Posted by Brandi in Happy Summer: DC on August 3, 2014
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, I’m a total history geek. As a kid, I couldn’t get enough History Channel. It was the first advanced/AP class I took in high school. I nearly minored in history in college. As well, I was raised in an incredibly patriotic home, taught to respect and revere the flag, our military, and our country’s history from a very young age. I cry when I sing the national anthem every single time.
So it goes without saying that a trip to Washington, D.C. has been high on my life list, bucket list, to do list — whatever you want to call it — since I was about eight years old.
I scratched the surface six years ago when we visited Baltimore to meet our niece Tilton. I got to spend about four hours in DC that day, basically stepped “inside” Arlington to say I was there and then speed walked the mall from Washington to Lincoln. We took a barely visible photo in front of the White House, and then hopped on the train with my exhausted three-year-old nephew. Over and out.
When the #HappySummr route planning began, I told Shelton there was no way we were skipping DC. It didn’t work out to be here for July Fourth as I’d have liked (third trip!), and we didn’t get to spend several days there (third trip!), but we did get to go. We left Savannah (thank GOD!) on July 25 and made an 11-hour drive up I-95 to Washington, D.C. for a 30 hour stop in the nation’s capital. Our arrival gave us a glimpse of Chinatown, Chipotle’s Shophouse, and a nice long sleep in real air conditioning!
I woke up super early on Saturday morning ready to go! I plotted out my musts and drug Shelton and Paisley along for what ended up being a roughly estimated 10 mile walk through and around DC. I was in absolute heaven!
The first stop was the National Archives, home to the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, amongst a whole host of other documents that we barely looked at. Time was of the essence. The walk from our hotel was delightful, namely we didn’t sweat to death; a perk after living in the swamp sauna that is Savannah for a month.
I was shaking as we walked through the doors. I was actually there! I tried to explain the enormity of it all to Paisley, and she understood very little, I’m sure. Later she wanted to make sure “the bad country” wasn’t going to take us! Inside the rotunda sat these three documents that shape the lives of every single one of us and I was awe struck. No photos were allowed anywhere inside the building, but nothing I’d have taken would have captured that moment. Understandable because they are already so deeply faded that each flash would strip years off their lives. Tears ran down my face; there in front of my own eyes was John Hancock’s actual signature, George Washington’s signature, the promise that all men are created equal. I would like to think that most, no all, Americans agree with the profundity of seeing these documents for themselves.
I was also taken by the exhibits on the first floor — one dedicated to the civil rights movement and one to women’s rights and suffrage. Again, I blubbered my way through explaining the 19th amendment and title IX to Paisley. Photos, newspapers, video clips, posters, and more filled the space painting a painful reminder that, for as far as we’ve come, we still have so much work to do for equal rights across the board.
I didn’t cry again the rest of the day, it was as if I needed to get it out of my system early!
Newseum was our second stop, by accident. Didn’t know it existed! Like everything else in DC, I wanted to pour over every exhibit, but at about $23 per entry, we settled for poking around the gift shop. When everything else in DC is free, it’s hard to pony up for novelty experience. (Third Trip!) There was an entire Anchorman exhibit that, of course, caught our attention. I loved that the bathroom tiles were made of just hilariously poorly written headlines.
Capitol Hill was stop number three. It was the longest stretch of the day, fortunately the coolest. We made the long march thinking we’d catch a tour. We walked 360 degrees around that beast and couldn’t find the visitor center. So we gave up. By then we were getting hangry, hot, and our legs, especially the shortest pair, were in need of a break. Still, it’s rather impressive to stand in the shadow of one of the most powerful buildings in the world. Paisley asked what the building was for; I told her it’s where really ignorant old white men waste trillions of dollars. May have missed the age-appropriate explanation there!
From there, we popped in to the National Botanical Gardens. We thought we here headed straight to food, but this was along the way, had no fee, no line, and the promise of a wee bit of a/c. Why not? It was very beautiful and if I weren’t on the DC Express Lane Tour I could see myself really taking my time to wander around.
Finally, Lunch!! Short of street meat, we were willing to take the first thing we found. Penn Quarter Sports Tavern it was! I’ll dig in more in a What We Ate post later, but first, behold the perfect pour on this beer!
Onward to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. It was a toss-up between that or Air and Space, because rockets. But first lady inaugural gowns and a peek inside Julia Child’s kitchen won out. I deeply regret not finding my way to Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, but, can I just say, the traffic flow through Disney World runs better than this. It was unbearably crowded, impossible to find anything, and it was clear that Paisley’s patience had been tested and expired. I’m glad we went. I gushed over Michelle Obama’s first inaugural gown, found Nancy Reagan’s place settings to have an air of communism, and saw the world’s first frozen margarita machine. Yay innovation! We found The Official Minivan of Our Youth.
The walk back to hotel was swift. Naps, swimming, and snacks were promised to all three of us.
We spent the evening making it as close to the White House as I’m probably ever going to get. (Vote Paisley Koskie 2050!) We tried for a tour, but that requires a minimum of three week’s notice with a state rep. Paisley just couldn’t believe “that’s where Barack Obama lives?!”. Frankly, I couldn’t either. I was in awe, no surprise there I guess.
Then we walked to the Washington Monument as the sun set. It was a pretty perfect night. Just the three of us, weather cool enough to actually be outside. Paisley was such a sport about the whole day, and I just couldn’t get over actually being there. We took cliche tourist photos in front of the monument, then took the long walk up the reflection pool to ‘ole Abe. I’ve always wanted to see it at night, and it was magnificent.
At the Lincoln Memorial, half of the world sat on its steps. At least it felt that way. A chorus of languages could be heard, and I reveled in it. The entire day had sounded that way. Over the melting pot of languages was a lot of giggling, and we added our own to the mix. Who knew one of the most revered monuments in the country doubled as a playground?
The day ended with a bicycle cab ride back to the Grand Hyatt (highly recommend both!). This was a highlight of the day for all of us. The driver was super cool and had some impressive calves, blasted 90’s jams, the breeze was exceptional, and the smile and giggles from Paisley were priceless. She wanted to go again the next morning.
Arlington National Cemetery was our only stop the next morning. We made it up the hill just in time for the clock tower to ring and the Changing of the Guard ceremony to begin. You could have heard a pin drop, silence and reverence from the hundred or so people paying the ultimate respect. The path worn in the cement by the Marines’ precise steps was remarkable. No photos were taken; it didn’t feel appropriate. It was humbling and beautiful and I’m grateful such a place exists.
After that, we hit the short road to Baltimore where we’ve been crashing out at Shelton’s brother’s home ever since.