Washington DC: Day 8.

Just because day 8 was our travel day home/to New York didn't mean we weren't going to make the most of the time we had left! We left the house early that morning to go tour Ford's Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. We got there just a few minutes too late for the 9:00 tour, so we got tickets for the 10:00, then went to Paul for breakfast, our favorite chain we had eaten at in Paris. When we went back to the theatre, the first thirty minutes were spent in the museum portion. Like I said on day six, we were pretty tired of museums at this point, so we looked around, but Brandon and I watched every video we could until it was time to go into the theatre for the guided portion. The guided portion was basically just a run through of everything that had happened that day leading up to the assassination, and the events after. We didn't get to actually tour the theatre, but everything we needed to see could be seen from where we were sitting. Like all the other places we had been that week, it was neat to just be sitting in a place so important to history. 

We still had a little time left after the theatre before we had to head to the airport, so we went back to the Smithsonian Museum of American History to see one exhibit that we had missed. Luckily for us, it wasn't as busy then as it had been on the Fourth, and there was no line for what we wanted to see. What we had missed was the coolest, and probably most important exhibit there. It was the actual flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. The flag itself was huge, but I couldn't believe that the flag from 1814 was right there in front of my eyes! I'm so glad we went back to see it, because it definitely is in my top five favorite things from the DC portion of our trip, and it was the perfect way to round off our week there. 

Even though we were flying to New York and everyone else was flying back to Utah, our flight left from the same airport around the same time, so we all headed there together and had some lunch before going our separate ways. We had just enough time after the family took off to grab some treats for the flight, and I am so glad we did because, surprise surprise, our flight didn't take off on time. There was weather in New York, so we sat on the tarmac for an hour after we were supposed to have taken off! So we ate our snacks, watched the two episodes of New Girl we had downloaded, and tried to enjoy the fact that, even though we were stuck on an airplane, at least we weren't walking around in the heat and humidity. 

Finally we got to New York, took the subway to our hotel, and then tried to decide if we were hungry enough to go searching for food. It was only 8:30, but we both were still full from lunch/treats and decided that our fatigue outweighed our hunger. So we turned out the lights and were both asleep by ten!


Washington DC: Day 7.

Our last full day in DC was an exciting one!! We started off with a tour of the White House! We only got to see (most of) the bottom floor, but man is it pretty! It's just crazy how there are pieces of every president (not literally) that has lived there scattered throughout the grounds. For example, Ford wanted a pool, they put in a pool. Truman wanted a bowling alley, they put in a bowling alley. There is a china cabinet near the entrance that holds pieces of china that were designed specifically for each president, and each one has the presidential seal on it (the china will be important later, so remember this). We got to view a few of the sitting rooms, a dining room, and learn about what each of the rooms are used for. And we got an awesome view of the grounds from inside the White House, which was really cool. I can't imagine living there! We didn't get to see the living quarters, which was too bad, but makes sense. I wondered how much of what we saw gets used on a daily basis, and then we overheard a security guy saying that the tours end at one, and the ropes come down so the rooms can be used again, so that answered my question! It was a pretty quick tour, only about 45 minutes, but we walked around the outside of the grounds afterward and got some good pictures!

Side note: At one point during the tour, a lady asked a guard if the room we were standing in is where the president holds his press conferences, to which the guard replied yes. So the lady's husband said "Good call, Pauline," and then kept repeating it multiple times. I always say good call, Paul to Brandon, so it was hurting my brain and making me laugh all at the same time that this guy was saying good call, Paul...ine. It was funny. Anyway, moving on.

We split up for lunch, then met at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum after. We were all pretty museumed out by this point, so we mostly walked around and just looked at everything; there wasn't much reading/learning involved. If nothing else, the guys enjoyed looking at all the airplanes and spacecraft stuff, so it was worth it. 

We called it a day pretty early and went to a nice sit down dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It felt good to just sit and not have to worry about where we had to rush off to next. After dinner, we went back to the house and watched White House Down. Like the night we watched National Treasure, it was fun because we had just been there that morning! At one point in the movie, the bad guys shoot the china cabinet (remember the one I told you not to forget?) and we all said "not the china!" Even though the house gets wrecked in the movie, it was still fun to watch it and point out all the things we had seen that day.

Washington DC: Day 6.

Day 6 was an exciting one! We started off our morning with a trip to the National Archives. The coolest part was obviously getting to see the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. They wouldn't let us take any pictures of the original documents, but it was so neat to see how old, sun bleached, and faded they are. And it's also cool to think about the fact that everything we have in our country today comes from those three documents. The majority of the archives was learning about the process of writing amendments and all the changes that our constitution has seen since it was first drafted. I actually found it pretty interesting!

