Sunday, May 20, 2012

Washington DC (and end of week 8)

I'm home from DC and exhausted.  It was a most fabulous trip!  

We had to be at the middle school at 5am Wednesday morning.  Holy early wake up!  Got all the luggage tagged, buses loaded and pulled out at 6am.  Brenna and I were on the first bus, which was boys and girls.  Girls (all 8 of them) sat in the front, then chaperones, then (smelly) boys in the back, lol.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.  We had the 2 staff members who plan the trip on our bus, so we got the inside scoop to everything.  They were super informative and told us what to make sure we saw when we got to each place.  They'd also tell us stories about the places we were while we walked through or waited in line.
The first official stop (after a bathroom break and lunch in Breezewood) was Gettysburg.  I'll start out by saying that I am in no way a history buff, or even remotely interested in reading about it.  But I could have stayed several days there.  We picked up a tour guide and he told us all about the battle of Gettysburg.  We drove around as he talked, and we'd stop and get off the bus in certain places.  The first place we got out was where the first attack happened, and where General Reynolds was killed (only a few minutes after arriving there).  He pointed out the high points that the union army tried to occupy so as to keep the advantage.
We saw other significant places like Little Round Top (above), Devil's Den, Mead's farm, the peach orchard, etc.  We got to walk around the national cemetery.  This was the place Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.  The first person buried there was a guy from Ohio.  There are over 900 graves there of unknown union soldiers.  
We had the tour guide for about 3 1/2 hours, and the time just flew by.  I hope the kids were paying attention, because I learned SO much.  History is just so much better when you can see and feel and "live" it than when you just have to read about it in a history book.
Then it was time for dinner.  We took 150 people into a really nice restaurant where we had a buffet dinner.  Yep, buffet.  This was the second one of the day. 
Bullet holes in Jennie Wade's house

After dinner we had some time to just walk around the town of Gettysburg.  We walked over to Jennie Wade's house.  She was the only civilian to be killed in the Civil War.  There are still bullet holes in the house where she was killed.  

Then came the interesting part.  We went on a ghost walk around town.  We had a guide that took us to different houses/buildings and told us of sightings there.  While we didn't get to experience anything of the paranormal, it was still interesting to hear the stories.
Time to head to the hotel for some much needed sleep.  Of course, we had to wait for the kids to get done journaling/blogging so we could take their phones and keys, so it was at least midnight until we got to bed.  Then up early to be at breakfast by 6:30.  (Yeah, there was not much sleeping on this trip.)
(Breakfast was yet another yummy buffet.  Sigh...)
We started day 2 on the bus to DC.  I think a lot of us took advantage of the 2 hour ride to get a little more sleep in.  Even though we were on charter buses, I didn't think they were all that comfortable, especially for sleeping.  I started the day with a headache, and dozed a bit on the bus, so at least I felt somewhat better by the time we got to DC.
Our first stop was the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  We didn't have a lot of time at any of the places we stopped, so we tried to hurry to see as much as we could.  

We left the museum and headed to Arlington National Cemetery.  What an emotional experience.  We walked through the Arlington house (which was where General Lee once lived), then over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  We saw the changing of the guards---its crazy how much they have to go through for that.  The middle school always gets to lay a wreath there.  If the kids would like to do it, they put their name in a drawing.  Four kids are chosen to do it, along with 3 alternates.  They have to dress up, and they inspect them before they're allowed to do it.  (Hence the case of sickness or inappropriate dress)  Brenna was chosen as one of the 4 this year.  They didn't go to Arlington house...they went with another teacher to get their instructions and be inspected.  Brenna said it was a little unnerving at first...they were questioned and such, but the guard ended up being really nice and chatted with them before it was time to go out.
Laying of the wreath

This was actually the most emotional part of the trip for me.  What an honor to get to lay a wreath at the tomb.  Yes, I cried.  Thankfully it was a beautiful sunny day, so I had sunglasses on.  :)  After they laid the wreath, another guard played Taps.  Amazing.
When that was done, we walked over to see where JFK and family are buried.  Then it was time to head to the next place.  On the walk back to the buses, we passed a "hearse".  There were 8 large horses carrying 3 soldiers.  They were pulling a cart with a flag-draped casket on the back.  Such a touching and personal thing to be able to witness.  (We were told they do 28-35 funerals a day there.)

The next stop on the trip was the Library of Congress.  By far the most beautiful building we were in.  I didn't get any pictures inside.  The security is pretty tight there, so I just left my camera on the bus.  We didn't have a lot of time here, so we spent most of our time looking at Thomas Jefferson's library.

WWII Memorial

Then it was off to the WWII memorial.  Every year the middle school raises money to buy wheelchairs to give to the memorial.  When they built it, they had one wheelchair that veterans could borrow.  Since then, our middle school has donated every wheelchair they have there to date.  This year we took 2, which the ranger told us was great timing because they were getting ready to order 3 more.  Such a beautiful memorial. 

It was time for dinner.  We went to yet another buffet.  They let the chaperones go first (since we seem to take so much longer to eat, lol), and when the kids were done, there was a small game room they could entertain themselves in for a bit.  Then they got their glow in the dark shirts from the ghost tour, and we were off for the lighted monument tour.
Once we were on the buses, the leaders handed out glow-necklaces.  Each bus was color coded so we could find our group easily.  (We were red)  The first stop was the Korean memorial.  As we were walking up the sidewalk, a fox ran in front of us and off the other direction.  It was funny to see wildlife like that in the city.
Korean Memorial
I've seen pictures of this memorial, and for me its just creepy.  The engraved wall is pretty cool, but the statues in the garden really just give me the creeps.

