Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Washington DC getaway

Hi everyone. Remember me? Yes, it's been a while. I seem to have lost my blogging momentum. :( Not only that, but my reading momentum as slowed down dramatically, too. Today is TBR Challenge Wednesday for July, and believe it or not, I'm still hoping to finish my TBR pick and post a review by midnight. So what are my excuses for not being around so much? It's summer. There are lawns to be mowed, gardens to be tended, miles [and miles] to be biked, naps to be had, and places to be visited. Like Washington DC!

Last week we took a little family getaway to DC for a few days. Back in April, my husband applied to our Congressman for permission to tour the White House. You need to have reservations in advance for this these days. We received notification a couple of weeks ago that we were approved for the tour so started making our plans after that. After some scrambling, we booked my elderly father-in-law into a nursing home for respite care and took off for DC.
Road trip to DC
Thai Iced Tea
The drive from where we live in NJ [east of NYC] to Washington DC is about four hours. First thing we did upon arriving in DC on Wednesday evening was to find dinner. Using the Trip-Advisor app on my phone, we chose Absolute Thai for dinner. This little Thai restaurant is very close to the Verizon Center, in case you want to look for it yourself. The restaurant doesn't look like much from the outside, but has a really nice decor and atmosphere on the inside. Casual, but kind of city chic at the same time. The best part is that the food was really delicious and didn't cost a fortune, considering it is a city restaurant. I splurged on a Thai iced tea, which was so tasty. Worth the extra calories after a four hour ride in the car and a nice way to start out our mini vacation.

Thursday was our super busy tourist day. First on our agenda was our tour of the White House. Security is ultra tight here, naturally, and you are not permitted to take anything into the White House except your wallet [no purses] and your cell phone, which must be in your pocket the whole time. Nothing else and absolutely no photos allowed! So I don't have any photos to share. The tour was pretty short, but informative and fun. While we were on our tour, staff was setting up the blue room for President Obama who would be conducting an interview there later that day.

We went to the Visitor's Center for the White House after the tour. I know, I know... seems like we should have done that first, but our tour was at 9am and we had to hustle in the morning to get there on time as it was! Walking from the White House to the Visitor's Center across the street, we came upon Pershing Park where we took a few moments to pause and take in the peacefulness of this little spot.
Pershing Park, Washington, DC
After spending some time in the Visitor's Center learning more about the history of the White House, we trekked back to our hotel for our cameras and water bottles. We then tried to figure out what Metro bus to take from our hotel area to the Capitol. We thought we had it figured out, too, but a nice lady at the bus stop straightened us out and advised us on how to best figure out the route we needed and eventually we got on the right bus.

We then spent most of Thursday afternoon visiting the Capitol. We went on a tour of the main building of the Capitol--not the Senate or House wings. Those require special permission from your state Congressman. We learned about the history of the Capitol--its construction and political history. The inside of the Rotunda [the big round dome part] --the architecture and artwork--is just beautiful.
The North front of the US Capitol
The inside of the dome in the US Capitol
The ceiling of Statuary Hall inside the US Capitol
Full-size plaster model of the Statue of Freedom
that crowns the dome of the US Capitol
After our guided tour, we had a light snack in the cafe there and then took some time to explore Exhibition Hall in the Capitol Visitor's Center. This exhibit is dedicated to the history of Congress and the construction of the US Capitol from its inception in 1790 through present day. We left the Capitol and started to walk to our next destination when we came across The Summerhouse--a charming little red brick outdoor building nestled into a hill on the west side of the Capitol grounds. It was built in 1890 to offer a cool, shaded, spot for visitors to rest and find a drink of water for themselves and their horses. There are benches built into the inside perimeter of the house and in the center is a small fountain with drinking fountains around it. On the side of the Summerhouse that is set into the hill is a window framed with iron work that offers a pretty view of a grotto where a small stream splashes onto the rocks. I loved the Summerhouse--such a sweet little spot to discover!
The Summerhouse on Capitol Hill
Walking into the Summerhouse
View of the grotto from inside The Summerhouse
Our next stop was The National Archives where we simplified our visit and made a bee line for the room in which our nation's most treasured documents are displayed. We saw the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. The originals!!! It gave me the chills! Obviously no pictures. You'll have to go see them for yourself.

By now we were super hungry for dinner and figured out a neighborhood a few minutes walking distance where there were a lot of restaurants. Well 7 pm on a Thursday evening and everyone visiting or working in the area is looking for a place to sit and grab a meal. We settled for a restaurant with the shortest wait time [30min] and ended up with a mediocre meal with terrible service. We won't be dining at the Ruby Tuesday of 7th Street ever again.

We walked back down [up?] to Tangysweet on 7th Street for some frozen yogurt. It was okay. We liked the frozen yogurt at our neighborhood Yapple much better.

