Tuesday, April 21, 2009

DC: Day 2

Danny and I awoke early Saturday morning and had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. The food is as non-descript as the place’s name: “The Restaurant.” Denny’s style food but at a higher price.

We then caught the hotel shuttle to the Rosslyn Metro station and it was there that I was glad we stayed in Arlington. The DC Metro system, which includes both rail and bus, is the finest I’ve encountered - it even eclipses Boston’s. The stations are clean and the staff and security helpful and friendly.

After emerging in DC, I was in familiar territory. So, I casually walked south toward Lafayette Park. The trees were in full bloom, so the North Portico of the White House was obscured until we were on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. The vista presented itself to a surprised Danny. Even at this early hour there were hordes of tourists outside.

Shortly afterwards, we were pushed back toward the east gate by security. Apparently, the president was preparing to leave because barricades were set up by the east gate to allow his limo to pass. We waited for a while, but eventually left before seeing him.

We then headed south, passing by the Washington Monument on our way to the World War II memorial. This was not in place the last time I was in DC. It’s an extremely well planned memorial, and appropriately, well, monumental for a conflict which claimed 405,000 American lives.

Then we took a circular route encompassing the Vietnam War, Lincoln, and Korean War memorials. At the Lincoln memorial we saw the ugly side of modern tourism, and confirmed that certain national stereotypes are entirely earned. Despite the signs which encourage silence and respect, people within the memorial were chattering away with each other and on cellphones. But not everyone was yakking. The Asian tourists were respectful, even reverent. I heard two languages being spoken, English and French. Since “Silence” is spelled the same in French as it is in English, I can only assume there is a mass epidemic of illiteracy in France, as there is in the United States.

I am not a tight-ass, but there are times when respect is warranted and this was one of them. It put me in a bad mood while we walked through the Mall to the Smithsonian museums.

After noshing on hot dogs served by a cute vendor, we partook of the Smithsonian Air & Space museum. There are so many artifacts of humankind’s journey into the heavens that describing them would be lengthy. Suffice it to say, however, that no visit to this museum is complete without seeing the original model of the Starship Enterprise, which is located in the gift shop.

Next door is the museum of the American Indian. This museum is new, so it may explain why there are relatively few artifacts there. There was an introductory film, which was presented in a circular room on multiple screens. The exhibits were not well presented and mostly unlabelled.

By now, we were getting tired and my feet were hurting. Nevertheless, we took in the first floor of the Natural History museum. Cleveland own museum is very similar to this, in layout and content. There are the usual sections on dinosaurs and early marine life.

Now exhausted, and with rain approaching, we headed to the Metro for our ride back to Arlington, dinner, and sleep.

Before closing this entry let me relate how impressed I am with Arlington. I’m not fond of the South, but Arlington is diverse, bustling, and interesting. It’s really more an extension of DC than a part of Virginia. Perhaps because of its proximity to DC, the recession does not seem to exist there.

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