Next was the Lincoln Memorial.  Unfortunately the reflecting pool is still under reconstruction.  At our elementary school, the 6th graders have to memorize the Gettysburg Address.  Then they recite it for an unknown judge, and the winner gets to recite it at the community Memorial Day service.  When both the older girls were in 6th grade, they were chosen.  To have a picture of the speech as it is engraved is neat, but to get the full effect of just how huge it is, I took a pic with Brenna standing under it. 

We also did the tourist thing, lol.
Being a tourist :)

We walked across the street to the Vietnam Wall.  Again, I had seen pictures.  It wasn't what I expected though.  It really is a moving sight to see.  My dad's best friend was killed in Vietnam, so we really wanted to do a rubbing of his name.  We could only find 2 books there, and the page we needed was missing from both, so we found a ranger and got the location.  We were running late, but the teacher was standing behind us and said she didn't interrupt because she could tell we were there with a purpose.

Jefferson Monument

 Next we went to the Jefferson Monument.  This was the only time we got to see the White house.  (When we went to see it Friday night, it was on lock down, so we couldn't get close.)  It was neat to see it lit up across the water though.

We went from there to the FDR memorial.  This was one of my favorites.  I just liked how you had to walk through it, and the waterfall told a story of his presidency in itself.  There were also neat statues and quotes on the walls.  The only thing that I didn't like was that by now it was quite dark, and things weren't lit very well in there.  

We walked around the water to the MLK memorial.  This is brand new.  It was interesting, but I thought he looked really mad in the carving.

Then it was off to the hotel.  We stayed at a really nice hotel.  I found a sticker in the back of the closet with the prices for the rooms.  They started at $799/night!  I sure hope we got some kind of deal.  If not, I'd suggest we stay somewhere cheaper and cut the cost of the trip!  It was nice, but not that nice.  (We couldn't even lower the temp on the a/c!)
It was another late night by the time the kids were done journaling/blogging and back to their rooms.  ***Yawn***

Up early again on day 3 to be at breakfast by 6:30.  Today we started at the Capitol building.  We had tickets to the House of Representatives.  We sat in the balcony, and this is one of the few days they were actually in session.  We heard people requesting amendments, and then they finally voted on one.  There is a timer and yea/nay that shows up on the front of the balcony, and the names of all the representatives appear behind/above where the Speaker of the House sits so you can follow what is going on.  It tells you who voted how.  When we got there, there were maybe 10 people in the room.  As the voting started, there ended up being over 400 people in there.  It was very interesting to see how it all worked, even if I didn't understand what they were voting on.  Someone walked in late, and everyone started chanting, "Vote, vote, vote, vote...".  It turns out this guy is usually one of the first ones to vote, and always rushes people along so they can get done.  This day he was late and they harassed him.  :)  (No pics allowed.)
We also had tickets to the Senate, but they were closed.
We went back outside to meet our representative on the steps of the capitol to have a class picture taken.  That was kinda cool.

From there we went to the Smithsonian American History Museum.  We were late leaving the Capitol, plus we had to have lunch in the museum, so we only had an hour to look around.  Brenna really wanted to see the Star Wars stuff, but that exhibit was under reconstruction so we didn't get to see it.  It was recommended by our leaders to see the Star Spangled Banner exhibit (no pics), and I'm so glad we did.  It told the story of the first flag, and its on display there.  Very cool.

Our next stop was the Holocaust museum.  We had been closed out of that, but at the last minute they had a cancellation and could get us in.  Wow.  The museum is very well done.  Its all in chronological start on the top floor in 1933 when Hitler became chancellor, and work your way through WWII.  Some of it is really graphic.  Some is really sad.  There was a room full of shoes that were left behind in the concentration camps.  What I noticed most about that is the smell.  There were actual bunks from Auchwitz.  Just a really moving experience.

Then it was time for a little shopping.  There are many street vendors and souvenir shops on the same street as Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot).  We got to see that (and the house where they took him where he died), but we didn't get to go into either. 

The National Archives was the next stop.  We had to wait in line a long time, so we had to rush through.  The only things we saw were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution/Bill of Rights.  I'm not sure what else we would have wanted to see in there, but that was really neat to see such pieces of history.

Then it was time for the kids to have a little fun.  They charter a boat and the kids eat dinner on there and they have a dj and dance.  The chaperones got to go into town (Alexandria, VA) for dinner.  Then it was back on the bus to see the White house (on lock down) and Iwo Jima.  We didn't get to get out there, but we drove around it a couple times.  I was under the impression it was a life size memorial, so I was incredibly shocked to see just how huge it actually is.  

So there is the trip.  It went so fast.  We didn't get to do anything in depth, but at least the kids got a taste of many things.  What a great trip!

Now on to week 8.  Nothing spectacular.  TONS and tons of walking.  On Thursday we walked up and down more steps than I think I've walked the entire rest of the year so far.  My legs are sore!  Food was so so.  I did pretty well on water, as it was hot and we needed to stay hydrated.
For week 9 my plan is to do SBD phase 1.  I'm going to try to be pretty strict this week.  We'll see how it goes.  Still busy...3 more days of school for me, 6 more for the kids.
I have to take the oldest daughter for an abdominal u/s this week as well, as she's still having some health issues. 


Kris said...

Washington is so full of history - I'm Canadian and it's still on my bucket list to go visit one day! Thanks for posting those photos, looks like you had an amazing trip.

Caron said...

Your trip sounds really great. Good luck with week 9. We're nearing the finish line. :)

PlumPetals said...

Sounds like a fantastic trip. I love DC - there is so much to explore and see. Good luck with week 9. Hope all goes well with your daughter.

Michele said...

Looks like it was a great trip. Pictures are amazing. Finish week nine strong!