We were trying to figure out how to take a bus back to our hotel from there and weren't getting anywhere so I made the executive decision to just walk it. I have to say that the girls were troopers walking this 1.3 miles back to our hotel at 9:30 pm after having just spent a long, hot day walking around the city. We all plopped into bed one by one after our showers.

We decided to let the girls sleep in a little on Friday morning to make up for the long, busy day before. After a late breakfast, we drove to Arlington National Cemetery. It was my first time visiting here and it is probably my favorite part of the trip. There was so much to see here--I learned so much and found Arlington to be a very important and an incredibly moving place to visit. I highly recommend you visit there the next time you are in the Washington DC area.
Arlington National Cemetery
The Washington Monument in the background
Don't miss the changing of the guards guarding the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier. The tomb has been guarded every second of every day of every year since July 2, 1937.
Guarding the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier
"Here rests in honored glory
an American soldier known but to God." 
The grave of Audie L. Murphy,
the most decorated combat soldier of WWII
We also visited the Arlington House, or Robert E. Lee Memorial while visiting the Cemetery. Such a fascinating history about this family, this house and Arlington National Cemetery. Did you know Robert E. Lee married George Washington's step-granddaughter [the granddaughter of Martha Washington from her first marriage before George Washington]?

After spending four hot hours touring Arlington, we were ready for an early dinner. Using the Trip Advisor app once again, I searched for nearby restaurants and we headed towards a nearby neighborhood that had several restaurants. We ended up at Taste of Tunisia on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, VA. This was our first time having Tunisian food. It was a little spicy for my youngest, but otherwise the rest of us really enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed it the most. I had the Beef Shawarma, homemade lemonade and for dessert we had delicious Tunisian pastries. One was similar to Greek Baklava, made with pistachios and almonds and the other pastry was a cookie-type pastry filled with date paste and I think drizzled with honey. I want one right now!

at Georgetown
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped in the downtown shopping district in Georgetown area where I finally got to shop inside an Athleta store instead of window shopping out of their catalog. What a treat! Unfortunately I didn't get to buy anything because they didn't have the two cycling pieces I was looking for in stock. But I still tried on a few items and at least now know what size top and bottom I'd order from the catalog.

The following morning we checked out of our hotel and headed home.
Washington National Cathedral
[Photo taken from the moving car while leaving the city]

It was a dreary morning, but the sun was shining by the time we arrived home around 12:30 pm safe and sound.

This is my 6th visit to Washington DC and every time I go, I discover so many new things. And when I leave, I realize there's still more to explore and I know I'll be back again.

Have you ever visited Washington DC? What are some of your favorite things to do in DC?

Coming up soon is our full length summer vacation-- I can't wait! Well, truthfully I get a little travel anxiety leading up to vacation and then it takes me a couple of days to relax and really enjoy myself... but still. I'm looking forward to getting to that part. Here's a little hint about where we're going:


  1. Sounds like you had a fantastic time! We didn't do the White House tour, but visited the Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as well. Thought it so interesting to see the different iterations of the original bill of rights, too. Unbelievable.

    I agree with you that Arlington was an amazing place. From the Civil War graves to the women's section to the original house - and I learned so many interesting things about Robert E Lee - never knew he was so conflicted about the war!

    How fortunate that you all are so close to DC. Was this the first trip for the girls (and you & hubby)?

  2. Wow, this sounds like you had an amazing time and these pictures look mighty familiar (I follow you on Twitter). What a great trip, thanks so much for sharing it with us.

  3. Oh, i wish you'd said something! I'd have loved to run by & grabbed a coffee with you!!

  4. My favorite is the Holocaust Memorial museum followed very closely by the amazing tour at the Library of congress. It's been 11 years since I went tho, and I'm JEALOUS.

  5. I love Washington DC. I was there a couple of weeks ago and I have more pictures of the Capitol than anything else. I love the Archives and Arlington.

    You are so right, every time I go to DC, I find something else to love.

    You're going to London.

  6. One thing that I always regret is that I've never been to our nation's capital. It sounds like you had a great time. Well you lucky duck, cheerio and all that : ) cheer loudly for our teams!


  7. Wow! I never knew there was so much to do and see in Washington DC. I always thought it looked pretty on TV though.
    I'm glad you had such a good adventure with your kids, even if some of the food was less than stellar. :) my mum and dad used to take us girls on road trips like that all the time, so reading your recap made me feel so nostalgic.

  8. We love Washington, but have yet to take the kids. I hope we get to take them soon. My absolute favorite place to visit was The Lincoln Memorial. I was in awe of it. Also the Library of Congress, the Archives, the White House (when I went security wasn't what it is today) and many, many other places. I still wish I could remember what the name of the park where it looks as though a soldier is halfway into the ground is called....

    As I remember where y'all are eventually going I wish you all the best!

