Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jenkins Family Road Trip Day 6, July 6

I know I am a little behind in my vacation updates, things are a little busy for me as I have been getting ready for a week long trip with my girlfriends Denise and Marissa for a scrapbooking week at the cottage. Lots of photo editing, sorting through supplies and packing as light as I a possibly can. Which is actually a massive feat for me, since I am NOT a light packer. We will be leaving first thing tomorrow morning, and I am not sure if there is internet up there or not. Probably not. So I will probably be offline for a week, which is probably a good thing, so I can focus on getting as many pages done as possible.

Back to our vacation. This day was Spy Museum day. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside the museum, so what pictures I have here are some stock photos I found online.

If you ever get to D.C. I highly recommend the Spy Museum. From the outside it didn't look too big, and there was restaurant attached as well as a large gift shop. The museum can hold so many people at a time so we were given tickets for a certain time block. We thought we would poke around for a couple of hours and go explore some more of the area. We ended up staying there the whole day. There was so much to see and do.

After an elevator ride up , they started us in a "briefing room" where on different placards around the room are secret identities. We were to pick one, and memorize the information on that particular identity. After about 5 minutes we were "released" into the main part of the museum. It was impressive and very interactive. There was a computer station where we went with our memorized secret identity information to get our missions. It was to give the visitors a feel of what it is like to be a spy.

The museum itself was fairly interactive. We learned the various techniques about how they "bug" places. Makes you wonder how private conversations in your home really are. Learned about the different spies throughout history. One station had us looking at radar images and we had to find objects such as fighter jets etc in China, and in Afghanistan looking for encampments and caves.

The museum was filled with hundreds of artifacts such as this car from one of the James Bond movies, it was part of the exhibit on some of the ways agencies tweak vehicles and boats etc. for their purposes.

I loved this, a one shot gun disguised as a lipstick. I want one.

This was in the cold war area, describing what was going on in espionage in the 50's and 60's, especially Berlin. They had a replica of the tunnel that the West built under the Berlin wall to spy on east Berlin, apparently East Berlin knew about it, but let them dig anyway. And then used it as a media attack on how evil the west was.

There brief articles on the many different spies from the era, such as various husband and wife teams who were parents and spies. Including one poor woman who was living with her husband in East Germany, she was a spy for the west, and someone turned her in and she was imprisoned for a number of years. She was eventually released, the Berlin Wall fell, and she was elected to political office. One of the first things she did was have her and other files unsealed, to see what East Germany had on her. Turns out her husband was the one who turned in her. She filed for divorce the day after finding out. Unfortunately I don't remember her name and I can't find anything in Google about it.

And here is one of the "spy pigeons" trained to carry cameras.

The exhibits were amazing, and so much to take in. Learned about how a double agent in Spain by the name of Joan Pujol Garcia code name: Garbo; misled the Nazis in regards to D-day. Fed them false information saying the allies were landing at another set of beaches further south. The allies hired Hollywood to make inflatable tanks, house etc. so it look like a mass invasion was happening, which caused the Nazis to divert most of their troops further south and thus allowing the true location of the allied landings to have minimal opposition from Nazi troops.

At the end, was another computer station to complete our secret identities "missions". Unfortunately for me, my middle aged brain, mixed in with information overload and the burger from the cafe wasn't sitting well in my stomach, I bombed my mission. Basically I would make a terrible spy. Laura on the other hand, passed with flying colors. I wonder if I should be concerned.

So much to see and do, and not enough time. The down side of visiting the spy museum is the thought that this is information that we were allowed to know. What else is out there that we don't know. Freaky!!!

Afterwards, Daniel bought some mustaches to help him with his disguise. Do you think it worked?

After visiting the museum, we decided to head to the capital building first before heading to dinner. On the way we stumbled up the Naval Memorial. It was not one we had heard of in our research of what to see and do in D.C. The outdoor memorial has a sea map of the world as the centre surrounded by various bronze statutes and reliefs, fountain pools, and waterfalls. It was a hidden gem.

Loved this one statue, called "The Lone Sailor".

A close up of some of the reliefs surrounding the plaza.

We had to take a picture of the Canadian Embassy. Dared the kids to run up to the embassy like someone was chasing them, saying "you will never catch me, never!!!" They didn't go for it. LOL

The Capital building.

Memorial to General Grant. Its funny, all these statues as memorials to great individuals in history, and they all have pigeons sitting on their heads pooping on them. I don't think this is what they had in mind. LOL

On either side of General Grant are statues commemorating both the Union and Confederate side of the civil war.

