Washington DC and Gettysburg once more

This years trip was to begin in Washington DC. Like last time we flew with KLM via Amsterdam. Nine hours after take of in Amsterdam, we landed in Dulles International Airport. Since our first visit 911 had happened, so it took a while to get through immigration. Well we got trough and got our luggage. We had rented a car from Avis so we took a shuttle bus to the Avis Car Rental, where we got the car. As we knew that we had to accommodate Else and Carl as well at one time, we had booked a Pontiac Bonneville mostly for the size of the luggage compartment and at present there was ample room for our luggage. So we rolled out of the parking lot and found the highway into Washington, Dulles Toll Road, which would give ud plenty of problems on our next trip, but this time everything went smoothly. Also from home, we had booked rooms for the first two nights at Washington Hilton, and we had no problems locating the hotel.

Unfortunately the room came with a king size bed, which we always try to avoid, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. We are not to good at sharing bed linen, but this time we figured out a system that worked so that none of us could "steal" the others part. We stayed in the room for a while and studied some of the brochures that were in the room and found a restaurant that according to the brochure should be a nice place on Connecticut Avenue. We both needed a nap, but in order to avoid jet lag decided to wait until ordinary bedtime, East Coast Time. Instead we took a stroll round the hotel. Along the way we bought a phone card, and called the kids back home to kids to tell them that we had gotten to America safe and sound.

When it was time for dinner, we walked down the street and found the restaurant, called Timberlake's. And as stated in the brochure it proved to be quite nice and the food was good. I can not remember what we ate, but I think it was baby ribs, which we often had on this trip. After dinner we went back at to the hotel, and then it was bedtime.  As we had predicted the king bed gave problems when either of us try to steal the whole blanket or sheet, but we solved it by building a wall between us, of our bags.

Next morning we ate breakfast in the room and then made ourselves ready for the day. We packed our back with the most necessary items among others a few bottles of water. I checked my two cameras, one digital and one with film. And both were out of batteries - Great planning! The old film camera used a special kind of battery so we could not hope to buy one of those on the way. So instead I had to resort to the digital camera, that used ordinary AAA-batteries.

We left the hotel about eight am, and walked down to the subway station at Dupont Circle. Here we bought a day ticket, which still cost $ 5 exactly as two years before.  And just like last time, we took the Metro to Capitol South. From here we walked up toward the Capitol and and great was our surprise when it turned out that there actually was no queue. This time I had promised Dorte a visit, no matter how long the queue.  Actually there was not a single soul in sight anywhere. We waited for a while until we figured out that The Capitol was no longer open to the public. Instead we chose to walk down The Mall to The Old Post Office Pavilion, where we hoped to find a rest room, but even this building was closed, so we decided to go on to the back of the FBI building. Here we knew that there was a McDonalds and we were sure that they had rest rooms. It turned out that we were right, and we used this opportunity to get something to drink. Already here on, around 9 o'clock, it was pretty hot.

After the visit to McDonalds we walked to the White House and took pictures from both sides. After thst we crossed The Ellipse and went back to the National Mall. Here we discovered a small stone house, which we had not previously noticed. It proved to be the "lock keepers house when The Mall was a part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (called the Washington City Canal). It ran where now Constitution Avenue is running, and met up with a small river, the Tiber Creek. Several of the houses along the north side of Constitution Avenue, among other the IRS and National Archives buildings is placed where the river once ran.

We continued down the Mall down to and past the Lincoln Memorial. It was as mentioned earlier, very hot and we had already drunk all our water, but managed to get some resupply from a water monger. While we sat on a bench behind the Memorial, we agreed that we would visit Arlington cemetery once again. And since we were so close, we chose to walk across the Potomac via Arlington Memorial Bridge. At the cemetery we walked around and enjoyed some of the same places as we did two years earlier, such as Arlington House and the tomb of President Kennedy, but it was very hot (we had previously passed a thermometer that showed 100o in the shade) so we just spend about an hour walking at the cemetery. Instead we went down to the locall subway station and took the subway for a couple of stations to Foggy Bottom at the other side of the Potomac, just northwest of the Mall. From there we walked up to M Street, and through this very cozy and interesting street in Georgetown. En route along M Street, we passed another thermometer that at this time of day, around 3 pm showed 105.  When we got to Wisconsin Avenue, we turned north along the avenue to Q Street. Here we chose to turn east again towards Connecticut Avenue. On ourway, we passed Rock Creek Park for the second time, first time was on M-Street. Rock Creek Park is an elongated park that stretches through the district from Chevy Chase in Maryland, to the Potomac River and thus splits Washington DC in two parts. The park contains among other things Washington zoo, and some places it is very desolate, while other places are almost overcrowded. This applies not least some of the parts of the park, located in Georgetown. The park is more than twice as large as Central Park in New York, so it's a nice natural area located in the middle of Washington.

Q Street contains some interesting old houses, but our feet were now so sore that we hardly had the energy to enjoy it. So it was two pairs of extremely used feet that got back to the hotel after a 7-hour stroll in the 100-105 degree heat. So the first thing we did was to take of our shoes and then throw ourselves on the bed. Here we stayed until it was dinner time. So we took a quick shower while we wondered whether we should order food in our room, or whether we should go out to eat.

