Day 3/4 – The Writing is on the Wall

Before I begin todays adventures, I forgot to add the following photo and tour guide factoid yesterday.  This is the Willard Intercontinental Hotel

Willard Intercontinental Hotel

and the story goes that President Ulysees S Grant would come here each day for a cigar and whiskey or two as Mrs G disapproved, (good girl).  As he entered the lobby of the hotel people would approach him with questions and entreatments, hence the term ‘lobbyist’ was born. So, I bet you didn’t know that.

After a bit of a slow start I managed to get myself out by 9.30. The map said the bus would be another 15 minutes so decide to walk to the metro station at Fort Totten. A really enjoyable hike with bright sunshine and high temperature, much less humidity than yesterday, thankfully.

Plan is to hit the White House, (naughty house), first then over to Arlington followed by the memorials to Martin Luther King and FDR, which just happen to be next to each other. After that it’s the Washington monument and the museum of the American Indian.  Well that’s the plan….

Arrive at the metro station nearest to the White House, Gallery/Chinatown.  Very similar to the arch in London’s Chinatown.




I walk down to the White House Visitor Centre.. to get inside I have to go through security, which was a bit of a surprise.  Once inside I see it is going to need at least an hour if not more to take it all in so I have a quick look in the shop and leave deciding I would rather come back on the way home and spend the time needed to look properly.

Not surprisingly however the nearest one can get to the White House is quite some distance away… luckily I have brought a long lens with me so am able to get some closer shots..

It is a really hot day so loads of water needed… I pop into a souvenir shop and buy some Hilary Mints!!  I am amazed at the presidential campaign display…



You can see where my leanings are, of course I don’t get a vote though!

They are offering a free souvenir photo… who can resist, well not me for sure!


I have a look at the tour bus map and see that the best order of visits is to go to the FDR and Martin Luther King memorials first then on to Arlington.  I am absolutely stunned by the FDR memorial it is fantastic.  I am a big FDR fan and I think both him and his wife Eleanor were true humanitarians and, from an outsiders point of view, did the most to make the USA the country it is today.  If you get the chance please do visit the FDR memorial it is really something.

Just as I am walking along to the Martin Luther King memorial it starts to rain… boo!



a stunning tribute to a legend.

I take a walk up to the Lincoln memorial to catch the shuttle bus to the Arlington Cemetery which is over the state line in Virginia.  On the way I pass the only reference I have seen to JFK in the memorial park…

The only mention of JFK in the Memorial Park

I have to say I found this a little odd given how loved he was. I don’t know if anyone actually plays hockey here, there were no pitches marked out or goals and I don’t know if he was a field hockey fan, but there must be some explanation for it.

As I approach the Lincoln Memorial I come across the Korean War Veterans Memorial.. don’t know why I didn’t visit this yesterday, especially as my father was a Korean War participant.  Anyway I am so pleased that I didn’t miss it, again another piece of well considered and beautifully executed work, extremely moving too.


Caught the shuttle over to Arlington.. the driver explains that it is about a 15-20 minute walk up to the JFK Memorial and a further 20 minutes up to the tomb of the unknown soldier.. he also says I should take in the changing of the tomb guard as it is really something to see; feels like a lot of walking to me and I’ve already done loads… gosh I miss my bike!!  Not sure about the tomb but definitely want to see the JFK Memorial so will have to trot on up, although I think it’s going to take quite some time in this heat, thank the goddess I’m not 20 stone anymore.

When I get to the visitor centre I spot that they have tour buses and decide to check it out.  $12 for the hop on off bus, which I think is worth it as I don’t relish the trogging about so cough up the dough.  The cemetery is very interesting, apparently there are over 420,000 graves with burials running in the region of 30 a day Monday to Friday and 10ish on Saturdays… astounding!  There are graves stretching back from the war of independence to the present day; graves of slaves, film stars, supreme court justices, thousands of military personnel and their families and of course 2 presidents – Taft and JFK.  However, to my mind one of the most interesting facts is that the land, which was once a plantation, was owned by none other than Robert E Lee’s wife and he lived here before the outbreak of the civil war.  The house and lands were requisitioned by the union army and as land around the DC area for burials became scarce the presiding general commanded that soldiers be buried on the plantation, this was also done to spite General Lee for having joined the Confederates and indeed the family never returned to live there preferring to sell the property to the US government after the end of the civil war.

