Memorial Day DC trip

May 30, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So, how weird is it to move away, then return two weeks later as a tourist? People kept asking me where I was from, and I kept pausing to think before I answered, heh.

I flew down on Friday afternoon, meeting my good college friend Tori at Union Station. She’d never been to DC before, so we had a lot to see. After parking our stuff at Chateau Burns (thanks, again, Julie and Royce!), we headed back to town for our Bike the Monuments night tour. Adorned with dorky day-glow vests and gaudy bike helmets (mine was child-size, so uber-gaudy), we set off with a group of 15 tourist and an informative tour guide. And I’m telling ya, if you’re going to see all the monuments, this is the way to do it. In three hours we hit Washington, Jefferson, FDR, Korea, Vietnam, WWII, and Lincoln, and we hardly broke a sweat. I’d never seen the WWII or Korean War memorials, and both were really quite stunning. I also learned some interesting memorial trivia. One I found particularly interesting: Two men in the Vietnam War made a pact, if they made it out of the war alive, after they’d made their first million dollars, they’d buy each other a Harley. Only one of the men survived the war, and years later after he’d made his first million, he bought a Harley and left it at the Vietnam Wall. Another interesting fact: Each of the war memorials was built in the opposite order in which it was fought.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early with the hopes of getting tickets to ride up to the top of the Washington Monument. They were sold out when we got there, so instead we headed to the Air and Space Museum right as it opened. Which was actually pretty cool because every other time I’ve been there it’s been wall-to-wall people, and this time we had some breathing room. We got to see the American History exhibit, which is temporarily housed there while that museum is renovated. Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Kermit the frog, Abe Lincoln’s hat, and Thomas Edison’s first lightbulb were among the treasures. Tori works at an Air Force base, so it seemed perfect that there was a fighter pilot IMAX movie showing. Apparently she’s on a waiting list to take a back-seat ride in an F-15, but after seeing that movie, I don’t think I’d have the stomach for it. It was really fun for me to learn a little more about what she does at the base–she even knew some people who had attended Red Flag. In a military mood, we stopped off at the Naval Memorial on our way to my favorite DC haunt, Matchbox. I had my usual mini burgers and chicken pesto pizza. Stuffed to the gills, we headed back over to the Vietnam Wall to get a better look–on the night of our bike tour there was a Rolling Thunder rally going on, and we couldn’t even get close. Being Memorial Day weekend, we came across a lot of items left in remembrance. But no motorcycles.

Sunday we got up earlier to stand in an hour-long line at the Washington Monument kiosk only to be turned away after tickets sold out again. Not to be discouraged, we instead headed over to the International Spy Museum, one of my favorites. I’d been there twice before, but Tori’s meticulous sight-seeing made this trip more fun for me than before. Between the two of us we managed to remember the details of our “assignment”, something I usually give up on the first try. There were several little games to play at the beginning which I’d always skipped over–like spot the surveillance threat, and point out suspicious activities. I wish James could have been there. After perusing the gift shop, we went to another of my Chinatown favs, Gorden-Biersch for some brunch–eggs benedict served on steak. Mmmmm…

From there we took the train over to the White House–you can’t visit DC and not see the White House–then hoofed it over to the National Geographic Museum to check out the displays. There was only one exhibit there, and it was meant for kids, but at least we enjoyed the AC. Then we took the Circulator to Georgetown–uncharted territory for me. My friend Lisa (on the phone) helpfully directed us to the infamous staircase featured in The Exorcist. We took a pleasant stroll around the Georgetown University campus until a big storm rolled through and we found ourselves soaked in the cemetery. Thankfully I’d packed an umbrella, but it was hardly adequate for two. We managed to snag a cab over to Dupont Circle to eat sushi at Uni, another of my favs. We got one of the best seats over by the window, and the edemame and mango rolls were to die for. Feeling like we’d walked seven miles–in fact, I bet we did–we made our way back to Julie’s to crash for the night.

Monday, up early once again, we headed down to Arlington Cemetery. The Women in the Military Memorial was particularly poignant for Tori, so we spent some time looking at the displays there. It was Memorial Day, so of course it was packed, but we managed to get seats on the tour bus so we could see the JFK eternal flame, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Arlington House. I hadn’t been there since my visit in ’93, so it was nice to see again. I’d forgotten how elaborate the ceremony for the changing of the guard was. I also never realized how big the cemetery was–and sadly, they’re starting to run out of space. National Geographic has an interesting article this month about it.

After burning most of the afternoon, we headed to Arlington to see my favorite museum on this trip, Bodies: The Exhibition. Using cutting-edge techniques to showcase real human cadavers, this somewhat disturbing but highly informative exhibit elicited numerous, “Wicked!”s from the both of us. I highly recommend this to anyone not faint of heart. Seeing real-life smoker’s lungs was all it took for me to never pick up a cigarette again. Ick. We spent the last bits of the afternoon admiring the nearby Iwa Jima memorial, which was much bigger than I’d anticipated.

Tuesday we finally managed to get tickets to ride the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument. While it might not have been breathtaking, it was certainly interesting to learn the history of the construction, and see old photographs of the Mall comparing it to what we were seeing out the windows. We had lunch with our friend Jeremy at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC institution I regret never having gone to. Mmmm…chili dogs. Jeremy told us about a new Air Force monument near his house in Arlington, and Tori’s little eyes lit up, so we headed down there before our Capitol tour. It was brand-new, only eight months old, so I’d never seen it. We’d kept catching glimpses of it from around town, but it was hard to see just how incredibly big it was until we were standing right next to it. At 270 feet tall, it was awfully impressive.

We spent the last of our time in DC on a capitol tour, which ran over and made Tori late for her train. No worries, the next train came an hour later. I’m a little envious Tori gets to spend the rest of her week in NYC. As much as I hated living there, when I started telling her all the best places to visit and eat, it made me really miss it.

So now I’m back, and with the last of my big vacations spent, I’m hoping I can finally settle in to my new digs. The house is still in various stages of unpacking, so it’s not feeling like home yet. This trip has kind of thrown me out of whack, and I’m feeling a bit disoriented–like I’m on vacation somewhere still. I’m sure that’ll wear off in the coming weeks.


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