We left: 2006-6-8 00:00:00 GMT-07:00 ago
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Warning - Picture Intensive Page!
Today we decided to visit Arlington National Cemetery. Before leaving Yvette’s house, her real estate agent Doug showed up. He offered to give us a ride to the metro station. That was super nice of him. It meant we didn’t have to walk to the bus stop, and then take the bus to the Metro stop. He saved us about 45 minutes. What a nice guy. Here’s what he looks like, and if you’re shopping for a house in the Virginia/Washington D.C. area, here’s his info.
While waiting for our train (we had to wait a very long time because the track was under construction), a bee landed on Carrie. Jonathan was nice enough to rescue Carrie from the stinging possibilities, but then he couldn’t get the bee off of him. He finally took it outside and gave it a nice flower patch to enjoy.
We got to Arlington with no other difficulty. At first we thought we would just walk around the cemetery and see what we wanted to see. Then we asked for a map, and the information desk person said that the best way to see the whole cemetery and not miss anything is to take the bus tour. So we did (it was only $5 per person, and you can go at your own pace through all the stops).
The first stop was the John F. Kennedy grave site. His wife, Jackie Kennedy Onasis, and two of their children are buried here as well. Above their stones, the eternal flame is burning. Jackie actually was the person who lit the flame at John’s funeral.
The next bus stop was the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If you are ever in Washington DC, you should really take the time to come to Arlington and watch this ceremony. The dedication and discipline that these men have is absolutely amazing. You can watch a video of the entire ceremony here.
Behind the Tomb of the Unknowns is the amphitheatre where the President gives his (her?) Memorial Day address every year.
From there we walked over to the Mast of the Maine. Remember the Maine? The memorial and re-burial of those entombed with her at the bottom of the ocean are now at Arlington National Cemetery as well.
The bus took us to Arlington House next. This was our favorite stop of the day. We learned so much here. Unfortunately, we were so busy learning that we forgot to take pictures. Arlington House was the home of Robert E. Lee and his wife. His wife was the granddaughter of George Washington. When Lee was asked to be general of the Union Army during the Civil War, he agonized over the decision. He eventually decided that he could not fight against his friends, family, and home (Virginia). Arlington House was eventually taken away from the Lees as they could not pay their taxes in person (a law instituted during the Civil War). Robert was at war, obviously, and his wife was ill and bedridden. Jonathan and I spent over 3 hours at Arlington House. They finally had to kick us out because they were closing. We could have probably stayed another 3 hours.
But here you see a picture of the grave site of Pierre L’Enfant, the man who designed and laid out Washington DC. The tower in the background (to the left) is the IRS building. Here’s where Jonathan reminded me that “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”.
We really wanted to see the Iwo Jima Memorial as well. We decided to walk there from Arlington. Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction which wasn't reflected on our map, which closed/redirected the sidewalk, and we got a bit lost. Not really lost, just misdirected. We ended up on a random dirt trail that dead-ended at a big machinery storage facility. We did eventually find the Iwo Jima Memorial, but not until we ate lunch at a park overlooking the Potomac and the Washington Mall in front of the Bell Tower that was a gift from Holland to the United States to symbolize friendship. On the hour, the bell tower plays six songs: the themes from all the armed services: Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine. It sounds really beautiful.
From there we walked across Arlington Bridge back to the Mall.
We then walked to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which was our favorite memorial. (We did a LOT of walking, which was good preparation for our Kilimanjaro climb - probably the BEST preparation we did.)
The FDR Memorial is a journey through his four terms in office. There are many water features and famous quotes, and it really gives you a feeling of what life may have been like during the FDR Presidency.
There was a bronze pillar with handprints in it. You could tell that many a tourist put her hand up to it to compare size, so we had to do the same. Here’s Jonathan’s hand. And here’s mine.
So picture this. We're at the FDR Memorial, enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the water features, and then a huge group of high school students comes through, running and yelling (because that's what high school tourist groups do - don't know why), and then we hear this huge BOOM!
And several high school girls scream.
And we're wondering what's going on.
But it sounds like it's a little ways away, and the security people at the FDR Memorial are just standing around like it's a normal thing, so we keep touring through the memorial.
And then we hear it again - BOOM!
And more screams from high school girls.
So at this point, we're basically out of the memorial, looking across the tidal pool to the Jefferson Memorial, and we realize what the BOOMS actually are - a cannon firing!
Every Wednesday at 7:00pm in the summer, the Army hosts a retelling of the wars that the United States participated in. We just caught the end of it, but still learned a lot.
We really struggled with whether or not it was appropriate to smile in our pictures outside of the Holocaust Museum.
Anne Frank said "In spite of everything, I still believe that people really are good at heart." We both agree with Anne Frank. What the Holocaust Memorial is there for, is to remind us to go about our days more alert, more aware, and more willing to go out of our way to be inclusive of others. The best way we can offer kindness to those whom we pass on our travels, but whom we don't know, and whom we're not likely to meet again, is simply to offer them a smile. After some reflection, we realized that for us, smiling outside of the holocaust museum was not only appropriate, but was absolutely necessary.