My Belgian cousins who are in their early 20s are visiting the United States for the very first time. They wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Constitution, thus a trip to D.C. was born.
We drove from New York to Washington D.C. with the plan to arrive around noon. By the time we actually arrived and got ready to be tourists it was almost four in the afternoon. Go figure.
We cabbed across the bridge from the Holiday Inn in Rossyln, VA where we were staying, to the Lincoln Memorial. We found Waldo to be as mesmerized with the Lincoln sculpture as we were.
We found the site where Martin Luther King stood to give his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech as he addressed hundreds before him. It was impressive to stand there and look across the Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument.
There amongst the masses, I myself became a tourist attraction when a Korean tourist (you know the ones, they come in droves off a tour bus with a guide holding a flag leading the way), walked up to me and asked for my photo. She had a friend poised with camera in hand a few feet away ready to snap. I asked her “why?” as in why do you want to take a picture of me…with me?, but she seemed confused with my question and just asked hers a few times more. I acquiesed. After all, we had all been taking stealth pictures of Waldo, and this lady had the courtesy to come ask me. Of course it weighs on my mind. What attracted her to me. My blackness? My twists so fluffy and frizzy they look like dreads? My beauty? Did I resemble somebody she knew? A famous person? Am I going to be in a Korean album centuries later my image captured forever ? What story would go with that picture? Hmmmm.
Next, we walked to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which was sobering and impressive. Across the Tidal Basin, we viewed the Jefferson Memorial. The Cherry Blossoms were fading away already. We walked across Kutz Bridge to the Washington Monument, and on further to the German-American Friendship Garden where beautiful tulips were in blossom and onwards to the White House, the official residence of the President of the United States, built with slave labour but who’s taking note, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. We had approached the south side where the National Christmas tree looked so bare and pitiful and walked around to the Pennsylvania Ave side which I thought was more beautiful. Of course, discussion led to the TV show Scandal, and which entrance did Olivia Pope use and which was her favourite bench and in which park was said bench etcetera? Yeah…
The next day, we took the Metro in to D.C. where our first stop was the Old Post Office Pavilion. My cousins already recognized Ben Franklin’s statue outside and knew his significance in relation to the post office, having already spent 24 hours in Philadelphia. The congress bells and their machinery were impressive. We went to the top of the tower for an excellent aerial view of Washington D.C. It was so cool to see the spatial relationship of all the landmarks, and for me to realize that we had walked by the FBI building several times and not realized it. We were a bit disgusted that there was actually a plan to demolish the Old Post Office back in the 1920s and again in the 1970s. Why? Why?!
Next stop was the National Archives where there was a long line (about an hour’s wait) to get inside. The highlights here were the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence collectively known as the Charters of Freedom and which are housed in the Rotunda. There’s also a copy of the 1297 Magna Carta in the Rubenstein Gallery. Here my cousins realized (or were re-affirmed of their suspicion of) the hypocrisy that is the United States of America. The “Record of Rights” permanent exhibition of the Rubenstein Gallery documents “the ongoing struggle of Americans to define, attain, and protect their rights”.
Then it was onwards to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History where “Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life” was on exhibit and where the Star Spangled Banner lay in all its glory.
From here, we went to the Ford’s Theatre to watch a short play about the events surrounding President’s Lincoln assassination back in 1965. We were unfortunately unable to secure tickets for the museum. Across the street is the Petersen House, where Lincoln actually died several hours later.
|Top L to R: plaque, Lincoln’s booth, Ford’s Theatre, Petersen House (green shutters)|
It was a very busy but fulfilling 24 hour jaunt of most of the tourist highlights of Washington D.C. Best of all, I appreciated that essentially all of this came at no additional monetary cost. Awesome!