Day 46: “Monument”al Day

After being in New York and Philadelphia one of the stand out factors about Washington DC is how BIG everything in. As someone pointed out, there are no sky scrapers here, but the building have such large footprints. Not only are the buildings huge, but there is also so much space, the streets are wide, the subway stations feel so open, the ceilings are high and curved making it feel incredibly spacious. The people and crowds are just dwarfed by the size of everything.

Talking about large, we began our day with a ride on the subway to Arlington Cemetery. We walked around a bit checking out the memorials until it was time for a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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At first Shayna did not really understand why such a ceremony for only one soldier. So, we talked about the significance of the tomb and 24 hour guard. She was so enthralled by it that we ended up staying for 2 guard changes and 1 wreathe ceremony.

As we were trying to find the Kennedy site, we happened across the Arlington House which was the home of Robert E. Lee. The house and site are not in great shape and are about to be shut down for a very needed renovation.

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But what was interesting for us was that Robert E. Lee was married to the great granddaughter of George and Martha Washington. Their daughter was the one who preserved many of the Washington memorabilia including his war tents which were eventually sold to a Vicar who then gave them to the Smithsonian, one of which we saw at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It is exciting to see the connections among the places we are visiting.

Afterward we had a picnic on the Mall (which Shayna thought was a shopping mall until we saw it – I try not to tell her too much about sites ahead of time so she can be surprised and have her own impressions). Then we decided to go to the Smithsonian – yeah, right, which part? Shayna selected the American History museum. She really enjoyed it and was especially glad to find it was more about artifacts than information. We saw an exhibit on the dresses of the First Ladies (we tried to guess the time period of the dresses before we looked at the names), saw Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, an exhibit on technology, past and present, an exhibit on voting, one on inventions and one on democracy, oh and one called “Many Voices“. Anyone seeing the hidden message here? But our favorite was the exhibit about Food, how food has changed over the past couple generations. And our favorite display: Julia Child’s kitchen!

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However, the highlight of our day was an evening bike ride tour of the National Monuments. It was about 3 hours, 4 miles and 10 people.

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Washington DC is pretty flat so it is not strenuous and even though it was dark the pathways are so well maintained we did not worry about bumps and uneven pavement. Seeing the monuments at night is definitely a trend. One of the most crowded places of our visit to DC was the Lincoln Memorial at 8:30 at night. We started at the Jefferson Memorial,

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then went to see the FD Roosevelt memorial. It is new since I was here last and seems beautiful but the lights nor  the fountains were on so I feel like we probably missed out on seeing one of the best monuments.

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After that we went to the MLK Memorial,

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then the Korean War Memorial which is brilliantly designed,

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and then the Vietnam Memorial. The guide told us a lot about the controversy over it’s design and the designer, which we discussed more after seeing it, and that whole process really helped me better appreciate the significance of the design and its impact. (The story is a bit long to write here, but I am happy to share it with anyone who wants to hear about it.). Overall, the more current Memorials have so much more meaning and significance to their designs than the original presidential monuments, which creates much more of a sense of reverence and emotion when you see them. We also saw the Lincoln, Washington and the World War II Memorials.

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