After lunch (I'm assuming, since I can't really remember), we walked to the capitol for our tour! I thought that getting a tour of the capitol would be a big deal (which it was, don't get me wrong) since we had to contact our state senator, give them our social security numbers and essentially promise them our firstborn, but there were so many people there that afternoon. Like basically, if you are willing to take the time to contact your senator, you're in. Unless you don't have a clean background, then maybe not. But anyway, it was still really neat! We got to see the inside of the rotunda, the old senate chamber room (which, turns out, echoes a ton, which is why they ended up moving), and that's about it. We didn't get to see much, for obvious reasons, but it is still cool to say we have been inside and it was great to learn a little more about its history. It's a beautiful building, inside and out. 

After our tour, we split up, and James, Candis, Shawn, Brandon and I went back to Library of Congress so we could get library cards! They will serve us literally no purpose unless we were to go back within the next two years, but it's probably my favorite souvenir that I have now haha. After that we went to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to see the collection of presidential portraits. That was a pretty cool experience, not going to lie. So many portraits of important people, all in one room! I just have a lot of respect for any person that would want to be president. It sounds like a hard job; I wouldn't want it. Afterward we found a Thai restaurant for dinner, where we had a lengthy discussion about the upcoming election and we realized that DC will make you want to be politically involved haha. Then we got crepes for dessert, and went back to the house to watch National Treasure! That was super fun, because not only were they all over DC, but they stole the Declaration, and we had just seen it in real life that day!! It was a good way to cap off the day.

Washington DC: Day 5.

Day 5 was a busy one! Luckily, we got to sleep in a little bit, because the tickets we had for the first museum that day were for eleven o'clock. We got to the Holocaust museum a little before eleven and found seats for a presentation given by a lady who volunteered there, and whose family lived during and was strongly affected by the holocaust. Her family was able to move around a lot, because they had family in other countries, so they were never sent to a concentration camp or anything, but it was still so interesting to hear how her life was affected. After her talk, we made our way through the museum. Talk about heavy. It honestly still blows my mind that the holocaust even happened, because it is too awful to even fathom. The part that impacted Brandon and I the most was the collection of shoes from the prisoners held at the camp. There is a picture of it in the slideshow below.

We all got separated in the museum, because you really could spend anywhere from an hour to three days in there, so Brandon and I found each other when we were done and went to the museum cafe for lunch. It was hard to find anything to say after that experience, because smiling and laughing almost seemed wrong at first. It just was a really impactful experience, and made me think a lot about how things that are happening in today's world are similar to the hate the Jews felt. This kind of goes back to my post on what happened in Orlando, but everyone deserves to be treated with kindness and love, no matter their race, religion, physical features, favorite food...the world just needs to be better about loving one another. All lives matter.

After lunch we rented a paddle boat and paddled around Tidal Basin, which gave us a great view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument. It was hotter than an oven out there, though, so we only stayed on the water for thirty minutes, even though we had paid for a full hour. Our next reservation wasn't until four thirty, so we went back to the cafe for a little bit and cooled off before walking to the Washington Monument. I was so glad we had gotten tickets in advance to go to the top of the monument! In order to get tickets the day of, you have to get to the monument at like 6:30 am, and even then they go quickly. Luckily we thought ahead and got them online weeks in advance! 

The monument, like the Marine Corps Memorial, was so much bigger than I thought it was be. Mostly taller, because it really isn't all that big around. At the very top they had these tiny windows you could look out of, and if you looked straight down, you couldn't even see the base of the monument, just the ground. It was scary! But it was really nice to be up there and get an aerial view of the mall, the white house, the capitol, and all the other places we had seen or were planning to see in the next few days.

Since we were already on the national mall, we decided to visit a few other memorials that night. We walked to the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial (again, so much bigger and grander than I imagined!), the Jefferson Memorial, the FDR Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and a few others. Did I mention that we walked to all these places? It was still so hot out, but we figured that we might as well go for it since we were already in the area, and we ended up walking about nine and a half miles total that day! We averaged about eight the entire trip, but I think everyone's feet were sore the day after our monument tour. 

I loved seeing the Lincoln Memorial, because it is so iconic, but I think that the Martin Luther King and FDR memorials were my favorite. Martin Luther King's, because I think it perfectly captures the kind of leader he was (we only have a picture of half the memorial, so google it, because the entire thing just gives it so much more meaning.), and FDR's, because it was mainly just quotes by him that I think are applicable to the country at any given time no matter what we are going through. My favorite is "We must scrupulously guard the civil rights and civil liberties of all our citizens, whatever their background. We must remember that any oppression, any injustice, any hatred, is a wedge designed to attack our civilization." I just think this corresponds so well with what is happening around the world on a daily basis. It just instilled a little hope in me that maybe someday there won't be so many tragedies happening around us.

