Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 2nd: No Wheels for Me
Sunday, August 2, 2009
It's day #3 of our adventure, and today's theme is "On the Wheels of Liberty."
We're saying goodbye to Philadelphia this morning and loading up on the bus (our first "Wheels" of the day) to head to our 2nd stop, Washington, D.C.
I thought our bus would be a rickety, old school bus....but oh, no - Disney has style. Our bus is a tricked-out HUGE bus that is loaded with every creature comfort imaginable - DVD screens, recliner seats, overhead luggage storage, foot rests - Wow. Because there's only 19 of us (well, 21 if you include our guides), every person on the bus gets their own seat. I feel like a rock star.
As we drive south to the capital city, it rains- hard. So, we don't get to see much scenery - but we're at least sheltered from the weather. And we get to watch "National Treasure" on the DVD screen - which fits perfect with everything that we've been seeing. (Remember - part of the movie was filmed in Philadelphia, which we've just left.)
We arrive in Washington around noon - and we do what everyone does when they first arrive in Washington, DC - we head to the ESPN Zone, of course. What??!! You mean people don't normally do that?! Well, that's what we do - we have a nice buffet lunch waiting for us, and we're each given a game card to go play some games. Even us old parents. How fun was that?! Nothing like Disney to make you feel like a kid again.
The rain has now stopped, which is a good thing, as we are now supposed to have a bike ride around the National Mall. (Our second "Wheels" of the day - the theme, remember.) So, around 1:00 pm, we board the rock-star bus and drive a short distance to the bike place. I put on my helmet, climbed on the bike, rode about 5 feet, got off the bike, and took off my helmet and walked away. No thank you.
You know that old saying, "It all comes back to you - just like riding a bike"???? Not true. I haven't ridden a bike in 32 years. And it showed. It did NOT come back to me. I opted to take the tour on the rock-star bus, like some of the other parents. (And a few of the kids).
Our bus takes us around Washington, and we have a step-on guide, Greg, who politely informs us of what we're seeing. Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial - hasn't changed much since I last saw it 38 years ago. Construction began in 1939, the building was completed in 1942, and the bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947. The architect used elements of the Pantheon, in Rome, as one of his inspirations - which, since we just saw the Pantheon 2 months ago, was pretty cool.
While we were at the Jefferson Memorial, three Marine One helicopters come swooping in, right over our heads, on their way to the White House. These, of course, are the preferred means of transporting the President - and they always fly in groups with identical helicopters. One of them is carrying the President, while the others serve as decoys for would-be assassins on the ground. I waved - and I'm pretty sure President Obama was waving back at me as he flew over.
We load back up on our bus and drive a short distance to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial...and all I can say is, wow.
There are four pavilions - all outdoors - each representing one of his four terms in office. They each have sculpture, quotes and a waterfall that represents what happened during his terms.
For his 1st term, we see sculpture of the infamous bread line and the fireside chats.
The 2nd term had an impressive relief sculpture showing his Works Project, as well as a waterfall representing the dams built during the Tennessee Valley Authority project.
The 3rd term (pavilion) had granite boulders strung haphazardly everywhere - showing the chaos and upheaval of World War II. The waterfall was broken, unfortunately - and has been now for 2 years. They don't have the money to fix it.
The 4th pavilion depicted his death - the waterfall was a calm pool, very still - with a relief of his hearse.
I loved the way the artist used water and rocks and sculpture to tie everything in together...in fact, the FDR Memorial ended up being my favorite thing that we saw while in Washington, D.C. I highly, highly recommend it.
After reluctantly leaving this beautiful Memorial, we drive over to the Lincoln Memorial. It was dedicated in 1922. In the movie, "National Treasure", Nicholas Cage's character meets with "Riley" here to plot the theft of the Declaration of Independence.
Our guide points out the "face" in profile that is on the back of Lincoln's head. Rumor has it the artist added it on purpose and the face looks towards Arlington Cemetery.
The Memorial is the place where Martin Luther King delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 - and there's a marker where MLK stood during the speech.
We meet up with the bikers here for a quick group photo opportunity, and Disney treats us to ice cream. Yum.
We walk a few hundred feet over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, completed in 1982. It's heartbreaking to see over 58,000 names inscribed on the Wall - and also very powerful. This was the one Memorial I really wanted to see on this trip - after reading so much about it, and hearing about the controversy surrounding it, it was nice to finally be able to see it and to appreciate it - and to remember the names of the men who are inscribed on it.
When a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, which is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together.
A short distance away from the wall is another Vietnam memorial, a bronze statue named The Three Soldiers (sometimes called The Three Servicemen). This memorial was added due to the controversy surrounding the wall - some people felt there needed to be a memorial depicting "people" and not just a wall. The statue was unveiled in 1984 and depicts three soldiers, purposefully identifiable as White American, African American, and Hispanic American. The statue and the Wall appear to interact with each other, with the soldiers looking on in solemn tribute at the names of their dead comrades.
After quietly reflecting at the Wall, we walk back to the bus, hop on, and drive to the bike rental place to pick up the bike riders from our group. As we drive to our hotel, Greg, our guide, points things out on the way - and gives us interesting tidbits along the way.
We arrive at our hotel - the Mayflower Renaissance - and all I can say is, wow. Again. The lobby blew me away when we walked in - if you're ever visiting, just take a peek inside. This is a 4-star, 4-diamond luxury hotel located very near the White House; President Harry Truman once said it was Washington's "second-best address." I believe it.
Disney has already checked us in and delivered our luggage to our room, #661. This is a corner suite and has all kinds of space. It's about 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon - so we relax and unpack and unwind.
Disney is providing a pizza party/movie night for the children tonight at the hotel, and the adults go to the hotel restaurant, Promenade Cafe, for a very nice dinner. For 10 people, our bill was $717 - which did NOT include drinks - but Disney picked this up for all of us. The food was outstanding - I had crab cakes to start off with, as well as Boston Clam Chowder. The filet mignon and mashed potatoes were very good - and for dessert, chocolate mousse. Michael had a martini - which was $14.50. I kid you not. I drank diet soda - much more reasonable!
Around 8:30 p.m., it was time to pick up Dear Daughter from her pizza party and head back to the room.