Well, here we are in the nation’s capital city and tomorrow is July 4th. Now, of course, the Americans have all come to Washington which means the rest of America must be empty because I can tell you they are all here and we saw them today! Oh yes…… they were at Arlington Cemetery with us; they were at Lincoln Memorial with us etc.
Arlington Cemetery is a beautiful place over the river here in Washington. Actually it is in the state of Virginia over the Potomac River. There are thousands and thousands of white headstones of the military set out in perfect rows on grass as smooth as velvet. No flowers or plants – families are only allowed to place fresh flowers at the graves of soldiers a few times a year. We walked up the hill to visit the gravesites of John F Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the two children that pre-deceased him, one of which was stillborn and was never given a name and the other was Patrick Bouvier. We also visited the graves of Robert and Ted Kennedy. We climbed the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial to visit enormous monument to honour the 16th President of the US, the Korean War Memorial (where New Zealand has a stone to commemorate the soldiers who fought in that war) and the very sobering Vietnam Memorial Wall which stretches far and wide and records the names of 58,000 Americans who lost their lives in the 17 years of that war. We went to see the White House, the Oval Office (which I always thought was up there on that balcony but found out it was an annex to the right of the White House, just one level so on the ground floor), Washington Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Capitol Hill and saw the Pentagon in the distance. We finished the day with a river cruise on the Potomac River and dinner. We weren’t sure if the Obama’s were home so we didn’t bother knocking on their door today. Actually I can promise you with all the security here at present we would not have got an inch past the letterbox.
4th July – Independence Day and we are right amongst it. Oh yes you can’t miss it because there are walking flags all around us. People are literally dressed in the flag – t-shirts, bandanas, hats, umbrellas, pants, sox, dresses and little girls look amazing in their little dresses with stars and stripes all over them. Kiwis – imagine this at home. How many of us rush out and buy black and white t-shirts, bandanas, hats, sox, dresses, etc for our national day? It is a wonder that Titewhai and her rellies up north haven’t passed a law forcing us to dress up for Waitangi Day.
We decided to spend the day at the amazing Smithsonian Institute so our bus driver dropped us off behind the National Archives Building and there was a very long queue of people lined up to go in and view the Declaration of Independence – this queue was there all day. It rained this afternoon and they were queued in the rain and happy to stay there.
We visited the Aeronautics and Space Museum first – amazing; the Natural History Museum next – incredible doesn’t begin to describe it; the Art Gallery next and the American History last. We did pretty well actually and our feet and backs signalled to us we had a big day! Thank goodness for Mel and Laura at the YMCA for their classes to help us get prepared for all this walking. We will never complain about that blimmin step box again!
There was a parade for July 4th – oh deary me – we had to cross the road amongst this chaos so ducked and dived to avoid enormous blow up animals, marching girls, a band and an army jeep. We are probably on security TV somewhere being watched but we made it to the other side and disappeared into the crowd as quickly as we could in case we became part of the parade pinned to the top of a blowup animal on wheels or tangled in the ropes being held to keep helium filled animal balloons from reaching the heavens. The day finished with a lovely meal in the restaurant of the Fairmont Hotel with a nice Aussie couple.
Just to finish off Independence Day, I have to report no problems with the shower BUT we have broken the toilet! Can you belieeeeeve it? However, the other Kiwi couple broke their shower – must be something special here about Kiwis and bathrooms. I told you before – I am convinced they know we are on the way and set up these challenges! The plumber has to come to owa room. Heaven forbid!
We are fortunate to be having this amazing trip but over the past few days our enjoyment is tinged with deep sadness for our very special friends at home who are dealing with their own sorrow. Our thoughts are constantly with them and their family. We feel so very far away.