The Capital Hilton Hotel - Room 636
Up at 6.00 am, down for breakfast by 6.45 am and on the bus at 8.15 am for our tour of the Washington monuments. The hotel is quite nice and our room is quite large. The bed and the pillows are lovely because once my head hit the pillow last night, I was out like a light.
Just a little story left over from last night's walk to the White House. There is a protestor in a little lean-to tent opposite the North Lawn. By the way, the White House doesn't have a front or back door. They are referred to as North and South Entrance. Anyway, back to the protester. Her name is Concepsion. She was protesting to Ban the Bomb. If you want to protest at the White House you have to apply for a permit. She did this back in 1981 and at the end of her 24 hour protest, the police came to move her on. However, the person issuing the permit had omitted to fill in the date when the protest should end, so she has been there ever since! She is not allowed to ever go to sleep in the tent as that would be camping and you are not allowed to camp there, so obviously there are a group of protesters on a roster who take it in turns to stay in the tent. Who knows when it will ever end.
Now on to today.Washington is just the most beautiful city. The buildings are stunning, the roads are wide and clean, the parks and trees are fresh, green and inviting. This place just oozes history. I took hundreds of photos today. We started off with our local guide Mary and we went to the White House South Lawn. From that side you get a fantastic view of Michelle Obama's vege garden. We don't think the President is in residence because there are no sharp shooters on top of the White House. He is probably up at Camp David, which by the way, President Eisenhower named after his favourite grandson, David.
I took some photos of the Washington Monument which is currently undergoing a renovation.
We then drove past the Smithsonian's museums, which we will be visiting this afternoon. There are a lot of them including things like the aeronautical and space museum, the art gallery, the American Indian museum, the American history museum, the natural history museum, the botanic gardens, the modern art museum. It just goes on and on. You really need six months in this place to see everything! They are also building a new one dedicated to African Americans and it will be opened in 2015.
Then on to the US Capitol Building.
We called into the World War II Memorial. This is a photo of Phil teaching the volunteer at the memorial what the capital of Australia is. No one in the world knows, so we have made it our quest to teach them! For those reading this blog who don't know, it's Canberra.This is a photo of me and Halina at the WWII Memorial. Her daughters may be reading my blog. She is from Coffs Harbour.
Then on to the Korean War Memorial. What an absolutely outstanding memorial this is. I have never seen anything like it ever, any where in the world. There are 19 figures 'on patrol' in some low bushes. It is mesmorizing.Running alongside the statues is a black granite wall with images etched into it. Fantastic.
Next stop the Lincoln Memorial. We have all seen this on television or in books, but nothing quite prepares you for the enormity of this memorial. It is huge. There is a plaque on top of the steps that says, "I HAVE A DREAM" and it is there because Martin Luther King made his famous speech from that very spot.There are a lot of people around but they are all quite well behaved, respectful and quiet.
Then on to the Vietnam Vets Memorial. First we saw a sculpture dedicated to the nurses of the Vietnam War. It is very moving and our guide told us that on the day that it was unveiled, it was raining and cold and the organisers didn't think they would attract a very big crowd. Well, how wrong were they? There were thousands and thousands of people there from all walks of life. For as far as the eye could see, there were people, paying their respects to the nurses. Starting to get a bit teary here.
We walked along the path for a small way and came to the Vietnam Vets Memorial. The famous black granite wall with 58,000 names engraved on it. The ones with diamonds next to their names have been buried somewhere, but the ones with a cross have never been found. So sad. The names aren't alphabetical but rather in order of when they died. If you are looking for a specific name, there are a lot of staff around with records to help you find it easily.The wall was opened on 11 November 1982 and our guide told us that the Vets had problems with so many people coming to see their memorial, so the government would bus them in from midnight to 3.00 am so they could just sit on the grass and reflect or do whatever they wanted to or needed to do to help them recover mentally from that terrible war and the way the public treated them on their return home. There were also padres and counsellors there as well. Very sad.
Next off to Arlington National Cemetery. I told you it was a day of memorials! Nothing, I mean nothing, could prepare you for this place. There are rows and rows and rows and acres and acres of headstones, set amongst magnificent trees and rolling hills of green, green grass. There are 300,000 buried here. We saw the graves of JFK, Jacquie, Bobby, Ted and Joseph Kennedy and Audie Murphy, America's most decorated war hero (and movie star). We watched the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was fascinating. The inspection of the incoming guard's weapon was a display of military precision that you sometimes see on display at Westpoint or at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. On Memorial Day, an American flag is placed in the ground beside EVERY grave. Can you just imagine how fantastic that would look. But the logistics! How could they possibly put 300,000 flags out. It would take forever.
After all that we headed back to the Smithsonian and we went into the space and aeronautical museum. DEFINITELY NOT MY CHOICE! I found it quite boring looking at space craft and aircraft, however the guys seemed to love it! Had a quick lunch then back to the hotel for a bit down time before our night time excursion.
Opposite the Smithsonian is a large piece of land covered in bones (man made) to draw attention to the plight of many minority groups and the atrocities they have suffered, all around the world. It is quite a powerful sight.
On the bus at 6.00 pm for our evening excursion. On the way to the restaurant, we drove past the Australian Embassy. It is huge, not very impressive, in fact a bit boring, in comparison to all the other fabulous buildings in Washington. Dinner at Carmines Italian Restaurant. Huge family type restaurant and the huge platters of salad, spaj bol, pasta, and chicken and veal dishes just kept coming. There was such a lot of waste but the food was good and substantial. After dinner we went on an illumination tour of Washington. We called into the Washington Railway Station which in 1903 was the biggest in the world. The ceilings were extremely high and nicely decorated. We stopped for a photo opportunity of the Capitol Building and the Jefferson Memorial, all beautifully illuminated.Then on to the Martin Luther King Memorial. This was quite stunning and it's a shame that I don't have a flash on my tablet as my night photography leaves a lot to be desired, but hopefully you get the idea.
We were looking for the Iwo Jima memorial, but the bus driver took a wrong turn and we ended up at the Air Force Memorial. What a bonus! It was stunning. Three huge silver columns curving into the sky, just like jet planes taking off into the sky. Sorry, couldn't take a photo, too dark. In fact the streets are very dimly lit, not at all like you would imagine the capital to be.
We found the Iwo Jima Memorial and drove around it but didn't stop. That was one memorial I would have liked to have seen up close. But there is so much to see, you can't see everything. We drove on to see the Pentagon. What a massive building that is! You are not supposed to take photos of the building. How silly - it's just a building!
Our final stop was the Kennedy Centre. What an impressive place that was. Lots of theatres and shops and the deck outside was a cantelever, which means it was suspended over a four lane highway! Orrefors crystal chandeliers from Sweden. Back to the hotel by 11.00 pm but too tired to finish this blog. I still have to down load all today's photos.