DC & NYC Trip

May 30, 2008

Goodbye New York

This is a slightly belated post; I was too tired to post it any sooner. Tuesday was our only full day in New York. Christina slept in again, so I went and got breakfast and woke her up. We didn’t get out of the room until noon. We started seeing the city, then headed over to Chinatown to meet a friend for Dim Sum.

Funny ad in Time Square

We really wanted to go inside and see if we could meet Tim Gunn. I bet we aren’t the first to come up with that idea

Empire State Building and Macy’s

They had these sorts of parking lots in Japan… only they were multiple stories.

One of the Government buildings

Ground Zero, right now it is basically a big hole

In Chinatown we got Dim Sum. Neither of us had ever had it before, so it was great going with a local who knew what to order, and a good restaurant. The food was fabulous, and I tried something new: tripe, aka cow stomach. He made us try it before he told us what it was. It tasted okay, but the texture was… interesting. After lunch we started our wandering.

The three of us:

Carving up a coconut so you can drink the milk from it. I’m not a fan of coconut, so I didn’t get one.

Little Italy is right next to Chinatown

These are the dumbest sunglasses ever! This is why CA should be left to start the fashion trends, not the East coast.

Nothing says Chinatown quite like duck

… and cow tongue

… and live fish, left to slowly die of asphyxiation

… and starfish

… and tiny, colorful, dried fish

In Little Italy we saw these huge pieces of cheese

There were a lot of gift stores here with everything from I heart NY shirts to knock off bags. A lot of them had a lot of shirts with not so nice language on them. I like to think that those working at the shop aren’t quite keen on what the shirts say. Aside from being vulgar, many of them also made no sense.

Little Italy with Empire State Building in the background

Some photos of Time Square at night

These guys were all over the place, making us feel safe, even when it was late at night

There were all of these horse drawn carriages where one could pay a lot for a short ride

At Time Square there is an M&M store that is three stories tall!

We didn’t have much time on Wednesday to do anything before we left. We had some gifts to get, so we focused on that after we had everything packed.

We thought this was just the funniest thing in the world (next to those stupid sunglasses). So tourist. No one in CA calls it Cali (to clarify, no one in So Cal calls it Cali, but those Nor Cal guys are a little different. They say hella, so maybe Cali isn’t off limits to them either), and yet there were shoes all over this Sketchers store with Los Angeles and Cali on them.

After the gifts were purchased we stopped by Roxy Deli for lunch before going to the airport. I’m not sure how authentic it is but it was pretty darn good. We split a salad and a 1lb pastrami sandwich. It goes without saying that the sandwich was huge. We were also given coleslaw which was amazing, and I hate coleslaw.


The leftovers: aka the meat we removed so we could fit the sandwich in our mouths

Afterwards we just HAD to get cheesecake. It was amazing, it was a lot lighter and fluffier than the stuff back home in CA.

Tina says, “I don’t even like cheesecake!”

On the plane we drove over these mountains. You can see them on google maps stretching from Scranton PA to Knoxville TN. They are a part of the Appalachian, and I think they might be the Blue Ridge, but I am not positive on that. Since you guys were already great in telling me what that dogwood was, maybe there is some geology buff who can explain this to me. I think that the long linear ridges may be related to glaciations

An entrenched meander, which says that there was lifting after the area had eroded away, which did happen with the Appalachians, so that fits.

These horizontal ridges go against my idea of glaciations. Unless it is a terminal merane (seds deposited at the end of a glacier)

Then there are the twists…

Sunset over the west

Ahhh back home!


May 27, 2008

Welcome to New York

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — lapearce @ 8:39 am

We left this morning for our second part of the trip: New York City. We originally was going to take the Amtrak up to NYC. The train leaves about every 40 minutes from Union Station, and 3 1/2 hours later, you are in New York. Good deal unless it is on a holiday… then you might as well fly with the sort of prices they want. Book in advance if you really want to take the train and its a special day. Instead of wasting a ton of money and saving an hour, we chose to take the bus.

Like the train, most buses leave from Union Station, but there is a new bus company called Vamoose that leaves from Arlington and Bethesda. Since Bethesda is 5 minutes away from Chevy Chase, we chose to use them. The bus is supposed to take four-five hours. We left at 9:30 on a weekday, but since it was a holiday we hit no traffic at all, and got there in nearly exactly four hours. From Penn station, it was only a couple blocks via taxi to our hotel.

