Jun Visits DC!

This past weekend Jun, one of my friends and sectionmates from HBS, came to visit DC and we had a packed weekend filled with lots of sightseeing and good food. Saturday morning we started our adventure off at the Arlington National Cemetery, despite the torrential rain (can't let a little water stop us!).

The cemetery offers a tour of some of the most prominent sites, so we boarded the bus and headed to the Kennedy gravesite where Jackie Kennedy, JFK and his brother Robert Kennedy are all buried.

This photo shows JFK's tomb and the eternal flame that is lit behind it. Jackie's grave sits right next to JFK's and Robert's grave is a little ways away up a separate pathway. Behind the graves is a beautiful memorial with some of JFK's most famous quotes carved into stone ("Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country..." among others). A similar memorial with quotes and a waterfall is near RFK's grave.

The second stop on the cemetery tour was at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial that is guarded by high-ranking military 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I tried to ask the park rangers why of all the tombs it was felt that this one should be guarded and unfortunately, I couldn't get an answer from anyone, so I still need to research this. Nonetheless, there is a very solemn and official ceremony that takes place every half an hour to change the guards. There's lots of "barking" by the man in charge of the ceremony, followed by interesting rifle maneuvers, lots of heel clicking and pacing back and forth. I'm not sure I entirely understood the significance of the ceremony, but it was nice to see anyway. Nearby the Tomb is a beautiful marble amphitheater where speeches are held, and not far away are the memorials to the astronauts on the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia.

The third and final stop on the tour was Arlington House, which overlooks the entire graveyard and was once the home to confederate General Robert E. Lee. Nearly 90% of the original structure of the house is intact and you can tour the main home, the slave quarters, the kitchens, the rose garden and a small bookstore. Although it was a cloudy, rainy day, the view from the top of the hill really is amazing. You can see the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the White House among other DC sites.

Next up on our whirlwind tour was a visit to the West building of the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art. I have noticed that I am so incredibly impressed with the architecture of the buildings in the city and this Gallery was among the most beautiful structures yet. The photo of the museum rotunda above does not accurately portray the beauty of the entryway with its majestic arches, marble columns and calming fountain with rich sunlight streaming in from two sides. Jun and I began our visit with a lovely lunch in the museum's Garden Cafe. The cuisine changes frequently, representing different regions of the world, and currently is focused on Spanish cuisine. We tried lots of Spanish cheeses (goat, sheep and cow's milk) with crispy bread, a chilled gazpacho soup, a lentil dish, an eggplant dish, delicious spiced meatballs, chicken baked with bacon and lentils and finally blueberries and flan for dessert. Amazing (and less than $20!).

From there it was time to explore the galleries, which are split into regions and time periods, mostly featuring 15th-18th century art. Among my favorite sections were the Monets and Van Goghs, the Dutch and Flemish art (they had a few Vermeers, but not Girl with a Pearl Earring) and the 15th and 16th century French art. They had one Da Vinci painting (apparently it is the only Da Vinci in North America), but I honestly wasn't very impressed!

After several hours of touring the Gallery, we made a brief stop at the East building, but had just 10 minutes to explore as the museum was getting ready to close. To kill time, we walked over to the White House so Jun could take some photos and then we grabbed a cab to Georgetown and walked around a bit exploring the shops. Shortly thereafter we met our sectionmate William for an Italian dinner at Papa Razzi followed by a showing of the Disney-Pixar film "Up" in Disney Digital 3D (it was an awesome movie, so go see it if you haven't!). At midnight, we finally hit the sack and prepared for the fun to come on Sunday.

Sunday morning we departed for the Jefferson Memorial, which is a good 15-20 minute walk from the National Mall. The memorial itself is more breathtaking than I imagined it would be, complete with a gigantic statue of Jefferson in the center of a rotunda on which his most famous quotes are carved into each of four walls. The remainder of the rotunda is filled with pillars overlooking the Potomac on one side and gardens on the others. Underneath the memorial is an exhibit on Jefferson's life (with a very interesting film) and a couple of gift shops.

After touring the memorial we walked all the way to the other end of the mall to have lunch at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Although Jun wasn't interested in touring the museum (I'll have to save that for another weekend!), the cafe there is supposed to be the best among the Smithsonians as they feature Native American offerings from different regions of the US (Jun had a buffalo sandwich that she was less than thrilled with, but I enjoyed my meal of papuchas (sort of like a potato pancake stuffed with either cheese or beans and covered with cabbage and a special sauce), yucca fries and a lima bean and avocado salad). From there we walked to the Freer Gallery of Asian Art and took a docent tour of the museum highlights, including Whistler's Peacock room, a green and gold room with peacock "feather" designs floor to ceiling.

With that, we grabbed some ice cream, took a quick tour of the Hirshorn Museum sculpture garden (and tied a wish to Yoko Ono's wish tree) and parted ways so Jun could explore the Lincoln Memorial (I'm seeing it with another guest later this summer) and I could give my aching feet and back a rest.

And so another awesome week of touring comes to a close. Next weekend I've got a tour of the Capitol, the Hillwood museum, a concert and brunch with HBS folks on deck. More then!

0 Responses to "Jun Visits DC!"