Did you know that 68 sq mi Washington DC has a non-voting Congressional delegate? That is why you see these license plates in the residents' vehicles as a protest and a movement for full representation.
I've been to DC twice before but never did the tour bus thing. Well for my third trip, that is exactly what I did! The tour bus was for 3 reasons 1) mainly for my in-laws though so that they do not have to do a lot of walking, 2) we could cover more ground in the time we had, and 3) we don't have to look for parking if we take the car!
We were on the OnBoard Tours - and I was very satisfied with their services. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, disciplined yet courteous and humorous, too! Our tour driver drove safely too.
The main difference on this tour company is that it is NOT Hop-on, Hop-off. Instead, it is a 5-tour where everyone gets off at the key stops with the tour guide. The bus waits for you as the tour guide does his spiel, escorts us through and lets us get our pictures. You get to sit on the same spot the whole trip and there is only about 30 people in the tour so there's not much waiting for each other - the tour guides is great in keeping us on time. A 30-minute lunchtime is alloted - you buy your own in the Pentagon Mall.
The key stops were mostly in or near the National Mall. And no, Maria, this is not the shopping kind of mall... Instead, this is the kind of mall with Mr Webster's alternative definition - "a usually public area often set with shade trees and designed as a promenade or as a pedestrian walk".
I am guessing it is called the National Mall because many landmarks of the US were built here. Did you know that the first 5 landmarks listed below form a cross? Interesting, eh... Further on the tour, we saw evidences of America's forefathers' belief in God...
- White House (North)
- The US Capitol (East)
- Lincoln Memorial (West)
- Jefferson Memorial (South)
- The last presidential memorial in the National Mall is the FDR Memorial. (For some of us, non-Americans, FDR stands for Franklin Delano Roosevelt who was the 32nd US president and whom the current media is using to compare 44th President-elect Barack Obama to for the economic parallels of their terms). It was a different kind of memorial - it was not a building... it was a peaceful garden. On the walls of the garden are notable quotes spoken by FDR. Look at the size of those letters...
Our tour guide pointed out National Mall has "run out" of real estate. And that the last memorial spot in the National Mall that was being prepared was for Martin Luther King. (The tour guide also mentioned that memorials were NOT funded by the taxpayers money. Instead, concerned individuals and groups put a plan to be approved (I forgot by whom) and then funds are raised. )
Maybe that is why the recent former presidents now have Presidential Foundations, Libraries and Museums... They contain artifacts and archived documents of that president (and his earlier years). The presidents raise those funds either while in office or after their term. Anyhow, Memorials are nice to look at but I think the Presidential libraries and Museums are "more useful".
(There are currently 12 Presidential Libraries starting with Herbert Hoover, 31st US president. Hmmm.... FDR both has a Memorial in the National Mall and a Library. This is probably because FDR had a huge impact to the US and was elected US President 4 times (!) - the Americans must have loved him immensely. Meanwhile, LBJ Presidential Library and Museum is right here in Austin... note to self: go visit!)
Okay, back to the tour and on to the War Memorials...
- Vietnam War (1959-1975) Memorial - This is the first war memorial built in the National Park), despite it being the most recent among them. It has a minimalistic design that honors the fallen soldiers rather than what many think as a contentious Vietnam War.
- Korean War (1950-1953) Memorial- The Korean War has many names including The Forgotten War or The Unknown War because although a major 20th century war, it gets small attention compared to the 2 wars before (WW II) and after (Vietnam War) it.
- World War II (1939-1945) Memorial - Unlike the first 2 somber memorials, the WW II Memorial was more "celebratory and victorious" in tone.
And then there are the Memorials for some of the branches of the US military...
- US Marine Corps Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) - Growing up in the Philippines, we sometimes receive balikbayan boxes with old books and Newsweek magazines from friends and relatives based in the US. I remember seeing the Iwo Jima photo on one of these books (or magazines) and thinking how poignantly beautiful it was. I finally saw the statue!!! And learned of its significance - it was a Feb 23, 1945 photo of 5 marines and a navyman raising the US flag on top of Mt Suribachi after subduing Iwo Jima island. The photo was taken by Joe Rosenthal and won a Pulitzer Prize.
- Air Force Memorial - It is located across the street from the Pentagon. This is my favorite memorial though. Maybe because it was my first time to see it. Maybe because I am partial to modern architecture. :) The simple, metal 3-prong monument appears to resemble the smoke from an aircraft. The clean lines and the soaring metal were beautiful and inspiring.
And then there were the places that we did not get off on but still saw while on the OnBoard Tour:
- Old Post Office
- Kennedy Center
- Watergate Complex
- World War I Memorial
- National Archives
- National Cathedral (wow!!! I gotta see this next time!)
- The Pentagon
- Arlington Cemetery
- Embassy Row
- Rock Creek Parkway (beautiful! Just like you are out of the concret jungle!)
- and more...
In retrospect, I don't think we would have gone to and seen all these places had we used the other Hop-on, Hop-off tour buses because then we would have to spend time waiting for the next bus to come by. The waits would have taken about 150 minutes - 2.5 hrs, just waiting!!! We would have missed the narration, too. Some of us would have fallen off along the way, I'm sure.
Moreover, OnBoard picked us up from and dropped us off in our hotel. How convenient was that! And speaking of hotel, we had a great suite with 2 beds, 1 sofa bed and a view of the Capitol at Embassy Suites Washington-Convention Center! We felt like ambassadors, tee hee... Salamat Q*intiles! Thank you Mamu!
Although I went to the Smithsonian museums on the 2 previous trips, I missed it this time. Wanted to go back to the National Gallery of Arts again... Also, planned to watch the free 6pm show at the Kennedy Center but changed my mind when I learned what was showing - Alibaba and the 40 Thieves film with live orchestra accompaniment. It was just not too interesting...
Andy, Tirta and Joshua Andy now lives in Manassas, VA... hmmm, gives us a reason to visit DC again in the future, whenever that would be!