Friday, May 31, 2013

Mount Vernon....and our "interesting" evening

After our morning at Arlington we drove to Mount Vernon in Alexandria  (a scary prospect in itself - the driving, not Mount Vernon).

The house tour itself was a little lame.  They basically had you shuffle through and listen as the woman repeated the same info over and over again.  I guess it's the best way they could think of to get people in and out quickly.   The best part was hearing little tidbits about Washington's daily life.

Besides the main house, there were lots of little outbuildings, and the gardens were very pretty.

The view of the Potomac River from the back porch, which was covered in rocking chairs, was beautiful as well.

We walked all the way down to the wharf and were rewarded with a really cool nest made by an Osprey.

And of course, we saw Washington's grave (I have this exact same picture from when I went as a kid)

We saw our very first Magnolia Tree - I thought it was a giant rhododendron!

But the very best thing about our visit to Mount Vernon was our visit with Martha Washington.  This woman was fantastic.  She sat for hours and just chatted with anyone who came in.  She talked about her life with George,  her family, running her household, caring for the soldiers.  If anyone had any questions she answered.  She even taught some of the "young people" in the audience the proper way to greet each other!

And now, on to the story of our evening.  Hubby had checked online for some Open Mics for us to attend.  We thought it would be fun just to see what the area had to offer.  He found one in Virginia that said it was an acoustic open mic and it was in a small cafe.   Sounded just perfect.  We call the Open Mics we like "Old Men with Guitars".

We programmed the GPS and off we went.  What we didn't realize was that our new car's lighter fuse was gone, and the GPS was not charging as we drove along.  Partway into our drive, the GPS died.  Now we were in the middle of Virginia with no clear idea of where we were.  Fooling around with the GPS, I found that if I shut it off, I could turn it back on and get about 10 seconds of use before it died again.  So we drove to Alexandria turning the GPS on and off every ten seconds.  But.....we got there!

The "cafe" was a bar, and a dive bar at that.  The one and only musician we saw was a young kid playing an electric guitar.....badly.  We sat off to the side and decided immediately that we didn't want to eat in this "cafe".   We didn't even want to stay.

So we left after 15 minutes and now had to find a place to eat.  Hubby's eyes lit up when we walked past a Cheesecake Factory, but we'd eaten at one the night before so I vetoed that.  We finally found a directory that showed a Bertucci's a few blocks away.   When we arrived at the destination, there was no Bertucci's.  Apparently there hadn't been one there for quite some time.   We asked some girls sitting at a sidewalk cafe where we could eat, and they directed us a few blocks further away.   We couldn't find that restaurant either.  Finally, I turned to Hubby and said, "Cheesecake Factory it is!"  

So we ate at the Cheesecake Factory two nights in a row (which is certainly not a bad thing).    The waitress was quite surprised when we declined to order any cheesecake for dessert because we already had some in our hotel refrigerator from the night before.  She did, however, give us great directions to get back to our hotel!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Washington DC - Day Three in Arlington

Our third day in DC was quite the topsy-turvy day.   We planned on going to Arlington Cemetery and then over to Mount Vernon.  The subway could take us to Arlington, but not Alexandria, so we decided we'd just take the car for both places.

Now I understand when they talk about how bad the traffic is down there, especially around the beltway.  After dealing with that, I was more thankful than ever for Washington's wonderful Metro.

Arlington Cemetery was as impressive as I thought it would be.  Hubby commented that every American should have to go there.  It certainly reminds you that America has been in way too many wars.

There were tons of school groups in DC.  At times they were quite irritating because they were much more interested in horsing around, laughing and talking than they were in seeing the monuments.   But I must say, at the Changing of the could have heard a pin drop.

We arrived just as one change was finishing, so we decided to wait the 30 minutes for the next one.   During that time, they did two wreath-laying ceremonies.  Two different school groups wanted to lay wreaths at the site, and the ceremony they put on was very impressive.  There's nothing as chilling as Taps being played slowly.   During that entire 30 minutes, it was absolutely silent.

The Marine in charge did a very official white-glove inspection of the incoming marine's rifle and uniform.

Then escorted him to the spot where he would march solemnly back and forth for the next 30 minutes.

After the ceremony, we walked and saw the Kennedy family graves, and took a trolley (thanks to a very generous trolley driver) back to the entrance.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day Two - We head to the Zoo!

I have some very fond memories of going to the National Zoo when I visited Washington DC as a 14-year old kid in 1974.   Nixon  had made friends with China, who gave the United States two beautiful pandas - Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing.  Naturally, the pandas were the main attraction and the lines in to see them were very long.

