Wash. DC - Memorials, Arlington, Smithsonian

Trip Start Apr 17, 2011
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Sunday, May 15, 2011

We arrived in "DC" in the late afternoon and had a chance to settle into our hotel before going on a night tour and to a restaurant for dinner.

Our hotel was the "Omni Shoreham" and we were told that it was one of the premier hotels in the Washington DC area.  Apparently it had been used as a venue for a Presidental Inaugeration Dinner and also many celebrities had performed there.  It was certainly the biggest hotel we stayed at, and also had a beautiful lobby & restaurant.  Because we wanted to stay on in DC for a couple of days after the tour we considered staying in the same hotel for a couple more nights.  However, after being told that it would cost $600+ per night we decided to find a hotel that fit our buget a bit better!  We found one in Arlington that fit the bill and was near the subway so that worked out well.

Washington DC is a city of national memorials, museums and significant national sites.  Our first night we visited the Marine Corps Memorial (also known as the "Iwo Jima Memorial").  It was hard to take pics in the dark, but this memorial was very significant to me (Kathy) because my nephew Kyle is currently serving as a helicopter crew chief in the Marines (at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Middle East).

The next day we spent the morning with a tour guide from Washington DC visiting many other memorials and significant locations.  The Korean Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial are all very close to one another and so we got off the bus and explored these memorials on foot.  The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is very moving with thousands of names etched into black granite.  Sometimes you would see someone doing a rubbing of the name of a loved one.  The Lincoln Memorial is huge, very impressive structure with a large statue of Lincoln seated in it.  Lincoln was instrumental in keeping the states united when the South wanted to seccede from the Union of States. On the back of the US penny there is ithe imprint of this famous memorial.

The memorial that I found most significant was the Korean War Memorial.  Each memorial incorporates a lot of symbolism and the original plan for the memorial was to have 38 statues, but it was decided that it would be too expensive.  Instead, a granite wall was designed with dozens of images of service people etched into it.  Because the wall is so smooth and shiny, there is a clear reflection of the 19 statues, so 38 images are seen.

During this tour we also visited Arlington National Cemetery.  People allowed to be buried at Arlington are serving & retired military and their spouses and minor children.  It's a sober and sacred location for all Americans.  Not all of the cemetery is open to tourists, but we were shown the burial place of John F. Kennedy, Robert & Teddy Kennedy.  The Mulhearns also have a personal friend buried here, so we were able to go back later to visit Johnnie Roberts' grave and lay flowers there for the family.

The bus tour ended about noon and we were dropped off near the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  (James Smithson was an Englishman who never visited the US but was a great admirer of the country, so when he died in the 1830's he bequethed $508,000 to the US specifically to create a museum - this has expanded over the years to include 20 different museums.  The ones we visited this day were the Air & Space Museum (the most popular of the 20 museums with 8.3 million visitors last year alone!) and the Museum of Natural History.  We also visited the National Archives and saw the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution. (These are the original "National Treasures" in case you saw the movie by that name!).  Heading back to the hotel we stopped in to see the Spy Museum, which was very interesting.  (We accidently entered via the Exit, so only saw the end of the exhibits!).
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