Today we sort of just walked around and figured out the area we were in. We really should have hopped on one of the buses today. We didn’t now that the passes were good for two days, if we did, we could have started going around the city. Oh well, hindsight.

First thing we did today was walk down to Time Square, which is very close to our hotel.

We walked over a few blocks and found Rockafeller Center and Radio Center Music Hall

From there we went over to 5th Ave, which of cours was very trendy and expensive, and had a beautiful Cathedral.

I ❤ Sailors

May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

Filed under: rants, travel — Tags: , , , , , , — lapearce @ 9:56 am

Maybe happy isn’t the best adjective to use on this holiday. Contrary to popular believe, when Congress chose to set aside the last Monday in May as Memorial Day they didn’t do so with mattress and car sales in mind. I am so appalled that every holiday this nation has, no matter how hallowed, is suddenly an excuse to buy goods. I feel that all of these retailers should be ashamed of themselves for profiting off of a day reserved for honoring those who were killed in battle. Your father was killed in Vietnam? Celebrate by getting 30% off a futon!

As I have already clearly stated that this day isn’t about sales, so this post will also not be about sales. No, it will be about honoring those who gave their lives protecting our rights to buy a car this Monday. It is a very sorrowful day filled with so many deep and unending emotions. Being in Washington DC only magnifies all of these feelings.

Our trip this far has been very emotional, and today was no different. We visited Arlington Cemetery, Vietnam Memorial and the Korean Memorial today in order to pay our respects to our veterans and to those who never made it back from those horrible wars. I thank everyone who has served our country in order to keep us safe and to keep us free. I pray for all of those lives taken in our country’s wars, and I pray for their families, for the loss they have endured.

That’s enough typing, I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story. RIP

Day Six: Georgetown

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , , , — lapearce @ 9:42 am

Today was another late day, Christina was so engrossed in her book that she was up until after 3 finishing it last night. She wasn’t very easy to wake up this morning because of that. Once we were up we headed down to Georgetown. Georgetown is a very old, and very upscale part of DC. There are many expensive shops, houses, and an expensive school too. It is a very charming city, with a very busy main drag (Wisconsin and M), but a few blocks over from these intersection, it is just a quiet East Coast town with narrow buildings, and quaint little houses.

Now, because Georgetownians are so special to be living in such a historic and beautiful part of the city, and because it is SO exclusive, they chose to be excluded from the metro. This makes it a little difficult to get to Georgetown, the best way is by bus. You can find the best way by going online, or checking at the bus kiosks for what ever bus takes you to M and Wisconsin. Or, if you get off at Dupont Circle, there is a stop there for the blue Georgetown Dupont bus. The stop is marked with a blue sign, and the bus is baby blue. It was $1.50 for us on a Sunday, and it takes you right into Georgetown.

We started off with a meal at the Bistro France. This is one of my grandparent’s favorite spots. If you go, please weigh in on if the Maître d is male or female, we are leaning towards male. Their eggs Benedict is very good, the hollandaise is so rich and so good. After brunch we began to explore. There is a store here called Up Against the Wall that carries my cousin’s line Flip the Bird, but they were sold out. So we kept walking.

The houses in Georgetown are so cute

… but they are not cheap

Just a nice Vespa

One of the homes was having an open house, so we went inside to see what they were like.

Dining room


Fireplace in kitchen:

Master bedroom:

Stairs from top floor office:

The house was three very small floors. The first floor had a sitting room with a fire place, dining room with fire place, bathroom, and a kitchen with fireplace with a little porch outside. Middle floor had two bedrooms (and two fire places) and a bath, third floor had one room, and I cannot recall if it had a fire place or not. As you can guess, it was pretty cold when they made the home.

At this point we were well on our way to the Exorcist stairs, used in the movie. At the open house we met a very nice couple. The man, James was a marine and had spent some time at Pendleton. We spoke a little bit, and both ended up going over to the Exorcist stairs. They were very nice people.

The power of Christ compels you!

The house

We went over to Georgetown University from here. The campus was VERY quiet, I’m guessing they are out of school.

