So last April, Casey and I were fortunate enough to take a week-long trip to Washington, D.C. We brought my mom home with us after Easter and she stayed with the kids. The original reason for the trip was for Casey to attend the Portrait Society of America Conference (I'll get to that later). But it was the perfect opportunity for me to tag along and for us to stay for a few extra days and see the sights.
The first couple of days we spent sight-seeing, which meant a lot of walking! But it was so amazing there that the walking didn't bother me a bit. Our first stop was Arlington Cemetery. What an awesome place! Very humbling and beautiful.
I'm glad they had these signs posted around to remind everyone (especially the teenagers there on field trips) how to act.
Seeing the chairs all ready for a burial and the soldiers practicing folding the flag really made it real.
I loved the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Those young men impressed me so much with their precision and reverence for the ceremony.
After Arlington, we made our way over to the Mall. Here we are with the Washington Monument in the background.
The Vietnam Memorial Wall--another solemn and impressive place. We almost walked by it. We thought it stuck out of the ground, but it's actually cut out of a hill. The top of the wall has a hill sloping down on the backside of it covered in grass. Does that make sense?
And then we saw snipers setting up on the roof and we got pushed back even further where we were out of direct view of the White House itself. All along the sides it is obscured by trees so once we got pushed back, that's all we could see.
We overheard someone say that the fire truck nearby meant that the President was either coming or going in a helicopter. So we waited for the action.
In the meantime, I was intrigued watching the guards checking every vehicle that came in so thoroughly. They had bomb-sniffing dogs, little mirrors that they would look at the underside of the vehicle with, and the drivers would sit outside waiting as they checked every square inch.
Finally, just as we started to leave (of course), the helicopters that had been circling (one is a decoy) got very close and the true Marine One helicopter landed on the White House lawn. And the excitement was over.
I love, love, LOVE the architecture there! I thought this building with the silver roof was just beautiful! I admire and respect the pioneers that came west and settled here, but why couldn't they bring some of those incredible architectural designs with them?
Here we are at the Capitol with the entire Mall behind us, all the way down to the Washington Monument. That day and the following day we visited several of the Smithsonian museums, as well. Then we made our way to Reston, Virginia for the Portrait Society of America Conference. Casey had entered this painting of Owen into their annual international portrait competition. It was selected from over 1,300 entries and awarded a Certificate of Excellence, which means it was in the top 15-30 of those that entered. So he went to the conference to accept his award, mingle with other incredible artists and learn from all of the classes and workshops they offered. I tagged along and enjoyed some free time in the hotel room and the surrounding area.
Just outside the back of our hotel (the Hyatt Regency Reston--very nice!) was this huge area full of offices, shops, restaurants, etc. and this cool fountain. It was fun to just walk all around and (mostly) window shop.
I was able to attend the awards banquet with Casey, which was very yummy and only slightly long and boring. (Don't mind the ghost lady in our picture ... weird!)
This was our dessert--a solid chocolate painter's palette with 3 different flavors of "paint" (mousse) and a paintbrush (rolled-up white chocolate). Yum!
Casey's friend Ryan Brown was one of the top 15 Merit Award winners. (Too bad you can't see his painting behind them.)
After a fun weekend at the Conference, we went back to finish our sight-seeing in D.C. Of course we spent plenty of time in the art museums and galleries. This is the statue in the middle of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The place is ginormous! I'll admit ... I got lost a few times.
I think this is the National Archives. It was cool to see all of our major government documents in person.
Here we are in the Metro. Once we figured it out, it was great. We booked both hotels we stayed in just blocks from a Metro stop and got around the city using that and our feet. One day toward the end of our stay was very rainy. The first thing we did that morning was go to the Holocaust Museum. What an experience that was. Again, humbling and a bit depressing, but so amazing and well done. Every museum there is so well done, down to the last little details. And it's almost all free! That's what I love about it.
We had a running joke that I would get a photo of the Washington Monument from every side and angle. I didn't include most of those, but this one that I took on that rainy day was cool with the clouds and the rain dripping down the top.
This is in the Freer Gallery of Art. The building is this big square with this beautiful courtyard in the middle.
And I couldn't believe the Japanese Maple trees there (the dark red one)! People try to grow these in Utah and they are so tiny, but if you can get it to live for any length of time at all, you are one of the lucky ones. The ones in D.C. were enormous and beautiful, as were all the trees.
This is the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. We didn't spend too much time in here, but we had to go see a few of the highlights, including some of the inspirational pieces for the Night at the Museum movies (see below).
All of the museums and galleries have such amazing works and incredible artists, but one of the highlights of the National Portrait Gallery was a collection of paintings by the American artist Thayer. This photo doesn't do the colors in this painting justice, but he created some really awesome works.
I had to take a picture of the Metro escalators for the kids. I knew these huge ones would have just blown their little minds!
This piece of the Twin Towers in the American History Museum was especially neat because it was a significant part of American history from my lifetime.
The other thing I enjoyed seeing in that museum was the original flag from the War of 1812 that inspired The Star-Spangled Banner, our national anthem. It is huge--30 x 34 feet. It spent years in conservation and they have it displayed laying down flat in very low light. It was very cool.
Ford's Theatre has a very cool and thorough display on everything leading up to the assassination of Lincoln. This is the gun that was used.
We also went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The kids would have loved it. They have some really great exhibitions. I was fascinated by the fact that they have symbols to represent each of the planets. And this is totally immature, but I found the symbol for Uranus to be highly amusing and totally appropriate.
Oh, and don't worry ... we made sure to visit the world's largest McDonald's inside the Air and Space Museum.
Last but not least, I had to take a picture of the most brilliant invention since sliced bread. These are the toilet seat covers in the Chicago Airport. I had never seen these before, but I was totally amazed and in awe. See the directions below.
And these are the pictures I took of the kids before I left, just in case I got a little homesick. It was definitely the trip of a lifetime. I would love to go back and take the kids when they are a bit older.