Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our totally awesome (and educational) trip to D.C. - Day Three

Day Three

By the time day three rolled around, our feet hated us.  We only had one full day in D.C. left, though, so we knew we had to suck it up and soldier on. 

Hubs had been bugging me since we reserved the trip about going to Arlington National Cemetery.  I really wanted to see JFK's eternal flame in person, but I'm not too keen on cemeteries.  They just freak me out.  I had to remind myself that Hubs had gracefully let me drag him to every single place on my Must See List thus far, so I caved and agreed we could spend Sunday morning in Arlington. 

On the way there we got lost and ended up in a shady part of town, but luckily made the proper corrections to our outdated map and got back on track without Hubs getting too nervous.  He has a terrible sense of direction, and if he thinks we're even slightly lost he freaks out.  Such a city boy. 

Anyhoo, we finally made it to Arlington National Cemetery and were pleased to find not many others had arrived yet.  We grabbed a map and set out to explore.

The first thing that surprised me was the size of the place.  I don't know what I was expecting, but this was not it.  The property just went on and on, rows and rows of small white headstones that continued farther than we could see.   I was also surprised that I wasn't creeped out like I usually am in cemeteries.  This place was just breathtakingly beautiful.  I remember thinking how the families of the people buried there must be so pleased that their loved ones can rest in such a lovely place (this is not normal thoughts for Jess).   The grass was a brilliant, bright green, the trees were all full and lovely.  It was a simple kind of beauty.  

The second thing that surprised me was realizing this cemetery is basically on a mountain.  Some would call it a large hill, but I'm going with mountain.  We walked uphill for a really long time.  My calves and behind got a nice little workout there!  When we first entered the cemetery wesaw people getting on these little shuttle bus things and thought how silly it was to ride a bus through the place when you could walk and really enjoy it.  Ha.  It didn't take me long to realize those people on the bus were the smart ones.  We kept passing people huffing and puffing, and I had concerns about a few middle-aged men who looked like they were borderline cardiac arrest.  Nonetheless, everyone kept marching up the hill to the first stop: the Kennedy graves.
As I've said before, I'm fascinated with JFK, and being able to stand in front of his final resting place was one of the most memorable moments of my life.  It was strange to stand there, knowing what this man did for our country, and what he was trying to do for our country when his life was taken so suddenly, horribly.  It didn't seem right that this larger-than-life image I've had in my mind could be right there, just several feet below us.  That being said, the eternal flame was beautiful, and I love that Jackie and the two babies they lost were buried all together. 

I was surprised to learn that both Bobby and Ted Kennedy were also buried in the cemetery.  I vaguely remember seeing Ted's funeral on television a few years ago, but completely forgot he had been buried there near his brothers. 

From the Kennedy graves we walked uphill for another five minutes to the Arlington House.  Hubs was super-excited about this because it belonged to General Robert E. Lee.  I had not known the property was Lee's prior to his involvement with the Confederate army during the Civil War.  After Lee resigned from the Union Army to join the Confederates, the US government decided to make the property into a cemetery, ensuring Lee could not return to his home after the war. 

The original house remains at the top of the hill, amazingly providing a view of all of Washington.  It's breathtaking.  

The house is preserved as a tribute to Lee, and was undergoing a few restorations when we visited.  We were able to walk through the entire house, both floors, to see where Lee and his family lived. 

After touring Lee's home, we headed over to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Right as we arrived they were about to begin the changing of the guards, so we stayed to watch.  It was amazing to be standing amongst upwards of 100 people, with no one making a sound.  We all watched in silence as they performed the ceremony, the only sounds being the click of the soldiers' heels and the buzz of cameras capturing this solemn exchange. 

We made our way back down to the welcome center, where I found a replica of the newspaper published the day Kennedy was killed, then headed back into Washington to spend the rest of the day cramming as much tourism as we could into our last day.

The Freer Museum of Art was on my list because it claimed to contain a huge collection of early civilization art, including a fabulous Egyptian early art exhibit.  Psh.  There were about four things in the entire museum that were Egyptian, and the rest was mostly Japanese paintings and utensils. 

From there we headed over to the Museum of Natural History, which was AWESOME.

That place was huge, and contained everything you could think of:  dinosaurs, mammals, aquatic life, monkeys, skulls (human and ape), bugs, reptiles and butterflies.  I think I may have enjoyed it a great deal more if my feet weren't screaming at me the entire time, but we still had a great time. 

Our last stop was the National Gallery of Art.  It was fabulous.  I loved this museum because it contained pieces I had just studied in my Art History course during the Spring semester.  It was pretty cool to be standing in front of pieces I had only previously seen in textbooks.  

We shuffled painfully back to our rental car, then drove to the hotel to spend our last night in D.C.  Our flight home on Monday went fairly quickly, and we were back home with our precious baby girls by that afternoon.    We had a wonderful time in Washington, and plan on going back with our daughters when they're a little older and can somewhat understand and appreciate the history and magnificence of our nation's capital. 

Hope you enjoyed your virtual trip to Washington with me! 


  1. Love this post very interesting I love cemeteries find them very interesting.......I also love to go through a Museum of Natural History,lucky you getting to wonder around such places.

  2. I agree - Arlington cemetery wasn't creepy - just beautiful and humbling!

  3. wow, sounds like a great trip. I love the Museum of Natural History.