We saw these things on the way back towards the bus

Someone inside the house put up the Dubya sticker, someone outside but up the crossed out circle sticker

We made our grandparents dinner tonight to thank them for having us for the week, as well as to celebrate their anniversary. We were going to make a baked tofu and asparagus dish, but the grocery store was out of tofu, so we substituted chicken, it was still very good. If you are interested, the recipe is here .

Happy Anniversary!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — lapearce @ 9:14 am

Today is my grandparent’s eighth anniversary. No, I didn’t make a mistake; they have been married for eight years. My grandmother divorced long before I was born and spent many years single. She was living in Japan at this time, and had many friends at the U.S. Embassy there, including Bill Sherman. She was friends with Bill and his wife for many years. Some time after her passing they began to get friendlier with each other. He was in Washington at the time, and their courtship was primarily one done over the email.

In May 2000 they were both in Tokyo and they decided to get married. They called up the Embassy and learned that there were no openings for a wedding. Then, the next day (the 25th) they received a call at about 9:30 am telling them that there had been an opening at 11:30. They rushed down there and were quickly married. Since they were so well known among the Embassy an announcement was made in their honor and they had a little party.

We were all caught off guard by her sudden elopement, after all, we didn’t even know she had a boyfriend! Here she was, 79 years old getting married to her internet boyfriend. Oh the world we live in!

I love her new husband Bill very much, and he is much more of a grandfather to me than my blood grandfather ever was. I am so happy he has entered all of our lives, and I am glad that because of him, she has moved to a much more accessible area for us. Soon after they were wed she moved to Washington. They stop by Southern California every year, and hopefully we will be making more trips to the east coast to see them.

May 25, 2008

Day Five: Natural History Museum

After being up until 3 last night fixing the blog so that everything worked, I slept in late today. I got up at 11, showered, then tried to wake Christina up. She slept until nearly noon, and we didn’t leave the house until well after 1. That was fine, because we only had one thing on the agenda today: Smithsonian Natural History Museum.

We really wanted to see the American History Museum, but it is being renovated and won’t open until fall 😦 Our dad took us to see an exhibit of many of the wonders of the Smithsonian up in Los Angeles when we were children, our favorite parts of the exhibit all came from the American History Museum, such as the original Ruby (silver) slippers. But, this museum was highly recommended to us, and since we didn’t feel like driving all the way to Mt. Vernon, and are doing Georgetown tomorrow, we went for it.

I’m glad we did see this museum, I had an amazing time. I felt like a kid again on a field trip. I was running around, looking at everything. I was caught in a paradox between wanting to go fast enough to be able to see everything in time, and wanting to go slow enough to really appreciate it and read it all. Christina has a lot of fun as well, she preferred the Newseum, but I’m such a rock buff that I really liked the Natural History Museum. So far, it is my favorite thing we have done this trip.

The first thing we saw when we came in was this amazing calcified bird’s nest found in a cave in France. The chemical reaction between the acidic water and limestone (calcite) that makes stalactites did a wonderful job of preserving this little nest, and those little eggs. RIP to baby birds.

We then went upstairs and saw an exhibit on the Rastafarian culture. I didn’t know this was an actual religion. Rastafarians follow the bible very rigidly, they have dreadlocks to uphold the passage in the bible that disallowed the cutting of hair. They have a desire to be reunited with the customs of Africa long lost in their unwanted migration during the slave trade. Many return to Africa as a way to fulfill this yearning.

After this we saw some stuff from Africa, but I was too excited to get to the mammal collection to pay much attention.

Fossil of Irish Elk (back)

Alpaca (?)

Ancient do-dad related to the armadillo

GIANT ground sloth, this thing was at least 12 feet tall

Giant ant eater

There was a lot of info here on the ice age and a very nice display on glaciers and glacier processes. This Jasper conglomerate was carried by a glacier for over 300 miles

From there we got into fossils of things that were not mammals.

Like penguins

And fish

I would love to one day have a huge piece of fossil like this, like 4 feet across, to hang from a wall in my house. I wonder how much something like that would be worth. Probably thousands.



There was a leg bone from a brontosaurus here, it was about as long as I am tall. They were such large animals.

Then um, more mammals

Camel from Nebraska, it was about the size of a medium sized dog

This was one of my favorites. Here is a ground beaver inside its burrow. That Spiral next to it is its fossilized ramp leading to its home.

