Sunday, May 29, 2011

The District sleeps alone tonight, part 3.

Friday morning, we got up a little later than the previous day and headed down to the metro to catch a train to the Pentagon. David, the groom, had arranged a tour for us and other family/friends in town for the wedding and we were stoked. Sadly, there was some miscommunication about the tour date and it had actually been scheduled for the previous day. So sad. I was OK with it, though, because I had really wanted to see Arlington Cemetery and didn't think we'd be able to fit it into our schedule. So, this mishap freed up enough time for that.

Arlington is pretty close to the Pentagon, so we hopped back on the metro and made our way north. When we arrived, we walked into the main visitors' center and I grabbed a map from the Information desk. I noticed an older man at the desk, asking the guide how to get to the Tomb of the Unknowns. She asked him if he wanted to take the tram -- I probably would have asked too, due to his age -- but he surprisingly said, "No ma' m, I want to walk." And his words hit me like a ton of bricks. We needed to walk. The tram is great -- they stop at all the important points and rattle off all the important names and dates. But I felt like there would be a certain reverence in walking up the paths, through the trees, past the graves of the multitudes who gave their very lives for our freedom. I felt like I owed it to them to walk. And if this old man could do it, I certainly could. So, it was settled -- we were walking.

Dill and I started up the path and I immediately knew we had made the right decision. The cemetery is breathtakingly beautiful -- rolling green hills, monuments of all shapes and sizes, and huge trees sheltering the resting places beneath them. The walk toward the Tomb of the Unknowns was fairly short, only about 15 minutes, and we stopped to take pictures quite often.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

When we got to the tomb, we were pleased and rather surprised to experience a palpable reverence amongst the tourists. There were throngs of middle and high school students present, but they were all incredibly respectful and perfectly quiet. We watched the guard pace back and forth for quite a while, taking it all in. Then, when the clock struck 11, we watched the Changing of the Guard. I reflected on those who died serving our country and those who will continue to die doing so. I was struck with gratitude and humility. I think everyone was.

Left: Guarding the Tomb, Right: Changing of the Guard

After the ceremony, we walked back down the path and took the fork towards the Kennedys' graves. I really liked the JFK quotes engraved on the memorial site. My favorite one reads, "Let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own." Profound.

JFK Memorial (with Washington Monument in background)

We left Arlington feeling a little tired but full of gratitude for the great people who sacrificed their lives for our country. The historical artifacts, sites, museums and monuments in D.C. are wonderful, but they wouldn't exist if it weren't for those who willingly fought for them. For us.

After we were finished paying our respects at Arlington, we went to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are all highly secured and kept in a dark room in special cases to prevent their further deterioration. It was quite amazing to see the same documents created, signed and handled by our Founding Fathers. Also, did you know they were written on animal skin? That is how they've managed to survive for so long.

We ended the day with a trip to the Smithsonian American History Museum. There was so much to see there -- Abe Lincoln's top hat, Judy Garland's ruby red slippers, Julia Child's kitchen, among countless others. So many historic artifacts. My favorite exhibit by far was the Star-Spangled Banner ... yes, the ACTUAL flag that was flown over Fort McHenry and inspired the national anthem. It is HUGE -- 30 by 42 FEET. It actually was too big to fit in Mary Pickersgill's home (she's the seamstress who sewed it). So, the Smithsonian actually has this flag on display and it's amazing. It's in a very dark case and the words to the Star-Spangled Banner are projected on the black wall behind it. I couldn't help but get choked up at the sight of it. Striking.

My other favorite was First Ladies exhibit. In it were paintings, accessories, china and dresses of many of the First Ladies. So many of them had such great fashion! Definitely fun to see.

After the Smithsonian, I was dead tired and could barely walk, but we all wanted to head to Georgetown to see the historic homes there and get dinner. Fortunately (or maybe not), we had plenty of time to ogle the cute Victorian houses and rest our feet since it took about an HOUR to go just a few miles by car. Georgetown University students were graduating that day and we didn't quite foresee the traffic problem until it was too late. It made for some interesting conversation in the car since I was really thirsty and Melanie really had to pee.

While driving (more like crawling) down Main Street, we saw a little shop called Georgetown Cupcake. As you may or may not know, I love cupcakes with a fiery hot passion, so I was bound and determined to get my hands on one. Little did I know, Georgetown Cupcake is the same shop featured on TLC's DC Cupcakes! Let me just say they are famous for a reason. Sprinkles Cupcakes are amazing, but these are heavenly. HEAVENLY. Worth any line you might have to wait in.

So many cuppycakes!
Our cupcakes -- my red velvet, Dill's peanut butter and chocolate

A scrumptious red velvet cupcake was the perfect way to wrap up a very tiring but fulfilling day in D.C.

1 comment:

  1. I loved Arlington, too. It's a pretty emotional city, huh? Glad you had fun and your hair looks great :) I cannot wait to hear the fun wedding dets!


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