Thursday, November 14, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Day 3: The National Mall

I woke up with a migraine headache on our third day, plus it was raining.  We spent the morning at the campground instead of going into the city.  But by noon, I was feeling better (thanks to medication), and the rain had stopped.  So we ventured into the city after all.

Our first stop was the National Archives.  No trip to Washington, D.C., is complete without seeing the original handwritten copies of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  Normally the Magna Carta is displayed alongside America's most treasured documents, but it was away on a traveling exhibit.  We weren't able to see it when we were there, but we did marvel over the other documents on display.

(Note: Photography is not allowed inside the National Archives in order to help preserve the documents.)

Next we took a leisurely, but long, stroll along the National Mall.  We observed the impressive Smithsonian museums that line either side of the Mall, but we didn't go inside - yet!  We saved that for another day.  No, this stroll along the National Mall was purposed for seeing all the monuments and memorials. We stopped for a picture in front of the Smithsonian Castle, then walked across the green toward the monuments.

In order, here's a list of what we saw and my impressions of them:

1. Thomas Jefferson Memorial - It was much larger than I thought it would be, and quiet.  It had a great view across the Tidal Basin toward the Washington Monument.

2. George Mason Memorial - I wasn't even sure who this man was, so I learned something new!

3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial - I thought this would be just a statue or something, but it was a long, extended memorial that you walked through, each section highlighting a different term of his presidency. Since he served four terms, there was a lot to see!

4. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial - I was excited to see this one because it is the newest monument.  It met my expectations: classy, majestic, and impressive.

5. World War I Memorial - This was just a gazebo-like stone building, but it served its purpose.

6. Korean War Veterans Memorial - I thought this was very well done.  The statues showed grit and emotion.

7. Lincoln Memorial - At the far end of the National Mall, and overlooks the Reflecting Pool.  We sat on the steps of the memorial for a little while to rest our feet and enjoyed the distant view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building. This memorial is larger than life.  Loved it.  On the steps of the memorial is an inscription plaque in the location where Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his infamous "I Have a Dream" speech.

8. Vietnam Veterans Memorial - There are actually three parts to this memorial; most people are familiar with only one.  First we saw the Three Servicemen's Memorial, then we had a ranger-led guided tour of the Vietnam Veterans Wall, and lastly saw the Vietnam Women's Memorial.  It is stunning how many people were killed or MIA in that very unpopular war.

(Just a funny aside: In the garbage cans nearby, the boys spotted some discarded protestor signs. We saw many pro-coal protestors organizing a march the day before. The boys thought it would be a hoot to get a picture of their first experience as D.C. protestors!)

9. Constitution Gardens - The only reason I mention this place is because as we walked through it, we saw a red fox chase down, catch, and eat a squirrel.  Who knew my kids would get a lesson in the "circle of life" in downtown D.C.?

10. World War II Memorial - This was a beautiful fountain at the other end of the Reflecting Pool, with the Lincoln Memorial at the distant end.  As the sun was setting, we had an incredible view from here.

11. John Paul Jones Memorial - This statue was actually in the middle of a traffic circle, so we couldn't get too near to it.

12. Washington Monument - I mention this one last because it was the last one we passed, but it was able to be seen all along the National Mall.  We passed by the monument as dusk was settling.  The monument still had the scaffolding around it due to the ongoing repairs from the 2011 earthquake.

By the time we walked the rest of the length of the National Mall, darkness had set in.  Ahead of us, we saw the Capitol Building illuminated at night.

After we took our pictures of the Capitol, we headed back to the subway and went home for the day.  I'm still surprised that we saw as much as we did in only half of a day!