Washington DC

Trip Start Nov 01, 2012
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Trip End Nov 28, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'm really glad I chose to stay in Washington DC overnight. I was up bright and early, checked out, stored my bags at the hotel and then galloped to Union Station to hop onto the City Sightseeing bus. Although I did things back to front in Washington in that I would normally do the sightseeing bus tour first and then go back to the places of interest, it turns out I did the right thing this time.

I was so chuffed that there was a tour to the Arlington Cemetry because it was just too far to walk. Actually over the state line into Virginia but this was one of my 'must sees' so I hopped on the bus which proceeded along precisely the route I had walked yesterday. Only this time I was able to get some interesting information about the various monuments. I then had to change buses at the White House and hop onto the blue bus to Arlington Cemetry. I was wondering what our fascination is about graveyards and the dead, but honestly, this Cemetry is so different from all the others I've seen. There is such an overwhelming sense of honor and pride here - it's tangible. The Cemetry is absolutely enormous (624 acres) and very hilly so I decided rather to catch the tour trolley that takes you to the main areas of interest. And the first stop was JF Kennedy's grave with the eternal flame. This was really significant for me having been to Dallas and seen the place where he was assassinated and learning the story and conspiracies behind it. I was also really moved to see that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was buried alongside her former hero husband. Interestingly, I believe when she married into the Onassis family, the Catholic Church renounced her - hmm! She was the one who lit the eternal flame when JFK was buried there so to see her laid to rest next to her husband filled me with a sense of peace. Incidentally, their stillborn daughter and their 2 day old son who died are also lying in the same sight.

In the old part of the Cemetry, the gravestones vary in shape and design and these are maintained by the families. However in the newer sections, each gravestone is exactly the same in design and size and is paid for and maintained by the state. It is estimated that the Cemetry will be filled to capacity by 2025. Currently there are 400 000 graves here. I was under the impression that only casualties of war were laid to rest here but Former heavy weight champion, Joe Louis is buried here. So too are the casualties from the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia disaster as well as the casualties from the Pan Am Flight 103.

Once we had paid out respects to the Kennedy's, we were taken to the tomb of the Unknown Soldiers. The timing was absolutely perfect as I got to witness the changing of the guard ceremony. There is a guard on constant duty at the tomb of the Unknown Soldiers so you can't get up close to it. But there was a huge crowd present and you could've heard a pin drop. Everyone was ordered to stand for the changing ceremony. I had goosebumps throughout the ceremony. Again, I am yet to see such honor and patriotism any where else. The ceremony must've lasted for about 15 minutes and included an inspection of the new and 'old' guard's uniform and bayonet. I eventually left the Cemetary at around 12:45. I was starting to get a bit nervous as I still had to get back to change busses and then get back to the station. Walk from the station to the hotel to get my bags and walk back to the station by 13:55. I was really cutting it fine. But to be honest, if I missed my bus to Philly, it would've all been worth it.

On our way back and once in DC again, we went passed the Pentagon. I started snapping away merrily until we were told that no photos were permitted within the boundaries of the Pentagon and we could be arrested if caught. So I had a few sneak shots and managed to 'check in' but nothing close up. Just across the way from the Pentagon is the US Airforce Memorial and is 3 silver pillars one slanting to the left, the middle one going straight up and the right hand one slanting to the right. This depicts the aerial manoeuvres performed by the spitfires.

The rest of the tour then covered again what I had done yesterday and we arrived back at Union Station at 13:30. I then legged it about 6 blocks back to the hotel to get my bags. But when I got to reception, my shins cramped up and there was no way I was going to be able to leg anything, never mind hauling my bags and getting back in 15 minutes. So, I got a taxi and funny how that one only cost $5 coz the guy knew I knew where we were going. I hope that Ethiopian cabbie gets his come-uppance!

And then it was back on the bus and off to Philadelphia. I had a guy seated next to me who got on in Baltimore so he was next to me for the majority of the trip. But he decides to make friends as we are pulling into the Philly station. As I'm climbing into the cab, he runs after me to hand me his business card, he's a lawyer here in Philly, and says I must call him tomorrow and he'll gladly show me around. He looks a bit like Art Garfunkel with Paul Simon's height. And since he is originally from New York, he probably talks like they do too. But I'll see what tomorrow brings. At this stage I just want to see the Liberty Bell and run up the stairs of the Art Museum like Rocky did, or perhaps just stroll gently up the stairs, and then do the victory pose. The Art Museum is 2,5 miles from the hotel so Ill see how I feel about walking that tomorrow - which I probably will do since I came here to walk "the streets of Philadelphia."

xx
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