Monday, August 10, 2015

Washington, D.C., Part 1: Arlington National Cemetery

Well, I decided we should just go ahead and dive right in to the road trip recaps. I have lots to share, so there's no point in lollygagging around! Let's get to it!

We left Jacksonville as quickly as we could get out on Thursday, July 24th. We were ready to go! We drove about 6.5 hours that day up to Raleigh, NC where we stayed in a house via AirBNB for the night. E.J. started crying about 20 minutes into the trip, so that was fun. He was relieved to stop for breakfast after a couple of hours (weren't we all) and had a blast ripping up his leg by scoot-crawling all around the pavement in the outdoor seating area. After that, we discovered that Mum Mum crackers were generally a magic baby-crying-stopper and E.J. ate roughly a billion crackers over the course of the trip.

Otherwise, the drive was pretty uneventful. We did drive through some rain and were slowed down briefly by a couple of military convoys in the Carolinas, but otherwise everything went smoothly. We arrived in Raleigh with enough time to unload, feed the kids dinner and get them to bed (AirBNB served us well, allowing us to find two-bedroom houses for cheap so the kids wouldn't have to share a room). Then Eric and I had time to order pizza and watch a movie before heading to bed ourselves.

Our first day of travel!
Top row: E.J. appropriately dressed for a day in the car; heading out on our road trip; welcome signs in North & South Carolina
Middle row: Military convoy; relaxing at a lunch rest stop; one of only two bouts of rain we drove through on the whole trip (the worst one, though)
Bottom row: The kids slept! And honestly, how much of a diva is Ellie? She's actually sleeping like that.

We left our AirBNB the next morning and set out to finish the drive to Washington, D.C. We made a couple of longer-than-planned rest stops along the way: at Chick-Fil-A so the kids could play and at Arby's for lunch a couple hours later.

My kids' preferred modes of play summed up in one picture: Ellie is quietly playing with the mellow games and E.J. is climbing whatever he can find in search of certain doom.

Rocking the kids' meal toy at Arby's. Don't mess with the bull!

We ended up getting in to D.C. mid-afternoon-ish. We went straight to our friend Jeff's apartment in Old Town Alexandria, as we were staying with him and his wife Sarah for the weekend. Jeff helped us get our car parked and things unloaded, and we became acquainted with his dog Buffalo, who quickly became a major hit with our littlest travelers.

Made it to Virginia!

It's Buff! Like his owners, he was an excellent host.

Our plan was originally to arrive in D.C. around lunch time, feed the kids and let them nap then head out for some late-afternoon sightseeing. However, since we arrived later than anticipated, we decided to just power through naptime and get our sightseeing underway. We decided Arlington National Cemetery would be a pretty quick, easy outing to kick things off, so we walked over to the King Street Metro and were on our way!

I should mention that this D.C. visit came almost 10 years to the day after Eric and I (and Jeff) first moved to D.C., and roughly seven years after Eric and I left D.C. to move to New York. Eric had been back to D.C. for a visit since then, but (aside from a brief work trip the very weekend after we got to NYC), I hadn't been back to D.C. since. I was so excited to go back and see if I still loved it as much as I remembered, and I couldn't wait to take our kids for their first visit to our nation's capital. Standing on the platform at King Street felt so cool—when we lived in D.C., I worked at King Street so I rode the metro to and from that station daily. I was surprised at how easily my feet remembered the steps throughout our visit. It all came back to me and felt like we had barely been gone a day! I was so thrilled to be back.

Back at the King Street Metro! Though this time, it's not a work bag slung over my shoulder—it's my sweet little baby!

Anyway, when we arrived at Arlington, we set off sightseeing right away. I realize that almost all of our years in D.C. were pre-blog, so although there is some of the last few months of our D.C. life logged way back in the archives here, much of it went unrecorded. However, one of our coolest D.C. moments actually was in the early days of the blog, and it took place at Arlington: we were able to hear President Bush (current president at the time) at the cemetery on Memorial Day 2008. We sat only a few feet from him (and many other notable politicians) as he delivered his remarks, and it was such a neat experience.

Taken in Arlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day 2008.
This is not a "crazy zoomed in photo" situation - this is literally how close we were to the President. It was really cool.

Aside from that one particular occasion, Arlington Cemetery is one of the places we regularly frequented on sightseeing tours, both with visitors and on our own. So, we knew just where we wanted to go on this quick visit. We started off by heading up the hill to JFK's gravesite.

Making our way through Arlington

The view from JFK's grave


Robert Kennedy, buried just around the corner from JFK.

For the most part, our kids observed the appropriate level of solemnity...that is, until Ellie saw the eternal flame at JFK's grave and asked if we were going to roast marshmallows. Oopsie.

Next we continued upward to the Arlington House and the grave of Charles L'Enfant to take in the view of the city.

View of the Pentagon on the way up

The Lincoln Memorial at the end of that road, and the Washington Monument. The second tallest tower is the Old Post Office Tower. We often took guests there for great views of the Washington Monument and the rest of D.C. (and getting to the top didn't require timed tickets/long waits as getting to the top of the Washington Monument did). I just learned that it is actually closed now as they are renovating it and turning it into a hotel.

The Washington Monument and Capitol Building. Unfortunately, the dome of the Capitol was covered in scaffolding. We had hoped for some nice Capitol photos, but alas! We'll just have to go back!


We continued on to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and we were just in time to see the changing of the guard. Ellie watched with interest for a few minutes before opting to climb all over the steps, so we didn't quite last through the whole thing.

Views as we walked

Headed to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Guarding the tomb

The guard

Watching the changing of the guard

Beginning of the ceremony


By that time, the kids had reached their breaking points so we made our way back to the Metro and to Jeff's house. We got them fed and to bed, and then we had a lovely dinner of pizza, salad and bread with Jeff and Sarah. They were exceedingly generous and volunteered to spend the night at a friend's house so we could make use of both of their bedrooms, so we spent some time catching up with them over wine before they had to head out.

And that was our first real road trip day! We were off to a great start!

To see more pictures from our journey to Raleigh, click here. For more pictures from Arlington National Cemetery, click here.

Coming up next: Our big D.C. sightseeing day—fun on the National Mall!

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