Sunday, June 27, 2010

Vacation Day Six

On Thursday we planned on visiting the area around the White House and then Ford's Theater (where Lincoln was shot). Since we hadn't contacted our Representative early enough to get on a tour of the White House, we'd just have to walk around the outside.

We went to the metro station near the White House and started walking. It was really easy to find, we just had to follow the protesters and tourists.

Here's a view of the North face of the White House.
And here are all the tourists standing in front of the White House fence.

And this is one of the counter-sniper positions on the White House roof.

To get to the south lawn, we had to walk a few blocks out of the way to get around the fence. On the way we stopped at the White House visitor's center.
This is the main hall of the visitor's center. The center had a bunch of displays of stuff (china, fabric, etc) from the White House. The kids got bored pretty quick.

Then, we found a kids center. It consisted of pictures to color and markers. Suddenly the kids were interested...
Here Molly and Abby color their pictures.

After coloring in the visitor's center for a while, we headed out again to go to the south lawn.
Here's a view of the south face of the White House. I was surprised by how small the building was.
Amy and the kids posed for a picture in front of the lawn. Unfortunately they were all looking into the sun, so they look a little squinty.
Then, they did a "silly" picture. Thomas was too mature to be silly, so he didn't want to be in the picture. Amy managed to be silly, while Molly and Abby understood "silly" to mean rub your eyes.

After the White House, we headed over to Ford's Theater.
The Park Service runs the theater as a tourist site during the day, and a working theater in the evening. During the day, there are presentations every 30 minutes. We had gotten tickets (from Ticketmaster!!) earlier, and it was a good thing we did. When we arrived, there was this long line in front. We thought they were people waiting for tickets, but it turned out to be ticket holders waiting for their presentation. We got in line and waited in the sun for our presentation to start. When they opened the doors, we finally got to go into the air conditioning.
We sat in the balcony for the presentation. A Park Ranger came out and gave a really interesting 15 minute talk on the events of the day of Lincoln's assassination. I thought it was interesting, but Thomas got pretty bored. I think it was because he was expecting explosions and people running and lasers and such. All he got was talking.

This is the box where Lincoln was shot. The flags and furniture are supposed to be accurate recreations and some originals from that day.
After the talk at Ford's Theater, we could have visited the room where Lincoln died. After he was shot, his staff moved him across the street to this boarding house, where several hours later he died. We didn't feel like waiting in line again, so we skipped this part of the tour and headed back to our hotel.

On the way home, Molly got to do one of her favorite activities. She got to ride and play on the metro train.
Here she is dancing around the pole in the train.

After we got back to our hotel, we headed back to the waterfront. The kids played on the sand and in the statue again.
Here's the hand reaching out of the sand
Molly sitting on the sand. She was filling her sandals with sand.
And here she is climbing out of the giant's mouth
Abby sitting on the giant's head.
Thomas played in the giant's mouth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vacation Day Five

On Wednesday we spend most of the day driving. First we went to the National Zoo. Driving through DC's streets (even with a GPS) was terrible. Everything was under construction or didn't go where we thought it would. Eventually, after touring a number of roundabouts and dead ends, we got to the zoo. Like the rest of the Smithsonian, it's "free". That is, it's free to enter, but you'll pay like at Disneyland for everything else. $15 for a stroller (and I had to surrender my drivers license to get it), $2 for a map, etc...

One thing that really interested me was the "O line" at the zoo. The Orangutans have a compound and also a research center. But the two are across the zoo from each other. The "O line" is a line of cables about 40ft off the ground that run from the compound to the research center. In the morning if the Orangutans want to go from the compound to the center, they just start climbing the cables and go hand over hand across the zoo. The towers the support the cables have a resting place, but have a electrified fence below the platform. And I guess the cables are too high for the Orangutans to let go and drop to the pavement. So, they have the freedom to move around and swing over tourist heads, but can't run free.
Here's an owl that I liked, since it's perched on a cactus.
This is one of the pandas that the zoo "rents" from the Chinese, for about $1 Million a year.

After the zoo, we headed up to the Washington DC temple. We wanted to show the kids where we got married. We went to the visitor's center, and were about the only people in there. So, we got some Sisters to show us around and tell the kids about the Temple. The kids each got Future Missionary tags and a picture of Jesus. Then, we went and watched a short video in one of the video rooms. While we were watching, Molly said to me "Daddy, my hand's getting tired. Can you hold Jesus up so He can watch the movie?" She'd been holding her picture up so He could see the movie with her.
Here's a picture of us and the temple. I had my little (4" high) tripod, so this picture ended up looking a little off center and strange.
Here's a couple pictures of the temple and the fountains.

After the Temple, we headed over to Arlington National Cemetery to see Amy's grandfather's grave. We stopped off at the main building to have them look up which section and gravestone was his. Once again I was stuck by how the staff (that's supposed to handle looking up records) seemed put out that we asked them to do so. However, everyone else there was really great. Once we had a pass, we got to drive into the cemetery and visit the graves. It was an overcast and drizzly day, so it was perfect for visiting a cemetery.
After searching around, we found Amy's Grandfather's grave.
Here's his tombstone up close.

