Day 21: Hmm, I seem to have gotten a little bit behind again - sorry. We decided to head to Washington one day early. We had accommodation booked from the 22nd but decided an extra day to explore would be good. On our way we decided to drop in to the Marine Core National Museum at Quantico. We took a wrong turn first and were very upset to realise as we were waiting in queue that a man had just been run over by a car. It was pouring with rain and it appeared that he was one of the security people on duty. He was lying face down in front of the car and didn't appear to be moving. There were plenty of people around him including Military Police so we kept moving and prayed for him along the way. Made me think about what the laws are in the US in regards to providing first aid. I know what they are in Australia because of my First Aid Certificate but I'm not sure what they are here - are you allowed to provide first aid, can someone sue you if something goes wrong? Decided that it's best to stay clear if possible, goodness knows Americans are so big on suing you could end up in a lot of trouble.
Finally found the Museum and had a quick look around - very informative. Arrived at our hotel at approx. 6.30pm. We're staying at the Hilton Garden Inn at Arlington. It's one exit away from the hotel Gary and I stayed in last time but much nicer. We were able to renegotiate our prices and now have a full breakfast included every morning for less than the price we originally booked for. The area we are in is very quaint with a street all lit up with white Christmas lights and lots of cafes etc. - so cute.
Day 22: Yay - our visit to the Pentagon has arrived - I've been looking forward to this forever. Security is quite tight so handbags and phones were left in the car. No photography is allowed in the Pentagon however I later regretted not having the phone to take photos of the 911 memorial outside. Everyone else on the tour had handbags and phones but in the information we received it advised that by not having these items would make your security clearance quicker. If ever anyone goes in future, take your bag and phone with you, it's not a big deal.
A tour guide took us through the Pentagon. It is huge. The hugest low level office facility in the world. It has it's own shops, cafes, Department of Transport and even a Bank. The bank has been rated as the World's safest bank - go figure. The Pentagon was originally built with three levels above ground and two below but soon had another level added at the top when it was discovered they couldn't house all the offices they needed to. The Pentagon has the world's largest 'No cover, no salute' area in the gardens in the centre. Generally when military personnel are outside they must wear their hat. When they have their hat on, lower ranking personnel need to salute higher ranking members. Since this area is meant to be for relaxation and lunch etc people would forever be saluting eachother hence the 'No cover, no salute' rule.
We learned that when the terrorist attacks took place on September 11 the area that was hit by the plane was being renovated and most of the offices were closed. This area had also had reinforced steel added to the framework which stopped the plane from continuing further into the Pentagon and adding to the fatality numbers. If the plane had hit from any other direction the amount of people injured and killed would have increased dramatically.
Did you know that the date of the 911 attack was exactly 60 years from the Pentagon groundbreaking day? (Also, have you ever thought about the fact that the emergency call number for America is 911?)
We also saw replicas of paintings by an artist named John Trumball. They have an interesting story to them which I'll tell you about when I get back. He had a habit of painting himself into his paintings and doing a few naughty things just to see if he could get away with it.
After our trip to the Pentagon, we walked around the Capitol Building and then took Tiahna into the Library of Congress which she was very interested in seeing. For those of you that recall, Nicholas Cage has to go into the Reading Room in the Library of Congress to find the Presidants Book in the 'National Treasure' movie.
In the parks near the Captiol Building there are Squirrels everywhere. Now it's time to learn how we say squirrel - it's pronounced skee-els - got it? Good. One squirrel (who we named Reginald) allowed us to come up really close to him and he even touched Tiahna (I think he thought she was going to steal his nut and pushed her away). We got some great photos and video of him.
Went to check out some outlet stores in the evening. (The shops are open to 11pm here every night - what will I do when I get home?)
Noticed yet again that stacks of people in America smoke and take their dogs shopping with them.
Day 23: Today we went for a tour of the Captiol Building. Security made me throw out my spray deodorant:( Maybe they thought I was going to spray someone in the face with it. We saw the original John Trumbull paintings here, but they didn't tell us the interesting stories about his artwork. We visited the room where President's bodies are displayed when they pass away. Did you know that former President John Quincy Adams actually died in the Captiol Building. He became unwell and moved to a couch in a side room where he passed away.
We were able to go into the House of Reprsenatatives because we were there with our Australian Passports. Americans have to organise it through their Congressman's office. Unfortunately no-one was there as they had finished up the day before, it would have been great to witness an actual session. Unfortunately there was no jigging for Gary this time as there were armed guards inside. We popped back to the LIbrary of Congress again for Tiahna to use the 'Passport' that she had been given on our first visit.
Then we were off to the 'National Archives' so that Tiahna could see the original 'Declaration of Independance' and 'Constitution'. Once again, Tiahna's interest was because of the 'National Treasure' movie.
At this point we found out that the 'Washington Memorial' was closed for repairs and we wouldn't be able to take Tiahna inside. Gary and I visited on our last trip and it was amazing going to the top and looking across in the four directions to see the 'White House', 'Lincoln Memorial', 'Capitol Builiding' and 'Jefferson Memorial'. Disappointing not to be able to go inside this time, but we'll still walk around it.
Day 24: Christmas Eve. Today we went to Mount Vernon. This is the home of George and Martha Washington. We had booked the 'National Treasure' tour for Christmas Day but as you would have read in an earlier blog this had been cancelled. Mount Vernon is an amazing place and worth a visit if ever you're over in this dirction. You learn a lot about George Washington and the life he lived. George Washington was a farmer and at the end of his Presidency when the people requested that he continue he turned down the offer believing that democracy should allow someone else to take over and because he wanted to return to farming. The grounds and tour are great. Tiahna was disappointed to learn that there are no tunnels under the house as depicted in the movie. We did see the corner stone that Nicholas Cage uses to open the secret door when he kidnaps the President however the real centre of it is a heart not an arrow. Maybe a heart was too girly???
Did you know that George Washington developed a throat infection and because his throat swelled up so much he basically suffocated to death after three days.
We then travelled to 'Arlington Cemetary' to show Tiahna the tomb of the unknown soldier, we arrived in time for the changing of the guard which is an emotional experience. Tiahna says the soldiers on guard will get a real shock when the rapture happens!! We also visited the graves of the Kennedy family. The grave for Former President JFK and his family is quite grand while Former President Robert Kennedy has a simple white cross slightly removed from the rest. There is a seperate section in the Cemetary where those killed in the Pentagon on September 11 are buried.
A quick stop on the way back to the hotel for last minute Christmas shopping and then Ben and Jerry's for dinner - yum.
We were very sad that we didn't have a tree of decorations so I made a Christmas tree out of a magazine by folding all of the pages in at the top and then adding red tissue paper decorations. Hey presto - a Christmas Tree! I couldn't find any christmas wrapping paper at the shop near us so I bought 'Transformers' paper instead - Tiahna will love it.
Day 25: Christmas Day - but no snow yet:( It's Ok, the day isn't over yet we could have white cover on the ground by the end of day.
Exchanged our gifts and planning a nice relaxing day. Possibly later we'll pop out to see the White House, Washington Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. Hopefully the car parking will be a lot better in the City when everything is closed - fingers crossed. Then tomorrow we'll visit the Smithsonian Museums.
Well you're all up to date.
Merry Christmas everyone!!