Arlington House

The tour guide gives lots of information about specific graves, but the downside of whizzing past on a bus is that you don’t get to actually see them and there are a few I would have liked to stop and look at, but never mind.  I get off at the JFK Memorial and it is much larger that I expected.  I was very surprised to see that Jackie O is buried next to him and their children also.  One of the major features is the ‘eternal flame’ which burns within the grave site.  Apparently this was installed at Jackie’s request.


Back on the bus and up to the amphitheatre and tomb of the unknown soldier to see the changing of the guard.  I have to say, having seen the Greek changing of the guard in Athens, I was not overly impressed with this one.  Having said that, one would have to go a very, very long way to beat the Greeks what with their pom-pom shoes and elaborate marching style… I mean it is just spectacular.  Sorry to my American readers…

Here are the Greeks… just so you can see what I mean.


Now I have to dash to get the last shuttle bus back to Ole Linc and then over to catch the night tour bus… this means I don’t get a chance to see the women nurses memorial so will have to keep for next time… eek!

All good but no time to eat.. haven’t really had much chance to stop for anything all day and no time to visit the Museum of the American Indian that I really wanted to do so I have decided that when I return to DC for my flight home I will allow at least 1 day for this.

Onto the night tour and our guide, Mike, is very very good.  He is a very informative and funny guy and really makes the tour extremely interesting.  Even though I have been to all the exhibits already, and some more than once, he does come up with lots of very interesting facts and his delivery is just spot on… hugely enjoyable and well worth doing.

First stop is the White House, but I skive off to grab a coffee and wait by the bus.  Next stop is the FDR Memorial and I think I’ve already seen it all, however it really looks different in the fading light and Mike does bring it alive.

The most interesting info for me was the statue of the man sitting listening to the radio.  Mike explains that this is one of the ways in which FDR made contact with the American people, he truly wanted to ensure that he communicated well with them so he instigated weekly, or sometimes more frequent, radio broadcasts which he referred to as ‘fireside chats’.  These were extremely popular and helped to make him a very well respected and beloved President.  FDR was the only President to remain in office for 3 terms probably due to his enormous popularity.

Following this we walk over the to Martin Luther King Memorial, again stunning in the darkness, the lighting is so dramatic it really does make it seem even more monumental.

The great Dr Martin Luther King Jnr

Now the most interesting and indeed fascinating stop is the Korean War Memorial.  I was absolutely amazed by what Mike told us about the wall… all the faces engraved on the wall are some of the actual american soldiers, airmen, marines, nurses etc. who took part in the conflict.  Their faces have been reproduced from photographs found in the archives and as good as the engravings are in the daylight, when the light is shone on them at night they actually pop out and are almost 3D… so etherial.

Last stop is back to Ole Linc, but am tired now so kind of drift off to take a photo.  Back on the bus then metro and bus back to my digs.  I don’t get back until 11.30pm so am completely knackered and flop into bed… no time for blogging I’m afraid.

Day 4 – Highway to Nowhere…

Pack my bags this morning and jump in the car to drive down to Portsmouth in Virginia.  Am going to Bayside Harley Davidson to pick up the bike I am buying.  On the way I stop off at Washington DC harley and pick up a few mementos  of course.  Get lost a couple of times as per and then am stuck in traffic on the I95, the main highway to Richmond, it is just dreadful that I turn off and take the scenic route down the Jefferson Davis highway and route 17.  Unfortunately it looks like I won’t make it to the dealership today and although I do try to get back on the ‘fast’ road again I eventually have to give up and just get to my overnight hotel instead and go to the dealers in the morning.  Left at 11.30, arrived at 7.30pm – distance, just 210 miles… madness!!!!!

All that walking has killed my legs… am so stiff I look like a robot… just give me my bike, NOW!


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