Saturday, April 19, 2014

Washington DC - Sightseeing

After seeing Julia Child's kitchen and then having a very good lunch, we spent most of the rest of the afternoon walking the Mall, seeing various monuments, memorials and other tourist landmarks.

The World War Two memorial is a very nice plaza. This one felt special, since Dad was a WW2 combat veteran. There was a central pool with fountains, around which was a ring of walls and pillars with the names of all the states, territories and allied countries that fought together, along with bronze vignettes representing all different types of troops and roles that people played.
Minions at the WW2 Memorial

I made it a point to find the Pennsylvania marker, as well as the one for the Philippines. We have Pennsylvania roots going back into the 1700's (that's a long time for Americans), and Amparo's family in the Philippines lived through the Japanese conquest and occupation, and had relatives who were part of the Bataan Death March. While looking around, we saw a plaque with a mortar gun team, which reminded me of a story Dad told, and used to laugh about. After completing basic training, he received specialized training as a mortar gunner at Fort Benning, Georgia (1944). After shipping out and arriving in France, he spent the rest of the war as an anti aircraft gun team loader, and never fired a mortar again after leaving the States.
Mortar Team

The Lincoln Memorial was the next major stop, and was a beautiful spot on a beautiful day.
Lincoln Memorial

It was crowded, as can be seen, but not bad by normal standards from what I understand.
East across the Mall from Lincoln

I have always admired Lincoln...
Lincoln. Big Lincoln.

And I think the Gettysburg Address is brilliant. Elegant. Powerful.
Gettysburg Address

My family had no direct involvement in the Vietnam War, and I was too young to remember the tail end of it, although I was alive at the time. That being said, it was impossible not to be incredibly moved by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The memorial is brilliantly conceived and executed, a simple wall of polished dark gray stone, carved with the names of all the fallen. The mirror like qualities of the highly polished stone make it surreal to behold, as if you can see through it, or into it.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall)

Lee Teter's famous painting Vietnam Reflections takes on even more meaning for me now, having been there and seen the inspiration.
Vietnam Reflections, by Lee Teter

As we wandered the monuments and memorials, I found three more virtual geocaches, bringing my total for the trip to five. If I had planned ahead of time, I am sure I could easily have gotten more, as the National Mall must be the motherlode of virtual caches. The three that me and the little cachers bagged were at the WW2 memorial, the Lincoln memorial, and the Vietnam memorial. Next time I'll plan ahead...

The last major piece of the trip, before returning home in time for Easter Sunday, was a trip to the National Gallery. The kids were tired (somewhat) and bored (definitely) by this point, but I hadn't been in years, and Amp and I wanted to at least take a couple of hours to quickly cruise some of the 19th and 20th century galleries. Cole, Bierstadt, Homer, Eakins. Gaugin, Cezanne, Matisse. Pissarro and Monet. Van Gogh (including a new "green wheat field" acquisition reminiscent of Starry Night, but in greens and in daylight). The time in the museum was fantastic, sullied only by the more or less constant backdrop of "are we done yet". Next time perhaps we do a day trip (without kids) and spend the whole day here. I could very easily do that and love every minute of it.

The last part of the trip was a badly bungled dinner at the restaurant at the hotel (Fire and Sage at the Marriott Metro Center), which we ended up getting mostly comped for, but not before Julia (tired and cranky to begin with at this point) was brought to tears by a half hour (additional) wait for cheeseburger sliders that came out raw, got sent back, forgotten about, asked about, sent back out raw again, and got sent back again with a "check, please" as the final result. How hard can it be to cook sliders beyond the darn-near-raw stage? If you put a tiny little beef patty on a grill, it almost instantaneously becomes "medium", doesn't it? I guess not. Anyway, Daddy and Mommy get very angry when you make our little angel cry. Next time we stay at the Grand Hyatt, like we did the first time. The hotel itself was fine, but unfortunately will go down in family history as "the place the made Julia cry at dinner." Zero stars out of five

The plan had been to sleep over Friday night and come back Saturday late morning, but after the dinner fiasco, it was agreed that we would bail on the last night and sleep in our own beds. We left the hotel at 8:30pm and were home by 11. Kids were asleep by 11:10 I think. Maybe 11:05. And we got to watch an episode of Game of Thrones. So a good trip with an unexpected, but OK, ending. We all woke up after sleeping in Saturday morning refreshed and remembering the good stuff.

I really enjoy these Washington trips. We have done 5 days in two stays over the past couple of years, and have still barely scratched the surface of everything there is to see. And there are certainly advantages to going in the Spring or Fall rather than summer, when the temperature (and humidity) are much more manageable.

I already have a list of things I would like to see next time we go.

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