Saturday, May 31, 2014

The day of the Memorials

We succeeded in our efforts to get into the Capital Buildings yesterday, no lockdowns and we got there before the visitor's centre opened so the line up was pretty short. We were part of the first tour, first a movie and then we were herded around building by a very forceful tour guide.  She warned us to stay together and one older woman wandered away from the group awhile later and she just lit into her.
This bust of Abe Lincoln was as a model for the sculpture on Mount Rushmore, you can tell because he only has one ear, the other one of course is just part of the mountain. 
The short columns that shore up the capital dome, notice the arches which distribute the weight. 
We were also taken into a room where there were statues from every state.  The only limitation the federal government gave to the states about who they could send a statue of was that the person had to be dead and the statue had to be made out of marble or brass.  
We then had to go to a different place to get into the House of Representatives, we were told we would have to show some ID but the girl giving out the passes was about to make a phone call so she just handed the passes to us, hmmmm!!  Anyway, we rushed in and we hooked up with a group going in, they were all in suits and it ended up they were all army guys from the Pentagon doing some team building exercise.  We rather stuck out in the group, I had on a lime green long sleeved shirt.  One of the fellows with the group said  "I am not going to rat you out but don't do anything to embarrass 
us." Right, with 15 big army guys all around us. When we were leaving and we followed along and 
one astute cop said to us.  "Where do you think you are going?" We made our way back to where we were supposed to be and exited without getting into any more trouble.  
On the way out we met Gus the bomb sniffing dog, just recently returned from Afghanistan.

The weather had turned better so we visited the Lincoln Memorial and the very moving war memorials.
This is actually very impressive when you see it in person.
The Vietnam War Memorial
The very effective Korean War Memorial
Part of the WWII Memorial. This is a tribute to thse who stayed home and fed the country, so good they were included.

We finished off the day at the Holocaust Memorial Museum.  It was a very sobering trip as you went in you were given a card about one of the victims. We are supposed to tell her story.  Her name was Olga Geib and she was born on Jan. 26, 1925 in Czechoslovakia.  She was forced to quit school at 14 due to antisemitism and she was deported to Auschwitz in 1944. She was put to work assembling grenades which attempted to sabotage.  She was transferred to Ravensbrueck in 1945 and was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945. There was a photograph of all the hair that was shorn from victims of the Holocaust as they entered the camps in order to intimidate them. It is indescribable how much hair there was, it brought me to tears. 

Capital Bldg. and Library of Congress.

The main reading room in the Library of Congress.  
We headed off to get a tour of the Capital Buildings, but it was not to be. The Visitors Centre was in lock down status and no one was allowed in.  In the U.S. American history is taught in the 8th grade and there were hundreds possibly thousands of teenagers waiting in line with their teachers.  We decided to go into the Library of Congress instead.  I have never been in such an impressive building.  The art and the architecture were stunning.

We did not take a formal tour but just wandered around.  We loved the maps they had on display, one showed the original 13 states, another was so old that the outlines of Hudson Bay were wrong, they showed the east side as being completely straight, not the rounded bay that we know now! Another room was all about Bob Hope, he was a very popular entertainer and he was shown with every president from Dwight D Eisenhower to Clinton. I really enjoyed the exhibit about the Gershin brothers, their piano and the typewriter they composed their lyrics on was on display. They also had a montage of the films that involved their music, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers were featured in quite a few of the musicals. 
We took the tunnel from the Library of Congress to the Capital Buildings but the line was too long to bother to wait so we headed off to the National Museum of the American Indian.
This building has no corners in keeping with nature and is made out of limestone from Minnesota.

