Monday, October 26, 2009

Washington D.C. - Day Two

Wednesday morning we drove back to Franconia, VA. again to catch the Metro into the city. It was much easier getting around our second day because now we knew how to get around a little better.
We boarded the Metro and rode to the Smithsonian Museum stop where we planned to spend most of the day.
We had 10:30 a.m. tickets to go to the top of the Washington Monument, so that was the first place we went to after we arrived in the city.

Randy is standing in the Monument waiting to for our 70 second ride to the top of the 555 ft. monument.

This photo is the view looking out onto the Mall. The Lincoln Memorial is in the far distance,then the long stretch of lawn next to the World War II Memorial. It was so awesome to look over the city from this viewpoint!
From Washington Monument, we walked back towards the Smithsonian Museum's where we planned to spend the rest of the day. This enormous red stone building is The Castle - the Smithsonian information center.When we planned our trip to Washington, D.C. we allowed only two days knowing that we'd only see a tiny portion of the interesting things there was to see. The Smithsonian consists of 19 museums, all huge buildings, and you could easily spend a day in each one. So, needless to say, we were a little overwhelmed trying to decide what things we'd try to see in the allotted time.

We started out at the Museum of Nature History. This museum has 18 exhibit halls containing tens of thousands of artifacts and specimens that tell the story of the earth and it's evolution into the planet of today. It made us think of "Night at the Museum". It's hard to imagine these enormous creatures once roaming the earth.

The museum is so enormous, we had to make choices about what we wanted to see - it was all so spectacular and interesting!
We next spent some time among the relatives . . . the mammals. We thought of our conversation with Carson when he'd learned about mammals at school. He would have loved all of these exhibits. It's just fascinating the way everything is displayed. It makes learning so interesting! This section of the museum was like living and walking in among the mammals. The noises, the huge animals and all the information about each one was so awesome.

And here I am sitting with a monkey watching a movie about how mammals evolved. I couldn't get over how many things there were to see. So many things to see and learn and not enough time to do it all . . .oh, well--we gave it our best shot!

Next we spent several hours in the Air and Space Museum. There's just no way pictures do justice to the amazing things we saw there. It's easy to see why it's the most visited of all the Smithsonian Museums.

It's an enormous display of anything and everything related to flight and space travel. It was so interesting to see how crude the first planes were and to see how flight has evolved. It made you appreciate the brave and adventuous people who believed it was possible to fly like a bird and then figured out a way to make it happen.

Many of the most famous air and space vehicles in history are just inside the doors of the museum. Moon rockets, Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis", the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound, and the X-15, the fastest aircraft ever flown . . . they are all right there. Everything from first flight to lunar exploration all under one roof. It was unbelievable! It's something you shouldn't miss when you visit the Smithsonian.

This spectacular flag hangs in the Museum of American History. This museum holds over 3 million artifacts, everything from the top hat worn by President Lincoln the night he was shot, a desk Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence, and millions of other interesting things from our nation's history.

By the time we got to this museum we only had a couple of hours left before the museum was scheduled to close at 5 p.m. It's difficult to have to pick and choose what you have time to see, but that's exactly what we had to do. This museum had 3 floors with huge east/west wings on each floor. We had only been in the museum about a half hour when we ran into David and Pam Beck and their 5 children. (They were taking their family on a week long vacation in Washington, D.C. during spud harvest). We were so surprised! The odds of running into anyone we knew were pretty great, but there they were!

Because of time limitations, we didn't make it through very much of this museum but we did see the "Transportation and Technology" Exhibit.

All kinds of transportation were displayed, from the earliest horse and buggy to cars, trains and planes. And with each display there were these life-sized statues, dressed in appropriate period costumes. They were so cute and they fit into each period of history.

When Randy saw this car he had to have his picture taken by it. He said this was just exactly like the first car he remembered being allowed to drive. The one Grandpa owned was also black, just like this one. He kept saying, "I wish I still had that car". There's a lot of memories associated with the cars we've owned at different times in our lives - this one sure brought back lots of memories for him.

After the museums closed we walked to the World War II Memorial. It was a beautiful memorial with each of the 50 states represented on the columns surrounding the water feature.

