Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Day in D.C.

On our last day, we had too many things left to do and not enough time to do them all! We never did get to the Air and Space Museum or the Natural History Museum, two of the most popular Smithsonian museums, and that was my only disappointment of the week.

But we couldn't NOT go to Mt. Vernon!

We'd been waiting for a "for sure" good weather day, and we surely got one. 

They used six different types of split rail fences on the Mt. Vernon estate.  Some were more temporary and easily moved than others, and they used those to rotate where animals were pastured, so their waste would fertilize different parts of a field.  George was an early proponent of crop rotation, too; he was quite an ambitious as well as an educated farmer, believing that the newly-formed U.S. should lead the world in crop production.

We spent about 4 hours on the estate and in the museum, and some of us could have stayed longer.  The Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center was a new-to-us and surprisingly excellent addition to the Mt. Vernon experience that we didn't really allow enough time for; we were especially impressed with the quality of the films!  The most spectacular was the one about Valley Forge, during which snow falls from the ceiling and smoke issues from cannons, but our favorite was "We Fight to Be Free" about Washington's courage and military instincts during the French & Indian War.  The Museum's mission is to overcome Washington's image as the most boring of the Founding Fathers, when many historians believe that without him, there would be no United States (see this article).  We certainly came away with a new appreciation for G.W.!

Next stop, as long as we were on the east side of the Potomac River, was Arlington National Cemetery.

We were blessed to have been given a pass by someone who has relatives buried there, so we were able to drive around in the cemetery, instead of walking or paying for a bus tour.

Of course the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns was a highlight for us all. The absolute silence and the extreme ceremony of the ritual made me think of my post on solempne as C.S. Lewis describes it--a solemnity that is also celebratory.  The modern-day example that comes to mind is a wedding, but here is another example.  Would this ceremony be as moving if the guards were dressed in everyday clothing or performed their ritual in a casual way? ( Lewis argues for solempne in church, which has been lost in so many church settings.)

It was after 5, then, too late for the Smithsonian Museums I mentioned above, but the National Portrait Gallery was open later.  A friend had recommended it to me, we had 90 minutes until our Washington Monument tour time, and there was a parking garage close by, so we could just fit it in.  Our favorite part was a special exhibition of Norman Rockwell photos, preliminary drawings based on the photos, and final paintings and magazine covers.  Since every painting tells a story, and there is usually a character in each painting that appeals to children, it was fun to see with kids!

And of course going to the top of the Washington Monument was a highlight for us all, and a great way to end our DC trip!  Here I am pointing out all the places we had been throughout the week to Chicklet7 and B5.  I wonder how much of this trip they will remember?

And here we are waiting on Papa Rooster and B15 to take a few last pictures.  These were such comfortable benches!

Chicklet7 is telling me how she feels older and more grown-up since she has been to Washington, D.C.  Travel broadens the mind, they say; it was interesting that she was aware of it!

We got back to our campsite about 8:30, changed into our swimsuits, had pizza delivered to the pool, and all 8 of us swam until it closed at 10:00.

What better ending to our trip?

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