Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Capitol Idea! (cont.)

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Our last full day in DC was set aside for Arlington National Cemetery, a beautiful but solemn place. We took our time waking up, breakfasting, and getting on the metro. A short walk from the closest metro stop, and we were at the welcome center. There, you can learn more about the cemetery and pick up some handy maps to help you navigate through it. (Arlington is large, and the number of graves there is still growing. There are still 25-30 funerals there per day.)

For utility's sake, we each bought a ticket for the hop on, hop off bus that takes you throughout the cemetery. We got off at the first stop - the Eternal Flame. I'm not sure what to say about this. President John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, and two of their children are buried here, and the graves of Ted and Bobby Kennedy are nearby. It's odd to me that such a present tragedy is such a tourist attraction, but I guess all of Arlington is like that. I felt the same way when we visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It's almost as if I'm not ready to be a vacationer in these places yet.

the Marine Corps War Memorial
From there, we decided to walk up to Arlington House, which was Robert E. Lee's home. We toured the gardens and the little museum about the Lee family. We also visited the nearby Tomb of the Unknown Confederate Dead. From there, we decided to walk over to the Memorial Amphitheater (a gorgeous space) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We stayed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for a while. There is something so poignant about it. That even though we don't know who those boys are (It contains soldiers from WWI, WWII, and Korea.), they are not forgotten. They are watched over. Their sacrifice mattered. We watched the changing of the guard before boarding the bus again.

Oddly, though, the bus didn't take us to the Marine Corps War Memorial, which I definitely wanted to see. I asked our bus tour guide about it, and he mentioned that they'd routed around it for the morning due to ongoing funeral services. Not willing to miss it, hubs and I hopped off the bus again at the welcome center and hoofed it.

The memorial was much larger than I thought it would be. And because the buses weren't running, we had it largely to ourselves. We walked around it, learned all about the men it honored, and thought a good long while about what sacrifice really means.

By this time, my stomach was rumbling. Because the Marine Corps War Memorial is on the edge of Arlington, we were actually quite close to some restaurants. We decided to have a seafood lunch at Quarterdeck. It's a local bar/restaurant, nothing fancy to look at. What's notable is what shows up on the plates! I had a freaking AMAZING crab cake sandwich. No filler. It was a thing of beauty! Throw in some fries and wash it down with a Coke, and I was one happy diner!

After lunch, we walked back towards the Marine Corps Memorial. The buses were running again, so we hopped one back to the welcome center and caught the metro to our little apartment. As we were leaving the next morning, we spent the afternoon packing and getting our things in order.

We stopped for a delicious dinner at Boundary Road, this cool bar/restaurant we'd been walking past all week. OMG! So good! I couldn't believe we'd waited until so late in our trip to eat there! We started with specialty cocktails (I tried the I'm Thinking About Getting a Vespa, and hubs chose the Bootsy Collins.) and a plate of feather-light periogis. (I was diplomatic and shared these with hubs, though after my first bite, I thought about grabbing the dish and making a run for it.) The menu at Boundary Road is locally sourced and changes often, so I may break your heart with details about dishes that may not be available when you visit. That said, I chose a rich, fruit-studded duck breast, and hubs had a gorgeous plate of sausages and potatoes. It's safe to say that you'll enjoy eating here. The food is tasty and inventive, and the service is friendly.

The next morning was our last morning in DC! We had worked with our Congress person's office to arrange for a tour of The White House, so after breakfast, we set our sights on one of the most famous addresses in the world - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We arrived early, and after several security checks (They even have a dog sniff you.), we were in! We actually got to see quite a bit more of The White House than I thought we would. Rooms at the beginning (library, china room, vermeil room) were roped off at the door, so you could peep in but not stand in the room itself. Rooms later in the tour (blue room, east room, green room, state dining room, etc.), you got to walk through, albeit watched closely by Secret Service members and guides.

The Bradshaws at The White House!
You learn all kinds of things about the history of The White House and how the first family uses it during this tour. I found it very interesting to stride through rooms that have been witness to so much of our nation's history, and I liked that The White House makes a good impression of our country for visitors. I was so glad we chose to arrange this visit!

FYI - You can't take any photos inside The White House (sob!), but you can take some out front (with the house in the background) after your tour is over.

After our tour of the White House, we grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby Le Pain Quotidian, then it was apartment-airport-home!

I must say, I'd been to DC on an advocacy trip once before. We visited different Congressional offices to sit down with reps/senators and their staffs about issues. And I left that trip feeling demoralized. (We basically flung talking points at one another, then everyone went home. It was frustrating.)

But when you go to DC as an American tourist, you leave feeling proud of your country, how it was founded, and what it means. It's a completely different experience. I heartily recommend the latter, even if you can't avoid the former! I loved, loved, loved our week in the city, and I'm so thankful hubs and I were able to experience it together!

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