Last year we got a pretty unique Christmas bonus: a “personal betterment” trip, partially funded by dt. This was a pretty awesome surprise bonus and I thought of the perfect place to go and the perfect time to “spend” it. This year is my wife’s and mine fifth wedding anniversary (yay!) and both of us have had a desire to go to the east coast; what better place than our nation’s capitol? So, here we are in Washington DC for a week celebrating our fifth anniversary and “bettering” ourselves. I’ve decided that while we’re here I’ll be blogging about our experience to share it with everyone else. I’ll be trying to blog daily, but sometimes that won’t be possible (i.e. this first post). So, stay tuned over the next few week to experience DC with A and I!
All of day 1 was planned as travel, maybe a little dinner our first night in DC. This, unfortunately, did not go according to plan. By Sunday evening we were ready to go; the house was clean, the bags were packed and travel arrangements to and from the airport were in place.
Everything was peachy, until we tried to check-in. Basically, Travelocity screwed up and never notified us our flight changed and was leaving an hour earlier than we last heard from them about a flight change. I was having trouble checking in online the night before and even called American Airlines about it. They said the flight was “under airport control” – basically we couldn’t check in online and we had to go to a kiosk at the airport the next morning. “No problem” I thought, everyone else was having this problem, so it wouldn’t be like we’d be in boarding group 15 and be forced to check all our bags. So, I printed out our itinerary and receipt ready to present it the next morning to check-in – completely missing the fact that the flight said 8:40am and not 9:40am. Needless to say, we missed our flight.
$150 later to re-book a later flight (we opted not to go with trying to catch a free stand by and arrive the next morning), we were set with a 3:30pm flight that after a quick connect in Dallas would arrive in Washington DC at 12:50am or so – we even got a “preferred seating” (read: extra leg room) on some of the legs of our flight. Well, it turns out the wait at the airport was a pretty relaxing start to the vacation in spite of the morning’s mishaps. I could only be mad at myself and that wasn’t going to help anything, so I stopped being mad. God is sovereign and I’m sure He had a plan in it – even if it was to just trust He’d bring us there anyways and to get over myself for missing the flight change. The rest of the flight was all right, but the last leg left late and due to the flaps not going down all the way for landing (scary!) and getting redirected to IAD from DCA for the longer runway to land, we finally got to our hotel at 3am in the morning EST – and collapsed.
So, due to the late (early) arrival at our hotel, we had to change our morning plans a little and skip the National Aquarium today. No big though, we’ll do it later in the week on our free day if we still really feel like we need to go (meh, not that important). We did however have reserved tickets for the steep price of $2 (stupid online reservation convenience fee) for the National Holocaust Museum, so we needed to be up and out to make it there by 11am.
After a quick cab ride we started our day with the National Holocaust Museum tour. They had a special exhibition running called State of Deception, The Power of Nazi Propaganda. Being someone who is regularly involved in marketing campaigns, this was a very interesting, if not disturbing, exhibit about the worst form of marketing. The campaign of hate that Hitler ran was shocking in its effectiveness and its deception to his fellow countrymen. Even more shocking was how easily so many of the German people sacrificed their own morals to commit the atrocities that occurred during WWII.
The propaganda exhibit was an appropriate start to the rest of the museum. We walked through 4 floors of a chronological presentation of what started as a rallying of a dis-unified, poverty stricken nation build to the greatest genocide in the history of mankind. As we walked through the museum we each followed a person who lived during that period, finding their fate at the end of the museum tour. The exhibit was moving with many unique exhibits. One particular impactful display had thousands of shoes from those Jews who were forced through the gas showers and ultimately cremation. The poem on the wall above piles of shoes captured the mood of this image best:
We are the shoes, We are the last witnesses
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers.
From Prague, Paris and Amsterdam
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh,
Each one of us avoided the Hellfire
-Yiddish poet Moses Schulstein
After a shocking and thought provoking morning at the museum, we had lunch at the way over-priced museum cafe next door (hey, we were starving from the day before and it was right there) to energize us for the rest of the day. Here’s a map of our travels:
View Washington DC, Day 2 in a larger map
We had an amazing time walking the mall and seeing the monuments and memorials. I was amazed and inspired by the impressiveness of the larger than life monuments. We saw almost every monument around the tidal basin, but I’ll highlight a few that were especially impressive to see.
The Washington Monument was a sight to see in person, especially knowing a little about its history. Originally started in 1848, construction stopped a short while later when the money ran out. In 1876 President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned its completion, but they no longer had access to any supply of the same stone that was used to start construction. You can see the line plain as day where original construction stopped and the new construction begins. Its amazing to think of the work that went into creating this enormous stone structure considering a complete lack of modern construction equipment.
At the other end of the reflecting pool we stopped by the Lincoln Memorial. The scale of Lincoln in his chair was impressive to say the least, a fit for what this man helped accomplish during his term as president. I’ve read before about Lincoln’s dualistic portrayal in this monument and seeing it in person was clear as day. The original artist did an excellent job expressing Lincoln’s capable personality as a peace maker and commander in chief.
Surprisingly, the most moving memorial to me was probably the Vietnam Memorial. The photos that I’ve seen of this memorial never really made sense to me as an appropriate honoring of the men who sacrificed all in that war. After walking the memorial though, I’ve changed my mind. As you make your way down the wall you see the names of soldiers who died one, then 2, then 5, then 20, then 100s at a time as the wall grows higher and higher until it towers above you. The emotions invoked by the thought of these dead soldiers drove home the beauty of the design as a powerful memorial to the sacrifices these troops made.
All in all, this day was a great kick-off to our time here in Washington D.C. A respectful and awe inspiring honoring of America’s past heroes and historic giants just seems like the right way to begin our time here. I look forward to the rest of our trip starting with our tour of Capitol Hill tomorrow. We’ve got 200+ photos from today and its late, so I’m going to postpone adding photos to this post until later.