The DC Grand Tour

There are too many things to see in Washington DC. It is just too big with too many important, interesting and/or historical sights. I mean maybe if you lived there or were visiting for weeks you could see it all, but a 5 day visit is not sufficient to see all of the worthwhile attractions. Obviously the Smithsonian Museums were most important to me and I have run through the more memorable of the memorials, but there are an abundance of other hot spots around the city. In order to pack as many touristy “must-sees” in the shortest amount of time Mom & I hopped on board a Hop-On/Hop-Off City Bus Tour. I’ve done a few of these before in other cities, although mainly in Europe when I was an extreme tourist. They may be a bit cheesy, but then again so am I… They also offer great views of sites worth seeing but that don’t really have anything you do with them. Here are a few of the more exciting activities:

The White House: home of the President of the United States. It’s a pretty big deal…a big enough deal that you’re not allowed anywhere near the place. You can peer through the bars of an 18 feet tall distant fence though and catch a glimpse of Michelle Obama’s garden and the famous Truman balcony. You may also be able to pick out the snipers othe rooftop. No joke, there is always a sniper up there waiting for someone to try to climb the fence and sprint. If the president is home there you might be able to spot 3 or 4 of them camped out on the rooftop.
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Fun Fact: The White House only got its name after the entire facade had to be painted with white pain. And why was it painted you ask? Well the Canadians & British burned it down and left the exterior (and interior I assume) stained black. Go Canada!…I now apologize to all American readers, it’s just that Canada doesn’t really have many other international acts of aggression in its past.

Embassy Row is located north of Mall…like quite north…more north than we would have wanted to walk. Thankfully our bus tour had a northern loop that travelled by trolley taking the illustrious Massachusetts Avenue. The Embassies aren’t all in a row along this road but they are all located very close together and flying their flags proudly. I found it a fun game to yell out what country each flag was for. Luckily there wasn’t anyone else on our trolley so it was only annoying to Mom. The Canadian Embassy isn’t in this area…it is actually much closer to the Capitol than any other. When we passed it on the bus and we identified ourselves as Canadians our guide stated that he wouldn’t have guessed that we were Canadian…we looked American. What that supposed to be a compliment? Because I am proud of my country and don’t really want to be assumed to be one of my neighbors from the south. Also, what would a typical Canadian look like? Were we unidentifiable because we weren’t in parkas? Or Mounties uniforms? Or carrying a beaver? Or riding a moose? Or dressed as a backwoods hick lumberjack? Geez guide, Canadians can be stylish, modern people too!
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The Ford Theater is an exciting yet tragic location. It was at this theater, while sitting in the box pictured below, that on April 12, 1865 Abraham Lincoln was shot. John Wilkes Booth the leaped from the balcony, which is quite a feet…not pun intended, but Booth ended up injuring his foot on the way down. He then took off down an alley on horse back. 14 days later he was tracked down to a barn in Virginia. Wen he refused to surrender the barn was lit on fire. But he still refused to come out and was eventually shot by a very green police officer….or was he? Many conspiracy theorists (and some academics actually) believe that Booth actually escaped and lived out his life incognito.
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PS Check out this stack of Lincoln-centric books! I found a couple in there that I have!
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While in the theater Mom was texting my sister. When she heard what we were up to she replied, “How exciting for Kris…or sad…I’m not sure what the proper response is.” Mom texted back, “Well Lincoln would be dead by now anyways so it’s not like she could have met him.” I know, I have the world’s most sensitive mother…but the comment did make it hilarious when we could send sister this photo at our next stop (along with the caption “Or not…”):
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That picture is of course from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The museum is full of wax figures of famous folks that are creepily realistic. Justine & I had visited the original Madame Tussaud’s in London and snapped photos with a multitude of pop culture icons. Mom and I were less entertained by this area and more focused on the presidential floor. were able to “meet” all 43 US Presidents! And it was way more fun than it should have been…
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The most hilarious moment though had to be while we were leaving. Before you enter the gift shop there is one last wax figure. To be honest I don’t even remember who the figure was but there was a young Asian woman taking a picture of it. Being the polite Canadians we are we stopped to wait for her to be done. We waited and waited and waited…until I realized she was made of wax too… We were halting our progress to be courteous to a wax figure…it’s a whole new level of nice…and stupid…

The bus tour was a very convenient way to see sights outside of the city center. There were two of these I was eager to see. The first was the Pentagon. I anticipated seeing it because it is (a) a major hub for the US Department of Defence, (b) the largest office building in the world for square footage and (c) in Virginia. I have officially crossed another state off my list! A neat Pentagon fact is that despite the building being 116,000 square meters corridors are set up so that someone can travel from one point to any other point within the building in 7 minutes or less.
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Arlington National Cemetery lies across the river from the Lincoln Memorial. It is the final resting place to countless members of the US military, including 2 presidents. William Taft (Mom’s new favorite president) and John F Kennedy are both buried here. Taft has a simple monument, while the Kennedy family has a large memorial area. Edward, Robert and Jackie are all laid close by JFK. There are many memorials, such as a Tomb of the Unknown Solider for each major military conflict the US has been involved in since WWI and a statue dedicated to those lost int he Challenger explosion. What I found impressive, in a sad way, were the rows and rows of simple crosses…so many people who have died in service to their country. We watched a changing of the guard and I felt sooooo sorry for those poor soldiers. It was so hot out I thought I might melt, but there they were standing perfectly still in fully covered, layered up clothing…including gloves!
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Thus concludes my tour of Washington DC…Thanks for coming along!
Love & Luck,
Kris

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