African mask from souvenir shop

Then we got into my forte, the rocks. We started with meteorites and worked our way to precious stones.

Sweet meteorite with olivine inclusions. I’d like to do a counter top in this… under the fossil of the swimming fish. Note to self: make lots of money

You can see the marks left on this meteorite from the stresses of entering our atmosphere

Then into Earthquake stuff.

Here is he seismograph on the quake that hit China last week. RIP to all those killed in this tragedy, last I saw the numbers were up to 50 thousand deaths!

Recent quakes:

For sale: 2 bed 1 bath in Bakersfield, Future Ocean View!

Earthquakes are cool, but volcanoes are even cooler. Here is the oldest rock ever found, it is a gneiss (pronounced nice) from Canada and it is 3.6 billion years old.

Stunning granite

This is something I have never seen before, or even heard of… volcanic stalactites! Basalt (the rock) leaked through cracks to made these bad boys

From there we got into minerals. Well, we had been seeing minerals all around since they are what make up rocks. But here they are, separated from each other, in all of their crystalline beauty.


This was the strangest by far, this mineral forms in very thin, fragile shapes that lead it to look like it is furry. It looks like the coat of a dead mammal, and reminded me a lot of the fur you pull out of owl pellets. I assure you, it is a rock

Lots and lots and lots of quartz

Minerals naturally lead into what they are cut into to make them so precious: jewels. These were remarkably hard to take photographs of since they reflect so much light. These pearls were so beautiful, the two on the top (one cut in half) were about the size of a cantaloupe

And of course, the Hope Diamond

This diamond had been cut twice, and owned by Kings in France and in England. I saw this as a child when the Smithsonian sent some of its best pieces to LA… it looked so much bigger when I was a child. Grandmother says that things shrink when you grow up.

I found this beautiful vase at the gem gift store. I looked at it, looked at the price, asked about shipping, left… then came back an hour later and bought it. 🙂 I am very excited about getting it. I think it is just amazing.

From here we went to the Western Cultures exhibit which was a hodgepodge of artifacts from all major civilizations from the past few thousand years. No collection was very significant, it was sort of like a Louvre light; the cliff notes version of that monstrous collection of Greek, Roman and Egyptian pieces.

REAL mummy, just about the creepiest thing I have ever seen

Cat sarcophagus

Ancient glass from the Roman days. I saw some of this in Paris, but not at this scale! They had so much ancient glass here, I just cannot fathom how this has managed to stand the test of time.

Here is another remarkable artifact, old notes and letters written on some of the earliest papers. This is a letter distressed about cattle

The Egyptians felt that if they were good at something they should stick with it. They were great at embalming people and cats, so they chose to expand their capitalistic ventures on the afterlife to include other animals as well, such as this bull. The plaque said that it was a very difficult process to embalm a creature this large, and it took days

We went to the butterfly room from there and we were so upset that we missed the last show! They allow you to into this room with hundreds and hundreds of butterflies, and we missed it! We were so upset. Had we known we would have gone right there instead of lollygagging at the other exhibits. We may go down tomorrow just for the show.

We did get to watch this woman release more butterflies into the room. It wasn’t a dramatic and swift removal such as when they let doves go at weddings, each butterfly had to be gently coursed out of the little mesh box it was in. One clung to her shirt and stayed there for the whole process.

We got a good laugh at this sign, but didn’t much enjoy the insects.

After the museum we returned home to catch dinner with my grandparents and my second cousin Jean and her husband David. They are my dad’s cousins and have two boys our age. I met Jean when I was 4 years old when I went to Southbend Indiana with my dad for Jean’s parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. I remember that when I was there I was playing with a little boy about my age. I forgot his name, and no one could ever fill it in for me. I just learned it was their son Christopher! Small world I guess.

They road their bicycles 60 miles into DC today, and they are returning tomorrow the same way. They are avid long distance bikers. They pack everything they need onto those little carrying cases that strap onto the backs of bikes. They have ridden over 200 miles in the rain before. They plan on going to Europe this fall and biking all over there. What an amazing hobby to have. It was very nice spending time with these extended relatives that I hardly knew about.