  9. Lori... It was a great time! I, too, found Arlington to be an amazing place rich in history. I was really fascinated with Robert E. Lee and his family.

    This was my 6th time visiting DC.. Maria's 5th and Anna's 4th although she was pretty young her first time there, so this is probably only the 3rd visit she remembers. I think Gabe has been there more times than me.. before we met. ; )

    Rowena... Oops! I meant to make a warning at the beginning of the post that there would be a repeat of the photos for those of you who follow me on twitter and or instagram. Thanks for looking at them twice! :)

    Gina.. Wait, what?! I thought you lived in PA? What're you doing in DC?

    Lisa.. I haven't been to the Holocaust Museum in DC, but have heard about it. The Anne Frank House was distressing to me.. I can only imagine how the Holocaust Museum would crush me. We walked past the Holocaust Museum in Berlin last summer and I couldn't bring myself to go in. My husband has been inside the Library of Congress [I've only been on the outside]. I'm sure we will go there as a family on a future trip!

    Dru.. So glad you enjoyed your recent trip to DC, too!
    And yes! We are going to London soon! :))

    luv46kz... Well, you'll just have to plan a trip to DC, then, won't you? The next time you're visiting your family in NYC, why not plan a side trip? Like I said, it's only a 4 hr drive. You can also take an express Amtrak from NY Penn to DC, I think. Probably 2.5-3hrs.?

    We will definitely be cheering for Team USA! :)

    Alex.. There's SO much to do there. And it is as pretty in person as it is on TV. :)

    I'm glad my recap made you nostalgic for your own childhood road trips. I hope my girls look back on these getaways fondly when they're older.

    Brandy... Oh I bet your kids would LOVE DC. As you know, it's incredibly educational, too, so you could make it a school field trip! Make them write essays about it, etc.

    I love the Lincoln Memorial, too. It's certainly memorable. I also love the Jefferson Memorial.

    I'm trying to think of what statue you are referring, but it's not ringing a bell.

    Thanks for the good travel wishes! :)

  10. Have you been to the Smithsonian? Just thinking about it makes me start drooling. I think DC is one of the most beautiful cities, just lovely. What a great trip!

  11. Great pictures! I went to DC when I was a kid. I remember going up in the Washington Monument and Arlington Cemetery. Also eating outside at this park with pigeons all over the place. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and we didn't have pigeons so it was weird to see them everywhere. LOL

  12. I love the pictures!

    And yay, you're coming to London! Do you have Olympics tickets? *jealous* We should try and meet up if you've some free time when you're over here.

  13. Oh, I think the last time we were in DC was when my daughter was a teenager... a looong time ago now. *g* We need to get back there. We loved the Lincoln Memorial and The Smythsonian. Plus the Vietnam War Memorial... that black wall with all those carved names. It's impressive.

    PS: I love, love Thai Iced Tea. Now you're making me crave one.

  14. Am currently re-watching The West Wing and that and your post has me hankering to visit Washington DC!

    And you're going to London? WOW! Very jealous. I lived there for 5 years and miss it...well...miss people LOTS! I hope you have a wonderful time - I'll be watching the Olympics on TV so I'll look out for you :)

  15. Brie.. I have been to the Smithsonian but it was many years ago. At some point we will start repeating some of the places we've already visited in DC because the girls probably don't remember some of them from when they were too little.

    Leslie.. What nice memories you have of DC from your childhood. I can't imagine a city without pigeons. They're all over the place in NYC, major NJ cities and even in smaller towns. I sometimes see a handful of pigeons near the train station in our little suburban town... but come to think of it, haven't in awhile. I wonder if they captured and relocated them. Huh.

    Li.. YES! We are London bound.. and yes, we do have tickets to ONE Olympic event. Volleyball. :D We had to bid for tickets back in April 2011, I think it was. It's like a lottery if you get them or not. We bid for some other events too but we only got these. We are going to try to catch some street events too such as running and cycling. Of course, we are doing other touristy things too, including a few days to Scotland. I sent you a message in twitter to exchange info. :)

    Hilcia.. The War Memorials are always impressive. I get choked up every time.

    We should go out for Thai the next time we meet up with Mariana and Natalie. :)

    orannia .. You need to plan a trip to the USA .. NYC and DC. Just saying. :D

    Yes, we are going to London. Iceland on the way and a three day excursion to Scotland, too. We're very excited. :)

  16. Those are some amazing pictures! What a fun trip you must have had!

  17. Looks like you had a great trip...with an even better trip coming up!

  18. Really awesome pictures, Christine!! and it looks to me you had a good time, so even better :)

  19. samantha.1020 ...Our trip to DC was great. We saw and learned so much. :)

    Lisa.. I have to admit our Iceland-UK trip was AWESOME. Can't wait to share!

    nath.. Thanks. Would you believe all of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone??


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