Quotes from famous people were inscribed around this monument commemorating the sacrifices of the men and women who fought in World War II.This last monument brought our visit to a close in Washington, D.C. We had spent two busy days in our nations capitol and had seen a lot of amazing sights and learned a lot of interesting things. As we walked back to catch the commuter train back to Virginia, we talked about the great things we were able to see and do. We had enjoyed our time here but we were also ready for a little slower pace than what we'd experienced here. We were glad we'd been able to see of so many beautiful historical sites and to experience some of the things we did. Like they say, "It's a nice place to visit but I don't want to live there". We love traveling and experiencing new things, but we're always grateful for where we live and the good lifestyle we enjoy.

Washington D.C. - Day One

Tuesday morning (Oct. 6) we left our hotel and drove about 40 miles to Fraconia, Virginia. We parked our car in a parking garage and then caught the Metro into Washington D.C. It was all a little intimidating figuring out where we needed to be and what train to ride, but once we figured everything out, it was a quick ride into Washington. I'm so glad we didn't try to drive into the city, it would have been pretty stressful, so instead we just sat back and enjoyed our little half hour commute on the train.

We got off the metro at Arlington Cemetery where we got tickets for the tour bus. Riding the tour bus made it easy to get to the places we wanted to go and also be informed about the various sites around the city.

As the bus crossed the river we started seeing all the famous sites we'd only read about. It was so awesome to see all these magnificent buildings. Here's the Washington Monument . . . .
. . . . and the Jefferson Memorial.

We were in awe at the size of the buildings.

I had always wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, so that's where we started our tour. Seeing pictures of all these famous places doesn't really do them justice. . . they are enormous.

I'd seen this statue of Lincoln hundreds of times, but I must say it was a real thrill be be standing in front of it and to be seeing it in person.

What an awesome monument! How does anyone carve marble? And how do they get the detail and the flow of fabric? It's amazing!

Next we stopped by the Vietnam Memorial. We located the names of two of our high school classmates who had been killed in Vietnam. Both of these boys were so young when they were drafted and sent to Vietnam, just like so many others who have served in our nations wars. But knowing them and seeing their names there on the wall was a sobering experience. To see all those names listed, and then to imagine how every family suffered when they were notified of the death of their son or daughter, it was so sad. Listing the names instead of just the numbers of the dead makes it so much more personal.

The wind was blowing pretty briskly most of the day . . it made the flags around the monument stand out so pretty against the blue sky.

Looking up at the Washington Monument almost made you dizzy, it's so tall and such an awesome structure. And it's not just a quick walk from one site to another. The Mall is so huge, it takes a least a half hour to walk from one site to another. We wanted to ride to the top of the monument but the tickets were all gone for Tuesday so we got tickets for Wednesday morning.

Here's a little information about the Washington Monument. It's 555 feet high. The cornerstone was laid in 1848 in a ceremony attended by President James Polk, and other dignitaries, namely Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson. Construction ground to a halt after it was only 156 feet tall because of lack of funding and stood unfinished for many years. Finally, President Ulysses S. Grant authorized the federal government to complete the project and so the Army Corp of Engineers completed it in 1885, 37 years after it began. It's now open every day except Christmas.

Randy is taking a little break after we walked around the Capitol. We did a lot of walking so it was kind of nice to sit down occasionally and just take in the sights.

This view is from the Capitol looking back down towards the Washington Monument. You can see it's quite a distance.
The steps of the Capitol were closed off so you couldn't go up them, but I'm not sure we would have walked up them if we could--that's a lot of steps.
We spent the last couple hours of the day at the Arlington Cemetery. It's quite a site to see all those white headstones laid out so exactly- - thousands and thousands of them.

This is the Memorial Amphitheater. It's the site of all the Memorial Day services that are held here each year. It's a beautiful grey marble structure.

Adjacent to the Memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is probably the best known memorial to those who have died in service to our country. The afternoon we were there, these veterans in red shirts had traveled from somewhere in the Midwest to see the monument and to have the honor of participating in placing of a wreath on the tomb. It was pretty touching to see all these men who had fought in the World War II, many of them in wheelchairs, be able to come here and take part in such a special ceremony.
A sentinel of the Third U.S. Infantry maintains vigil around the clock at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He paces 21 steps alongside the tomb, pauses 21 seconds, then returns. The changing of the guard takes place on the hour. "Here rests in honored glory an American Soldier known only to God" is the inscription on the sarcophagus of the World War I soldier entombed here in 1921. Since that time, others servicemen have joined their comrade. Unknown servicemen from WWII, Korean, and Vietnam have also been entombed here. It was an awesome and reverent sight to see this ceremony. We were so glad we closed our day at Arlington. It's a very special place and we felt honored to have been there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thomas Jefferson's MONTICELLO

Monday morning, (Oct. 5th) we drove to Monticello, just outside of Charlottesville, VA. There we spent the day learning about Thomas Jefferson's mountainside home. Monticello means "little mountain" and it was a fascinating experience to be able to spend the day learning more about Thomas Jefferson, and some of the amazing things he accomplished in his lifetime.

