Thoughts From Places: Washington, DC (2010)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

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My Trip to Washington, DC!

I consider this trip as my high school graduation gift. For as long as I could remember my dad told me that one day we would all go on a trip together and in 2010 we finally did. This is so far the only trip I have gone on with both of my parents. This might be the only one because my dad is a hellish travel partner (don’t get me wrong I was very excited to experience history with the man who made me love history, but the man is super pushy and impatient).

The White House as seen from our tour bus!

We decided it would be fun if we took the Amtrak train from Buffalo to NYC to Washington, DC. The ride there was fun! We had to get up super early and my uncle drove us to the (pathetic) train station downtown. The train wasn’t crowded so we all got our own set of seats. I had brought a couple books with me thinking I would read on the train, but my mind kept wandering. I spent a lot of time just looking out the window, imagining that I was on the Hogwarts Express. It was a lot of fun though because my dad kept getting bored and was being silly. There was also this little boy who kept running past but the first 6 or 7 times he ran by my dad DIDN’T SEE him so I was convinced he was a ghost until my dad stuck his head in the aisle to talk to my mom and was almost decapitated by the fast moving kid. The fun kind of ended once we got to New York. The thing about train travel (at least when Penn Station is concerned) is that they didn’t list where your train was located until 15-20 minutes before it was schedule to leave so if you were on the other side of the station you were probably screwed. Luckily, we were able to catch our train, but it was unnecessarily stressful. Because we didn't want to drive the 7 hours to DC we figured if we took the train (a 12 hour trip) and then used public transportation we'd be fine. Oh how foolish we were. I should have done more research. So to get to our hotel (which was supposedly REALLY close to Union Station) we would rely on the hotel’s shuttle bus. Because of this we spent at least a third of the trip in Union Station waiting, which was actually okay with me because there was this Japanese restaurant which had the single most amazing teriyaki chicken I have ever consumed and had it as a meal at least 5 times that week.
National Archives!

 The bus system had seemed so simple and yet somehow we ended up in Chinatown on the first day and walked from there to the National Mall. This worked out though because somehow I forgot that the National Archives was a thing that needed to be on my must see list. Not gonna lie, one of my all time favorite movies (and motivation for the trip and minoring in American history in college) is National Treasure. So as we walked to the National Mall the huge building on the other side of the street looked awfully familiar and when I realized what it was I took off like a rocket into the street forgetting to follow one of the first safety rules you learn in kindergarten and crossed without looking and almost got hit by a bus (I am exaggerating only slightly it was still pretty far away so my flailing run across the street was actually okay if not advisable). I obviously don't have pictures of the great, old, historic documents I saw that day because photography isn't allowed for preservation's sake (and so Nick Cage can't steal anything) but I did buy a small replica of the Declaration of Independence to memorialize my semi-recreation of my favorite movie.

The Capitol Building and James Garfield Statue!
The main point of this trip was to see some of the Smithsonian Museums (American History, Natural History, and Air & Space Museums). I have decided to separate these thoughts from this post because I have a lot to say about them. (It should be posted on BWE on 7-2-14 and will be linked here as soon as it is available.)

After the fiasco of public transportation the day before on Day 2 we decided that we should use one of those hop-on/hop-off tour bus things. By doing this we figured it would be the best option because that way we wouldn’t have to navigate ourselves and we would still get to all the monuments and stuff that we wanted to see. One of the first things we saw was the Capitol building. We didn’t go inside or anything but just seeing it was amazing (same thing goes for the White House). We saw the Willard Hotel and the National Mint and the Jefferson Monument and Ford Theatre from the outside as well.

The HUGE statue of Lincoln!
The Korean War Monument.

