Sunday, July 5, 2009

Washington, D.C. and Virginia

In mid June, Matt was flown out to Virginia for two weeks for a business trip. Braden and I flew out after Matt had been there for a week and spent the last week there together. We had the time of our lives. It had been years and years since Matt and I had been in that area (14 years for me) and Braden, obviously, had never been. We didn't have much time since Matt had to work long hours during the week. We managed to do everything on Saturday, Sunday, Monday night (for Bull Run), and on Wednesday Braden and I drove two hours south to Monticello. We did nearly everything in D.C. that we wanted to but we still have plenty more we can do in Virginia at a later time.

Believe it or not, I only posted a very small number of our photos. We saw and did so many things.

On Saturday we started out by going to the U.S. Capitol. We got poured on all morning long! It was a crazy storm but was much nicer than the heat and humidity that we experienced later that day. Gotta love summers on the east coast.

We did a tour inside of the Capitol which was really awesome. It was so beautiful inside! We started out in the rotunda which is under the dome of the building. The ceiling was gorgeous and there were tons of huge famous paintings and sculptures.

There was so much fascinating history to the building. It was a great experience.

Next we went to the Library of Congress.

Not only was is beautiful on the outside; it was stunning on the inside. There were many mosaics and beautiful frescoes paying homage to famous writers since the beginning of time and what each part of the world contributed to science, literature, religion, etc.

We saw the research area which requires special permission to access. Thousands of the books here belonged to Thomas Jefferson himself. There is literature on literally every subject imaginable; I could get lost in there for weeks going through the books they have.

Next we ran up to the Supreme Court building and took a picture in the pouring rain.

We walked from the back to the front of the White House and saw a huge protest for Iran and its most recent election.

We stopped by Ford's Theater where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and across the street was the house where Lincoln died.

We passed by the Internal Revenue Service Building and shed a few tears . . .

We went to the National Museum of American History where we saw tons of amazing artifacts from our history. My favorite was seeing the actual Star Spangled Banner that Francis Scott Key wrote our national anthem about. It was GIGANTIC! I had always envisioned it as a typical sized flag but it was something like 30 by 40 feet and almost completely intact. It was phenomenal!

While we were there we also saw C-3PO.

The white-only counter where four black college students sat and ordered food during the civil rights movement.

The desk that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence on (you could even see his ink stains on it).

And outside the museum is a fountain you can wade in. Across the street is the EPA building.

We hit up the Natural History Museum to check out the Hope Diamond which is the largest blue diamond in the world. It is over 47 carats! It is said to carry a deadly curse. Muahaha!!!!

By this point in the day, Braden had had too much excitement.

We finished up the day at the National Archives where we saw some of the most important documents relating to our country's history. First we saw the Magna Carta which was so awesome! It's in such great shape especially considering that it is from the 1200s.

We saw the document giving women the right to vote.

The Bill of Rights

The Constitution of the United States of America

and The Declaration of Independence.

By the late afternoon, it was a gorgeous day to be in Washington, D.C.

On Sunday we drove to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.

Braden loved running around the grounds.

The property was so beautiful and the view of the Potomac was out of this world. If I had gazillions of dollars, I'd buy a vacation home there.

The inside of the home was amazing and mostly contained furniture and art that had been there when Washington was alive. The grounds were quite extensive.

We saw George Washington and Martha Washington's tomb where they were interred years after death. The original family tomb was old and so Washington wanted the newer structure built. They were relocated to the newer location upon its completion.

The one on the left is Martha Washington and the one on the right is George Washington. The dark metal square on the wall is the covering for where more than 20 other relatives are buried. The scripture on the wall above the dark square is John 11:25-26:
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

We saw where the slaves worked and even saw one of George Washington's inventions, the round barn, which you can see in the distance in the picture below. The round barn allowed for more efficient separation of grains.
There is a slave cabin on the property and it was sad to see what tight quarters families lived in.

Mount Vernon is heavily wooded and we enjoyed hiking through all of the trees. It was so gorgeous.

Next, we drove to Arlington National Cemetary. It is so beautiful and peaceful there but most of all it's very humbling. So many people have given their lives for our freedom; this is a blessed nation.

Arlington is on a hill above Washington and the views of the city are stunning. In the picture below, you can see the Lincoln Memorial on the left, the Washington Monument in the center, and the Capitol building on the right.

We visited the Tomb on the Unknown Soldier and watched the changing of the guard.
We saw the graves of JFK and Jackie O. and above the hill from their graves is Robert E. Lee's house.

After Arlingotn we walked over to the memorial for the Marine Corps.

It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite sculptures.

The view of Washington from the Marine Corps Memorial was amazing.

We went to a few more Smithsonian museums

and then walked along the National Mall. We saw the Washington Monument.

Then we went to the Vietnam War Memorial. There are sooo many names; it takes your breath away.

We visited our buddy, Abe, at his place.

We walked over to the Korean War Memorial which is very near and dear to my heart because my dad served in the Korean War.

We saw the Jefferson Memorial and then called it a day.

On Monday after Matt got off of work we drove to the battlefield of the Battle of Bull Run/Manassas. It was so awesome! The battlefield and treeline is basically the same as it was during the Civil War.

It was astonishing to me that soldiers were forced to use the fences as their sole protection from gun and cannon fire.

In the picture below, on the right in the distance you can see the farmhouse that was standing during the battle. Bullets and shrapnel flew through the house and killed a woman who lived there.

There is a Confederate grave on the battlefield. The man buried here was the man who inadvertantly gave Thomas J. Jackson the nickname Stonewall Jackson while fighting during this battle.

On Wednesday, Braden and I rented a car and drove two hours south to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The house and the grounds are beautiful, of course. The inside of the house is amazing (unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures of the interior) and so I decided that we are going to buy property in Mount Vernon and build a house just like Monticello on it. It should only take several million dollars. :)

I think Braden's favorite part was roaming around after having been stuck in the car for two hours.

There are elevated walkways coming off of both sides of the house which were Thomas Jefferson's idea so that he could conceal the smoke house, storage, kitchen, etc. below ground so that they would not ruin the view.

Once you walked down the hill, you could see where the kitchen and everything were.

There is even a tunnel under the house where there was a toilet, where alcohol was brewed and stored, and where they had an ice house which could keep ice from winter through mid summer!
They grew many of their own vegetables on the plantation and the garden and the views from the garden are spectacular.

From the brick structure you had a view of the gorgeous landscape below.

As we were leaving, we stopped by Jefferson's grave. He wrote specifically what he wanted on his marker and gave strict instructions that he didn't want anything else added to it. Among many of his great accomplishments that he did not want on his marker, he did not want "President of the United States." He died fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence was presented, on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams.

Needless to say, it was a fantastic trip. We made tons of great memories!

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