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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Washington DC trip report

we had four very busy, very full, wonderful days.

Drew teaches high school American History and I have a BA in History, so Washington was the perfect place for us. In many places, Drew was given packets of information to use in his classroom, and he was able to find lots of additional materials in the various gift shops at each site.

rather than give a day-by-day itinerary....

transportation: If you watch old movies, you see how train travel is romanticized. reality check -- Amtrak is not much different than flying, and train stations are very similar to airports. Still, for $49 each way, the trip down was uneventful. The trip home -- well, we hit a major delay between newark and New York, very frustrating to be sitting on tracks in Kearney, NJ, looking at the Empire State building and not moving....for 30 minutes. still, Drew was happy not driving back and forth, so the fare was well worth it.

within the District, we relied on the Metro system. I'm an intrepid New Yorker, I ride the subways every day. I've always thought that the Washington Metro is much easier to navigate than the NYC subways, and generally a more pleasant ride. Love the countdown clocks -- the train will arrive in X minutes. We ran into a few delays and a few broken escalators, but for the most part, the system is reliable.

overall, we never missed the car.

accommodations: We stayed at the Americana Hotel this was a sentimental choice -- I had a friend from college who relocated to Washington after graduation, and he told me his parents always stayed at the Americana when visiting him. So in 1989, Drew and I and a group of our friends stayed here. It's relatively inexpensive, close to the Metro and clean and comfortable. My one complaint -- the wifi system. You can get wifi in the lobby and in the sitting room at the end of each hallway, but the signal was too weak for me to connect in our room. by the way, if you think you've seen the hotel before -- did you see Russell Crow and Ben Affleck in State of Play? Yup, they filmed a sequence at the Americana.

food: If you're expecting a major restaurant review...not gonna happen. Breakfast was a bagel or donut or muffin and coffee at the hotel. Most days we grabbed a hot dog for lunch -- although the lunch we had at the American History Museum Cafe was wonderful, it's a full service cafeteria. dinner? we did a lot of take out at the hotel, except for Saturday night -- that was the night we ate at the Hard Rock. the food was good, the service was excellent.

and now, the sites:

you muat remember that each of us has been to DC several times, so there were a number of sites we'd seen before. Yet in the 4 days of our trip, we saw many new things and revisted many favorites.

planning ahead is key to any trip to Washington. Almost all of the sites are free, no admission charge. But places like the the Capitol, Holocaust Museum, Ford's Theater, the Washington Monument -- you can't get in without a ticket. tickets are free, but you can order them on line for a nominal handling fee before your trip. The White House is different -- you can go to a visitor center without a ticket, but if you want an actual tour you have to call your Member of Congress and arrange for it in advnace.

this time around, I ordered tickets for the Holocaust Museum, Ford's theater and the Washington monument. decided not to order tickets for the Capitol, we've both seen it before, and didn't feel we had the time to arrange a tour of the White House (I've never been -- maybe next time).

The Holocaust Museum:

As a Jewish woman and a history student, I am somewhat well-read about the Holocaust, so I didn't expect to learn new information from my visit to the museum. however, it was a very intense, emotional experience. for three hours we were bombarded with images of the rise of the Nazi Party, the Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, the ghettos, the concentration camps, the Final Solution and the the end of the tour, I wanted to ...I needed to...visit the Hall of Remembrance and light a Yartzheit candle for all the victims. and a second candle for my great grandmother and great aunt, the ones my grandmother always told me were "killed in the Hitler War."

Arlington National Cemetery. We took the tourmobile, it was so much better than walking. saw the tomb of the Unknown -- got there in time for the changing of the guard -- Robert E Lee's house, and the graves of JFK and RFK, two of my political heroes. How sad that just a few days later, their brother Teddy will be joining them.

Monuments and Memorials. We went down to the Tidal Basin to visit FDR and Tom Jefferson, up to the Mall to see Mr. Lincoln....saw the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. Went to the top of the Washington Monument and got a great view of the city. found a hidden treasure -- in constitution Gardens, there's a pond alongside the Reflecting Pool, with a small island which houses a memorial to the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Ford's Theater. This is a working theater, when there's a production going on you can't go into the theater itself, you're limited to the museum in the theater basement. We were able to go into the theater, where the Park rangers gave a very moving and effective presentation about the Lincoln assassination. the tour also includes the Peterson House, where Lincoln actually died.

the National Archives. Had to see the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. also got to see Shaq's shoe, Taft's bathtub, and all sorts of memorabilia stored at the Archives. Kept looking for Nicholas Cage.

the Smithsonian. we went to two museums, Air and Space and American History. Saw a special exhibit on Lincoln (drew is a Lincoln-phile) and the gowns of the First Ladies. Saw Kermit the Frog and the Ruby Slippers. Paid tribute to Drew's uncle when we saw the Lunar Module -- Drew's uncle helped design it.

the Supreme Court: believe it or not, I'd never been to that courthouse. I'm admitted to practice law in New Yirk and in federal court, and I had an opportunity, years ago, to be admitted to practice before the Court, but didn't take that opportunity. going to the Supreme Court was like going to Mecca...

the National Zoo...well, I'm a New Yorker, I'm spoiled by the Bronx zoo....but we had a good time. got to see the pandas -- one was awake and gave us quite a show by eating bamboo and walking around his cage. saw birds and reptiles and small mammals and an elephant, saw a komodo dragon and many invertebrates. skipped the apes and didn't see any orangutans on the O Line. even saw an emu and some rare horses. but I do have one complaint -- why did they put the entrance at the top of the hill, so that you walk down to visit the animals and walk back up hill when you're ready to leave?

on our last day, we had lunch at the Old Post Office Pavillion it's basically a food court and souvenir store, but there's an old clock tower with an incredible view of the city.

loved the trip, loved being with Drew -- funny how we seem to be so in sync with each other. can't wait to plan another trip with him.

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