May 24, 2008

Day Four: White House, Newseum

So we didn’t do nearly as much today as we did yesterday. We were too tired to! We slept in and didn’t leave until about noon. We went down to Farragut North and started making our way to the White House. Along the way we stopped at a place called Teaism and got bento boxes and sweetened iced green tea. It was all very good. (again, why isn’t this stuff in CA?) We then went to the White House.

Like so many other things in DC, after those damn terrorists flew our planes into our buildings, our citizens can no longer visit our historical monuments (thanks assholes!). To see the White House today you need to either A. go through a lengthy background check process which can take months or B. be a part of a group. I guess people with unsavory backgrounds never do group travel. But don’t be too surprised, as you can take matches on a plane but not a lighter. Yes, because fire made with butane is deadlier than that made with phosphorous…

National Security rant aside, you can’t get inside, but you can still see the outside. After Sept 11th they closed Pennsylvania Ave to traffic in front of the White House. I remember driving past it when I was on my 8th grade trip. We didn’t go inside, now I wish we had.

Crazy people are awesome

If you really want to see the White House, and lack 3 months of time and 12 other people, you can go to the Visitors center on 5th St and watch Laura Bush lead a tour through the House. People say that in some ways this is superior, as it takes you into more rooms than the tour does. I have nothing to compare to, so I will not comment on that.

After the White House we realized we were in a metro void. This is one of many in the city. The city completely neglects making transportation easy near the monuments and tourist attractions. Perhaps it is because there is a lack of commerce here, perhaps they don’t want tourists on the metro (more revenue from tour buses and rental cars?), or perhaps they didn’t think it through. I think they need a circular route like the Yamanote line in Tokyo. This would be perfect! It could circle north to the White House, East to the Capitol, South to the Jefferson Memorial, and West to the Lincoln Memorial. It would be awesome. To the Mayor of DC, please put a loop line in… and fix the drinking fountains. Thanks, faithful tourist dollar donator.

Faced with this void we looked at our options: walk far to a station where we will have to transfer at least once… or walk 8 blocks. We walked. Along the way we saw some nice things.

This is a very important hotel. Lincoln hid here when there were death threats, Martin Luther King Jr. finished his I Have a Dream speech, and in the evenings, Grant would have his after dinner cigar in the lobby. Those who knew this would go there and ask him favors; they were lovingly given the title of lobbyists.

Yee Olde Poste Officee

The original tribute to FDR… not quite as grand.

We thought about seeing the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights housed inside of the Archives… then we saw the line. One of the boys leaving the Archives said, “We waited two hours for that?” I’m glad we didn’t wait. I remember waiting when I was young and it was such a disappointment.

Just down Pennsylvania Ave from the Archives is the new Museum building. This is the most expensive museum in the city, but Christina felt it was well worth the money spent. She had a very good time, and says it was her favorite part of the trip so far. All of the staff there were very nice, and the exhibits are very nice and interactive. A lot of the museum is aimed at kids. It works too, it was my favorite place when I was in 8th grade, and a bit of a disappointment when I returned. But it was still really fun.

Tina doing one of the interactive activities.

We had fun with these things; there was an ethics game, where you had to answer ethic questions yes or no to fill up your paper. Whoever filled it up first won. I have to say, I disagreed ethically on a few points. This one especially: the school principal is in the hospital with a serious illness. His family has asked that you don’t run the story and let them have their privacy. Do you run the story? I said no, but I was wrong. Why? “Because the public has a right to know”. No, the public does not. Unless it is an infectious disease and the students at the school need to be checked or something along those lines, none of our lives will be enriched from this knowledge, it is not on a need to know basis and doesn’t need to be reported on. One reason why I have issues with reporters.

Our favorite interactive area was the one for the Pulitzer Prize winning photos. They include every winning photo taken, and then have a very neat i-pod-touch-eque screen where you can look at the series the photo came from, and listen to the story behind it. It was a great learning experience. I was so engrossed I didn’t even pick up my own camera to photograph these photos.

After this we headed down to the largest contiguous piece of the Berlin Wall outside of Germany. The exhibit for the wall has far improved from when I was there last. They have stunning news footage of the wall being torn down, and great history on it. They also now have a watch tower.