This brought back memories of my youth.  These Bombardiers as we used to call them were used to haul houses etc. from one town to another back in the 60's in Northern Manitoba and then they were abandoned in the bush.  My brother and I used to play in them.  They are shown here as being used by the M├ętis in Manitoba to ice fish with nets. 
Next on our agenda was the National Gallery of Art. Barry was not impressed saying it all looked pretty much the same but I really enjoyed it.  After going through some galleries with painting from the 16th and 17th century I headed off to the Impressionist Gallery and gazed at paintings by Monet, van Gough, Picasso and Degas. 
A Renoir
A variation on a theme by Monet. 
Self portrait by Paul Gaugain
It was a miserable wet cold day and we headed home to snuggle up in the boat and relax.  All this sight seeing is hard work, we walk everywhere and most of the day is spent on our feet.  My age is starting to catch up to me and my feet get sore and my back aches from carrying around a backpack that has everything I might need during the day in it, ah me!
Barry took this shot, what an eye he has.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Space and Air Museum

We spent all day yesterday at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  It was awesome, if there wasn't so much else to see we would both go back and spend more time there.  The exhibits ranged from the theory of flight, through the history of flight up to and including images from the Rovers on Mars which were named Spirit and Opportunity. The exhibits were so well done that I was not overwhelmed with facts but constantly learning.
This is Wilbur Wright in the original plane, they have managed to keep approx. 80 % of the real plane! the material for the wings had rotted away so that is all new. Orville did not get to fly that day because he lost the flip of a coin. They were the first real media superstars of the century.  
This is one of the lunar modules that the astronauts practised one before going to the moon.  Where were you when the footage was on TV?
This is the mock up of the Sky Lab, if you look you can see a person walking inside so you can get a idea of the scale.  It was very narrow inside with an exercise space on one side and work space on the other. 
This is during the race to space and the Americans and Soviets came up with the idea to pretend to like each other and promote world peace and brotherhood and the two different vessels docked in space. 
This is what the Rover on Mars looks like and it has sent back some beautiful images. 

They even have full sized planes from WWII in the building.  Below is the German Messerschnitt
While the Allies answer was the British Spitfire. 
We went in to see the 3 D IMAX movie about D-day! it was very well done.  Then just as we were about to leave they announced that there was going to be a live Russian launch to the international space station.  There were 3 cosmonauts that went up including a woman, there has not been a Russian woman in space for quite some time. I took the following image from the very large screen it was projected on.  Such a great day. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On the Washington Mall which is just a big park between the Capital Buildings and the Wash. Monument. People were running around the track on the outside.

Washington is amazing, the main area around the White House and the Capital buildings is just covered in Federal buildings and museums.  Our tour bus ride was a great investment, we saw everything we wanted to and now we will have to prioritize which places we want to visit.  There are 19 Smithsonian buildings, so choosing might be quite difficult and they are all free!!   Barry wants to go to the Air and Space Museum and I am bound and determined to walk up the Washington Monument.  We have heard that you have to book a White House tour weeks in advance  but apparently tours of the Capital Buildings the Senate and the House of Representatives are quite spectacular and well worth it.  
One view of the Capital buildings.  

This is the original Smithsonian, it is called the Castle. The statues in the corners of the gardens are of extinct birds. 
Where the money is printed!! 

Some of the pictures were taken from our tour bus so the angles are not always the best.  A couple of the bus drivers were just a scream, one from Chigaco was quite funny while another had gone to the Duke Ellington School for the Arts and entertained us with songs, imitations of presidents and a truly rapid fire delivery as we drove down embassy row.  Did you know that the Canadian Embassy is the only one located on Pennsylvania Ave. due to our close and enduring friendship with the US? Apparently during the presidential inaugurations they close off the whole street between the Capital Buildings where he is sworn in and the White House and they even take the street lights out so that the parade can proceed down the middle of the street with nothing to interfere with it!! 

Here are some random buildings that I enjoyed the architecture of.

This is Union Station, where we stopped to have lunch.  It is the second biggest station in the US next to Grand Central Station in New York. Below are two shots to the ceiling of the station.  apparently there was 40 pounds of gold used in the ceiling and when Wash. had an earthquake in 2011 there was dust and particles coming off the ceiling.  Perhaps you could have made a few bucks by walking through the station every lunch hour and then shaking out your clothes when you got home.

