Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our East Coast Trip- Washington DC- Day 2 & 3

Just fyi- as you read ahead please know that I am truly trying to keep my story telling to a minimum but oh its so hard!!  Thanks for coming back ;)

Here we go with Washington DC- Day 2

One of the places my Father-In-Law really wanted to see on this trip was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception- the largest Roman Catholic Church in the US. So it is the morning of Sunday, Aug. 31st, and being the "good practicing Catholics" that we are it was time to go to mass and give Thanks for such an amazing start of our trip, so what better way than to get to do both.

It was massive and magnificent to look at to say the least. The details in the church's decor were indescribable, and as we sat through mass I couldn't help but be distracted in just looking up at the ceilings and the paintings, and wanting to take pictures. Not very respectful, I know, but hey I think God would understand my admiration of one of His works?

Anyway, the jet lag was definitely starting to set in as we got comfortable with our surroundings, so we headed back to the hotel rest up a little for the next tour we had coming up that evening.

We showed up a little early to our tour's meeting point at the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Park so we could take in the park, relax and enjoy the White House during daylight hours which was just as beautiful then as it was lit up at night.

 The weather in DC was as expected- hot, humid and muggy, but it also changes quickly.  As we hung out in front of the White house these huge clouds and thunder and lightning literally rolled in as a small storm seemed to be setting in, and we weren't sure how it safe it would affect our tour. But these tours are done come rain or shine so we were going to stick with whatever happened.

The Lincoln Assassination Tour
Kara was our young host for this tour, and once again turns out that she too is a history buff turned full-time tour guide. Not a bad little gig, huh? 

Of course as she started the tour it began to rain on us, but she came prepared with plastic ponchos for most of us and she kept it moving.

The tour takes you from Lafayette Park all the way to the Ford Theatre and the house where Lincoln actually dies. Coincidentally and as if planned, the rain came down on us and set up a natural stage for the extremely detailed back story that Kara laid out, one historical character at a at a time, as the same way it also rained that fateful night that Lincoln was murdered. She made it really easy to put ourselves back in time at these locations and be able to imagine the horrible events playing out.

I have to say that boys were completing engaged and we all loved it. I was afraid at one point that the rain would be too much for my in-laws to manage along with the amount of walking, but they were the biggest troopers. I loved that they kept saying "Don't worry, its all a part of the experience" and kept up beautifully- Such great sports!!

Washington DC- Day 3

Now its Labor Day, and the last day of our adventure in Washington DC so I wanted to make that day special and as patriotic as possible.  So we traveled the metro over and across state lines into Virginia as the first tour I planned for the that day was the Arlington Cemetery Tour.

This was the last of the DC by Foot tours that we would be taking here in DC, but the one my Father-In-law said we couldn't NOT do while we were here, so he got his wish and we all were in for one of the most memorable experiences by far.

Rebecca was our leader for this one, and she was a native Texan who made yearly trips to DC and the cemetery as a youngster, and actually has a couple family members buried here herself, and she was what in college??...An American History Major! So not shocked, but once again extremely impressed with the incredible amount of information she knew about the history, specific soldiers, and how this cemetery became to be the Nations shrine for those veterans of war who choose to exercise their right to be buried there.

Arlington Cemetery is over 643 acres of land reaching all the way to walls of the Pentagon. There are over 65 designated sections of burial plots of which we were only able to see a few of, but no matter which way you looked, it was a never ending sea of burial markers- a true sight to behold.   
We visited John F. Kennedy's grave site and the eternal flame that burns 365 days a year. This grave site alone brought out such an immense feeling of respect for him and all those buried here. He is buried along side Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, two babies, and his brothers Robert and Ted Kennedy.
But one true moment that made this tour exceptional for all was watching the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. WOW... was that an intense thing to witness! I can't begin to explain the absolute seriousness with which this ceremony is taken. It is sacred in its own right. No one, I mean no one is allowed to be sitting while this is taking place!
Once again, only because Rebecca truly explained the history and honor of this ceremony did watching this make it so much more meaningful for us. It made such a difference to know that the service men who guard this tomb have gone through over a years worth of testing and training just to have the honor. The guards selected cannot be ranked higher than a private during year long service as they are not allowed to outrank the unknown soldiers buried. And most impressive is that this is the 2nd hardest badge of service to achieve next to becoming an Astronaut.  Oh no ser!  This was no joke.

It was an honor just to watch.

The United States Capitol -

After Arlington we made our way back to DC for a quick lunch as I had made reservations on line for a tour of the nations Capitol Building.  

Travel Tip- This tour was also free and its something you can book yourself by going straight to the Capitol's website link which is why we did not take this tour through DC by Foot. You can also arrange to get tickets while you're there to see the chambers of the Senate and The House of Representatives (also Free).

However, because we happened to decide to go on the day of a National Holiday, they were not in session so we did not get to privilege to see them....A major disappointment for sure!! Uggh!  But we were able to get to see the Library of Congress and that is grandest library I have ever seen.   Oh to be able to study in a library like that! (2 pictures on the top right corner of the collage).
The capitol was not only historical in content but it basically serves as a museum as well. The statues and decorations are very grandiose and to think that the founding fathers roamed around those halls was a bit daunting to think about too. The dome which has its own story to tell is going under some major renovation so we weren't able to get its complete grandness but it was still huge and looked beautiful anyway.

So that was it for Washington DC and the end of the first leg of our trip. We were honestly very sad to leave such a beautiful place. DC was very good to us and although we were technically a bit rushed  we did real good in getting to see all the major spots and fully enjoy them.

Some of the notes we took about our DC trip in general:
  • My In-laws felt that you really need a full week to see all of DC properly
  • The Next time we would go to a visit at least a few of the 19+ Smithsonians they have there- we didn't get to see any
  • We would go back and maybe spend more time at the individual monuments during the day.
  • Chris and I would go back and do a couple more of those tours like the Secrets and Scandals or the Ghosts of Georgetown...Oooooooh!

So at this point, we spend our last night in WDC and the next day we rent a car and off to Philadelphia we go, as part of our small road trip as we make our way to New York City.

I hope you enjoyed this and that you'll be back to check that out too. Thanks again!

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