What it looked like for the East Germans:

Then we went to the top floor and enjoyed the view:

Replica of the first TV news satellite

Our trip has included visits to very emotional places, from Arlington to the Vietnam Memorial to the Holocaust Museum. But for both of us, none of these shed a light on the emotions we experienced at the Neweum’s 9-11 exhibit. They had tissues here and they were used by both of us. You just react differently when you remember the events happening, while I feel the Holocaust was horrible and very sad, I lack a personal connection. But when it comes to 9-11 we all have that connection, because we all remember it so vividly when it was happening.

I remember I was asleep. My mom woke me up and told me that terrorists attacked the World Trade Centers and I should get up. I did so and I watched TV for days straight after that. I remember holding in my tears for a good amount of time until I just couldn’t hold them anymore and I started to sob uncontrollably. When the first tower fell the anchor did something that was in such good taste. He told us that he was going to stop talking for a minute so we could all reflect on what was happening and pray for those inside the building. The images said it all, he didn’t need to tell us what was happening. And as we watched silently as the building collapsed on itself, I was so thankful that there were no words to distract from just how terrifying the experience was.

Radio antenna from the North Tower

Front page papers

A piece of fuselage found from Flight 73 in PA

One photographer was killed in the attack. He was taking photos at the first destroyed tower when the second one fell. Here is how beaten and battered his equipment was when it was found:

The last photo he ever took, which was time stamped at exactly the time the second tower fell

Day Three: Jefferson, FDR, WWII, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Holocaust Museum

Wow, what a busy day! As I posted earlier, you have to wait in line very early to get tickets to many of the attractions. Today I left at 8 to get tickets to see the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where all of our money is printed. Why here? Well, Christina was more interested to see where the money was made than where the laws are, and well, I don’t know why we didn’t wait to get tickets to up to the top of the Washington Monument, that is a good question.

I had to contend with rush hour on the subway, and it took me quite some time to get to the capitol, longer than I thought it was. I got to the Bureau at 9am, and they had plenty of tickets left, which upset me since I left so early and slept so late as I am not yet used to the time change.

After I got the tickets I called my sister and told her to meet me so we could start the day. We still had passes to the tourmobile, and opted to spend more time at the monuments we had missed yesterday.

Our first stop was at the Jefferson Memorial. This is a very beautiful structure, which I think is much nicer looking that the Lincoln, it also has some stunning views of the Washington Monument across the tidal basin. Inside the beautiful marble structure is a standing bronze statue of Jefferson staring at the White House, watching over our president. When the structure was originally erected they used plaster made to look like bronze in order to conserve bronze. This was during a war, I cannot remember which. After the war, they replaced it with a real bronze statue.

After Jefferson we went to the FDR memorial. This one is so different from the other memorials. Originally Roosevelt requested that if any memorial be erected in his honor that it be in the form of a simple plaque in front of the National Archives. This wish was honored for a time, but then someone got ambitious and decided that this well loved president deserved a more fitting honor.

The memorial is 4 acres, with an acre to honor each of his four terms served in office. It really should be 3-and-a-quarter acres since he died only months after being sworn into his fourth term, but I suppose that is just semantics.

The memorial is a beautiful mix of water, rough cut stone and bronze. I feel it is the most beautiful memorial on the mall, and I also think that it does a splendid job of both awing you and informing you. One learns a lot about Roosevelt when walking through the memorial, which is much nicer than simply looking at a statue and reading a few quotes.

small fall with tree

Depression line waiting for soup

Tina says “No soup for you!”

FINALLY a working water fountain!!! It seems like not a single one in this city works.

The only statue in any memorial at the mall of a dog

Stunning fountain, one of many

A very nice piece to represent his death. This bronze embossed plate on the wall shows a sorrowful scene of the casket of FDR being followed by mourners. In front of it, a still infinity pool. Next to the large statues and roaring waterfalls, this is a very quiet place where one can reflect.

Really pretty tree in bloom, if anyone knows the name, please let me know.

After this we went to the WWII memorial. This memorial is only four years old. It is grand and beautiful, however, after coming from such a personal exhibit it seemed rather cold and disconnected. I don’t know if the point is easy to grasp in this monument. You stand surrounded by 58 columns for all 50 states, the US territories and the two oceans the war was fought over. In the middle is a fountain, and on one side is a wall with a star for every American life lost in the war. When you are there you get caught up in the splendor, but when you leave, you do so without having had an emotional experience as one does at the Vietnam Memorial. It is much like a John Wayne WWII film, a lot of explosions and heroics, but not a lot of sorrow or thinking.