Dinner at the Elephant and Castle, yummy. And back to our hotel to rest up for the next day's adventure. Another Smithsonian museum. Stayed tuned, and be patient. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jenkins Family Road Trip Day 5, July 5

I missed a picture from July 4 to put in my previous post. It is ME!!! Normally I am the one taking the pictures, the family photog that I am. So there are never pictures of me, or at least very few pictures. During our trip I gave Daniel my little Olympus camera that I usually carry in my purse. And when we were hanging around, relaxing before finding a spot to watch the fireworks from, he snapped this lovely shot of me. Look out America's Next Top Model, here I come.

Back to our regular scheduled updates now.

We decided to visit Arlington Cemetery, and it was probably the hottest day during our stay in D.C. We took the tour bus/train through the cemetery, and only lasted a couple of stops before we said "Its too bloody hot. We quit" LOL

Our first stop was the Kennedy family grave site. We first had to see JFK and Jackie Kennedy's graves, and with them are the two young children they lost. One was a stillborn, and the other was a young boy who only lived a couple of days. We noticed that the boy, Patrick, died in August and JFK was killed that November. Jackie had a horrendous year losing not only her infant son but also witnessing the murder of husband. What an amazing woman.

The eternal flame.

A wider shot of the grave site. Everyone honored the rule of silence while visiting the site.

The view from the Kennedy grave site. Stunning.

Nearby, we have Bobby Kennedy's grave.

And Ted Kennedy's grave.

During our tour we learned a brief history of Arlington Cemetery. Time for history lesson for my readers.

The land and the mansion, Arlington House, was originally owned and built by George Washington Parke Custis, adopted grandson of George Washington. George never had children of his own but Martha had four children from her previous marriage. And George Custis was the son of John Parke Custis.

George had only one child, a daughter, named Mary Anna Randolph Custis, who was married to Robert E. Lee Upon George's death he gave Mary the right to inhabit and control the house for the rest of her life, and upon her death the estate would then go to her son George Washington Custis Lee.

Fast forward to the American Civil War in 1861. When Virgina seceded from the Union to become part of the Confederacy and Lee was name Major General for the Virgina Military. Fearing for their safety Mary and Robert left their beloved Arlington Estate, which was captured by Union forces. Mary was of poor health, and the taxes were due on the property in Jan. 1864. Unable to make the trip to Virgina herself to pay the taxes, she sent the money with a trusted servant, but the government wouldn't take the money, saying Mary had to pay in person. They seized the property and Arlington National Cemetery was established by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Miegs who turned the estate into a cemetery for Union soldiers only. I guess he was a little ticked at Robert E. Lee. He also attempted to make the home uninhabitable should the Lee family return. And Miegs had himself and his family buried within a 100 yards of the house. He really really didn't like Lee.

After Robert and Mary's death, their son, George, took the matter to the court of Alexandria (Arlington today) claiming "that the land had been illegally confiscated and that, according to his grandfather's will, he was the owner." And in December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court returned the property back to the Lee family stating "that it had been confiscated without due process"

In March, 1883 George sold the property to Congress for $150,000 to become a military reservation.

End of history lesson.

The number of graves at Arlington is amazing. If it wasn't so hot I would have enjoyed exploring more of the cemetery.

The second stop, was Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We arrived about 5-10 mins before the changing of the guard. Again, complete silence was expected. Everybody was so hot, I don't think we could have made much noise anyways. Again, a very moving memorial to those who sacrificed their lives. The tomb has a soldier from WW I, WW II, and the Korean war. The Vietnam Soldier was identified a few years ago through DNA and his remains were interred to a site near his family.

The changing of the guards was impressive to watch. The discipline and the precision the soldiers exhibited was amazing. A few minutes after the changing of the guard, one of the spectators decided to cross the barrier, to get a better look maybe, but I have no idea. The guard, who has been absolutely silent until then, not even acknowledging that others were there, basically told the individual to get back to the other side. And based on his tone, he would not hesitate to use physical force take the person out. I do believe that individuals brain must have melted completely in the heat. LOL

NASA tribute to the astronauts who have lost their lives over the years. This was across from the Tomb of the Unknown soldier. There were a couple more places to get on and off at during the tour, but we all said enough. Lets get out of this heat.

Afterwards, we drove all the way to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air and Space museum Hanger.

