Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Washington D.C. Part 2

After a brutal 10+ mile day on Sunday and some serious jet lag, The Man and I eased our way into the week on Monday.  We slept late, finally getting to breakfast around 10:00am.  I patched up my blistered toe the best that I could with my travel first aid kit, but it hurt terribly.

After breakfast, we walked down to the National Mall again and began our sightseeing at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  Of all of the places I was so excited to see, this was probably the biggest let-down.
The museum is geared for children and tourists too tired to think, so I didn't really learn anything here.  We saw the Hope Diamond, some other cool gems and minerals, and toured the mummy exhibit.  Having been to the Oregon Coast Aquarium a dozen times each, the ocean section was incredibly dull for us.  Even the gift shops here were lackluster.  The worst part of this museum was the crowds of school groups all jockeying for position to take selfies or ignore the really cool science they should be learning.  It was by this point, only two days into our vacation, that The Man and I began referring to these groups as IGAs, or, forgive the swearing, irreverent groups of assholes. The kids didn't care where they were, if they were in anyone's way, or if they were supposed to be doing something.  They were just glad to be out of the classroom and doing whatever they could to one-up each other.  Seriously annoying!  And the IGAs were everywhere.
The Hope Diamond: 45.52 carat blue diamond

Beryl, green mineral, cut in obelisk shape about 15" tall

After lunch, we hobbled through the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  This museum was much, much better.  Though both of us had aching feet, we toured two-thirds of this amazing place.  The flag room was breathtaking, and the section on automobiles was inspiring.  I really enjoyed most of the museum (IGAs not withstanding).  We spent a long time in the section about war, and I could have spent ages looking at Julia Child's actual kitchen. We ended up having to leave as the museum was closing, but we came back on another day to see what we missed on this first trip.  Very, very cool place.

Crib quilt with some of the smallest stitches I've ever seen
On Tuesday, we set out at 6:00am for our Grand Adventure, or at least the most elaborate day of our trip.  We ate an early breakfast before hopping on two different Metro trains to get down to the waterfront.  Our cruise--yes, cruise--south down the Potomac to Mt. Vernon left at 8:00am.  The weather was perfect for cruising aboard the Spirit of Mount Vernon ship, and The Man and I stayed on the top deck with most of the other fifty passengers.  With the second floor closed off and the first floor pretty dull, we opted for the sun deck by default--but not regretting that decision at all.  The boat could probably hold five hundred passengers among the three decks, so it was blissfully empty on our trip.  We were definitely the youngest couple on board, but that was just fine by us.  We sailed, accompanied by a narrated tour guide, for about ninety minutes before reaching Mt. Vernon.

Alexandria, VA, pier: the man was on this pier on his last business trip!

Mt. Vernon, our first president's home, was beautiful.  We only had three hours to tour the entire estate before our boat left to take us home, so we had to move quickly.  Our first stop was a tour of the home, and while the architecture was nice and the tour guides helpful, the IGAs were rampant.  We had to deal with hundreds of kindergartners running everywhere without a clue why they were at this place, frazzled chaperons just trying to keep everyone contained (quiet, apparently, was not in the cards), and tour buses full of tourists just like us trying to survive the humidity and lack of breeze.

George Washington's tomb (he's on the right, and Mrs. Washington is on the left)
Despite crippling pain from my blister and a newly sore knee from having been limping for two days, we still managed to put in a solid five miles on the estate.  We saw George Washington's tomb and his original tomb where he no longer resides.  We visited at least twenty outbuildings and slave quarters or workshops, spent a few dollars at the incredible gift shop (best in D.C. by miles), and took the scenic route through the grounds back to the pier.

Mt. Vernon from the bowling green
And this, dear reader, is where things went pear shaped.  Our wonderful cruise boat was taken over by two hundred 8th graders for the return trip to D.C. These children, once aboard, turned into hungry, cranky, LOUD demons who all made both The Man and myself rethink having our own children.  The chaperons of this large group must have all popped in earbuds and checked out for the trip as we didn't see any of them correct bad behavior once.  Looking around, we could see our fellow passengers from the morning all cringe.  Many were drinking alcohol, doing whatever it takes to zone out and numb the cacophony.  I finally turned to The Man and declared, "I don't care if I get a sun burn, I don't care if I fry to blisters, we're going topside and staying there for the rest of this trip!"  We got up to climb to the sun deck where we'd had such a beautiful trip down.  Just as we reached the second floor (between the zoo on the first and the sun deck on the third), I spied some people from our original trip south hiding on the previously closed-off second floor.  The captain of the ship had taken pity on those of us suffering with the animals and allowed us to weather the ride on the second floor.  He said we had to get out our own chair and put them back when we docked, but otherwise we were free to enjoy the quiet, air conditioned trip north.  We chatted with another couple who, amazingly, also met as ballroom dancers!  They were about our parents' age, had kids our age, were from the great Pacific Northwest, and were a joy to talk to for the last hour of our trip.

We docked around 3:00pm and made our way back to our hotel via two more Metro trips, more hobbling, and more dreaming of our less-humid home.

Washington Monument at dusk, thunderheads in the background
BUT WAIT!  Just when we thought all the walking was done for the day, with the threat of thunderstorms every night for the remainder of our vacation, The Man and I set out on our SECOND Great Adventure for the day!  After dinner, we decided to walk back down to the National Mall and get pictures of the monuments and memorials in the dark.  Four hours and another five miles later, we returned to our hotel hating middle school field trips, loving the memorials, and dearly wishing we weren't so sore.  By the time we reached the Mall, I was literally dragging my blistered toes behind me.  My knee was burning and aching with every step.  I so desperately wanted these pictures, but getting them almost proved more than I could take.

World War II Memorial 
Vietnam Memorial

The White House (we didn't tour here)
 Waking up on Wednesday was impossible.  We both slept very late, with us finally getting to breakfast around 10:00am.  We rode the Metro over to Arlington National Cemetery and quickly got roped into buying the $9.00 per person tram tour through the cemetery.  We stopped to see the eternal flame at JFK's gravesite, watched a changing-of-the-guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, saw the Challenger and Columbia memorials, and visited Arlington House.  Without a doubt, that tram was a lifesaver!  We both wish we would have been able to see more, but we were both still exhausted.  We missed the Iwo Jima memorial and about two-thirds of the cemetery otherwise, so there's definitely more to see if we ever return.

Arlington National Cemetery
Wednesday night involved much resting.  We went to bed early after dinner, loaded on painkillers, patched up the best we could manage, and still too sore to move.  We were determined to make the most of our last full day of vacation.  More on that next time!


Linda G said...

enjoying the blog. I have always wanted to go to DC and tour the Smithsonian and the Memorials. thanks for all the comments . If I go, do you think there is a time that there is no IGAs?

Jaggy said...

We were told that the best time to visit without too much hassle is in January and February. The IGAs really pick up in March and go through June, but then the summer is hot and families are on vacation. After school starts again in the fall, a few schools do their trips and Congress is in full swing.

The only thing to worry about in the dead of winter is the Metro closing during really bad snowstorms. Otherwise it should be a great time to visit!