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On the way there we got lost and ended up in a shady part of town, but luckily made the proper corrections to our outdated map and got back on track without Hubs getting too nervous.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! 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Our totally awesome (and educational) trip to D.C.: Day Two

I wanted to tell you guys ALL about our trip to D.C. in May, and I have a tendency to ramble, so I decided to break the trip down into posts by days.
Day Two: 

We woke up to a cool, drizzly morning.  Not to be deterred, we headed over to the Mall, where we checked out the Washington Monument again, this time not surrounded by dozens of tourists.  Most were doing indoor activities that morning, so we were basically alone on that hill.  It was excellent. 

Hubs ecstatic to be touching the Washington Monument.
 I loved seeing him get as excited about stuff as I was!

I was also thrilled to realize that if you're standing on the hill at the Monument, you can see the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol and the White House in all four directions.  Gotta love clever geographical placement. 

Despite our gradual soaking from the constant drizzle, we decided to go ahead and check out the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials since there were no crowds to deal with.  (TIP:  Although it may look like it's not that far from one monument to another, it's actually a pretty good walk.  If you go, wear sneakers, not sandals.  I learned my lesson the hard way.)

I was super-excited about the Lincoln Memorial because I've always been fascinated with Honest Abe, his presidency and  assassination.  I've seen a thousand pictures of the momument, but to be standing in front of it is amazing.  It's a lot larger than I expected. 

See?  HUGE.

From Lincoln we walked to the Vietnam Memorial.  A sudden, somber mood fell over us as we walked along the wall of names.  I don't know if it was more eerie because we were the only ones there, or if the rain added to it, but I was so moved standing there looking at the thousands of names engraved in the wall.   Hubs suddenly stepped forward and placed his hand on the wall, and I had an urge to take a picture of it.  His father was in Vietnam, and I think an emotion he wasn't prepared for came over him. 

The drizzle finally let up, and the sun came out.  I was relieved because I had started to feel like a drowned rat.  My hair was stuck to my head, and my clothes were uncomfortably damp. 

We decided to start walking back to the Reagan Center, where we had parked our rental car, when suddenly I realized we were walking directly towards the White House.   I pulled Hubs excitedly toward the path that takes you right past the back side of the east wing, aka the most photographed portion of the White House.  People had started moving out on the streets, so we had to maneuver through a few tour groups and school field trips to get to the gate.  I had another "Ahhhh" moment as we stood in front of the home of our Presidents.  I'm such a nerd.

We had a scheduled tour of the White House for later in the afternoon, so we continued to the Reagan Center where we had lunch and hung out for a while to dry off.  We purchased two teeny tiny umbrellas for $10 each, just in case.

Our White House tour was fantabulous.  No pictures, of course.  Check in was surprisingly easy and quick, so we ended up going on our "self-guided" tour an hour earlier than our assigned time.  Basically they let you walk yourself through the entire first floor of the east wing.  There are armed guards in every room and throughout the hallways, but they were all super-friendly and answered questions and told funny stories about both President Obama and past presidents.  It was so amazing to be walking through the same rooms and hallways walked by Lincoln, Kennedy, and so many other historical giants.  It wasn't until after our tour that I realized that Hubs and I had stood in both places in Washington where JFK had laid in state.

We were standing in one of the larger rooms when Hubs nodded toward the hall and said, "Hey, that's the same rug from when Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed."  I rolled my eyes and said, "Nuh-uh."  He insisted that he was right, and asked the guard standing nearby.  The guard grinned and said, "Yep, that's right.  If you stand right there in the doorway, you'll be standing in the exact same spot as President Obama when he made the announcement."  Well of course Hubs had to go stand there.  Wish I could have taken a picture of that.    

I was like a giddy child throughout the entire tour, but it was okay because everyone else on the tour was equally excited.  I mean really, how many of us everyday Joes can say they've walked through the White House?  Exactly.

After our White House tour we went to meet up with my uncle, his girlfriend and her children, who all live in Maryland and rode over to visit with us for a while.  I was thrilled because it had been over ten years since I'd seen him last.  We went to the Museum of American History and had a great time.  That museum is huge, and although we spent about three hours inside, I doubt we saw everything. 

From there we headed towards Chinatown to have dinner at this place my uncle insisted was the best Chinese food in D.C.  On the way we stopped in a place called the Old Post Office and rode a rickety old (terrifying) elevator up to the 18th floor of the clock tower, where we could see for 9 miles in every direction.  That was pretty cool.