Washington DC: Day 4.

On Tuesday we split up and a smaller group of us went out to Arlington National Cemetery. We watched the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which I thought was super cool. The tomb is guarded 24/7, rain or shine, and I just really think it shows so much respect for not just the soldier(s) being guarded, but also for every person that fights for our country. We also visited the grave site of the Kennedy's.  On our way to the metro, we went to see the Marine Corps Memorial, which is so much bigger in real life than I thought it would be. It was incredible.

From there, we made our way to Georgetown for some lunch, and also for some Georgetown Cupcakes! I have never watched DC Cupcakes, but we figured, if the cupcakes are good enough to be on TV then we probably should have some, right? Very right. They were so good, holy cow. James, Candis, Shawn, Brandon, and I explored Georgetown for a little bit longer, then went back to the house to meet up with the parents before meeting Austin and Caroline at the Nationals Baseball game that night. Brandon and I always love a good baseball game, more for the hot dogs and social factor than anything, so it was fun to have the whole family there to enjoy it. It was super hot that night though! I was surprised at the humidity in DC, because I have been to Florida and Georgia in the dead of summer and survived the heat/humidity there, but it was almost unbearable in DC. I don't know why it was so much more humid there than it has been on my many trips to Disney World in July/August, but it was. Early on in the game we moved over a few seats so people could see better, and I just kept thinking, I hope no one has tickets for these seats because they aren't going to want to sit in them after we've been here. Which is super gross, but also reality. 

We got our traditional hot dogs at the game, and even some cotton candy, so it ended up being great despite the heat! They were even handing out little chia heads of one of the players as we walked into the stadium, so we all get the chance to grow some hair for Bryce Harper. And if that doesn't sound magical, then I don't know what does.

Washington DC: Day 3.

Day three was the Fourth of July! The fourth has always been one of my favorite holidays, what with family barbecues, killer fireworks, and the typical sparkler or two. This year was a little different, spending it somewhere new, but we made the most of it still, and being in our nation's capitol made it a little more special.

We started the day out at the Library of Congress. It didn't seem to appeal to anyone else in the group, but they tagged along, and I think they were surprised at how cool it was. We got there in time for the first guided tour that morning, and were able to see the main reading room, and also learn a ton about the architecture of the building that we wouldn't have learned if we just walked around by ourselves. The building itself is beautiful, but when we walked into the viewing area of the reading room and could see all the books, I almost died. It is incredible. We also got to see Thomas Jefferson's collection of books! Some of them had been destroyed in the fire, so they used different colors of ribbon to mark which books were original, which were replacements, and then they used book boxes to show which books they were still searching for. It was really neat! 

After the library, we started walking to the parade route. At this point, there were eleven of us, but Brandon and I, along with his dad, has paused to take a picture in front of the capitol. The rest of the group went on ahead of us, so it was just us three for a few minutes. We were passing the Supreme Court building when Brandon's dad stops and says "well, there's a naked man on the steps up there." And sure enough, there was a legit naked man standing at the top of the steps reading from a book. His clothes were strewn all over the steps below him. Luckily we were far enough away that we couldn't see anything, but for some reason it was the funniest thing to us. I mean, the guy got pushed down to the ground and cuffed by a police officer, so bad day for him, but it was entertaining for us. We just kept saying, "well, we've seen everything we need to see here, I guess we can go home now."

We met up with the rest of the group (who had been walking the wrong way and had to turn around, so naked man entertained us and saved us some steps, so win-win) and went to find a spot for the parade. I love parades, I really do, so I was super excited to see the parade in DC. It was an hour and a half long though, with no candy, so it didn't quite meet expectations, but there was a band from Jerome, Idaho in it, so that was way cool! It had been rainy earlier that day, so the grass was wet and most everyone was standing the whole time, but we got lucky that it wasn't raining during the parade! Afterward, we got some lunch, during which it did start raining again, so the timing really couldn't have been better. 

It was pouring rain as we walked back down to the mall after lunch. We had decided to go to a few museums that afternoon, which ended up being a great plan since it rained basically until the fireworks that night. First we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. My favorite part was seeing one of the multiple pairs of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. They also just had a ton of old stuff there, like old technology, old cars, and even the Gunboat Philadelphia that had been found at the bottom of Lake Champlain. After a few hours there, we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. There were lots of animals (not live, of course), an exhibition on human origins, and we got to see the Hope Diamond too! It all was really neat, but man you could spend thousands of years in each museum and still not be able to read about everything.

