Washington, District of Columbia

Friday 26 October 2007

The hire car and driver arrived at 7:00am as previously arranged and we had a smooth and uneventful trip into Heathrow.

There was a bit of a hiccup when checking in our baggage as my suitcase was a bit over the 32kg limit and the 'carry on' stuff was required to be a single package.  With a bit of a reshuffle we were able to accommodate these changes but it would have been nice to know in advance that not everyone applies the same rules these days.

We also learned that our flight had been late arriving and would be an hour late departing.  As it turned out it was actually 1-1/2 hours late getting away.  On the plus side, the flight was entirely uneventful - just the way you want them to be.

The White House from New York Avenue
The Washington Monument

[Above - View of the White House from New York Avenue]
[Left - Washington Monument}

There was an enormous queue to get through passport  control and it took us more than an hour to get through even though customs didn't even glance at our bags, then it took another hour to get the airport shuttle to our hotel.  From the time we landed until we had booked into the hotel it was a bit over three hours!

Booking in to the Capital Hilton was without fuss, and it's only a relatively short walk away from the White House and the memorials, art gallery, museums and so on.

We had dinner at a fish restaurant just half a block away from the hotel. The building is in the art deco style with stained glass panels in the ceiling which included naturalistic animals, fish and so on. 

For entree we had a platter of a dozen mixed oysters with a couple of different sauces, one piquant and the other a little sweet.  Margaret had catfish as her main course and I had the Maryland crab cakes. The crab isn't as delicate as we're used to at home, but delicious just the same.

They serve their wine (an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc by the way) either by the bottle or in a 5oz or 8oz carafe. Why they don't just serve it by the small or large glass, I have no idea!  Perhaps it's a vagary of their licensing laws

Saturday 27 October 2007

We learned today that the Washington Marathon is on tomorrow, so that may throw a spanner in the works. We'll see what happens.

The White House is just a bit over a block away from the hotel, so we made that our first stop, viewing it first from the front, off New York Avenue and then from behind, with the expanse of manicured grounds.

We continued on down to the Washington Monument, then the World War II Memorial which didn't exist when Patricia, Michael and I visited Washington a few years ago.  It was built in 2004 and there were a lot of WWII veterans and their families in the area around the Memorial.

Pool at the World War II Memorial
World War II Memorial [Above  and left - World War II Memorial]

It's quite impressive.  At each end of the pool there are structures incised on the left, Pacific, on the right, Atlantic.

Columns in semi-circles behind each end bear a bronze wreath and the name of a US State.

In the pool, two major and a number of minor water jets  form a circle continuing the theme set by the State columns. 

This memorial is located on the axis between the Washington and Lincoln Monuments, at the Washington Monument end of the Reflecting Pool.

[Below - grounds of the White House]

Gardens at the rear of the White House

Walking the length of the Reflecting Pool we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, which I think has just undergone a major refurbishment.

The statue is huge. I guess if you thought about it, Lincoln is almost a caricature, and yet he is much loved here. He is, after all, responsible for overcoming the breach caused by the Civil War. Without this, there would be no "United" States at all.

To the left of the Lincoln Memorial is the Korean Memorial.  This consists of a group of more than 20 larger than life-size bronze figures representing a patrol.  The surrounds of a shallow pool are incised with the numbers killed, wounded and missing in the war.  These of course have a US focus, but nevertheless the magnitude of the numbers surprised us, considering that Korea has always been the forgotten war.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln
Korean Memorial, Washinton [Above - Lincoln Memorial, Washington]
[Left and below - Views of the Korean Memorial, Washington]
Missing USA 8177 UN 470,267
Dead USA 54,246


Wounded USA 103,284 UN 1,064,453

Many of the UN casualties will be Korean nationals of course, but you see what I mean about the huge numbers.

A black marble wall (maybe the inspiration for the theme of the Vietnam Wall) is engraved with the words 'Freedom is Not Free' and images from the war.

The whole time we were there we had to dodge a group of rude and aggressive Chinese tourists who pushed in front of people to take their photographs.

