Trip to the city of lost symbol, museums and memorials – Part -2

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After a very hectic day we crashed into our beds to relax before we begin the evening tour which looked very promising.

We were picked up by the tour bus at 7 PM and it took us to other pickup points and their main office opposite the Old Post office building. There our tour guide for the evening Andrew aka Andy got into the bus and started cracking jokes. He showed us a few card tricks and magic as well to entertain us. It was fun and exciting when he said that all along the tour he will unravel some of the mysteries and symbols that lay strewn across the entire city.

The first stop of the evening was the Capitol Hill. There he showed us the map in front of the Capitol Hill ground. The map resembles an owl, a very powerful symbol of the ancient secret societies. Andy said there are many such symbols that lie in front of everybody’s eyes but people seldom recognize them.
He said how the Capitol Hill was built and told us the story that during War of 1812, how British had set fire to the entire city but strangely enough it rained very heavily that night which put out most of the fire. This event gave Americans a lot of hope and they believed that it was some kind of divine intervention and they regrouped and fought back against the British.
He also talked about the grass which according to him symbolizes life. Also grass can grow anywhere and it actually grows back again after winters. He also spoke about the three symbols The Capitol Hill, The White house and the Washington monument (which signifies freedom) make three corners of a perfect triangle. As Andrew was overwhelming us with information my friend got busy in taking pictures of the spectacular view of the Capitol Hill under lights.

The Capitol Hill @ night

After the spectacular view of the Capitol Hill, the next stop was World War-II memorial. It was a very beautiful place. Andy showed us the two walls leading towards memorial. The two walls signify the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, across which America had fought the war. There were many sculptures embedded in the walls depicting the hard work and toil of the people of America during the war. Andy actually provided us with a whole bunch of information about the memorial. Like, the ‘Freedom Wall’ with 4048 golden stars each of which represented 100 American soldiers who died in war with a message in front of the wall that read “Here we mark the price of freedom”.

National World War-II memorial

The Washington Monument @ night

After World War-II memorial next stop was Thomas Jefferson memorial. Before entering the monument Andy our guide showed us a trick with a fork, which he said, was the Thanksgiving treat which he had promised earlier. The Jefferson memorial has the references to the Roman Pantheon and Jefferson’s own design for the Rotunda at the University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

After Thomas Jefferson memorial the next stop was Korean War memorial. Which is a memorial dedicated to the memory of the veterans who fought the Korean War. The next stop was Vietnam War memorial. The memorial has three different parts namely the Three Soldiers statue, the Vietnam Women’s memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. The wall had several things (photos, wreaths etc) that were laid at its bottom as a mark of respect for the fallen soldiers by their families and loved ones. I noticed one man breaking down to tears on finding a name on the wall. Andy gave lot information about the memorial and one striking thing was the black marble stones used for the walls were polished at namma Bangalore. At the end of the tour when we were back in the bus, Andy asked us about the thoughts for the Vietnam War Memorial, everyone was quiet. It was very solemn moment. Only thing that was going on in my mind at that moment was “well Bangalore doesn’t export only software engineers to US but also contributed for something very significant to that country’s history”. Of course I did not speak out those words.

After a very solemn and somber mood at the previous monuments, next stop was Lincoln Memorial. The monument looked spectacular at night. The view of the Washington Monument with its reflection in the pool was simply mind-blowing.

Lincoln Memorial under lights

Lincoln Memorial under lights

Abraham Lincoln’s statue

Washington Memorial with its reflection on the reflecting pool (an idea inspired from our own Taj Mahal)

After some spectacular views at Lincoln Memorial we were headed across the Potomac River over the Memorial Bridge to the Marine Corps Memorial or the Iwo Jima Memorial. The memorial depicts one of the most enduring images of World War II, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer prize winning photograph in which he snapped five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American Flag on top of Mount Suribachi during the battle for Iwo Jima. Andy showed us a mystic of the memorial, he said us to keep our eyes fixed at the flag post as the bus drove very slowly around the monument. It seemed that the flag is being hoisted and finally the flag pole gets erected.

Iwo Jima Memorial (Marine Corps Memorial)

After the Iwo Jima memorial the next and final destination of the evening was the much awaited White House. The immaculate ‘White House’ with bright lights and the lawns looked like a dream come true vision. Only regret was could not see Mr. President or first family.

The White House

With visit to the White house our tour for the evening came to a grand ending. The night tour was worth every cent. It was not only a visual spectacle but Andy our guide also made it special with his humorous and informative narration.

Finally, I would recommend the DC by night tour as a ‘must-see’ for anybody visiting Washington DC.

This certainly is not the end of the story I have more so stay tuned……

Trip to the city of lost symbol, museums and memorials – Part -1

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Did the title of the post ring any bells in your minds? No! I knew it would not, well I am no Dan Brown you see. Anyway let’s get on with the post. Now before I even begin its my duty to warn you about the fact that this is a series of 3 very long posts.

I am bad at writing mystery so without wasting any extra words let me get straight to the point. The point is this post is about my trip to Washington DC, the capital city of United states. Does the title and the opening lines of the post make any sense now?

Before I get on with the trip let me give a little background of things. You may skip this portion if you are in a hurry to finish this post.