I have always loved mystery and spy stories, so the possibilities of a tour of the J.Edgar Hoover building is something I am going to google and then we saw this building below, I don't imagine the entrance to this museum would be free
J Edgar's favourite place to have lunch. 
The Washington Catherdral.  It took over 80 years to complete and they allow preachers of many different religions to prostelize in it.  
Historic Georgetown, where the building were once taxed on their width, thus the very skinny frontages.  They have passed an ordinance which does not allow you to change the character of the buildings without applying to some board. 
The old Washington Canal whch used to run the length of the city but now only exists in Georgetown.  
Laundry must be almost done, off to see the sights up close and personal this time!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Norfolk Va to Wash DC

We are anchored in the Washington Channel within sight of the Washington monument.  The trip here from Norfolk Va has been a long one.  My impression of the trip will always be, motor, motor, motor.  We only sailed for about 5 hours the whole three days.  We have not motored this much since going up the Malacca Straits to Langawi in Malaysia.  We had wind and current against us for most of the trip. In other circumstances it could be pleasant, if you had time.  I  have a self imposed deadline for the trip.  I really want to be in Sydney, NS for Canada Day to spend it with our daughter and her family. So that means that we do not wait for the wind to turn in our favour but just go, I guess I shouldn't complain then.  We have met our goal we are here!!

This house was called the Pass House because in the civil war civilians had to come here to get permission to move about, note the two story attached servants quarters at the back.
Norfolk Va was a lovely spot.  We wandered around the area taking in the sights. There is a wonderful historic area in the town as well as a wealth of Naval type museums. We saw a cenotaph which said To Our Confederate Dead, we walked around the other side of the monument to see if it said To Our Union Dead on the other side, but no chance, Norfolk and Portsmouth, on the opposite side of the river definitely sided with the south.  We visited the Gen. Douglas MacArthur memorial museum and it was very well done and I really enjoyed learning more about that famous soldier.  Barry went to a naval museum and was taken with the lighthouse ship.

Instead of a stationary lighthouse this ship was anchored off of spots where lighthouses could not be built and the keepers as well as a rescue crew lived aboard and helped vessels in distress.  I am not sure that I could sleep in these bunks, claustrophobia rears it's ugly head.  I guess one positive thing would be if it was rough and a particularly bad wave hit you would not have far to go in the vertical direction!
Norfolk is a naval town and has a great tradition of ship building that carries on today.
Can you imagine this coming at you when you are at sea, yikes!

This one is just being built, note the conning tower shrouded wrapped up to protect it or keep it secret. 

This was the museum the USS Wisconsin 

We saw aircraft carriers, battle ships and destroyers in various stages.  Some were still being built, others seemed to be mothballed, and there was even one that had been made into a museum.  There were naval police boats patrolling the harbour so I was very discreet about my photography. Do you think Big Brother is monitoring my blog on this side of the world??
On our trip down Chesapeake Bay and up the Potomac we saw some very interesting lights. When I saw this in the distance, at first I thought it might be a very square looking tanker, as it materialized both Barry and I marvelled at it's construction.  Most of the bay and it's tributaries are very shallow so this light was located in about 4 meters or less of water. Imagine being the light keeper here!  You wouldn't even be able to get down and walk around, my goodness, I would go stir crazy!
Enlarge the pic and look carefully by the strut and you will see the staircase. 
We went under some pretty spectacular bridges,if you look closely at the first shot you can see the staircase built into this one, I figure it would be great fun to climb around there.
Did I mention the crab pots?  They were everywhere, well I guess that is an exaggeration, if you stayed in the middle of the channel, going miles off the rhumb line you might not get to experience the crab pot dance.  The fishermen lay the pots down in a somewhat straight line.  Sometimes if we got in between two lines we could go for miles without dodging, but inevitably we were crossing lines so we had to keep a very sharp watch and at times swerve the boat back and forth like a person doing the samba. We had long days, starting before sun up and ending late in the day and at these times when we were going in and out of anchoring spots the pots were everywhere and they were extremely hard to see.  I am glad we are here, and get to have a rest from the ever vigilante watch we have been keeping.  We plan to stay here for approx. a week seeing the sights, then we will make our way back down the Potomac and instead of backtracking to the entrance of the Chesapeake like we
had planned we will (most likely) motor up the Delaware River, past Baltimore to the mouth of river and then it will only be about 100 nm to NYC. Shortly we are off to do a tour of the sights on a bus where you can get on and off all day.  We figure that will be a good way to get an overview and then we can go back and spend more time at the places that we are really interested in. 
                                              Sunrise on the Chesapeake