Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and it is only fitting that I post the remainder of our visit to Washington D.C. last month. For the last two days of our visit, we continued to ride the metro to catch a tour bus around the city, but this time we now knew we only had to go as far as Chinatown or the U.S. Archives to catch one of the buses that would stop nearby every 20-40 minutes.
Note: All roads and driveways built in front of memorials, museums, and monuments have now been barricaded for access by vehicles. Buses and taxis must stop on nearby streets and cars must find parking elsewhere. Visitors must walk or bike (or use a wheelchair if needed) in from those stops or parking areas. Therefore it is probably best to book a tour bus, as we did, to get you around the Capitol Mall area.
About 4 months ago, I had requested a visit to the White House through our congresswoman, but the week before our trip, was denied due to too many previous bookings for the day of the request. (A bus driver shared with me that only 10% of those who make requests actually receive confirmations to visit.) Also, we had reservations for front of line to visit the top of the Washington Monument. But we received a call beforehand informing us that the Monument was closed indefinitely due to the breakdown of the elevator, which is now going to be replaced instead of repaired as in the past since the earthquake in 2011.
So the 2nd full day of our visit, we had breakfast near Chinatown before hopping on the bus to our first destination: the Jefferson Memorial.
Next we visited Arlington National Cemetery. The double-decker tour bus did not have a permit to go over the bridge to the Cemetery, so they provided a smaller van to take us there from the Lincoln Memorial bus stop. Once we arrived, we had the choice to walk through the cemetery or take a tram which charged only $6 for veterans and their guests. We chose the tram since there would be lots of hills to climb throughout-good choice. It was an on/off tram that went to several key locations with a tour guide to explain many things as we rode along. It was indeed a very humbling experience.
We spent most of the afternoon touring the National cemetery. After returning on the shuttle bus back to the Lincoln Memorial bus stop area, we walked over to the Korean War Memorial – The 19 stainless steel statues were sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, VT and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, NY. They are approximately seven feet tall and represent an ethnic cross section of America. The advance party has 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy and 1 Air Force members. The statues stand in patches of Juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment. The ponchos seem to blow in the cold winds of Korea.
Next we walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, this time to see it in the daytime. Unfortunately at this point, my iPhone’s battery died, from which I was taking pictures. I took more on Mikkel’s phone’s camera, but it is with him and he is still in California recovering from eye surgery. But I already posted pictures from our night tour. We returned by subway back to our Airbnb room and walked over for dinner at a nearby Ethiopian restaurant later that evening.
Our third and final full day, we spent the day at several museums. We again rode the subway to L’Enfant Plaza to catch a tour bus. This time we sat on the top level which was enclosed and was given a private tour since we were the only couple on board. We stopped for a briefly at the U.S. Capital Building. The flags were not flying because neither Senate nor Congress were in session until after the election and the staging for the inauguration of the newly elected President was being built as we passed by. Afterwards we continued through town until we arrived at a stop near the White House Visitor Center, across from the President’s Park near the White House. Inside we were able to view over 90 artifacts from the White House collection, shop at the White House Historical Association retail store, and view the 14 minute film, “White House: Reflections From Within”.
Then we walked a few blocks to the National Museum of American History. Through research, in-depth exhibits, extensive collections and public outreach, the museum presents America’s history in all of its complexity. Its collection features more than three million artifacts, from Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz to sheet music written by DC legend Duke Ellington.
A few more blocks away, we walked to the National Archives where we viewed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitutions, and the Bill of Rights (no photos allowed). It is where the records of the U.S. Federal Government are held and online access to art works, military and veterans records, U.S. Census data, legal documents, etc.
Wish we could have had another few days. There was so much we did not get to visit such as Ford’s Theater and the two Smithsonian Art Museums. With all that walking, we were exhausted. So we took the Metro back for a rest. But for dinner, we decided to go back on the Metro to Chinatown since it was a simple 4-block walk to the underground station and then only 2 stops on the train. Plenty of Chinese restaurants to choose from; found a good one around the corner from the subway entrance.
Early the next morning (6am), we were picked up by the previously scheduled SuperShuttle van which drove us to Dulles International Airport. Mikkel & I said our goodbyes as he exited for Southwest Airlines to fly to San Jose, California for his annual VA physical. I continued on to catch a Copa Airlines flight back to Panama. There our trusted taxi driver drove me across town to a hotel near the bus terminal. The next day I walked across the road and boarded the bus to Chitré where my friends were waiting with their car to bring me home to Pedasí.
Finally after 11 days, home sweet home. But what an unforgettable adventure. I thank God that we had such an opportunity, even in this “third life” of ours living in Pedasí. Hope my readers enjoyed a little taste of our travel experience away from home.