After we left the grave, we headed up to the tomb of the unknown soldier. We got there in time for the Changing of the Guard and a Wreath Laying Ceremony.
Here 3 of Guards escort a wreath out for the Ceremony
One of the soldiers marching in front of the tombs. By now, the rain had really picked up. It was just pouring down.

They guard the tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in any weather. The guard marches back and forth with exactly 21 steps, turns, stands for 21 seconds, turns again and marches 21 steps back. According to the guide book, the mat that they march on, wears out in specific spots from the soldier stepping in the same place again and again.
As the guard marches past the line of tourists and the wreath. Even though there were about 20-30 tourists watching, you could nearly hear a pin drop. The Tomb of the Unknown soldier was the only place where everyone was quiet.
The Mausoleum with the Tomb of the Unknown soldier in front. The tomb is the smaller, marble box in front. The box is for the unknown soldier from WWI, the Unknowns from WWII, Korea and Vietnam are under marble slabs behind the tomb. This polished, white marble was super slippery in the rain.
Looking over a field of headstones near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Finally, here's a video of the Changing of the Guard that we took at the Tomb.

video

After Arlington, we quickly drove home, cleaned up and then drove back north of DC to visit one of Amy's friends from North Carolina. Bethany and Chris Call have lived near Washington for several years. So, we went and had dinner with them at crazy-busy Mexican restaurant that was about half way between their house and our hotel. We had a fun visit and it was good to catch up with them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vacation Day Four

On Tuesday the first thing we did was take a DUKW (Duck) tour. The DUKW is a WWII era amphibious truck. So the tour started at Union Station in DC. We drove through the streets of the city looking at sights.
Here's the DUKW reflected in a building's mirror glass. It's long, slow and loud but was a really unique tour. If you look closely in the reflection you might see some of us in the picture. Toby and Abby are sitting at the front, while Thomas is on the other side and is not visible. Amy and Molly are toward the back and might also be visible.

After driving around DC (and annoying the drivers) we reached the marina. The driver now became our captain. He just engaged the propeller and we drove down into the water.
Boating through the marina
Here's Thomas behind our Captain.
Here's the pentagon from the river. The tour took us through the river and around Reagan International Airport. We got to watch planes take off over our heads and hope that none of the planes sucked a bird into the engine on takeoff.

After driving out of the water on the Pentagon side of the river, we headed back to Union Station. Here's a few of the statues on the front of the Station.

The interior of the Station was really interesting. The roof held a number of pounds of gold leaf.
As well as statues. In our guidebook it said that the architect modeled it after a Roman bath house, hence all the Roman statues!

After the tour, we headed down the Mall. It's about 2 miles long, but we started about half way down, at the Smithsonian.
Here's the family walking down the Mall toward the Washington Monument
At the base of the Monument, there's a plaza. Since we hadn't registered for tickets months in advance, we didn't get to go up in the Monument.
Abby had really, really, REALLY wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, since they learned about it in school. So, we took a picture of her and the Memorial, to prove that she'd gone there (in case the kids got tired of walking). It's a little hard to see here, but it's behind her. Of course the kids made the walk to the Lincoln Memorial, it was just walking back where they got whiny.
On the DUWK tour, everyone got a duck call. Here's Abby trying out her call. The kids were only allowed to play with them outside (for obvious reasons...)
After the Washington Monument, we crossed the street and went to the new WWII memorial. It was a nice monument, though it didn't stand out. Thomas is really into WWII right now, so he really liked it. Throughout the memorial the major campaigns of the War are listed, which Thomas was able to tell me a little about each one.

Around the outside of the Memorial, there are 56 pillars which list each state or territory from the US that send troops to the War. We wanted to get a picture of each kid in front of their state.
Here's Thomas in front of Mississippi. But since the 51st state (Canada) doesn't have a pillar, Molly didn't have one to stand if front of. So, she decided to stand with Thomas (even though we tried to get her out of the picture)
Here's Abby in front her state. The purse that she's wearing is one that we bought her at Union Station. She was so excited to carry a purse.
Here we are walking down the tree-shaded path along the reflecting pool. Since it was in the high 80's and humid, it was nice to get into shade.
The kids walking along the Vietnam memorial. I hadn't realized how reflective the stone is.
The Washington Monument reflected in the Vietnam memorial
Finally, we made it to Abby's goal, the Lincoln Memorial.
The statue in the Memorial. It didn't come to life like in the movie (Night at the Museum 2). Hollywood has let us down again...
The Washington monument and the reflecting pool from the Lincoln memorial
The Korean war memorial. It was an odd combination of traditional statues with modern reflective stone and abstract pools. By this time we were all tired and the kids "couldn't walk aaaannnnny farther" so they weren't too interested in the memorial.
Here's one of the statues with the wall in the background.

After the Korean war memorial, we walked back about a mile to the metro station and headed back to the hotel.