Bucket List #2 – Washington, D.C.

As I am now 85 years old and soon to be 86 in July, I am passionately working on my Bucket List!

For all my good fortune in being able to travel all over the world in my lifetime, I had somehow never gotten around to visiting Washington D.C.; and having recently read biographies of the Founding Fathers and other books about the beginning of our Democracy, I felt an urgent need to finally make a pilgrimage to the seat of US history!

So, on March 30th, I boarded a flight all alone and was on my way to our capitol for an eight-day stay.

A travel agent who had been referred to me, Jennifer Grey of Travel Vivre,LLC, was a great help in organizing my trip.  Together, we decided I would be happiest booking individual tours and choosing those that interested me most. For lodging, I requested a first-rate hotel with an inviting lounge and lobby bar (for end-of-day wine and appetizers, of course :)) that was located in Georgetown. My great nephew, Jack Hopkins, was finishing his Masters Degree at Georgetown University and I wanted him to join me whenever possible.

Here is my final itinerary: Pictured at the top is The Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the Potomac River

I took a bunch of photos and have decided it best to follow my itinerary chronologically as there was just so much to see and few words to describe the overwhelming sense of awe and admiration that I felt during this visit!!

A night-time view taken from my balcony

 Wednesday 3/30th -Fairmont Hotel, Washington D.C., Georgetown…I was thrilled with The Fairmont and all its accommodations.  Especially the ambiance as you enter the lobby atrium and lobby bar.  Also, it was walkable for my nephew to join me which worked perfectly! In fact, to celebrate my arrival Jack and I walked a short way to Fitzgeralds, an up-scale bar (with wood paneling, low lighting  and great atmosphere – very Washingtonian) where we toasted our getting-together and caught up with one another. I retired early to get ready for my big day tomorrow.

Thursday 3/31st -Best of DC VIP Tour… An unbelievable 8-1/2 hour overview guided tour of the monuments and historic buildings followed with a boat cruise on the Potomac river. Fabulous! Ended with a Priority entry to the National Archive Building where I was able to view the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution firsthand!!

The United States Capitol Building. The two flags at either end denote that Congress was in session. Unfortunately, although my tour also included a priority entrance into the Capital, current events had precluded that. Still it is magnificent to see. I only wish that the congressmen who were in session in the building were getting something done!

Cherry Blossom Trees along the Potomac river

But I did have the good fortune to be there for the Cherry Trees in full bloom! I had gambled that they would be blooming early this year as they did in 2021. And they didn’t disappoint me! They are quite lovely to see! Their beauty is ethereal and very calming.

The Washington Monument

This memorial to George Washington – who really founded this incredible city – very appropriately can be seen from just about everywhere! You just never tire of seeing it! If you look close in this pic to the right at the bottom of the monument you can see the United States Capital facing it, and all in line with the front of it is the Lincoln Memorial. How inspiring is that!

The Lincoln Memorial
The Gettysburg Address

At long last I was able to see and feel this unparalleled temple dedicated to this truly iconic and thoughtful leader of our country. I am very grateful to experience it while wholeheartedly wishing we had more people capable of  walking in his footsteps in these present times – such as this man that follows:

Martin Luther King Jr. Monument

DO ignore the guy in the foreground. It is my best picture of this awesome sculptural memorial. It is so very powerful!  It really captures him. I think it pictures him as a visionary and he truly was that!

This brilliant forefather certainly had a true vision…

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial

The majestic memorial set in this gorgeous columned rotunda is unequaled. Jefferson’s wisdom is on display etched into the surrounding walls . Please check out his writings.

Maybe not as grand a memorial but a very moving one came next…

Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is just part of  his memorial!  His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt is also included for her contributions – as well as a sculptural depiction of the Great Depression – which he pulled this country out of so brilliantly. During his presidency his wheelchair was hidden, but it was decided by the sculptor to include it!  All the more inspirational!

Having heard all the stories from my mother about the Great Depression, this was extremely moving.

I have great respect for Eleanor. This was not a time when women had a voice, but she made herself heard!

She had true compassion for the under-privileged and got out there and made a difference!

Next I toured the war memorials. Each one spoke loudly of the sacrifices made for our country and often made me teary-eyed. Here they are. I am publishing this on Memorial Day which I think is especially appropriate.

World War II Memorial

Each state is represented in a circle with the fountain (not flowing during my visit) in the middle. This shows the Pacific and at the other end is the Atlantic.

And…no words necessary…

The Vietnam Wall

This soldier statue was added later to the Vietnam Memorial

Another war not to be forgotten…

The Korean Veterans War Memorial
The Korean Veterans War Memorial

Notice they used faces instead of names on the Korean War wall, based off of actual old photographs. This is very effective and moving, as is the one where they are walking through the fields in the frigid cold!

Then we went on a Potomac River boat cruise. I did see Watergate and The Kennedy Center but it began to rain and most of those pictures are really bad…  However, I did get this pretty good one of the Jefferson Memorial as seen from the water. It seems appropriate to end this epic tour day with my shot of the Memorial as a standard photo of it was featured at the top of my Itinerary! And now I was seeing it in person. YAY!

Jefferson Memorial

Friday, April 1st – Monuments by Night

The night tour shuttle (“All-Electric Red Roadster”)

Just me and a family of four from Philadelphia who were just as excited as I was to hop into the Red Roadster complete with both a driver and guide.  This turned out to be a huge highlight of my trip as the two of them were so knowledgable historically, and also about the back streets and alleys that got us up close.  It was such fun! And I got some great pictures and someone to take a shot or two of me at the sites.