We had dinner at Elephant and Castle that night, Brandon's favorite place from the two times he went to Boston, and then made our way back to the mall for the fireworks. Sadly, it was pretty much too cloudy to see the individual fireworks (with the except of the few that were lower in the sky) but the big ones made the entire sky light up, so even though we couldn't see the fireworks, we could still see the color. And having the sky turn red and blue and white behind the Washington Monument was probably one of the coolest things I'll ever see in my life. 





Washington DC: Day 1 & 2.

Before I dive into the last two weeks, I need to tell you about the crisis that was the day before we left. Brandon left on June 20th to go back to California for another ten days of training for work, which allowed me some nice time to go visit family in Idaho Falls and Logan, and also get some intense editing done for my book. It was lonely without him here, obviously, but I survived the ten days and was so ready to have him back on Thursday the 30th so we could hang out all day Friday before leaving on Saturday to go to DC with his family. For some reason though, we have the worst luck with flights, and his flight from Oakland to LAX was delayed a little bit, and he ended up missing his connecting flight from LA to Salt Lake. It wouldn't have been so awful, except the flight he was supposed to be on was the very last flight to Salt Lake that night, so our reunion was put off for another day.

I called the airline while his flight was taxiing into LAX and got him for sure booked on a flight to Salt Lake Friday around four, but there were so many other flights going out that morning that Brandon decided to hit the standby list for each one. So he went to a hotel for roughly three hours, slept, then went back to the airport to try and get on a 6:00 am flight. Long story short, he didn't ever make any of the flights until the four o'clock that afternoon. We were both super happy that we thought to call and get him one of the last seats on that flight, otherwise he may not have made it home until late that night. He even told the customer service rep at the desk in LA that if worst came to worst, he was going to just need to be rerouted to DC instead of even coming home to Salt Lake. In all his time at the airport, he met Shailene Woodley from the Divergent series, which is pretty dang cool. I was so jealous! I left super early to go pick him up from the airport, and ended up parking and going inside because I was afraid that if I didn't go in there and physically get him myself he might not have ever actually made it home! 

We finally got home around six thirty, did some laundry, ate his one homemade meal that he would have in a month's time, and then he repacked and we went to bed to prep for the next day. I honestly felt so bad. He was already so worn out from training, and then from a long day at the airport, and if you know us well then you know that we don't really relax on vacation. But he was a good sport, as usual, and I think getting his grade back from training and seeing that he crushed the course made it all worth it.

Onto DC!! We flew out Saturday morning and landed in DC around 4:00 that afternoon. Once we got our luggage, we took the green line metro directly from the airport to the stop closest to the house we were staying at. It was only a mile from the stop to the house, but it was like 95 degrees and 80% humidity and the walk seemed to take thirteen days. Not only that, but the GPS put us through some sketchier areas, so we weren't quite sure what to think at that point. Also, sadly, Brandon's mom had lost her phone at some point on our journey, so she and Brandon's dad had to walk even further to go back and find the guy that had picked it up and called us (which did give us a little faith in the people of DC, so that was nice). When we all were finally at the house, we unloaded and just relaxed for a little bit, then left to go find some dinner. After dinner, we went back to the house to plan out our next day, then went to bed. 

The following morning, the rest of the fam went to church, so Brandon and I wandered around the National Mall while we waited for them. It was so neat to be in a place that we had seen and learned so much about; seeing it in person made me feel so patriotic haha. We went through the Smithsonian Castle, which houses pieces from each of the Smithsonian museums. Neither of us had slept very well the night before, so once we had looked at everything we sat and waited until it was time for us to meet the family at the metro.

From there, we went to Mount Vernon! We thought Sunday would be a great day to make the journey out there, because it took us about an hour and a half to get there by metro. We got there and immediately went to the cafe for lunch (because really, what's a vacation if it's not all about the food?) which gave us all the boost I think we needed after the long day of traveling the day before. It wasn't too hot that day, so it was the perfect day for wandering around the grounds. We got to see the house Washington grew up in, where he and Martha are buried, and just got to learn more about the kind of life he lived. We spent a good majority of the day out there, then went into a new part of DC to go to a drum circle. We were there just for a bit, then left to go get dinner.

It was only eight when we finished eating, and Brandon and I weren't tired, so we, James, and Candis headed to Capitol Hill to watch the rehearsal for A Capitol Fourth, a show that was going to be broadcast live on PBS the next day. The only reason I wanted to go was to watch Cassadee Pope perform, but it was super fun to see the capitol lit up at night and hang out with the crowd there. Cassadee Pope only sang one song, so we left after that and headed back to the house to hopefully get a better night's sleep than the night before!