Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arlington Cemetery and Some DC Culture: DAY THREE

See the companion stories "Walking Our Way Through DC: DAY ONE" posted on 5/21/2011 and "DC Museums and Memorials: DAY TWO" posted on 5/25/2011

Neil and Eric have a little more to tell about their DC trip.  It's not that I'm bored, but I'm exhausted just listening to all that they did!  

      We were ready for a day that would be more relaxing.  Our original plan was to take a tour of the Library of Congress.  I had been there in the past and Dale didn't have much interest.  Eric's passion for books put it high on his list, but we were all on overload.  Dale mentioned she would like to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery.  It was a convenient Metro ride to the Arlington Cemetery station so it seemed like a plan.. 

President Kennedy's Gravesite
and the Custis Lee Mansion
      A short walk from the station brought us to the Visitor's Center.  The Tourmobile operates several live narrated tours of the DC area via open-air trams, including a riding tour of Arlington Cemetery.  We boarded the tram and were off for the first stop at the Kennedy gravesite.  The hillside is at the bottom of the Custis Lee Mansion and overlooks DC and the National Mall.  The graves of President Kennedy and Jackie are here along with Patrick, their infant son.  Also on the grounds are the final resting places of Robert and Ted.  I recalled the time we took a road trip shortly after President Kennedy's assassination.  My grandmother, who had never been out of Ohio, wanted desperately to visit his gravesite.  We drove past Arlington several times, and could actually see the grave, but couldn't determine the correct exit from the roadway (roads in DC can be confusing).  Unfortunately, we retuned home with Grandma Beach's quest being unfulfilled. 

Arlington National Cemetery
Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
      We drove through parts of the rolling hills covering some 250,000 graves before coming to the Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The Changing of the Guard is probably the most meaningful
ceremony our country has to offer, and one of the highest honors for our military personnel.  Silence is observed, as well it should be.  It’s precision and reverence at the highest level.  Across the road are memorials and monuments to the Space Shuttle Challenger Astronauts, the Iran Rescue Mission, and the Space Shuttle Columbia Astronauts.  

      Moving on we stopped at the Custis Lee Mansion, also known as Arlington House.  The property was confiscated by the U.S. government after Mrs. Robert E. Lee was unable to pay property taxes in person during the Civil War.  The estate (all 1,100 acres) was auctioned off and the government bought it in 1864 to be used for military purposes, later becoming Arlington Cemetery and Fort Myers.  The mansion is currently under renovation and a brief tour shows the progress of the rooms and renderings of the completed renovation.  It's really "This Old House" on a grand and historic scale.

      Our tram tour of Arlington completed, we headed back to the Metro and on to the Court House station in the city of Arlington, VA.  Our purpose was to have lunch at the Bayou Bakery (see our future review).  The surroundings are government and corporate, so after eating we rode back to our hotel for a rest.

National Archives Building

Claes Oldenburg's
"Typewriter Eraser, Scale X" 
National Gallery of Art  Sculpture Garden
      We wanted to allow ourselves plenty of time to regroup and return to the city for dinner at 701 (see our review posted 5/29/2011).  We arrived in plenty of time at the Archives/Navy Memorial Metro station, which was adjacent to the restaurant.  We walked around to the front of the Natonal Archives thinking we could take a quick look at the Constitution.  But it was "no go" as there was a school group lined up for much of the city block.

Instead we crossed the street to enter the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.  It was closing time, so we made a quick trek around the perimeter wishing we had more time to linger.  There was a notable collection of contemporary sculptures, which we found more interesting than our earlier visit to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden across the Mall.  The Pavilion Café offers year 'round morning and afternoon food service.  Walking around the block put us on time for our pre-theater dinner at 701.

Looking In to the Hall of Nations

Lobby of the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center

      We decided to take the Metro versus a taxi to the Kennedy Center.  We were up for the short walk downhill since we had been resting our feet most of the day.  Passing George Washington University, we headed straight for the theater.  There were multiple events that night so seating was a bit delayed.  The production of Follies (see our review posted 5/19/2011) was everything we could have imagined, and more!  After the show, we decided to walk around outside and enjoy the fountains and views.  Rounding the corner, we passed the stage door and Linda Lavin was coming out to meet some enthusiastic patrons.  She was a sweetie and mystified by the audience's extremely positive response.  More stars were coming out...Regine, Terri White, Susan Watson, Elaine Page, Jan Maxwell, and Bernadette Peters.  Dale was hoping to meet Ron Raines, whom she recognized from her favorite soap The Guiding Light.  We must have missed him when we were strolling around the complex.  All the ladies were gracious after what must have been an exhausting show.  It was a perfect ending to our day, and our entire trip.

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