As I mentioned in my last post, I took a trip to Washington D.C. recently to apply for my Visa to China. As a resident of New England, I could have also gone to New York City, but since I have a sister and close friend living in the D.C. area, I thought it would be good to visit before I left, especially as I hadn’t been there since I was ten years old.
It was a very cold week (naturally I would have to do this in December), but very enjoyable. My friend very kindly picked me up at Reagan airport so I wouldn’t have to find transport to Alexandria. We also picked up my sister and Arlington and decided to have lunch together. I don’t get to see either of them very much since they both moved away, so it was nice to have one day to chill out.
The second day I had to go to the Chinese Embassy to apply for my Visa, only to be promptly told I was supposed to type my application. In their defense, I should have seen that the top of the application does say to type it. However, in my defense, they should have made it easier to type it on their website and then print it if that’s the requirement…
But thankfully, they made it easy by having an office upstairs where you could type, and the security guard was nice enough to still give me my number so I would be in the queue. I just had to hope I didn’t miss it and have to get a new one. I was lucky and it was actually the shortest time I’d ever spent in an Embassy setting. Anytime I’ve had to visit an embassy or consulate to apply for a new passport while abroad (which has unfortunately happened a few times due to mishaps while traveling) it has taken a very long time. I was in and out of the Chinese Embassy in no more than 45 minutes!
So, rather than spend the whole day in the Embassy, I was able to spend the afternoon with my friend exploring Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. Some pictures available below. I highly recommend visiting the grounds, even if it’s cold out they are worth seeing if you enjoy being outdoors. The tour of the house itself is lovely, but I find I am the type of tourist who prefers to wander around on my own so I enjoyed exploring the grounds more. The only problem with going in the winter is that some of the animals are not on the estate, so there were no horses at the stable. The Christmas Camel, Aladdin, was present! General Washington often liked to show off by having an exotic animal at his home around Christmastime, so Mount Vernon continues the tradition by having a camel at the estate every Christmas season.
After my sister got out of work, I met her in DC to go see the Zoo Lights at National Zoo. It was a chilly night, but not cold enough to deter us, and the light show was so impressive! I’m a sucker for a great Christmas lights display!
Day 3 I did not have to go into the city, so my friend and I decided to visit Arlington Cemetery. I was glad the Women’s Memorial was open (my mother had tried to go to it the last time she was in DC visiting my sister, and it was closed), as my grandmother was in the Women’s Army Corps after World War 2, so it was nice to see such a tribute to women’s military service.
We also walked around, the cemetery, trying to see if we could get to the Air Force Memorial, but it turns out Google Maps is misleading and in fact there’s a wall and road separating the two. We were able to find the World War One Memorial Tree, which isn’t obvious so it took a while. Easier to find was JFK’s grave and memorial, which was hauntingly beautiful. At this point, both of us were very tired from walking, so we decided to head out. We took a break and waited for the sun to go down, before driving to Centerville, VA for a 2-mile-long Christmas light display that you could drive through. I can’t decide which light display I liked more, this one or the Zoo Lights one!
On Wednesday, I had to pick up my passport from the Embassy, so we decided to just spend the day in the city. It was cloudy but nice out, so we went to the National Zoo during the day to see the animals and then most of the National Mall. The zoo is a great place to visit, however I don’t recommend it in the winter as many of the animals are off exhibit due to the cold, even if it is a nice day. I bet early fall is a brilliant time! However, it was nice not to have large crowds to deal with.
We were able to hit most of the National Mall. We started at the MLK memorial, then crossed the street to the dome that is the World War One memorial. The World War Two memorial was probably my favorite. It is wonderfully designed to allow you to walk around it and remember the fallen. It is directly across from the monument, which we were content to take pictures of. We did walk down the reflecting pool towards the Lincoln Memorial, but as we’d been walking a lot that day and both of us do not have the best knees, we decided not to walk all the way up to it. I did take my must have tourist shot of the monument in the reflecting pool, because why not? It’s a pretty picture. You can see it in my previous post as well. We were starting to get very cold by this point, so we made quick visits to the Vietnam War and Korean War memorials and went back to the car. The Jefferson Memorial is just too far away from the others to justify walking in the freezing cold, and we hadn’t realized just how close the FDR Memorial was to where we had parked so we decided to visit that one the next day before going to a museum.
We would decide that was a bit of a mistake when the temperatures dropped the next day and the wind chill most likely put it in the negatives. Since FDR is one of my favorite former presidents, I really did want to see it, so we stuck to our plan. However, I didn’t stay at it as long as I probably would have otherwise, simply because despite being bundled up, I was frozen very quickly. I got some decent pictures, but we went through it very quickly and took a car to the Air and Space museum, though we had originally intended to walk since it was fairly close.
I highly recommend a visit to the Air and Space Museum if you want to visit a Smithsonian in Washington DC but aren’t sure which one. I would have loved to also see the African American History Museum, but it is ticketed out until March, so that wasn’t a possibility. But the space exhibits at the Air and Space Museum were wonderful and brought me back to my childhood when I was very interested in space. I’m still hoping that space tourism will become a reality in my lifetime! And while I’m not as interested in aviation, the World War One and World War Two exhibits were definitely worth seeing, as is the tribute to Amelia Earhart.
It was so cold, we ended up skipping seeing the White House Christmas Tree and Lights, even though I would have loved to see it. It was too bitter to stand outside any longer than necessary. But I’m certainly not disappointed with everything I did get to do.
After a successful Visa retrieval trip, and some fun tourist outings with a good friend (and one with my sister, who was sadly working all week), I took an early flight back to Boston, where it was also bitterly cold. I’m hoping the next time I visit I can go in the spring or fall, so I can see even more.