing in the warm sun which was stupid because it was too hot.
Arlington Cemetery 
The sheer size of the cemetery was overwhelming and how it went for acres with the white headstones all lined up in such symmetry. It gives you an idea on how many people have given their life for the country and it was very humbling.
Arlington Cemetery  
It is located on over 200 acres and officially was dedicated as a military cemetery in 1864 and at last record has just over 300 000 soldiers buried here.  It was simply astounding especially with tombstones seemingly   to go on forever…
Arlington Cemetery  
We walked up the hill to Cusitis Stone House and the Kennedy gravesites. It had an aura of reverence and quiet so we made sure we were quiet as we walked through. But it did make it hard to hear our guide.
Arlington Cemetery 
 We saw the Kennedy gravesites and eternal flame which is one of a kind. It is because he was a president assassinated in the line of duty and buried along with Family members, Robert and Teddy. Whilst he is not the only president buried there because President Taft was buried in 1930 but he is the most remembered obviously.
Kennedy Grave sites 
We headed back to our bus after touring the gravesites of the Kennedys and you can definitely feel the warming up of the temperature.  I never expected Washington to be 30degrees but at least it isn’t the stinking hot that we get.
Arlington Cemetery  
Our next stop was the monument of Iwo Jima which was erected to commemorate the battle of the Japanese Island. The interesting thing apart from the like 2 sec stop was the fact that the flag has been erected to look like it is crooked but it is actually straight so it is a unique optical illusion.
Iwo Jima 
It was the first true battle on Japanese soil and while the US armed forces won the battle they had substantially more casualties that the Japanese forces which is why the monument exists.
Iwo Jima 
It is sandwiched between Arlington and Potomac river and it was quite pretty with views down to the Washington Monument … perfect Washington view…  too bad it was so quick…
Iwo Jima 
We then headed to the Lincoln Monument where we were able to wander and photograph.  It really is an imposing and humbling monument.  Also when it was built it was built with the states that had joined the union built into the top around the entire monument along with the years in roman numerals.
Lincoln Memorial 
It was originally built to honour the 16th president Abraham Lincoln and contains the inscription of the Gettysburg’s address along with his 2nd inaugural speech when he was re-elected to office. 
States in the Union
It is probably most famous for the speech by Martin Luther King Jr “I have a dream”  and of course where Forest Gump is forced to speak and then find Jenny…  yelling out … JEEEENNNYYY when she runs across the reflecting pond.  Haha
JEEEENNNYYYYY!!! - channelling Forest Gump here 
We then walked across to the Vietnam Veterans monument which is a poignant reminder of the brutality of the war. Also a reminder to me what my dad fought for and how proud of him I am for everything they went through after. Which in some ways just as brutal as the war itself. It was actually commissioned as a public competition to be voted on in a blind vote so they wouldn’t know anything about the entrant. Who was a young Chinese student from Yale and has now made her career out sculpture.  It is designed that the start and the beginning of the war start in the same spot with 1959 starting at the top of the southern wall and then finishing at 1975 and the bottom of the east wall.
the beginning of the Vietnam War Memorial  
It is massive with over 249 feet of graduated wall space with names covering almost every spare inch of it.  It recognises those who were killed in action and missing in action because many of those soldiers have never been found.
The Graduated Wall of the Memorial 
At the beginning of the monument is 3 men symbolises the people who fought in the war and then the women’s monument represents the women who not only fought in the war but also took care of the wounded. It is also sometimes called the Nurses statues.  It was very beautiful area with view to Lincoln’s memorial to Washington monument.
The Nurses memorial  
As I walked back to the bus I remember looking at the autumn colours and thinking how beautiful the whole area was. I loved it and didn’t want to leave but I was last back so I got ushered onto the bus.
from the Vietnam War memorial to the Washington Monument  
We then headed over to the white house area and took the risk to see if we could park there and get a view to the white house. Sure enough we got lucky … So we got to see the white house again because most of us had done it the previous day it was still pretty cool because the crowds were more plentiful and the protesters I think we would have done the photo here if it wasn’t so busy.
We also heard about the stories of the apartments that are near the white house – I just can’t remember who they belonged to but when Winston Churchill once stayed there the current first lady instigated a rule that a dressing gown must be worn at all times when not dressed for a occasion.
The Protesters at the front of the White House 
We then headed to the Capitol building which first of all we had to do a group photo because Christina prefers to do the photo herself. So we were using my camera and we were going to get the tour guide to take the photo… well best laid plans… it was too shaded and I wasn’t getting the photo quality that I deemed acceptable enough and the camera wouldn’t cooperate because it was too shaded.  So we used one of the other groups then tried mine again which gave us a perfect shot with the capitol.
The Group Shot  
The only thing I found different to this shot compared with Rockies is that the bus driver didn’t participate because they are as much part of the tour as the tour director. Also I did a much better shot because everyone was looking at the camera compared with the Rockies paid group shot.
Capitol Building 
We got 5 mins to wander on the capitol lawn and enjoy the view … it was beautiful and in some ways a much more poignant building than the white house. The interesting thing the President is not allowed inside the building because it is legislature building. We could have gone in but because it was a public holiday it was closed to visitors.
Capitol Building 
We had to tip the guide and to be honest she was not great… so she only got $2 when you are supposed to tip $5 to $10 for the city guides. She had no personality to her while she was great with her facts and figures it was not delivered well.  It is funny even before I trained in all of this that I still recognised that fact.
Capitol Building 
Once on the bus I quickly got changed into my walking gear because I knew that the holocaust museum was a 30min walk because it was off the mall a fair bit.  I ended up however during the changing process with a massive bruise because Steve went too hard over a bump… ouchies.  

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