My family was visiting my Uncle's family, who lived in Maryland.  The crew included my parents, my aunt and uncle, a total of 7 kids, and my grandmother who was in a wheelchair.   In my memory, there was a long ramp leading down to the panda exhibit.  The line seemed to be hours long.  Before we took even a few steps, a zoo official came to us and noted that it would be difficult to hold a wheelchair and inch slowly down the ramp.  He offered to take my grandmother, and our entire party (all 12 of us) to the front of the line.  We felt like royalty as we walked past all the other zoo patrons.

This time, I was all set to see the current pandas Mei Xiang and Tian Tian.

It was a hot day, as it had been back then, and many of the animals were in their dens trying to keep cool.  The pandas were in the exact same position as I remember them from 39 years ago......

We did see some other fun animals

Gorgeous Flamingos

Stunning Peacock

Hubby has a conversation with the Pelicans

We should have taken a video of this.   There was a random hat that had been left behind somewhere along the way, and the kids were stepping up close to the window and throwing the hat in the air.  The seal followed the hat, flipping around in the water and exhibiting all kinds of tricks.  It was very amusing for the children....and for us!  The seal seemed inexhaustible.  It seemed like he had been, and would continue to, amuse the kids and adults all day.

The weather in DC on the first three days was in the 80's and very muggy.  We enjoyed our day at the zoo, then went back to the hotel, had a shower and a nap, then ventured out to one of our favorite restaurants.....the Cheesecake Factory.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Washington DC Day One Part Two

When we left the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial we had to check out the memorial to Albert Einstein at the National Academy of Sciences.

As we continued along the mall we came upon a lovely little pond with an island in the middle.  On the island was a  memorial to the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.   I'd never even heard of this before, but it was very nice.

Continuing along the mall, we decided to walk all the way around the Tidal Basin to see the Jefferson Memorial.  And it was a good thing we did.   Along the way, we came upon a fantastic Memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Besides this statue

there were tons of beautiful rock formations, waterfalls, statues, and quotes from FDR's three terms in office.

Further along the route, we also came to a stunning memorial to Martin Luther King Jr.

There was a whole stone wall here as well that had quotes from MLK during his lifetime.

We finally came to the Jefferson Memorial.  This is one that most people are familiar with, as it can be clearly seen from across the Tidal Basin.

From the Tidal Basin we walked all the way back to the East Side of the National Mall and spent a little time in three different Art Museums.....The National Gallery of African Art, the Freer Art Museum and another one whose name I cannot remember!   All three of these were situated at the Smithsonian Castle.

Most of the museums closed at 5:30, but we found out the American Portrait Gallery was open until 7, so being the masochists we are, we walked further north to that museum.   Sadly, I didn't take any photos, because some of those portraits were amazing.

We'd been told to check out Union Station and that there were many restaurants there, so our last stop of the day was Union Station.  I was quite disappointed because I expected something like Grand Central Station in New York, and it was nothing like that.  It was basically a big mall with the train station inside.   We had a rather disappointing meal in the food court.

After walking from one end of the mall to the other, we were quite happy to take the Metro back to our hotel.   Day One was over -  wonder where we're headed for Day Two?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Washington DC Day One Part One

Our trip to Washington DC began on Sunday with a stop at our favorite NY Style Deli  "Rein's Deli" in Vernon, CT.   While I was in the ladies' room, Hubby held our place in line and made friends with a couple from Virginia.   We ended out eating breakfast together, which worked out well for us.  The woman loved to talk and told us all about things to see and do in DC.

I figured our first day should be dedicated to seeing as many of the monuments as we could.  And boy!  Are there tons of monuments in DC!

First up  - The White House

Not as big and regal looking as I would have thought.  The front of the White House, which is the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue side, is not the side you normally see on TV.

Even so, Hubby figured he could go in there and tell Mr. Obama a thing or two.

The side you usually see is the back, and they didn't let us anywhere near that!

Oops!  That didn't work

The classic Tourist Pose

Next stop was the Washington Monument.  Hubby and I wanted to climb to the top  (or more likely, take the elevator) but they weren't allowing people to go into it.  Apparently it was damaged during an earthquake and they have to fix it to make it safe.

(It's not really tilted.....or blurry!)

We continued walking down the National Mall (which isn't really a stores) and our next stop was, what I considered to be the most beautiful monument.   The World War II Veterans Memorial.

It was the one monument that made me cry when I saw an elderly WWII vet and his family standing and gazing at the monument.   It was touching to see how much it meant to him.

The Reflecting Pool was also being worked on, but it didn't take away from the grandeur of it.

At the end of the Reflecting Pool is one of Hubby's favorite monuments....the Lincoln Memorial

From the top of the steps

Continuing on, we viewed the very impressive Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

Coming tomorrow.............some interesting finds as we walked our way around the Tidal Basin.