This amazing man who at 26 became a member of the House of Burgesses, at 32 attended the Second Continental Congress and a year later drafted the "Declaration of Independence", then served in Virginia's House of Delegates, elected Governor of Virginia in 1779, elected to Congress in 1783, began diplomatic service to France in 1784, 1789 returns to United States and in 1790 appointed first U.S. secretary of state, six years later was elected vice president, and in 1801 elected 3rd President of the United States. While he was President, he commissioned Lewis & Clark expedition, concluded the Louisiana Purchase, re-elected President for second term, sold his personal library of 7,000 books to Library of Congress, in 1817 designed and planed University of Virginia, and on July 4, 1826, dies on the 5oth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It's hard to comprehend all the things he accomplished, but it was so interesting to learn more about our 3rd President. In 1768 Jefferson began leveling the Monticello mountaintop for his house. (Much of the land- 3,000 acres - surrounding the mountaintop were inherited from his father, he later acquired another 2,000 acres.) That began the 40 year period of design, construction, and remodeling to create his mountainside estate. The house is extraordinary, not only in design, but in the way Jefferson related it to the landscape. The open-air living spaces in the form of L-shaped terraces served as extensions of the main floor. . . a concept unheard of at that time. While Jefferson was living in France he was greatly influenced by the architecture and incorporated many of those elements into his Monticello. The house went through several periods of redesign, changing from a two-story structure to a three-story structure. By the time Jefferson retired in 1809, the remodeling of Monticello was largely completed.
Being able to see this home was such a treat for me. Every detail of the house, gardens, and surrounding properties were unbelievable. Jefferson was not only interested in architecture, landscape, and farming, but in every aspect of his life, he was improving and inventing new and better ways to do things.

Near the visitor center was a statue of Thomas Jefferson, he wasn't a large man but he knew how to get things done.

These school children were visiting Monticello on Monday while we were there. Dressed in their little caps and long dresses they looked like they belonged there. They could have been the children of guests visiting the estate in the mid 1700's. Behind the children are some of the gardens.
This area is called the "dependencies". These structures were built under the terraces that extend off the exterior of the house. These spaces were designed for working, living, and storage beneath the main house, terraces and pavilions. They included a wash house, carriage bays, ice house, two privies, wine cellar, a kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, and three rooms for the house slaves - the ones who did the cooking for the main house. All of these structures are concealed in the hillside and under the terraces to avoid obstructing the views around the house.

This is a view into the kitchen area. In that day, kitchens were totally separate from the house. It had a large fireplace, several smaller cooking area, shelves, and several large tables for preparing food and lots of pans, kettles, and cooking utensils. Just inside the door was information about the slaves who did the cooking. It was all so interesting.

This is a view from on top of one of the two terraces. Potted trees, flowers and benches for seating were all along the terraces. From these terraces you had a beautiful view of much of the gardens and landscaping on the backside of the house.
Besides growing huge gardens,
Jefferson also had vineyards,
orchards, and berry squares. He experimented with new varieties to see what would grow best in the local climate.