Me – the United States Capital in the background

This was even more thought-provoking and impactful – alone with no crowds!  I was so grateful to finally make it there!

The Supreme Court

I returned the favor and took this photo of my accompaning-family with our guide. This was another favorite site of the tour. It is an extremely impressive building!

The Supreme Court

Another view of mine that captures the flag. So meaningful!

The Washington Monument

Even more spectacular at night!

The Capitol Building

Same thing can be said for this shot of the Capital.

The White House at Night —my Night Tour ended. I thought it was spectacular!

Saturday, April 2nd…Free day with nephew

My nephew Jack Hopkins and I in front of the cherry blossoms
The National Arboretum Bonzai Exhibit

There was so much to see! Here are a couple of pics to show you the presentation of these incredibly-grown trees out of very modest size pots. They are nurtured and formed with such great care and, I am told, over many years. There were several different varieties of trees used and different methods – all requiring patience and great creativity.

We then spent a lot of time walking the paths of the Arboretum, all very beautiful, and the Cherry Blossoms were on full display as you can see.  We finished the day with Apple Ciders at a neighborhood spot and then had dinner at an Indian restaurant in Georgetown. Lovely day!

We ended the evening at a local Irish Bar – after all we had just celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and I am half Irish!

The Irish bar where we ended the evening

Sunday April 3rd…Free day spent at The National Gallery of Art

Stunning!!!  It is divided into two sections by the Sculpture Garden.

The West Building is home to European paintings and sculptures from the 13th to early 20th Century; and American art from colonial times to the early 1900’s. Along with decorative arts, it has a collection of American furniture, prints, drawings, rare books and photographs.

The East Building presents modern and contemporary works by artists from around the world. This is where I spent most of my time as I was completely blown away by the artworks by such luminaries as Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Pissaro, Cassat, Degas….and so many others! Awesome, really awesome.

I can only include a few of them here:

Vincent Van Gogh -Girl in White 1890 (the year he died)
Paul Gauguin – Parau na te Varva (Words of the Devil) 1892
Auguste Renoir – Girl with Watering Can
Paul Cezanne – The Peppermint Bottle (1893-1895)
Auguste Renoir – Portrait of Claude Monet (1872)
Sir Peter Paul Rubens – Agrippina & Germanicus (1614)

Coincidentally, I met this charming girl the same afternoon at the bar and she had such a beautiful peaches-and-cream complexion, that I couldn’t help but think she looked like she was painted by Rubens! However, the tattoos probably would not have fit in very well with the period.

And that was just a little look at this splendid Gallery. I would love to go back and spend more time there.

Monday, April 4th – Mount Vernon Tour

Mount Vernon – George Washington’s Home
George Washington’s Office – with his personal authenticated furniture

There are extensive gardens that were just beginning to bloom and everyone says they are magnificent to see in season, but I guess I was captured by the pastoral nature and the site looking out to the Potomac river. Having just read his biography, I could see why he loved his home so much and was happiest there. Unfortunately, his famous veranda and chairs on the backside of his home (which faces the river) is being refurbished and is all scaffolded at present. In fact, several of the rooms were being remodeled as well.

Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of the inside of the tomb where two huge side-by-side stone caskets hold George and Martha’s remains. This only shows the outside area. There was a lot more to see even if the tour itself was somewhat disappointing, but I am glad I went. I was able to feel George Washington’s calming presence and that made it worthwhile.

Upon leaving Mount Vernon, we drove through several adjacent historic towns (including Alexandria, I think)  and I really enjoyed seeing them as well.

Tuesday, April 5th – Smithsonian American History Tour 

These are the actual shoes made for the movie. Evidently several pairs were made but these were very difficult to obtain. I was struck by how truly gorgeous they are! The workmanship is extraordinary! They are meant to represent the influence Hollywood has had on America, as the write-up says.

Below, there are more photos from this tour, such as the the first ladies’ gowns.

Wednesday, April 6th – Smithsonian Natural History Tour

As you can see, I got caught in the rain waiting for our guide.

This, of course is the famous Lucy. 32 million years old!

No words needed. But it shows how huge this museum is with around six floors, chock full!

What makes all these exhibits unique is that almost all the skeleton pieces are authentic and truly prehistoric!

A real mummy close-up.

All priceless Stradivarius instruments – perfection!

The Hope Diamond – This caught the eyes of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution with its brilliant blue sparkle. Evidently they did not have it long. It has had several owners since. It is 46-karats.

The first ladies’ gowns:

Michelle Obama’s gown is much more impressive when you see it in person as the photo does not capture all the crystals imbedded throughout.

The purple gown is Hillary Clinton’s, but the color does not show up well here. It is quite lovely and I noted how trim she was.

The red gown was worn by Laura Bush and beautifully embroidered .

Awesome crystals in the Natural History Museum Tour

This Dom Pedro Aquamarine is the world’s largest gem of its type.

Whew! I am all toured out, so look where Jack took me to refresh!

I am a pretty awful pool player, but Jack put up with me and gave me lessons.

And on my last night we went to the River Front and had a very fine Italian Dinner and said our goodbyes!

Time to go home to Denver…

As I took a cab to the airport, I thought about all that I had seen and learned. A real sense of satisfaction came over me. Even though there were many notable sights I did not have time to visit, including Arlington National Cemetery, the National Museum of African-American History, the Holocaust Memorial, and the National Air and Space Museum (which was closed). I guess that means I just have to go back again!

This country, with all its diversity, has faced many challenges that it has managed to surmount.

A good thing for us all to remember in these times!

Comments

  1. Margie Rivers says:

    What a wonderful trip! You saw a lot. Jack looks great & you are so beautiful Kari ! I miss you.

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