Needless to say one can easily spend a month here and still not see it all, but boy were we going to try our darnedest!
Our first goal was to get somewhat oriented map wise. I personally never did quite understand which end was up in the D.C. area, not that I've ever really tried to figure it out either. I certainly do get it now though. As do the kids, at least as it applies to the Washington Mall anyway.
Once we knew where we going it was fairly easy. We just kept going to the same general area day after day after day after day. It's all right there after all! But let me back up first.
Where on earth does one possibly park a huge RV overnight in the DC area?? Well, the answer to that question funnily enough came to us via that super friendly and helpful ranger up at Minute Man National Historic Park in MA only a week ago. He told us about a green space designed practically just for this purpose a mere 12 miles out of the city, Greenbelt National Park!
So, late yesterday we pulled into our camping spot and prepared for what would be a huge day today. Huge and 'lightweight'. Why lightweight? Well, cause we were going to visit the White House and there is a list from here to Timbuktu of what one cannot bring in. Among those are any kind of bag, stroller, CAMERA, food, drink, etc. The only things you can carry in are your car keys, money in your pocket and a phone. It can be a picture taking phone but of course no pictures are allowed to be taken once inside :-(. Of course all these rules also meant we had no food to carry around with us which of course presented a whole different problem, but we managed. Oh, and all this is also to say that unfortunately all pictures taken on this day were on the iphone since we couldn't even carry a decent camera with us. Apologies for the poor quality.
Anyway, again I'm getting ahead of myself.
The other 'issue' in DC is TRAFFIC. Apparently, DC is known for the worst traffic EVER. Or so we were told by everyone we came in contact with about our trip. Yes, DC is highly populated with cars going this way and that, and yes, you couldn't pay me enough money to attempt to drive in that city, but S? Let's just say the man has not met his traffic match yet. Especially since he began driving this big ol' truck of ours. Everyone kinda gets out of the way.....But really, fighting traffic has never been an issue for him. When I want to duck and cover, he's out there barreling through it all. So yes, we ended up driving into the city on a daily basis. On our first day we parked way over by Union Station -
In fact, several blocks north of it really. The cost was very reasonable and availability was great. We did however get there before 8:00. Union station btw is beautiful. By any standards. Very impressive. Our date to visit the White House was scheduled for 10:30 but since we had no idea how long it would take to drive in we left at 7 AM, planning for the worst. Leaving by 7 also meant we were up at the crack of dawn. We had a tremendously long and exhausting day ahead of us but we didn't want to risk missing our appointment. All in the name of visiting the White House! Anyway, we drove in, found a lot, walked to Union Station where we spent a lot of our extra time we now had exploring, eating and trying to figure out how to get from here to our main destination.
Before I go into that though, I need to explain one important thing: Why we did not ride the beloved metro. When people warned us against driving in this city they also informed us that the Metro in DC was excellent. Well, it may be excellent but for the 5 of us it would not be cheap. It would cost us more than $50 a day to ride in and out, not to mention the $15 plus we'd have to spend on parking at the Metro station. That's why I mentioned above that DC was theoretically free. You have to pay a pretty penny to get in first!
On our second day we parked in a parking garage much closer in to the central mall area, but given the size of our truck and the apparent difficulty S had finding a spot there, not to mention getting in and out of it, we didn't attempt it again. The following days, S being S, managed to find parking RIGHT ON the Mall. Yes, he had to occasionally run out and move the car (since it was limited time metered parking) but again, S being S, he always managed to find another spot in the vicinity! I have no idea how he does it.....Oh, on our second to last day we also figured out that there is FREE parking available ON the mall between 10 and 4! FREE parking DC?!? Who'd ever heard of such a thing. Apparently it's a well kept secret, unless you actually ask a local or a police officer. So you see, the traffic coming in was not bad at all, by S's standards (took us no more than 30 minutes every day), and the parking was a breeze, again, by S's standards. His standards were really all that counted here since I wasn't getting behind that wheel!
Back to our day though.
From Union Station we took a special bus, the name of which escapes me right now, as close as possible to the White House, for a buck each. Pretty good. We also got to see some of the city that way.
We finally made it to the White House with plenty of time to spare! We could now take our time admiring.
