Wednesday, April 03, 2013

USA: Around Washington, D.C.

Since I'm in Washington, DC, I might as well write my long overdue post on America's capital city. Washington, DC, is a city with so much history, so many activities and things to see, do and eat, it would take several days to explore even just the highlights. On top of the list would be the memorials and iconic landmarks that the city is most known for.

You can opt to tour on your own. My family did that when we first visited in 1993. And we got to see many off the beaten track attractions including Ford's Theatre were Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, the US Mint and a tour of the White House (which unfortunately is not available at this time). In fact, we arrived just in time for the famous DC cherry blossoms which I'm waiting for as we speak.

But there are convenient tours that take you to all the major sights. And I got to try one during my last visit two years ago courtesy of a family friend who worked at a local hotel. If you book with your hotel, the tour company can pick you up there which is very convenient and brings you to the Old Post Office Pavilion where the tour starts. Our first stop was at the US Capitol for a photo. From the Capitol, we walked through some of DC's landmark buildings such as the US Treasury Department and parks and squares on the way to the White House. Security was tight that day because of the visit of the Israeli Prime Minister.

Part of the tour was a cruise along the Potomac River where we got to see more of DC. It also serves as a lunch and snack stop since they sell sandwiches and drinks on board.

After the cruise, we visited the various memorials beginning with the National World War II Memorial. It was opened quite recently in 2004. The frontage actually offers a really nice view of the Washington Monument across the street.

The World War II Memorial is one of several memorials which honors the role of the Philippines in US history. It features 56 granite pillars each with the names of the 48 states and 8 territories of the US during the war. Major battles in the Philippines are also memorialized including Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, Luzon and Manila.

While walking around, I got to see Senator Bob Dole chatting with veterans.

We then proceeded to the Jefferson Memorial built on the shore of the Potomac River Tidal Basin. An elegant neoclassical building, it ranked fourth in the American Institute of Architect's list of America's Favorite Architecture. The White House ranked second and the Washington National Cathedral was third. Other DC buildings also in the list are the US Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, the US Supreme Court, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art and Daniel Burnham's Union Station among many others (six of the top ten and 17 of the total 150) making Washington DC a truly iconic city.

Another relatively recent memorial is the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. At the time I visited in 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was being constructed nearby Roosevelt's and was opened a few months later. So that's one memorial I plan to visit during this trip.

We then visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial (the Philippines is also listed among the countries that sent troops during the war). We then proceeded to the famous Lincoln Memorial. And yes, expect the crowds!

Our next stop was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the main feature of which is a wall containing names of US service members who were killed in action (KIA) or missing in action (MIA) in the Vietnam War. Relatives and friends of those who died often visit the memorial to get name etchings as a memento.

We then visited Marine Corps War Memorial, more popularly known as the Iwo Jima Memorial. It honors members of the US Marine Corps who died in defense of the US since 1775. This is why among the campaigns listed is the Philippine Insurrection (notice the corner). But I do hope they change that to Philippine-American War. The memorial is just outside the walls of the Arlington National Cemetery. And you can opt to proceed there after.

So many things to do in DC, and this is just one of them. Another thing you can do is explore the National Mall (no its not a shopping mall but a vast public open space) and the museums of the Smithsonian. But that's for another post.

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