Lake in front of the memorial

View of Lincoln Memorial

View of Washington Monument

Each star represents an American life lost in the war; in front of it is engraved: The Price of Freedom

After this we went on our Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour. The video before the tour was awesome. We saw how money was made and got very excited for the tour. Then on the tour, we didn’t see half of what we saw in the video. It was a real let down, I am almost upset that I woke up so early to get those tickets. Then in the gift shop they sell useless shredded money, which was good for a laugh, we didn’t buy any. Also, they didn’t allow photos (for good reason!) so I have nothing to show of this experience.

We walked next door from the BEP to the Holocaust Museum. Like the BEP, they also didn’t allow photographs. I honored their wishes and kept my camera inside my bag. Here we watched some videos and toured floor after floor of stunning photos and artifacts from this horrible time. There was a room just full of the shoes taken from those who were sent to the camps. There was a clay reproduction showing how they were herded into the gas chambers like cattle.

Even though the events that took place during the Holocaust were horrific and so sad, the museum did a good job of keeping the exhibits from being graphic. There were very few photos of starved inmates, or dead people, which I felt was in good taste of the museum.

What surprised me the most about the museum was how much oppression of the Jews had been tolerated and encouraged for centuries. These poor people have suffered from the dawn of their creation. In the Middle Ages they were barred from industry, forcing them into professions such as money lending. During the Crusades they were slaughtered by the thousands.

Then, everyone just stood back and kept quiet leading up to the Holocaust. Other European countries were noticing an increase in Jewish refugees fleeing Germany. The ghettos were well known of, as were the deaths of many Jews, and yet, no one really did anything about it until after the war started. It amazes me how the world just turned a blind eye to this genocide. But then again, I’m not sure why I am surprised. We still do not recognize the Armenian Genocide where 1.6 million Armenians were killed in a very similar way, and we are doing nothing as thousands are killed each day in Darfur. So why am I surprised? Have we really changed? Did we really learn anything? We left in Rwanda, we ignore Darfur, we pretend Armenia never happened… and yet we are shocked when no one did anything about the Holocaust.

Greatings from Washington DC!

Well, I’ve had my travel blogs over at blogger now for years, but they just decided that blog is spam. Since they want me to wait four business days (note its the Friday before a 3-day weekend) to start posting again… why would I wait when there are other services to be used? I’ve been planning on moving for a while, and sometimes it takes something like this to give you the final push.

My sister and I are embarking on a nine day adventure in Washington DC and New York. We are staying with our grandparents in DC for a week, and then we go to NYC for two days. We arrived in Washington late Monday night (or early Tuesday morning, depending on how you see it). We took a cab from the airport to my grandparent’s place in Chevy Chase. They were asleep when we got there, but that didn’t stop them from welcoming us with a charming note, and a very pleasantly made up room.

We both slept in late on Tuesday. The weather was poor, and my grandparents gave us their tickets to that night’s opera, all of which hampered our abilities to do much on Tuesday. We saw the Chevy Chase area then prepared for the opera. It was the first opera for both of us.

The show was Tamerlano, and it played at the Kennedy Center. The center is a wonderful building right on the banks of the river. It was a nice first view of the city driving there, and the cultural experience once inside was supreme.

We were warned that Tamerlano was not the best first opera to see. The plot revolves around a complex love rectangle between a tyrant, his conquered, his friend, and his fiancé. After three-and-a-half hours of beautiful singing, and getting lost in the complexities of this 18th century “soap opera” the tale ends exactly where it begins. It was fun dressing up and experiencing this event, and even though we were both slightly frustrated by the ending, we are both glad we went and enjoyed our time.

Wednesday is when the real fun began and we started to really see the city. We left for Union Station to pick up the Tourmobile, a sightseeing bus of the capital. It is a good idea to take advantage of these buses if you don’t bring a car, because there are no metro stations near the monuments on the far side of the mall. They aren’t cheap, but I feel they are worthwhile, you also learn quite a bit from the drivers.

