A Week in DC

Old May 21st, 2010, 02:18 PM
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A Week in DC

One of my dearest friends is a State Department Foreign Service Officer, currently living in Rosslyn, VA and studying Ukrainian for her next post in Kiev! Another friend and I flew to stay with her for a week...it was really a lovely way to see DC, with free lodging and nightly home-cooked meals! Note to foodies: we didn't eat out much, preferring to end our hectic sightseeing days unwinding at our friend's apartment.

I flew American Airlines from Seatac on FF miles; one stop at O'Hare before flying on to Reagan National. The flights were on time, but were absolutely packed, and I did note that folks are trying to bring a lot of carry-on stuff with them these days. The gate attendants were carefully monitoring the carry-on baggage and asked everyone that boarded to put their smaller item under the seat, but there was still some drama trying to get everything stuffed into the overhead bins.

One thing I will not do again is put myself on a 6 am flight -- I felt like a zombie for much of the day!!! On arrival at National I had planned to take the Metro into Rosslyn, but was too fatigued to bother with it and splurged on a $15 cab ride instead.

Our day by day adventures are as follows, and there are pictures at http://picasaweb.google.com/azzureterri/DCTrip#

Day 1 Tuesday April 27 - Got a late start on this, our first sightseeing day, as we were still on West Coast time. We walked three blocks to Rosslyn Center and bought 7-day short trip passes for $27.90, then traveled on the Metro to Union Station. There we purchased tickets ($35 for two days) for the Tourmobile hop-on, hop-off bus. It was a nice, non-stressful way to spend the afternoon and our Tourmobile guides were without exception very interesting and entertaining.

Day 2 Wednesday April 28– Traveled to Smithsonian station via Metro and toured Smithsonian Castle, featuring a very funny introductory film starring Ben Stiller. Then off to the National Gallery, where we concentrated on the Impressionists collection downstairs, and the Museum of American History, to see the First Ladies' gowns, Dorothy's ruby red slippers and Julia Child's kitchen. Used the Tourmobile for our above-ground transport this day and it worked out very well. After the museums, we rode to the FDR, Lincoln, Korean and Vietnam Memorials. The FDR Memorial was particularly impressive to me with its water features, bronzes and memorable quotes from FDR carved into stones. Others have described the Korean War Memorial, which is haunting with its life-sized statues of apprehensive soldiers stalking through the brush.

Day 3 Thursday April 29– This was probably our best day weather-wise, so it was great to spend it outdoors at the zoo. Spent the most time with the great apes, big cats and (of course) the pandas. Love pandas!

Day 4 Friday April 30th– Had reserved tickets to the Holocaust Museum. I would not have missed this piece of history but have to admit that the experience was somewhat diluted by the huge school groups who were touring at the same time. Besides the difficulty posed by the sheer numbers of people, it has to be said that most of the middle and high school age kids were not particularly reverent or thoughtful about the horrific story being presented. After this, we walked across the Mall and stopped at the White House Visitor Center, then walked around to take in the White House from both sides as well as Blair House and Lafayette Park.

Day 5 Saturday May 1 - Three of us shared a taxi down to the Alexandria waterfront; where we boarded a Potomac River Company boat bound for Mt. Vernon. Stops along the way included National Harbor and the very impressive new Gaylord Hotel development on the Maryland shore. At Mt. Vernon, we hiked up the hill and encountered a 45 minute wait to go through the mansion, which I'm told is actually pretty quick. After lunch in the cafeteria, we enjoyed the new Education Center; with many interesting exhibits about GW's life and times and a “theater experience” of the Revolutionary War with actual fog and snow. The boat then returned us to Alexandria, where we dined at Murphy's Pub on King Street while watching the Kentucky Derby – a raucous crowd and a lot of fun. The cute King Street trolley delivered us for free to the Alexandria Metro station, and we took the train home from there.

Day 6 Sunday May 2 – Took the Metro to the Federal Triangle stop and rode the elevator to the top of the tower at the Post Office Pavilion, for great views over the city. One disappointment here is that steel security wires line the windows, making photography a bit challenging. Next we walked over to Ford's Theater, where there is a new visitor center detailing Lincoln's presidency and featuring several items of clothing worn by the President on that fateful evening, as well as items belonging to the assassin JW Booth. The presentation in the theater itself, led by a costumed docent, was very good. Then we traveled back to our Rosslyn apartment, and later still took a stroll over to Arlington National Cemetery, taking in the Marine Memorial, Carillon Tower and Kennedy graves before the heat and humidity did us in.

Day 7 Monday May 3– Had 10:30 entry tickets to the US Capitol, but we were told to arrive 45 minutes early for security screening. The new Visitor's Center at the Capitol is very impressive, but the Capitol tour itself was somewhat disappointing as we visited only the Crypt, the Rotunda and the Statuary Hall, and each location was inundated with people and guides shouting to make themselves heard over the general rumble. Our guide was intent on leading our group so swiftly that we actually lost sight of him when I stopped to take a picture. After that we wandered around by ourselves for a few minutes until another guide told us we would be ejected by security if not in the company of a group. So we attached ourselves to a 10:40 group and found our way to the exit. Nearby, though, was an underground passage to the Library of Congress; so we went that way and were able to get to the great lobby and Reading Room views without stepping out of the air conditioning! Our final stop of the day, and our trip, was the Newseum. I really enjoyed this attraction and felt it was well worth the $20 entry fee. Particularly enjoyed seeing Tim Russert's office (including his white board that said “Florida Florida Florida” on it!), the poignant 9/11 exhibit, and the great hall featuring newspaper front pages detailing events going back to the 1500's.

I flew home the next day, and was able to get standby flights that got me home in daylight with time to grocery shop on the way.

In summary, I really enjoyed DC. The city is an eclectic mix of camera-wielding tourists in T-shirts, and diplomats in 3-piece suits, but there is so much to see and do there I was glad to have a full week to explore.
azzure is offline  
Old May 21st, 2010, 02:30 PM
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I live in suburban Maryland but don't get to DC all that often. I very much enjoyed your trip report. You saw a lot the time you had! Thanks for posting.
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Old May 21st, 2010, 07:08 PM
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DC is awesome, we get there every 1-2 years and always excited to go. I like your trip report and the crowds can be a bummer.
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 04:09 AM
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Great trip report and photos . . you have a good eye for photography!

The FDR memorial is one of my favorites also.
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 04:18 AM
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Great trip. I am going back to DC in August and cannot wait.
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 06:36 AM
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I just went back and looked at your photos. You do have a great eye!
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 10:35 AM
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I haven't looked at the pix yet, but I will - we love DC, too, just so much to see and do. We'll probably be there in July (our DS and his GF will be there for the summer), for probably the 5th or 6th time. Great report.
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