Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Washington DC: Day 1

Once again we take the train (SO easy!) to our next destination - Washington DC. We arrived in the rain, but got to our hotel only a bit wet. At least we had a fabulous hotel. And we were only paying $200 per night when the regular rate was $550! The hotel was actually in Arlington VA, but the metro was great.

So the first day we took the metro a couple of stops to Arlington Cemetery and took a short bus tour around. Again it was raining, so we only got off the bus at one stop which was John F Kennedy and Jackie and the cross for Bobby.

This was the tomb of the unknown soldier where there is the changing of the guard every hour, but it was too wet to stand out there until that happened!

Memorial to the crew of the Challenger and Columbus.

All the newer graves line up with standard head-stones to keep them in formation in death as in life.
The older were more traditional and varied.
After the cemetery tour, we did the National Mall tour starting with the bridge into DC.
The federal reserve.
The Second Division Memorial was originally constructed to memorialize the United States Army Second Division's dead from World War I. Since its construction, two additions have been made to honor the dead of World War II and the Korean conflict. The flaming sword, shown in the photograph above, is a symbolic impediment to the German advance on Paris.

The Columbus monument and replica Liberty Bell at Union Station. On one side is a European and the other is a native American with Columbus being the link between the two.

The capitol building.

We finally got off the bus. It was only just spitting, but it was freezing cold. Here is also a mudmap of monuments in DC.

We started walking at the Lincoln memorial.

Then walked over to the Korean War memorial

which included mention of all countries involved.
Then over to the Vietnam War Memorial with all the names of the dead and MIA in order of death.

Dedicated in 1976, Constitution Gardens serves as an oasis within the bustling city for visitors, residents and wildlife. A memorial island in the middle of an artificial lake has stones bearing the names and signatures of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Their pledge to freedom exists as a living tribute within this natural setting celebrating the U.S. Constitution.
The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis.

View back to Lincoln.

When the National Mall was crossed by a canal way back when, this was the lock-keeper's house.
On the way to the white house we passed the Christmas tree but of course it is a bit early! The National Tree Lighting Ceremony began in 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge pushed a button to turn on the lights of a Vermont Balsam fir at a ceremony on the Ellipse hosted by the community department of Washington D.C.'s public schools. The focus of the event expanded into the "Christmas Pageant of Peace" in 1954. Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, formed a "Pathway of Peace." Today, the annual ceremony is known as the "Pageant of Peace" and takes place south of the White House on the Ellipse. Center to the season's celebration is the living National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, planted on the Ellipse October 20, 1978. The tree stands as a daily reminder of the holiday spirit and of the tradition each succeeding President has participated in since 1923.

Then the white house itself. So much security, but you can still stick a camera through the front gate!

This is the Willard Hotel where Ulysses S. Grant used to sit in the lobby and smoke cigars and drink brandy and get hassled by politicians and businessmen as such creating the term "lobbyist".
An old map of DC clearly showing the canal and the Potomac in its original state. The Lincoln would be in the river!
This is Union station with statues at the top designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens whose iconography expresses the confident enthusiasm of the American Renaissance movement: Fire, Electricity, Freedom, Imagination, Agriculture and Mechanics. The substitution of Agriculture for Commerce in a railroad station iconography vividly conveys the power of a specifically American lobbying bloc.

Forty-six statues of Roman legionnaires, one for each state in the Union when the station was completed, ring the grand room. The statues were the subject of controversy when the building was first opened. Pennsylvania Railroad president Alexander Cassatt (brother of artist Mary) ordered sculptor Louis Saint-Gaudens (brother of sculptor Augustus) to alter the statues, convinced that the legionnaires' skimpy outfits would upset female passengers. The sculptor obligingly added a shield to each figure, obscuring any offending body parts.

Last stop for the day was the National Postal Museum across from Union station.

Modern day delivery vehicle.
Older delivery vehicle.
We got a free post card.
It was quite interactive.

Then we ended up in Capial City Brewery next door for a few beers looking out on peak-hour in the rain! At least we were at the metro stop, so it was easy to get back to the hotel.