Union Station:

Replica of the Liberty Bell

One of the other tour options, this one goes into the river:

Our first stop was the Capitol. Like most places in DC, you need to be there early if you want a ticket to go inside, or be a part of a group that gets you into all of these places. Perhaps that would be the best way to see the city, as it is physically impossible to be everywhere at 7 or 8am to get a ticket. Due to that situation, my only photos of this building are from the outside.


We chose to eat lunch at the Pavilion in the Sculpture Garden on Constitution and 7th street. The food was good, but a little pricey; however, the setting couldn’t be better. Today was just beautiful, nice and cool with a gentle breeze; it was very nice sitting outside enjoying our wraps and resting our feet. When we were done with lunch we walked the gardens before continuing down the mall.


We didn’t get off on all of the monuments this time around, I want to go back at night, and we were running out of time after a lot of time wondering around. I took some pictures of the Jefferson as we passed it, I’ll get more tomorrow:

We did, however, get off for the Lincoln Memorial, at which time we saw the Vietnam and Korean Memorials. These memorials are very touching and sad. They are impressive, and also heart wrenching. Between the over 58,000 names of lost or killed soldiers at the Vietnam Memorial, or the look of fear on the faces of the 19 steel soldiers at the Korean Memorial you cannot help but be moved by the sacrifice these men and women made.

Look back across the Reflection Pool to the Washington Monument. If you look carefully the color of the stone changes about a quarter of the way up. They were forced to stop construction for a number of years due to a lack of funds, when they started again; the stones laid earlier had already weathered, making it impossible to match the stones. Perhaps that is one reason why now you need to raise a billion dollars for the construction of any new monument, this is for the building and maintenance of the structure for the next century. If you are curious, they are still 20 million shy for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It may be something you’d want to send your money to.

After this stop the bus took us into Arlington, another place to be moved by the sacrifice made by our men and women in the armed services. Unlike the Vietnam memorial, not everyone here died in combat. Anyone who serves our country can be buried here, as can their significant other and children.

There are some presidents buried here as well. Taft was the first, but John F. Kennedy is most well known. A few days before his death he visited Arlington National Cemetery and looked back at the view across the Potomac at Washington. He apparently said he loved the view so much that he could stay there forever. His family granted his wish by giving him this view for all eternity.

The eternal flame at the final resting place of JFK, Jackie and two of their children:

The Arlington house:

This home was owned by Robert E. Lee and his family. They left the mansion at the start of the war; I believe to move to the south. After their departure the Union used it as their home base. Since the Lee family thought they would return some day, they left many of their items inside, many of which were stolen while the Union was using the facilities. After the Civil War the United States didn’t return the land to the Lee family, and instead began to bury the dead there. It was a way of spiting Robert E. Lee. They knew he wouldn’t return if there were thousands of graves of Union Soldiers killed in the war. And they never did return. Later, the son sued for the house, and won. However, he too had no desire to return to the site after it had become a cemetery, so he sold it back to the US Government, officially making it a National Cemetery.

I will have the honor of being here Memorial Day weekend, I will come back to take pictures here when they honor the troops.

While we didn’t see a changing of the guards ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we saw something that I find more interesting: a wreath lying ceremony. A number of schools gave wreaths to the final resting place of the Civil War and WWII solider who are buried here. Like the changing of the guard ceremony, this one is filled with pomp and circumstance. It is very rigid, with every movement planned in advanced and executed in a very stiff manor. Young children, accompanied by one of the guards brought the wreath down to the foot of the soldiers’ sarcophagus

We then stood and listened to the bugle play in honor for all of the unknown soldiers who gave their lives.

After this the children were escorted back up the stairs and the guard laid the wreath down with the others behind the tomb. Then, another wreath was brought down and the ceremony was redone from the beginning for a new school and a new wreath. The last one was left standing in front of the tomb.

Guards bringing out one of the wreaths:

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is behind the ampatheter. This roman structure is very beautiful; however it was off limits for us to go inside of it.

It started raining about this time so we were forced to leave the cemetery. It’s okay since we will be back. We then took the subway and headed back home. Back in Chevy Chase our grandmother took us out to a great dinner. The place had delicious food that was all focused on healthy eating. The serving sizes were small, the meals balanced, the ingredients organic. But beyond that, it was very tasty. I wish more restaurants would do this. I’m tired of getting enough food to feed a family of four, it’s a waste.

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