This is the Lockhead SR-71A Blackbird. If you are a fan of the Transformers movies like we are, you will recognize it from Transformers 2, its the plane they turned into a Transformer, who used to be a Decepticon but changed alliances to the Roboticon. I thought it would be fun if we ran around the museum with a shard of the Allspark and try to see which aircraft would come to life. Dave just rolled his eyes. He is no fun. LOL

And the reason we drove to the Hangar, the space shuttle Enterprise. Dave was in complete and utter heaven, to put it mildly. LOL

What caught my attention was this model used in Close Encounters of The Third Kind. Apparently production crew who made this model had some fun and hid various objects on the model. Including a cemetery and R2D2. It was fun trying to find all the object listed on the card.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jenkins Family Road Trip Day 4, July 4

The 4th of July was also our anniversary. We have been married 19 years, I'm starting to feel old now. *sigh*

We decided to go to the Smithsonian Zoo in the morning, it was about a 10 min walk from our hotel. We were hoping to see the Panda bears they have there, unfortunately, they were no where to be found. Probably sleeping somewhere well hidden.

The zoo itself is much smaller than the Toronto Zoo, so just a few hours was enough to explore the zoo. We started off with the Cheetahs, there were babies born to one of the female Cheetahs earlier this spring, but they weren't on display. In one enclosure there were three Cheetahs snoozing, and I'm not sure if its a warped sense of humor, but the first Cheetah enclosure looks right into the Zebra enclosure. Seeing this cheetah laying in the grass watching the zebras graze and twitching its tail in anticipation, made me giggle. Lunch was so close...........yet so far away.

The lions were probably the most active creatures that day. The enclosure had a number of lionesses with a number of cubs.

We then went back to the hotel to have a nap during the heat of the day. We have learned that it is best if you can be in air conditioning mid day in D.C. in the summer. The heat and humidity is very uncomfortable, especially for us Canadians who aren't use to it.

Before dinner we went to the White House, of course the area around it was busy busy busy. Numerous protesters including one young fellow who had a loud speaker and was making up poetry and raps quoting the Bible and other sayings of how we are all going to hell hell hell. lol

My attempt at trying to get a picture of family in front of the White House. It appears that when individuals are in front of the White House their sense of hearing and ability to exercise proper manners leaves their beings completely. Dave and the kids lined up for the shot, and I had my large, just can't miss Canon Camera at the ready, yet people would stand between me and my family. I started to yell and ask them to please move, no response, it was like I didn't exist. After a few mins of me yelling and looking like a fool, since I was waving my hands at nothing apparently, the seas parted, briefly. I had my camera set on continuous shutter and snapped a number of photos quickly. And look ma, we got a few extra members added to our shot. LOL Love the fellow with the ears, those who knew my father, would say look he has your dad's ears. LOL

We went for dinner at Founding Farmers Restaurant , it was our second time having dinner there. If you ever vacation in D.C. I highly recommend this restaurant, it was the best one we ate while there. They believe in getting as much of their food as possible from local family farms. Amanda, Daniel and I had their made in house with real lemons lemonade, simply fabulous. Dave and Laura had their homemade ginger-ale, they said it was the best they have ever had. Reservations are recommended as it is a popular place.

Afterwards we went to the Lincoln Memorial to see the various memorials and watch the fireworks. When we arrived around 6:00 this is what we found, wow. And by the time fireworks started there was barely any room to walk in and around the Lincoln memorial.

View from the memorial, unfortunately the Reflecting Pool was under renovations and was just a giant mud pit. Also, the WWII memorial was closed for the day as well, this was the area where they were setting off the fireworks.

While waiting for fireworks, we wandered around to visit the memorials we could. We started with the Vietnam Veterans Wall. The design of the wall is so simple, yet so moving. You can't help but reach out and touch the names engraved on the wall. And there are so many names, its overwhelming.

The Three Servicemen Statue.

Next we went to the Korean War Veterans Memorial was next. As we approached the first sight that greeted us was the statues of various soldiers walking, like they were emerging from a Korean forest, it was eery, yet I couldn't stop taking pictures of them.

We wandered a bit more, saw the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial under construction, it is suppose to be finished this August.

We went back to the Lincoln Memorial and found a spot on some grass. The fireworks were phenomenal. Some were in shapes like hearts and stars. Afterwards we made the long and extremely crowded walk, back to the the subway station to catch a train back to our hotel. When we arrived at the station, it was packed and more and more people were coming. They added extra trains to the system, but they were all packed. We decided to stay back and wait till the congestion eased. Seeing trains with people pressed against the doors was not something I wanted to join. LOL After the fourth train went by, the station was pretty much cleared. We talked to two of the police officers who were on duty in the station. With all those bodies crammed into a small underground area, it was hot and humid down there and these poor guys were in full uniform with bullet proof vests and all off course. They were so glad to see their shift was almost over, they were soaked with sweat. I didn't have any water bottles left, otherwise I would have given them some water. And yes, the wait was worth it. We were able to sit during our ride back to the hotel.