The Capital of Australia is Canberra.
The Capital of Greece is Athens.
The Capital of Belize is Belmopan.
The Capital of Canada is Ottawa.
My own Nations Capital is Washington D.C, and up until this past May 2008, it was the only one on this list that I had never been to. Keith and I have long been planning a visit to the eastern U.S., but, as things tend to go with our lifestyle, other trips seemed to always get in the way. At one point we finally just had to make a plan and do it. A quote from the movie As Good as it Gets sticks in my head, where Carol the waitress yells at Melvin,
“I want your life for one minute where somebody offers me a convertible so I can get outta this city.” I, of course, in a sense, am playing the role of Melvin, complaining about having to “take another trip”.
So, now we’ve been and I hardly know where to start to share on this blog. I have decided to leave our visits to Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Richmond, and Monticello to blogs and stories of their own and only cover the one-day, all day guided coach tour that we took of D.C. itself.
It was an early morning start, had to be on the bus by 6:15 a.m., and as would prove to be the pattern for the day, mom, Keith & I were nearly the last trio to board the bus. The family that came after us were almost always the very last to board. Interesting. Along the mess of freeways and HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes we passed the Pentagon. The guide chattered endlessly about timing it just so, so we could all see the impact area from the jet on 9/11. I didn’t care, but, you know, I looked anyway when the time came. Uugh. Mom pointed out the building “looks like a federal penitentiary to me” and when I giggled at her brash observation she stood firm, “Well it DOES!”. It does.
Our first stop of the morning would set the pace for the day. Each monument we visited would be jam packed with hundreds of other tourists, school groups mostly. We would have 8-11 minutes to see it and be back on the bus. All I can really tell you is that I am extremely grateful to have seen what I did get to see, and glad not to have had to do the driving ourselves. Poor mom got drug around quite a bit, but I think she feels the same way, it was all good. So, first stop – Iwo Jima monument. Im-pres-sive. Giant. You do not have any idea the scale of this hunk of sculpture until you stand below, gratitude blowing on the wind up towards the brave solders towering above.
See my mom and I walking away? Can’t even get much of the flagpole in the shot, let alone the flag.
Next, our bus raced over to Arlington National Cemetery. On our departing survey, I chose this as the one stop I would have cut from the tour. And, I don’t really mean that – it’s just that this was probably the worst part for me, as far as tours go. If there was someway to get there on our own, that’s what I would have preferred, but not to get to see it – no, that’s not an option either. And that’s just what about happened. All visitors are put on “trams” to get around on, and with it being a particularly big funeral day, they were shutting all the tram systems down, I do believe we got in on the last tram – and it was a frazzly hassle. Getting to JFK’s tomb and the eternal flame, again, fulfilling to see in person, but elbowing through enormous masses of bodies is just not my thing. Back on the tram in 8 minutes or less, the guides point out the graves of well-known war heros and military politicians. Having been to both Little Bighorn and Gettysburg on this trip, it was interesting to continue my civil war education first hand. To walk on property that once belonged to Robert E. Lee’s wife’s family, a relative of George Washington, helps to piece the history together a bit more at a time. Maybe Arlington needs it’s own blog post, too. Surely I’ll say the same thing about the Smithsonian. Ok, on to the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Different than experiencing the Evzones in Athens change guards, but equally as steeped in meticulous precision and challenging footwork, this ceremony is worth taking in. This tomb has been guarded for every second of every day since 1937. There are some good YouTube clips of the change, if you are interested to search them.
Crossing the Potomac we walked through and around the Korean War Memorial, and up to the Lincoln Memorial.
And, the view the big guy has, the famous view we all see in movies and on t.v. the view I finally got to take in and soak up real time…
And from here it was a surreal walk over to the Vietnam War Memorial and then a quick trip over to the fairly new WWII Memorial. Tired? We were, but hang on, it wasn’t even lunch time yet! There was no time, really, to stop for lunch, thankfully we had been well advised about this when we booked the trip and packed some on the go foods. So, back on the bus we made our way through the maze of government buildings, embassies, got a peek of the White House, Ford’s Theater, and lots of other important monuments, statues, offices that I (sorry to say) can’t remember.
Reaching the Smithsonian Castle, we now had 3 hours “on your own” time. Whoo Hoo – what to do? Keith and I wanted to do the Natural History Museum, mom wanted to see the collection of the first ladies gowns at the Museum of American History. Over hearing our tentative plans in the women’s restroom, a woman apologized for interupting but said the American History Museum was closed for renovation (devastating to mom), and the Natural History museum was being overrun with just about every “end of the year” school tour in the district (nightmare for me). Settling that, we hopped in a cab and headed over to the Botanical Gardens. Getting mom into the entrance and settled in, Keith and I practically sprinted across the street in front of the Capital building (which is as close as I got to “seeing” the Capital), heading towards the National Gallery of Art. Something about the way we breathlessly and hurriedly grabbed up maps and info prompted a woman to ask “how much time do you have here?” When we told her we had little more than one hour (1.5’ish) she handed us a “maximize your visit” guide with the top 10 pieces to see. Oh, I hear you art lovers out there, believe me, this is NOT the way I do Art Musuems, but what can you do? It was like a treasure hunt, and poor Keith, bless his heart, allowed me to go into full control freak overdrive and make sure we saw each of the top items on the list, all the while trying to ignore all that we would miss.
Favorite piece…I love and hate this question. This day, for me, it was Johannes Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance I suggest clicking on the link to see the image. My personal picture doesn’t do it justice resized for the blog.
Finishing up the Gallery in some record breaking speed, we made a brisk walk back to the Botanical Gardens, giving ourselves some time to explore before having to grab another cab and head back to the Castle, where we would meet up with our group and begin our ride back to our condo in Williamsburg.
All this trip really did, is make me put it right back on the list of places to see. High up on the list. I am bitten by the D.C. bug, I hope I get to go back and do the whole whirlwind exhausting day all over again and again.