We got off the bus near the Lincoln Memorial. Since both mom and dad had been to Washington, DC before as a side trip from their trip to Gettysburg when I was little they decided not to climb up all those stairs again so I went by myself. I will never get over the feeling I get when I am in a historically important place. It’s an almost overwhelming surreal feeling. I was standing there looking up at that huge statue of Lincoln and just thinking about everything he did and everything I did to make sure that I was able to see this statue.I took a picture of both the statue and the Washington Monument from the Memorial. The latter picture is particularly interesting for two reasons: 1) off in the right corner near the seventh column from the end you can see my parents and 2) DO YOU SEE HOW BLUE THAT SKY IS?! SKY THAT IS THAT BLUE SHOULD NOT OPEN UP AND POUR 15 MINUTES LATER. Before we knew about the looming storm we went to see the Korean and Vietnam memorials. The Korean one was my favorite. It’s hauntingly beautiful and meant a lot to me because it meant a lot to my maternal grandfather who was in Korea. It was a peculiar time to see it too because the rain was just about to start so a mist was rolling in and it all just seemed very aproppriate. We were walking next to the refection pool on our way from these to the WWII monument, dodging geese and the copious amount of poop they left in their wake, when that beautiful blue sky opened up and BAM instant!downpour. I have never been so wet in my life. We stopped and saw the WWII monument really quickly (which was kind of sad because that’s what dad wanted to see the most) and then dad had us RUN to the bus stop so we could catch the bus back to Union Station. Only it was raining so hard that we got on the wrong tour bus, but the driver felt bad for us so he let us ride. 

(Wax) Johnny Depp and I!

Next we went to Madame Tussauds Wax museum. This was crazy creepy and amazing. My favorite was the Johnny Depp one because he’s one of my favorite actors. Some of them were so lifelike it was eerie and then others were not even close and I couldn’t help wondering if the maker had ever even seen a picture of the celebrity. They had a lot of figures and there was someone for everyone. My dad liked the historical ones like Martin Luther King, Jr and the civil war generals. Mom liked the Morgan Freeman one. I liked the presidents and the Jonas Brothers. There was such a variety it was amazing! It was here that I mockingly won my fake best actress Oscar! 

The Bonnie and Clyde car!!
After this we went to the Crime and Punishment museum which was incredibly unique. There was a made up crime scene, a guillotine, and an electric chair, all very morbid and all extremely cool. My favorite was the Bonnie and Clyde car with all the bullet holes!

For the last two days of the trip we also went to Manassas, VA and Mount Vernon. Those blogs should be posted on 7-30-14 and 8-27-14 respectively (click here and here to read them when they’re posted).

Remember when I said at the beginning that the trains were stressful because of the strange waiting thing in NYC? Well, when we got to New York on the way home my dad said he would be right back; we assumed he had to go to the bathroom or something. No, he went and found our train’s conductor and bribed him to tell us where to go. This guy led us to this seemingly abandoned part of the station and said that the train would be leaving from there. I smelled murderous plot and said so to my dad but he assured me that we could trust this guy because “he looked like Morgan Freeman and he played God in a movie once.” This is perhaps one of the weirdest things my dad has done. He never trusts anymore and he’s not religious. I decided to just go along with it and turns out he was trust worthy. It was where our train was going to be and we got on first!

The view outside my train window for 7 hours as we were stuck
between Albany and Buffalo. At least it was pretty...
However, the last leg of our journey was a semi-disaster in that the train stopped for SEVEN HOURS because of trees on the track (personally I don't believe for a second that there were TREES on the track. It doesn't take SEVEN hours to clear trees! I think it was probably a derailed train but they didn't want to alarm us). It was also surprisingly crowded and dad had to sit next to some guy. The guy was really nice though. My dad is a smoker and the hours we were stuck we weren’t allowed of the train for safety reasons and he was going crazy without nicotine but luckily the said nice guy next to him gave him some snuff. Dad didn’t do it right or something, I don’t know but it was pretty hilarious to watch. I was able to spend the rest of the train ride home thinking about all the amazing things we saw in DC and all the things we didn’t see. Already I was planning for my next trip to the capital!