We left the hotel and walked about 7/10ths of a mile down to Lafayette Square, across from the White House, and got on the tram for the first time at about 10 am. We didn't get off for the last time until 5:30 pm. In between there was plenty of touring and several stops to get off and explore.
Washington is very different from Southern California in many ways, but one of the biggest differences is that every spare piece of land has some sort of memorial or a statue of a guy on a horse. The tour guides were constantly pointing these out to us as we drove.
The first tram tour (the green line) took us from the White House up through Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, and all the way up to the National Cathedral. We jumped out there to look at the Cathedral, the scene of many famous memorial services including the Reagan funeral and the 9/11 memorial service. Since it was Sunday morning, services were under way so we were unable to tour the facility, but we did get to get a look at the sanctuary and grounds.
Being in the church insurance business, I couldn't help but look at the building and try to figure out how in the world you'd calculate the replacement cost of a stone gothic cathedral that took 83 years to build. It'd be an all-day job, that's for sure.
From there we headed back down through embassy row and drove past dozens of embassies and ambassador's residences. Each one has its own architecture and it's interesting to see them all side-by-side on Massachusetts Avenue.
The green line connects to the orange line right down the street from Ford's theater, the famous sight of the Lincoln assassination.
Right across the street is the Peterson Boarding House where President Lincoln was taken after the shooting. He died in a small bedroom at the back of the house the following morning.
What seems rather incongruous now is that just two doors down from Ford's Theater is a Hard Rock Cafe which was playing a Marilyn Manson video as we walked in for lunch. It just seems strange to see a famous historical site and a Hard Rock on the same block.
From there the tram took us to Union Station which is now a big shopping center along with the local transportation hub. After a little shopping we headed out toward the big-name memorials. We left the tram at the Lincoln Memorial and did some serious walking. We visited the Memorial itself, and then walked over to the Vietnam War Memorial and the wall with the thousands of names of the Vietnam dead. It's very impressive.
We then made the long walk to the other end of the reflecting pool (way off in the distance in the picture above) where the WWII Veterans Memorial stands. This has special significance to us since my father-in-law won two purple hearts plus a bronze and silver star during the fighting in France. Gen. George Patton himself described my father-in-law Roy Jennings as "one fighting son-of-a-b****". We wanted to make sure and get a photo of the European theater section of the memorial for him.
We then took tram over to Arlington cemetery and nearly walked ourselves stupid trying to see the major sites. If you have the time, I'd recommend taking the Arlington tram tour. It's easier on the legs, especially on a hot day.
After climbing the hill to the JFK site, we headed further up to the Arlington House on top of the hill (the former home of Robert E. Lee), and then over to the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Tomb is a very solemn place and you could of heard a pin drop as the honor guard walked the post in front of the tomb.
After all the climbing and walking, we collapsed back onto the tram in a sweaty pile and returned to Union Station for dinner, and then hopped the Metro back to McPherson Square and the walk back to the hotel. We've had enough fun for one day, but we had a great time and got to see a lot of things that were on our list as must-sees.
I haven't had time to think much about politics, but there were a couple of things that jumped out today. As we left the Metro at McPherson Station (closest station to the White House) I saw a guy buying his tickets and at his side was a homemade sign which had pictures of Bush and Karl Rove and something about "worse than Watergate". It's amazing what nonsense the left will cling to.
Also, every day I TiVo "Special Report with Brit Hume" which is broadcast from the Fox News bureau in Washington. The scene out the window is of the Capitol, and I was trying to figure out where their studios were. As we were leaving Union Station and looking toward the Capitol, I realized that I was looking at the same view they have from the studio. Sure enough, to my right was the Fox News offices. I thought about checking in to see if they wanted a blogger for tomorrow's show, but the tram driver wouldn't stop.
Of course the big news today is the hurricane, and my prayers go out to the folks on the Gulf Coast who are dealing with that mess. I have first-hand experience and had a front row seat for Hurricane Celia when it messed up Corpus Christi in 1970, so I know a little about what those folks are going through. I'll tell that story another time.
Tomorrow the plan is an early tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an 11 am appointment in our congressman's office for a tour of the Capitol, following by a visit to the Air and Space Museum and possibly a couple of the Art Museums. Should be another hectic day. See you then!