So the background is I am currently in a city called Greenville in the state of South Carolina for an official assignment. And we were approaching Thanks Giving holidays, you must know that Thanks Giving means four days of holidays in other words a very long weekend. I did not want sit at home for these holidays so I prodded my friend for a trip somewhere and we started looking for New York City but the trip was looking really expensive, to such an extent that we felt dropping the idea of a trip and felt that sitting at home would be a better option. But then it was some of our American friends who suggested that we can take a train to New York or Washington DC. So the trip planning began around the train and we found that a trip to Washington was more feasible as it was closer to Greenville which meant lesser time to travel and less expensive too. We worked out the tentative costs and figured that it would be a doable trip and within our budget. Hence we planned our trip to Washington DC on Amtrak (the railways of America).

The journey from Greenville to Washington DC was 11 hrs approximately.  Let me tell you something about the idea of taking a train in America, you see when we declared our plans of traveling by train many American colleagues said its going to be interesting and that they have never been on a train all their life. But we are middle-class Indians, traveling by trains run in our blood I mean almost. So taking an 11 hr night train was never an issue for us. Now the first impediment crossed our path and we were getting tickets only for a two day trip and not four days as originally thought. Actually we were told that we would need atleast four days to see the Washington properly and it is true in Washington DC there’s a lot to be done.

Let’s leave the background and get on with the trip. We reached the railway station well ahead of the train’s departure time. Now let me tell you when we say Railway station it means something which has platforms etc, but here we were at a place which had a track and a very small building with a counter and few seats for passenger waiting. The place looked like the waiting halls of some of the private bus operators in Kalasipalyam Bus stand in Bangalore. Anyway the train arrived at right time we boarded and set-off to Washington DC.

Next morning we reached Washington Union station a little before its scheduled time. We then took a metro to reach our hotel. We enquired at the Concierge of the hotel for suggestions as to what was the best way to go around Washington DC in two days so we get to see the maximum number of places. The guy at the counter gave us some brochures and told about the various tours available and suggested that we decide and let him know, so that he can setup the tours for us. We quickly freshened up and looked at the brochures and decided that we can take a tour on the Hop-on/Hop-off Open Top Double decker bus a service run by the Greyline, a river cruise and a night tour of the city. The Concierge guy told us that river cruise was not available at that time of the year. But he could get us the Open Top Double Decker tour and the night tour. The tickets for the double decker bus were valid for 2 days and the night tour was for the Thanksgiving day (25th Nov).

Equipped with a map, brochures and the tickets we headed to the nearest stop of the bus. The plan was to take the entire tour for about 2.5 hrs and then decide on the places where we would like get down and explore further. The bus arrived within 10 mins and we went to the upstairs. The view from there was awesome but it was pretty cold and the chilling winds were literally stinging us. Anyway I pulled on the hood of my jacket and tied it tightly so it doesn’t blow away. There was a running commentary with little details about places passing by like the National museum for Women in Arts, the FBI building, China town , Smithsonian American Art museum ,famous Ford theatre (where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated), the International Spy museum etc. The number places and its details were little overwhelming but we were enjoying ourselves.

The bus took us around the White house, we didn’t hop-off as we were out just planning out our detailed tours remember! Moreover we knew it would be covered by the night tour. Then it went by Dupont Circle and as we were approaching the Woodley park stop my friend spotted an Indian restaurant, well it was lunch time and we were hungry so we got down. Actually there were two Indian restaurants we decided we will try at the place named “Rajaji Indian Cuisine”. The food was nice and also with that my record of eating Indian food in every city/town I visited in US remained intact. With stomachs full we were waiting for the next bus which was taking a while and it was really cold and none of the stores were open so that we get in and stay warm.  Anyway a bus finally arrived and we stayed downstairs this time as cold had really beaten us down and we needed to warm up.

The bus took us around the Washington National Cathedral (it’s the sixth largest cathedral in the world) it was quite impressive and we took our first pictures of the day.

The bus went around many places including the Embassy Row(where we spotted our Indian embassy), GermanTown shopping area etc.

The memorial bridge with Lincoln memorial at far end and Washington monument at right hand corner.

Then it went past the Lincoln memorial, the next stop was the Arlington National Cemetery which was across the river and we crossed the memorial bridge(picture above). We decided to get down there as that place would not be covered by night tour and also we were recommended that we could try and see the ‘Changing of guards’ at the Tomb of Unknown Soldier. Which happens at a specific interval of time.

 

The Arlington National cemetery

We saw the burial ground of the Kennedy family and my friend was tired and wanted to go back but I insisted that lets try for the ‘Changing of guards’ as I spotted the signs for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As I was following the signs I spotted huge building and just then I heard a bell ringing and many people actually started running and I knew if I too ran we may have the luck to see the ‘Changing of guard’. I was right, when I reached the spot panting and wheezing the spectacle was just beginning. I have never seen anything like that live it was a great experience and my friend started clicking pictures and video. It was amazing.

 

The changing of guards @ Tomb of Unknown Soldier

After seeing it we headed back towards the bus. The bus then took us past the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian, L’Enfant Plaza, National Air and Space museum and stopped in front of Capitol Hill on the National Mall for photographs. We did take a few pictures but since it was cloudy and in low light pictures did not come out well. Finally the bus dropped us at union station and we got into the next bus for our return to hotel. We reached hotel around 5 pm and we were still having another 2 hrs for the night tour bus to pick us up. It was a tiring day.

One thing we figured out from whole day was that Washington DC has a lot to do and most of it can be done by walking around but on better weather conditions. Also you can have great pictures of the National Mall during the fall season. Now a little bit about the National Mall( I know you can google it but still), this is long stretch about 3 kms approx, a large open-area park with Capitol Hill on one side and Lincoln memorial on the other with the Washington monument in the center. And many of the Smithsonian museums are located on the either side of the strip.  This is the place where you can spend days covering everything.

Well this not the end of the story I have more so stay tuned……