Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 6: The National Museum of American History and the National Archives

After eating breakfast at our hotel, we once again boarded the Metro for the trip into Washington D.C. The train was more crowded this morning, but where else can you sit next to a senator's aide or someone who works at the Pentagon, and come up out of the subway to views like this?
We were the very first family through the doors at the National Museum of American History that morning. It's one of the many Smithsonian Museums and there's far more to see and look at in there than you could ever hope to see in the few hours that we had, but we gave it our best shot!

We saw Dorothy's ruby slippers, Kermit the Frog (who is much smaller than he appears), Fonzie's coat, Archie Bunker's chair, and many, many exhibits on the American presidents, transportation, science, and wars.

Monkey sees how he measures up to one of the greatest American presidents...

Lily gets ready to give Ronald Reagan's speech with the famous line, "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down that wall".

And of course, no American History museum would be complete if it didn't have some reference to the Star Wars movies that are such a part of our culture.

In the early afternoon, we made our way over to the National Archives. It started to rain lightly on our walk over there and continued to rain as we stood in line. There's security at the entrance to just about every building, so nothing moves very quickly. Once inside, we were again lined up and eventually allowed into the Rotunda where the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights are on exhibit. The Declaration is getting very faded and thin, and as we stood there looking at it, I asked each of my kids to take a "brain picture" (the only kind allowed in there) to remember it with, as it may not last long enough to be seen by their children or grandchildren. However, the part of this building that impressed our younger set the most was the Declaration that was engraved in the doors of the elevator!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 4 & 5: Driving, Arlington, the Memorials, the White House and the Holocaust Museum

On Saturday (May 15th), we spent most of the day in the van, driving from Ohio to our hotel in Alexandria, Virginia. We were in a total of 5 states that day: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virgina and Virginia. Maryland won the award for being the prettiest state and we discovered that the Appalachian Mountains really are just hills compared to the Rockies!

Sunday morning, we took the Metro and started our day at Arlington Cemetary. It was such a beautiful day out and the cemetary is both wonderful and somber at the the same time. There is no real way to go past all of those graves and fully take it in.
I wasn't really sure if the kids would enjoy it much, but they all seemed too. Watching the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was one of everyone's favorite memories on the trip. The soldier walks 21 steps, stops, faces the graves for 21 seconds, and then turns and walks back 21 steps. The graves are guarded 24/7, rain or shine, and the ceremony takes place even when no one is there to watch it. The picture below shows the new guard coming on duty and having a full army inspection by his sargeant before assuming his assigned duty.
We also visited the Kennedy graves, and the memorials for the Challenger, Columbia, and for those who lost their lives attempting to free the Iranian hostages.
After leaving Arlington, we had lunch outside near the Lincoln Memorial, and then began what we called the "Memorial Loop".
Our first stop was the Korean War Memorial. It is not quite as well known as some of the others, but ended up being our favorite and perhaps the most moving. Nineteen, slightly larger than life, soldiers are crossing a field on patrol. The ground is made to look like it would have in Korea. Their faces are so real, and each one is completely different.

On one side of these soldiers is a beautiful reflecting wall with images of those who died in the war etched in. They are of many different sizes, and there is no real order to the etchings, but somehow that made it only more touching. At night, when the wall is lit up, the 19 soldiers reflect onto this wall, giving an appearence of 38. It represents the 38th parallel, which was the line between North and South Korea. From there, it was just a short walk over to visit Abraham Lincoln. Our younger set was quite impressed by this memorial, and Monkey even knew it was the one on the penny! We all agreed that the memorial building itself was much larger than we expected, but Abe was smaller than expected.

We then walked over to the Vietnam Memorial. It is a bit staggering if you let yourself take a moment to ponder just how many names are etched into this wall.
By this point, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we hopped back on our trolley and headed out to see the White House. The guide told us that if we ever got tired of paying the high prices in Washington D.C, we could get free room and board on the city if we simply tried climbing one of these fences.

We did some of our first shopping at a little street kiosk just down the road from here. Monkey purchased yet another stuffed monkey. Even with all we had seen that day, he declared his new monkey his favorite thing of the day!