We continued our walk to Chinatown, and passed Ford's Theatre (AAAHHHH), and the house across the street where Lincoln died.  Wish we could have gone inside!
My uncle was right about the restaurant.  It was great.  Uncle and Hubs decided to be brave and drink some Chinese beer.  I played it safe with warm tea. 

Hubs and Uncle with their Chinese beer.
After dinner Uncle, his girlfriend and the kids had to head home, so Hubs and I were left to find something to do.  We made it to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum about an hour before they closed, so we decided to have some fun and pose with famous wax celebrities.

There were some really great historical figures, like Washington, Lincoln, General Lee, JFK and Jackie, etc, but we had more fun with the celebrities. 

Ah, George. 
Hubs getting naughty with Britney.
 Before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel, I made Hubs walk back to the White House with me to get a photo at night.  Glad we did that.  It's a beautiful building, but it's even more stunning lit up at night.

Check back tomorrow for Day Three, and the conclusion of our totally awesome and educational trip to D.C.!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our totally awesome (and educational) trip to D.C.: Day One

May 12th was a fabulous day.  I took my last final for the Spring semester, then Hubs and I headed to Washington, D.C. for a few days of fun in our nation's capital. 

Day One:

We started our trip with a tour of the US Capitol.  To say I was overwhelmed to be standing in front of that building is an understatement.  The tour was fantastic, and we had a great guide who knew all kinds of fun little facts about the building and events that happened there. 
After our tour, we strolled through the underground tunnel that led us to the Library of Congress -another building that took my breath away.  It's stunning inside.  A wonderful exhibit in the library was Jefferson's book collection, which he sold to the government after most of the library's books were destroyed by fire during the War of 1812.  I stood in the middle of the collection, surrounded by many first print editions of books, and cried.  Hubs laughed at me for being so emotional over books, but he understood my appreciation for such a treasure. 

By the time we finished our Capitol tour and exploration of the Library of Congress it was afternoon.  We had lunch at a charming little deli half-hidden in an alleyway, then continued on to the National Archives and were thisclose to the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation and US Constitution.  Unfortunately we couldn't take photographs inside.  I was bummed about that, but snuck a few with my iPhone despite Hubs insisting that I would be spending our vacation in prison if I didn't put the phone away.  Chicken. 

Super-secret Mission Impossible shot I got of the
Declaration of Independence with my iPhone.  Shh.
Next we wandered over to the Mall, where we checked out the Washington Monument and then the Air & Space Museum.  I didn't think I'd like it, but I was pleasantly surprised. 
Hubs having a wonderful time looking at a gazillion planes.
After all of that we were exhausted, so we caved and went back to the hotel around 7 to shower and go to bed. 

To be continued.....  (Check out Day Two tomorrow!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hidy-ho, neighbors

How's it going, y'all?  I've missed you guys a great deal, but don't blame me, blame the massive collection of MORONS employed by AT&T....

Seriously, if I knew where Mr. AT&T lived, I'd drive to his home, knock on the door and when he answered just punch him in the face.

Here's the situation:

Hubs and I bought our new home -YAY!- in mid-May after our trip to D.C. (I'll cover that later).   We immediately called AT&T to request a transfer of service from our previous address to the new house.  Seems simple enough, right?  Well, it would be if we were talking about any other company.  But no, we're talking about AT&T. 

Fast-forward to today (June 20) and we STILL do not have internet service at our new residence.  Oh, they shut off the service at the old place.  Sure, they sent a guy out to run the new dsl line and install a phone jack.  But did they push that tiny little button on a computer in their office to connect the internet to our home?  Of course not.  That small piece of service apparently takes a whole new order, three weeks of wait time and an act of Congress.  

Jess has not been a happy gal.  

I've yelled at approximately 14 different service people, all to no avail.   I think they probably have my account highlighted and posted all over the company with some warning about providing actual service.  "Do not provide quality service to this customer.  She called us morons."


So that's why I have not been able to check in with you, my most fantabulous blogging buds.  I miss you all terribly, and cannot wait to catch up with you guys.  It will take me forever to do it, but I'm determined!  

Anyhoo,  I'm leaving on Wednesday to join my Tennessee family in Destin for a few days.  My girls have not been to the beach yet, so I'm excited to see their reactions.  Soon I will update you guys on our new house (demolition, renovation and other fun stuff), as well as our trip to D.C. and any other interesting tidbits I can recall. 

Love, peace and chicken grease!