The first spot we admired was the huge beautiful park in front of the White House with the good ol' Marquis de Lafayette on horseback! The Marquis, as Washington used to call him, was a French hero of the Revolutionary War AND a great friend of General, and then President, Washington. He's another one of our favorite revolution dudes.
BTW, did you that Washington never lived in the White House?? Yup. He died before it was completed. He's the only president not to have served in it.
Here we are closer up -
It was SOOOOO cool being there! It also seems sooo small compared to the buildings around it! I was really surprised.
Well, like I said, there are NO pictures from inside the White House :-(. We did however have a terrifc time going through the east wing (nope, not the WEST wing). The east wing is where the colorful rooms are, i.e. the Blue Room, the Red Room, the Yellow Room, etc. These are where dignitaries are received, the formal dinners are had, performers perform, teas are had, etc. In one of the rooms, I think it was the Red Room, there were paintings of various nature scenes everywhere. We of course were examining those when the guard asked Inventor if he'd ever been to the Rocky Mountains. Ha! Well, Inventor's response was "Of course! I've hiked them!" to which the guard replied, "well, have you ever seen this particular place?". Well, no, not really. It just kind of looks like the Rockies in general. AH HA! That's the point. This painting was painted to represent the Rockies, to join, if you will, all the various sections of it together in order to make it a representative picture. All the paintings in this room were painted in an attempt to convince the sitting president to declare these areas national parks. We learned about this method of persuading presidents to do so from our experiences in Yellowstone.
To sum up, our tour was fairly short, about 45 minutes total, but it was very sweet indeed! Here we are after we've exited the building, again, in the front.
While the kids stood posing S began chatting up a group of soldiers standing nearby who were also touring. When they noticed I was taking a picture they ran in and joined the kids! Do I have to even mentioned how awesome this little act of sweetness made the kids feel?!
We hung around a bit longer as S chatted up the security guards nearby, or secret service I should say. At this point the kids enjoyed the 'little' weapons show and tell they were giving us.....
Finally leaving the White House, we now had to work our way down to the other end of Pennsylvania Ave. for our US Capitol tour scheduled for that afternoon. Told you it'd be a busy day.
On our way we walked through, and had lunch in, the Ronald Reagan building. An impressive place with lots of Reagan memorabilia including this -
A section of the Berlin Wall of course! Since we had our first introduction to The Wall back in South Dakota, the kids knew exactly what it was.
OK, on to the Capitol, a mile away. Hiking down Pennsylvania Ave. we ran right into it -
This tour did allow cameras (except for in the senate and congressional galleries) but of course we didn't have ours. So again, here are some measly shots with the iphone.....
This is the fresco at the top of the capitol dome. It's the Apotheosis of Washington, or, the elevation of Washington to the highest possible status, to be God-like. Washington, interestingly enough, being the modest man he was, would have hated it....
The dome sits atop the rotunda of course with its many incredible paintings hung on the walls. The kids were truly fascinated by them and did a nice job of recognizing many of the scenes depicted.
Here we have the old senate chamber still looking as it did back then.
The old House of Representatives was actually where the rotunda is now but this all important marker is there -
So of course, we stood where he sat. Again, more coolness!
This is a replica of the statue that sits atop the Capital dome, the Statue of Freedom, or, Lady Freedom. An additional subject of fascination.....
At her base are inscribed the words "E Pluribus Unum". Out of many, one. A phrase etched into our brain now.
While at the Capitol we looked up our congressman's office and decided to go check it out.
Empty halls were a great opportunity to run and burn some energy off after having to walk quietly throughout the Capitol building.....Empty halls? Yes, everyone was back home gearing up for the upcoming elections so there was not a congressperson, or much staff, to be seen.
We did however find the Congressman's office and fortunately there was someone there, an intern of course. She showed us around the very modest office. An office our Congressman sleeps in, as several (or many?) actually do believe it or not.
She also took us on a brief tour of the interconnecting tunnels under the buildings. She was from Puerto Rico and was very sweet.
Our last mission of the day was to wave hello to the Supreme Court.
We'd be back for a more serious look at a later date.
From the Supreme Court we marched our 8 blocks or so back to our truck.....we had done quite a bit of walking today, but that was only to prepare us for tomorrow, when we'd be walking the entire Mall.......