Sunday, October 09, 2011

More Washington DC

Thunderstorms had disturbed our sleep during the night and dawn broke cloudy and very overcast but dry. However, the breakfast TV weatherman was giving all sorts of dire warnings about the day ahead.
After another really cheap and filling American breakfast at a Mexican restaurant, we caught the Metro to Arlington National Cemetery for the first tour of the day.

This is one of the country’s oldest national cemeteries and its 624 acres is the final resting place for more than 14,000 veterans, including those who fought in the Civil War.
Our first stop were the Kennedy graves and the Eternal Flame.

On the hill above this site stands Arlington House the home of General Robert E. Lee for many years. It was here that he wrote his resignation from the United States Army on the eve of the Civil War after refusing a command and moved south to Richmond a few days later. His wife soon followed. The Lees never returned.

Next stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under permanent guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We witnessed the changing of that guard with all its sombre military ritual.

One particular soldier buried in Arlington is well known.

It had started to rain a little by the end of the tour but we made our way by foot across the Potomac towards the National Mall. Half way across the Arlington Memorial Bridge the heavens opened up. Our umbrellas and ponchos were no match for the torrential rain (and the spray from the cars crossing the bridge). We were all 100% soaked to the skin by the time we reached the Korean War Veterans Memorial. There were a few grumbles until the co driver mentioned that the soldiers commemorated here had gone through a whole lot worse that being a little bit wet.

So we made our way down the National Mall past the World War II Memorial to the Washington Memorial, a short detour for a distant view of the White House (9/11 security was tight) and eventually onto the Capitol Building.

After 'drying off' in the American History Museum cafe' during lunch, we decided that were memorialed and museumed out. The weather had improved so we took the Metro to the DuPont Circle area to find a 'listed' yoga shop. This was a really lovely part of DC with leafy streets and some pretty smart houses with beautiful small gardens. By this time the sun had made an appearance and it was warm and steamy. We retired to a local bar for a few glasses of Bitburger Pils from the tap before heading back to Roslyn.
Our travelling companions were leaving for home the next morning so where to have a farewell dinner? Where else but where presidents (and vice presidents) eat ie. Ray's Hell Burgers, a favourite of the Obamas.
And it was all is was cracked up to be. Best burgers of the whole trip and sweet potato fries and onion rings to die for. And did I mention the really cheap bottles of genuine Lowenbrau beer?

Back at the hotel, we heard that some areas surrounding the city the had had 16 inches (400mm) of rain in the last 24 hours, flooding had reached disastrous levels in many areas and lives had been lost. We decided we had had it easy.
Next morning was sunny and dry. So off we headed by Metro and local bus to Mt. Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington for over 40 years.
We walked through the nearly 50 acres visiting his (and his wife's) tomb and slave memorial, looked at many of the original structures including stables and blacksmiths shop and enjoyed the military reenactments.

The highlight was a tour of the interior of the house with many original artifacts still in place.
And the Washingtons knew a good piece of real estate when they saw it. The view over the Potomac from the front veranda is spectacular.

On the way back to Roslyn we stopped off at Alexandria.
The first settlement was established here in 1695 in what was then the British Colony of Virginia. It is now largely populated by professionals working in the federal civil service, the U.S. military, or for one of the many private companies which contract to provide services to the federal government.
The historic center of Alexandria is known as Old Town. It has quite a concentration of boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and theaters, which are a major draw for tourists of whom we were just two of many on that day.
And it was here we had the best Mexican meal of the trip at the Austin Grill.
So that was our trip to the capital over.
We put in an early morning wake up call to catch a flight to Chicago with a connection to Nashville.

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