Despite our very tired feet, we nevertheless chose to go out to eat. This time we went even a little further than the day before, and found another place on Connecticut Avenue. In this case an Italian restaurant named Odeon Cafe, and if Timberlake's was nice, Odeon Cafe was really nice. (No, they do not pay me to say so). Most servants were young students from around the world, who studied in Washington. The guy serving us were from Belgium, and we talked to him quite a bit. As the food was good as well, we decided that when we came back to DC with Else and Carl Jorn at the end of the vacation, we would eat here again. After dinner it was back home to the hotel, this time to sleep, so that our feet could be ready for the next day.

Ben Hur and the Civil War

Some will probabl wonder, when they see the title, what Ben Hur has to do with anything? At least the generations who know who and what Ben Hur is. For those not initiated, I can reveal that Ben Hur is the title of a novel (and a film from 1959 with Charlton Heston as Ben Hur) about a man by that name. Ben Hur is a jew and the novel takes place in Palestine in the years before and up to the crucifixion of Christ. The scene that most will remember from the film is probably the racing scene from the Circus at Antioch. But for the story of how we came across Ben Hur this fine day, you have to wait a few minutes. 

We were going north today. To Gettysburg, where we were two years earlier. We would both like to revisit the battlefield, and the city. We left the hotel early and drove north along Connecticut Avenue until we met "The Washington Beltway". We followed the freeway around town until we came to Interstate Highway 270, where we turned north through Maryland to the Frederic. Not because we would visit Frederic, but because it was the easiest way to get to Gettysburg, and this time we would not visit Harper's Ferry on our way. In Frederic you find Fort Detrick. The fort is home to U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, better known as USAMRIID, where - so rumour has it, biological weapons has been developed. We avoided bacterias as well as vira though and continued north :-)

Just before we got to Frederick we stopped to stretch oru legs at a rest area.  It turned out that from the rest areas was an nice view of a pretty valley. A sign told us that this was the Monocacy Valley and the valley in front of us, had been the scene of "The Battle of Monocacy Valley" during the Civil War. Here a Confederate force under the command of Lt. Gen. Jubal Early in the summer of 1864, was bound for Washington to attack the Union capital. The force was discovered, and a Union force counterattacked. And this is were the association to Ben Hur arises. Commander of the Union force was Brigadier General Lew Wallace - and it was he who later wrote the novel, Ben Hur. The Union force ended up losing the battle, but they delayed Early's troops so much that the defense of Washington could be strengthened. And after fighting for some time at Fort Stevens, Early had to retire mission unaccomplished. The Battle of Monocacy Valley is therefore called "The Battle that saved Washington," and Wallace is called "The general, who saved Washington." On the battlefield in he valley, Wallace had a monument erected to celebrate to the 1,294 Union soldiers who died that day, with the inscription: "These men died to save the National Capital, and they did save it." After the civil war Wallace went to Mexico, where he became a major general in Juarez 'army int he revolt against Maximilian. In his later years he becamee the second governor of New Mexico and U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and he wrote several books, including Ben Hur.

We continued to Gettysburg, which we reached at 12 o'clock. We had booked a room via the Internet as Dorte would like to stay at the same hotel, she stayed in four years earlier, when she visited with her father. As we didn't expect that our room at the hotel was ready yet, we decided to revisit the battlefield. This time we chose the "long tour. We did not make as many stops as last time, but the stops lasted somewhat longer - now we had no kids to think about. One of the places we stopped was at the Warfield Ridge. It was one of the southernmost locations where there combat was fought. Here is a memorial to all Confederate soldiers and naval personel who fought during the Civil War. The memorial bears the name of Walter Washington Williams, the last survivor of the the battle of Gettysburg. He died in 1959 at the age of 117. Next stop was the Round Top. Last time here we visited Little Round Top but we decided otherwise this time. We parked the car and went for a walk down the hill through the forest to Devil's Den and the Slaughter Pen. A pleasant walk through the woods, and there was little shade from the sun between the trees. After the visit here, we drove to the Peach Orchard and the Wheatfield, where some of the toughest fightings took place on the second day of battle. In fact so many lost their lives that the whole area below the Round Tops was called the Valley of the Shadow of Death (or just the Valley of Death) after the hymn of the same name: "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death , I will fear no evil. "

After this visit we continued to Culp's Hill, where there is a viewing tower which we climbed. Unfortunately, a group of German soldiers, led by an American guide, also up were in the tower, and they stood all around, while their guide apparently reviewed the entire battle. So we climbed down again and completed out tour with a visit to the Visotrs Center.

Now it was about 4.30 pm, so we went to the motel to get our room. Located right beside the motel was the house where the Confederate commander, Gen. Robert E. Lee had his headquarters during the 2nd day of the battle. The house is now a museum. The house is a small brick house, and beyond the museum, there is - of course - also a souvenir shop, so here we bought a couple of coffee mugs - it would later become almost a tradition that we buy at least a couple of mugs every time we go on vacation anywhere. The house itself was built in 1834, and in 1863, during the battle it was owned by the famous Union politician Thaddeus Stevens. The house, however, was leased to the "widow Thompson." Mary Thompson, was actually not a widow, but her husband had left her many years earlier and left her with eight children (perhaps that was why he left). When Confederate troops arrived, she was not happy, but she acknowledged later that Lee had behaved like a "gentleman".

After visiting the museum, we drove into town. Here we saw among other Jennie Wade Museum. After that we visited a shop that sold only two things, namely hats and hot sauces! I was considering buying a civil war cap, but could not agree with myself whether I would ever use it for anything, so I gave up the idea and just bought 2-3 bottles of hot sauce. Dorte bought a rather a nice straw hat, although I warned her that she would never wear it later. Time would show that I was completely right. 

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