30. Apr, 2016

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SUNDAY 12-10-08 

We had a bit of a lie in this morning, it being Sunday and the public transport running less frequently. Our 08:55 bus didn’t take us to our regular Metro station but instead to Greenbelt, the station one stop further down, and the start of the line. Today we had to change trains as we were going to Arlington National Cemetery www.arlingtoncemetery.org Covering 612 acres it is where 280,000 servicemen & women from The American Revolution to the 9/11 attacks and some of their family members are buried. 

On our eventual arrival we elected to walk ourselves around the site rather than join the throngs of tourists queuing for the ‘Tourmobile' a tug which pulled carriages, taking visitors around the cemetery.

We decided to make John F. Kennedy’s grave our first stop before it got too busy. It wasn’t too far to walk but on arrival it proved difficult to take photographs without behaving like Germans and pushing to the front, until we realised that these crowds were coming in waves having climbed off the Tourmobile’s, and when each group had been spoon-fed for 8 minutes they climbed back onboard again, so all we had to do was wait until they’d left and then we’d have the grave to ourselves along with a few others for a few minutes before the next batch arrived. Not far away was the grave of JFK’s brother, Senator Robert Kennedy who was also assassinated, though his grave was a very simple affair comprising of a small plaque and a cross. 

Next we went to the Tomb of the Unknowns www.arlingtoncemetery.net/tombofun containing the remains of an unknown serviceman from each major conflict except Vietnam because in 1998 a DNA test succeeded in identifying the remains of the previously ‘unknown’ soldier, and he was subsequently given a burial with full military honours back in his home town. The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day and is a popular spot for tourists, especially for the changing of the guard every hour. This is a solemn quiet spot for most visitors, standing on the steps looking down at the tomb and the guard marching up and down, but not for one large Australian lady who, amidst a sea of silence was talking very loudly in to her mobile phone. Her American hosts were clearly too hospitable to tell her how loud, rude and disrespectful she was being …... so I did it on their behalf, and the phone was swiftly put away. 

From there we went across the road and found Audie Murphy’s grave, a war hero who went on to become a film star, then it was a nice long walk around the cemetery with me being wound up by the confounded ‘Tourmobiles’ coming past complete with guides and their amplified-sound commentary – in a cemetery of all places. It was more like a tour of Universal Studios back lot or WallyWorld. I have no problem with using Tourmobles for disabled, elderly and infirm people, though without the amplification, but they shouldn’t be provided for those who are just plain lazy. 

We eventually arrived at Arlington House (Custis Lee Mansion), the former home of Colonel Robert E. Lee. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 Lee had served 35 years in the Union Army, but his home was across the Potomac River in the state of Virginia which had seceded from the Union, and so he resigned his commission and joined the Confederate Army. Unionists saw Lee as a traitor and subsequently confiscated his house using it as a military headquarters then as a punishment and to ensure he could never return to his home, buried dead Confederate soldiers in his garden, which was the start of what was to become Arlington National Cemetery. 

Rosina went for a look around the house whilst I took a few pictures outside and enjoyed a sit down on the front porch admiring the views out across the cemetery and Washington DC beyond. It was then off to find the Marines Memorial depicting marines hoisting the stars & stripes at Iwo Jima. We found it a short 15 minute walk away just outside the cemetery boundary. That done it was about 14:00 and we decided to stick to our original plan and jump back on to the Metro, back under the Potomac River one stop to Foggy Bottom, to visit Georgetown

This community was developed long before Washington. I wasn’t too impressed initially but once we were off the busy ‘M Street’ there were very nice quiet streets of clapboard houses shaded by mature trees. Today this is one of Washington’s most attractive and influential neighbourhoods with many of Washington’s movers and shakers living here, and I can imagine the properties having price tags to match. When we descended the hill and got back to the ‘High Street’ again it did feel very British, which is no coincidence because in the early days it was populated by many Scottish immigrants. We had rejoined Main Street to find the ‘Old Stone House’, www.nps.gov/olst built in 1765, and may be the only building in Washington DC to predate the American Revolution. It had a delightful cottage feel to it inside and was nicely furnished with period pieces, with just the gift shop in the front room spoiling things. 

It’s a shame we weren’t feeling hungry at that time because we could have found Martin’s Tavern, a wood-panelled bar in which every President since Harry Truman has eaten and where, sitting in booth number three, JFK proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier. But we were feeling hot and tired; again we’d been on our feet nearly all day and decided to make our way back. At the end of the Metro journey and whilst waiting for the bus to take us the final leg we got chatting to a few of our American neighbours, we all seem to have been at the campground for a few days and bump in to one another either on the outward bound or return trips. These people are truly hospitable and genuinely interested in us as Brits, I think they feel very pleased that people want to come and visit them for more than a fleeting fortnight as they seem to be of the opinion that everybody in the world hates them, thanks to their current President and his foreign policies. 

This evenings meal was homemade pizza, salad, and of course lashings of wine. 

Tomorrow we may well go out to Dulles International airport to see the remaining aircraft display of the Smithsonian Institute www.nasm.si.edu/museum/advarhazy/ I hadn’t planned to do so but I really would like to see 'Enola Gay', the aircraft which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, plus a couple of other planes, so if we do go it will be a brief visit, if I don’t do it now then I never will, as there will be no need to return to Washington DC in the future. 

The Chef told me today that she fancied visiting Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington which is out of town but can be reached by boat from Washington, so we’ll no doubt do that as well. 

LOCATION TONIGHT: Cherry Hill Park, 9800 Cherry Hill Road, College Park, MD 20740.