This is the garden pavilion where he and his quests would come to enjoy the view of the gardens and orchards. He loved to spend time in the evening overlooking his gardens. Who wouldn't?
This pavilion stood behind the vegetable gardens and overlooked the orchards and vineyards. The 2-acre gardens were divided into 24 "squares", according to which part of the plant was harvested- roots, leaves, or fruits.
It really was a beautiful view from inside the pavilion. You can see how the gardens and vineyards were terraced--all divided and spaced so they make a beautiful pattern along the hillside. Jefferson said, "No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden." Of all his accomplishment and titles, he liked being called a farmer the most. His gardens were living laboratories for the study of plants from around the world. He chronicled a lifetime of gardening activities in his Garden Book, and kept detailed journals and meticulous records of everything he did. It's hard to imagine how he had time to keep such detailed records . . these handwritten accounts are so meticulous they are almost works of art.
This is the south pavilion. It's one of two small structures that were built at the end of the terraces. Jefferson and his wife lived in one of these buildings while Monticello was being built. His wife died in childbirth in 1782, after having lived in this small building for almost 10 years. She didn't live long enough to see the completion of the house - - remember it wasn't completed until 1809 when Jefferson retired there after serving 2 terms as President of the United Stated.
Along this 1,000 foot section of the estate, Jefferson planted Mulberry trees. It was in the shade of these trees where enslaved and indentured workers and craftsmen lived and worked in small stone and log buildings. At one time, Mulberry Row, consisted of 17 structures, including a blacksmith shop and nailery, joinery, carpenter shop, smokehouse/dairy, and five log cabins for some of the slaves. The cabins were 12 x 20 with earthen floors and wooden chimneys. For most of his life, Jefferson was the owner of 200 slaves. It was these men and women who worked the land, raised and harvested the crops, grew the gardens, cooked the meals. They were the craftsman and workmen who did whatever was required of them by their owner. On his deathbed, Jefferson freed several of his slaves, but it wouldn't be until another 40 years passed before slavery was abolished and this sad period in our history would finally come to an end.
Our day spent here at Monticello was so interesting. We'd learned so much about our 3rd President and what an amazing man he was. After we finished visiting the grounds, we spend another couple of hours in the museum and visitor center. The museum used the latest technology to tell the story of Monticello and the man whose planning and vision made it all happen. It was fascinating. We felt so fortunate to be able to learn some of the history of this part of Virginia. We had spent a wonderful day together . . . a day we'll long remember!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Historical Fredericksburg, VA

After a late Saturday evening flight from SLC, we arrived in Richmond, Virgina, Sunday, October 4th to begin our adventures in beautiful Virginia. We picked up our rental car, had a little breakfast and then drove to Fredericksburg, - about 50 miles north of Richmond. It was a beautiful drive with trees alongside both lanes of the interstate. It took awhile for us to realize that we were not going to see much scenery, except for trees, while we were driving on the interstates, so whenever possible we drove the more scenic byways.
Virginia is beautiful state with lots of rolling hills, lakes, beautiful trees, and only small areas of cleared ground. Unlike in the West, where we are planting trees to beautify our cities and yards, they are clearing trees so their homes or businesses can be seen.
We arrived in Fredericksburg by early afternoon and after getting settled in our hotel, we drove a few miles into Historical Downtown Fredericksburg.

All the buildings were so charming. Red brick houses with several chimneys, black shutters and white porches seemed to be the typical structure of the day. So pretty . . . I just loved the architecture.
We spend several hours just wandering around this pretty historical district. The cute shops painted in every color were all along tree lined streets. Many of the storefronts had colorful awnings and pretty little signs hanging above the doors . . . now that's my idea of what a little downtown area ought to look like!
The shops were all decorated for fall . . . and in front of one of the shops a fellow sat strumming his guitar. It made for a very pleasant atmosphere. We bought some popcorn from a street vendor and enjoyed our late afternoon stroll along the streets.
Huge churches were on just about every corner. This church steeple towered above the downtown area and even though it was an exception to the traditional red brick buildings, it was beautiful.
It was interesting to step into the cemetery, always located next to a church, and read the names and dates on the headstones. Some of the headstones were so worn it was difficult to read the dates, but you could still make out many of the dates from the mid and late 1700's.
And here's another church with it's tall steeple. It was amazing to us how many antique shops, churches and attorney offices we saw as we walked along the city streets. I guess there's never a shortage of attorneys in any city, but this area seemed to have more than it's share. The antique shops were full of interesting and beautiful collectibles. And on a corner in front of a store was a large stone where slaves were brought to be sold to the highest bidder. It was hard to believe we were standing right where such sad events had taken place, where families were split apart, never to see each other again. That's such a sad chapter in the history of this part of the country. Seeing all these historic buildings was like stepping back in history several hundred years. We thought all of this was so interesting and to think this was just the first day of our week long adventures in Virginia. What a way to start the week! We were looking forward to seeing lots of great things and having a wonderful time together.