Our first stop was Mount Vernon, Virginia--George Washington’s estate. Over looking the banks of the Potomac River, I could help but think I was looking out over the Hood Canal minus the Olympic Mountains. We toured the mansion and the grounds, visited George and Martha Washington’s tomb, walked through the Museum and Education Center, and ate dinner at the Mount Vernon Inn. Ed and I had a salad, then shared an entree of roast duck and mashed potatoes. Yummy.
Later that evening, we drove to Rockville, Maryland, where we stayed the next four nights at the Sleep Inn in Shady Grove. Although the rooms were a bit small (but we spent so little time in the room anyway, so it really didn’t bother us) the service and staff were amazing. The rooms were clean, there was a nice free continental breakfast every morning, which was well stocked, free parking and wi-fi, and a free shuttle service to the Metro station, too. Our shuttle driver one evening after we got off the Metro drove us to a local Wendy’s, so we could grab some take out—the service was just above and beyond. The front desk even helped us find another motel, after one of our reservations had been canceled.
Our days in Washington, D.C. were a whirlwind of activity. Of course, we tried to squeeze as much as we could in the three short days we had in our Nation’s Capitol. We visited the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Navy Memorial and the World War II Memorial, the Ford Theatre, and the J. Edgar Hoover Building (which is no longer open for tours). From what we understood tickets to ride the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument were sold out until June, so we did not get to go to the top; however our middle son, Steffen, and his grandfather did (they also happened to be in D.C. the same time we were), but their day it was overcast and hazy, so I don't think they got a very good view. They also did a tour of the White House, yet you need to make reservations weeks in advance and the tours are now self-guided and only include a small portion of the south wing of the White House. This really disappointed my dad and the other chaperone on the American History Tour. Ed and I only walked along the street facing the north side of the building to take some pictures and to visit Lafayette Park. It was pouring rain this day. Being from Washington state, I do not mind the rain; however, we were getting drenched and finally had to break down and buy an umbrella. My only other souvenir of the trip was a bad, bad cold.
We also visited the Pentagon, which is still open for tours—but tour requests need to be made weeks in advance. I wish I had known, for I would have loved to have taken a tour of the Pentagon. Visitors are no longer allowed to take photographs of the building, including from the outside; however, you can walk to the 9-11 Memorial and take photos of the memorial. It was a sunny, yet cool, windy April morning when we got off the Metro and walked to the memorial. It is beautifully and tastefully done, and tranquil, nonetheless it is a reminder of those who lost their lives during the terrorist attack.
We also humbly toured Arlington Cemetery and witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This never fails to move me. I always feel a great love for God and country when visiting this cemetery.
Our incredibly brief trip also included touring three Smithsonian’s (Smithsonian Castle, Air and Space Museum, and American History Museum) we tried to cram into a day (whatever we’re we thinking?) and a visit to the International Spy Museum. We also toured the Bureau of Engraving—no, they did not give any free samples. Finally, we spent one morning walking through Georgetown and visiting building used for exterior shots for Scarecrow and Mrs. King including IFF building and Victoria Greenwich house and the Chesapeake and Ohio canal. We also did some window-shopping, ate lunch, and enjoyed a small National Park tour through the C&O locks on a barge drawn by mules. We were also lucky enough to be in D.C. during spring when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. Something I have always wanted to do.
We then drove to Fort McHenry in Baltimore and toured the visitor center and grounds. I highly recommend when you arrive to Fort McHenry to sit in the visitor center and watch a short film on the history of the War of 1812 and Francis Scott Key (who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner). When the film ends the panels open and you see the American flag flying proudly over the fort. It is amazing! Then we drove to Valley Forge in Pennsylvania (winter quarters for the American Continental Army during the Revolutionary War) and did the driving tour, visiting historical buildings and memorials. Finally, we stopped for the evening at a motel outside Philadelphia. A big epic fail to the French Creek Inn whom we had reservations for before we left for our trip. They later called and told us they could not accommodate us. I thought that was very poor business practice and left us scrambling for another motel while on the road. Thumbs down.
The following morning, we toured Independence Hall and Congress Hall and saw the Liberty Bell. It was great seeing the Assembly Room where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were drafted and signed. Then we drove to Gettysburg and did the three-hour driving tour through a variety of battlefields. This was my husband’s favorite part of our trip. Later on, we had dinner with my friend Dava and her husband Bill at General Pickett’s Buffet. Good food and great company. Then after enjoying a gorgeous sunset over Gettysburg, we laid our weary heads for the long drive back to Norfolk.
The next morning, we drove toward Norfolk stopping at Guinea Station where Stonewall Jackson died and finally onto Virginia Beach where we stayed the night. We walked along the boardwalk and even stepped into the ocean, feeling the cool sand through our toes, although the water was still very cold for April. Then we enjoyed frozen yogurt in a waffle cone.
Overall, it was amazing visiting so many great historical places and seeing American history come to life. This was also the first time Ed has ever been to D.C., but my third time; however, I had not been to the area since Scarecrow and Mrs. King was a first run television series. We currently have some friends who are on a temporary long term assignment and part of me would not mind an assignment like that ourselves—there was so much more I would have love to have taken the time to see and do.