Thursday, April 4, 2013

Washington Vacay: Day 2.5 (our last day in D.C.)

Today is the last day in D.C. It's all or nothing, people! It's time to high-tail it out the door, board the Metro, and hit the pavement. Buuut, that's not what happened. Remember those comfy cozy beds I told you about? Well, it's tough to get out of that warm, 400-thread count Egyptian Cotton linens the morning after a long day of sight-seeing just the day before! So, what is a tired soul to do? Sleep in - that's what! It's vacation for gosh sakes! You can't lose sight of that, no matter how pressed for time you may be. So, we took our time. We visited the Club Level for breakfast. We each ALL enjoyed a super hot shower in the Italian Marble bathroom - all without losing hot water (not typical in our own house). And we slowly packed up our stuff, left a tip for the maid, and headed down to the Lobby.

If you're staying at the Ritz Hotel in Pentagon City, this next advice is important so pay attention. Do what we did: check out of the hotel, check in your bags with the front desk, and request a late departure for your car (you have until 5:00 to get your car before they charge). Got it? This is important because you don't want to hassle with a car AND you know your luggage and car are safe! OK? OK!

So today's agenda: American History Smithsonian, Natural History Smithsonian, Arlington National Cemetery. Bring the action...

The last time Super Hubby and I were in D.C., it was way before Kiddo was born. When we visited the American History Smithsonian we were privileged to witness the careful repair work going on by skilled seamstress historians on THE Star-Spangled Banner: the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our National Anthem. Back then, it was out in plain view as they worked on it, but behind glass walls. Times have changed and it seems an upgraded level of protection has been paid to Old Glory.

Now, to view those "broad stripes and bright stars", you'll have to see it in a darkened room, behind glass protecting the wool and cotton fabric of this 200-year old flag, no photography. It's simply astonishing to see this flag in person, knowing it was flying high during the War of 1812 at the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. It's dirty with smoke from cannon fire, it's torn and tattered, and it's even missing 1 of its 15 stars. Why? A soldier decided to cut it out as a souvenir from the Battle.

The flag originally measured 30 x 42 feet. Now, it measures 30 x 34 feet because many soldiers snipped off the edge of the flag, also as a memento. The flag measured so large, the woman that made it had to rent a brewery across the street as the flag was bigger than the footprint of her house! Mary Pickersgill had help (about 4 extra people) over the summer working on this famous flag and was paid $405.90 (not bad in those days).

This exhibit is by far my most favorite in the American History Museum (can't you tell). We moved on to see many President exhibits. My favorite was the First Lady dresses - so awesome! The thing I love most about the Smithsonian is the "originalness" of it all. You're usually seeing the real thing, not a reproduction. It's quite spine-tingling (I'm such a geek).

We ate lunch at the American History Musuem and I highly recommend it. The food is quite tasty, for sure, and a great variety to choose from. At the time of our visit, the other half of the museum was closed. I could see why. The museum looked a bit "tired" and is in need of a renovation. Those changes are scheduled to be completed by 2015.

The Hope Diamond
Moving on, we hit the Natural History Museum. We could have spent many more hours in there than we did, but you have to pick your battles and, in our case, pick your exhibit. We just didn't have the time to see EVERYTHING! And, it was soooo busy, we didn't have the patience for it either. So, we decided to check out the Rocks and Gems exhibit. With Kiddo's interest in rocks, you'd think he'd be interested in becoming a geologist, but he's not. He does have a wonderful rock collection and he's always looking for interesting specimens to add to it. So, this exhibit was a no-brainer, as it would lead us to the gift shop where he could make his additions. Besides, I wasn't leaving until I saw the Hope Diamond, up close and personal.

Kiddo loves his rocks, gems, and geodes!
After acquiring a vial of gold, silver, and a copper specimen, we left the Museum. It was getting way too crowded, way too loud, and way too cumbersome to maneuver smoothly around dawdling people and baby strollers. I swear, there were 2-year old meltdowns in every corner. I almost went up to one child and said, "I know how you feel. I'm meltingdown on the inside." Time to leave.

Before heading back to the Metro, we took some more pics on the National Mall. Note to self: do not where beret with hair back in ponytail. Not a good look! The only thing I'm missing is a paintbrush!

I can laugh at myself.
 OK, this next part is super important. You are going to go back to the hotel to get the car, THEN you'll go to Arlington National Cemetery. This is so much easier and you don't feel pressed for time. So, board the Metro, get the car, load it up with the bags, and head out. DO NOT follow the TomTom instructions. Get directions from the Ritz people, they know what they are doing!

Once at Arlington National Cemetery, park in their lot (super cheap). By getting the car first, it places you in a better position to get out of D.C. easier and back home. We were racing a snow storm to get home, so we needed to utilize our time wisely, but couldn't leave until we saw Arlington. Remember, it closes at 5:00.

Is there any other place in Washington that holds your respect for our country more than Arlington National Cemetery? If you can think of a place, then you must not have witnessed the Changing of the Guard ceremony that happens every hour, on the hour, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. You stand in solemn silence, perched up on a hill overlooking the seat of America's democracy, and you look on in awe. The precision and exactness of this military ceremony is stunning. No words can describe the witnessing of this sacred act.

We left D.C. around 4:00 and managed to stay right ahead of the storm. When things work out that well, it's a sign to me that this trip was meant for us. It was not planned, it was not scheduled, we just decided to go and we went. When a trip is that smooth, it's meant to be.

Washington, D.C., is a must-see in your lifetime. Where else can you show your child the highest forms of all branches of government all in one place? Where else can you teach your child American history as he looks upon real, original artifacts from the past? Where else can you show him where laws are created, those laws we live by daily? And, where else can you have the strongest impact on your child when he sees miles of gravestones in a cemetery that honors the fallen and their families? Washington offers real history lessons, and gives you the tools for your explanations to the youth.

Our time in D.C. was short, but we saw a lot and it was great to get away, just the 3 of us. I hope you've enjoyed our experience. If you'd like, check out Day 1 and Day 2, just click.

What we woke up to the next day at home - Lucky!


Suzan Wood-Young said...

What a great trip Lilly! You look trés chic ma cherie, like a french painter in a beret on the pont des arts in Paris!

I am LOVD said...

Merci beaucoup.


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