To the right of the Lincoln Memorial is the Vietnam Memorial.  This memorial also consists of a black marble wall and bronze figures. Near one end of the wall is a life-size group of three infantrymen, at the other a group of service women supporting the Dustoff of a wounded man.

The wall is incised with the names of those killed or missing, in the order in which they were, to quote one of the pamphlets, "taken from us".

There are 58,256 names on the wall, which is 247 feet long and just over 10 feet tall at the centre.

The rain having stopped, a large number of people were moving through the path in front of the wall, many stopping to locate specific names, some, quite obviously veterans, pausing to reflect on the loss of friends.

Black wall of Korean Memorial
Sculpture of three Vietnam servicemen

It struck me that the chronological listing would mean that the casualties of a particularly fierce action would all be listed together, and that this would be very poignant for those who survived the battle.

It is, as we've been told before, a memorial for the dead, while the Australian Vietnam Memorial is more a memorial for those who survived.

[Left - Frederick Hart's sculpture of three servicemen]
[Below - Glenna Goodacre's sculpture of three servicewomen coming to the aid of a fallen soldier]

Sculpture of three servicewomen aiding a fallen soldier
The Vietnam Wall, Washington

[Above - The Wall]
Right - Parkland in the memorial area, Washington]

Walking back towards our hotel and being a little footsore, we located one of the stops for the tourist buses, similar to those in London, and boarded for a tour of the area. It's an on/off service so you can leave the bus to look at something and then hop back onto another one when you're finished.

This enabled us to cover a wider area than would otherwise have been possible, and provides the opportunity to make some decisions about what we'll go and look at more closely while we are here.

The tour buses won't be running tomorrow, so that will make us dependent upon our feet.  Apparently the disruption caused by the marathon is pretty widespread, and if you think about it, that disruption could last up to eight hours or more.

Silhouete of trees in the memorial area, Washington
Custs-Lee house at Arlington Cemetery from the John Kennedy grave site

Sunday 28 October 2007

This morning we got off to a reasonably late start, then, because of the disruption to road traffic and buses, caught the train to Arlington National Cemetery.

The Metrorail train was packed, apparently a lot of people wanted to go to Arlington or Rosslyn stations to get off and wave to the marathoners.

There are more than 290,000 service men and women buried in Arlington, together with many spouses and a few infant children, and an additional 24 burials every week-day.

200 of the 1,100 acres of the original Custis-Lee property were seized by the Union from 24 May 1864 and used to bury the Union dead from about 1864.

[Above - The Custis-Lee house at Arlington Cemetery from the grave of John F. Kennedy]
[Right - one view of the graves at Arlington Cemetery]

Arlington House remains the property of the US government, and overlooks the row upon row of US war dead.

Most of the later graves have a "standard" grave marker, as you can see, but some of the intermediate ones are quite individual.

It's a very peaceful place, but not one that I am looking forward to visiting permanently, any time soon - or one like it!

[Below - grave of John Fitzgerald Kennedy at Arlington]

Graves at Arlington National Cemetery
Grave of John F. Kennedy at Arlington

John F. Kennedy's grave is marked with a simple blue stone marker and an eternal flame.  Buried next to him are his wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and an infant girl.

We went from there to the 'Tomb of the Unknowns', a concept borrowed from the British, much as we have borrowed the tradition.

The 3rd Infantry Regiment maintains a 24 hour guard over the site. The soldiers are in full ceremonial dress but the drill is much different to that which I'm used to. They use a glide rather than a march or slow march.

We watched the changing of the guard, but because of our own prejudices didn't think too much of it. Or at least I didn't.  Everyone to their own I suppose.

[Right - Changing the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns]

Our next stop was to be the Iwo Jima statue, as we'd promised Karel a picture. Unfortunately, the finish line of the US Marines' Marathon was located there. Having walked all the way to the gateway which should have opened onto a patch to take us there, we found the gate locked and temporary fencing also in place.

Sorry Karel, no pictures.

Pretty much a washout of a day really and very, very frustrating.  Tomorrow we're on our way to South Carolina and we're hoping that  things will improve.

Changing the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns

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