An Education: From Old Town Alexandria to Historic DC

We just returned from a three-day trip in Alexandria and Washington DC.

Old Town Alexandria is certainly very charming with its uneven brick sidewalks, quaint little shops, and the free trolley that runs through King Street. A fellow Amtrak passenger recommended visiting Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub to try the local homebrew. The guy next to me at the bar looked like he just wanted to chill and drink by himself — the cute blonde attempting to get his attention walked away disappointed. And a redhead walked into Chris while he was in the bathroom. In my not-so-humble opinion, unisex bathrooms with no locks is a disaster waiting to happen;  one should be able to pee in peace!

Our cozy suite had a mini-kitchen so we were able to eat yummy home-cooked meals at the end of a day spent trudging all over the city. I loved the red, white and black/brown color scheme.

On our first day in DC, we went to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing where they print the $$$ bills we all know and love. We couldn’t take photos of the machines during the printing process but we walked away with cute souvenirs like Chris’ money-covered coffee mug and Sofia’s giant penny.

These won't fit in a briefcase

We walked to the nearby Holocaust Museum. From outside, the building looked modern and sharp but as soon as you step through the doors, you will be transported to 1940’s Germany when the Jews were tortured and killed on a grand scale. They had real barracks and cramped bunks from Auschwitz where six death camp prisoners would sleep in each level. I was reminded of Elie Wiesel’s heartbreaking memoir, Night, where he detailed his suffering as a Jew during Hitler’s regime. It was a sobering experience that I will never forget.

Chris sitting on the steps inspired by the Auschwitz entrance

Representation of a train station where prisoners were carted off to concentration camps

By noon, we went straight to the US Capitol where we had a pre-booked tour. For me, it was an impressive introduction to American history. The tour lasted for more than an hour and I paid attention to the film and the guide since Chris insists that I need to know all these things when I take a test prior to citizenship. Yikes.

My father would love the architecture.

The US Capitol

And I love the artwork.

Inside the dome

Look what’s just across the street.

The Supreme Court

And Chris just *has* to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution so, as tired as we were, we still managed to drag ourselves to the National Archives. Those two and the Bill of Rights were in a special darkened room to preserve the hundreds-year-old documents from deteriorating further. The Declaration and Bill of Rights were no longer legible after years of being exposed to sunlight but the Constitution is in a better condition. I kept a sharp eye just in case Nicolas Cage might be lurking around.

Study the Past (by the Archives)

The next day was cold, wet and miserable so we decided to stick to the museums. We started with the Air and Space Museum.

Christ checking out the Fokker D.VII

In the company of Orville and Wilbur

And spent hours gawking at and photographing our favorite paintings in the National Art Gallery.

Spring by Edouard Manet

The Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Boticelli

By 6pm and after walking around two museums, we were both exhausted. My feet hurt but it was much worse for Chris. Still, he insisted on seeing the Washington Monument…

"I'm tired but I have to see this!"

…and the World War II memorial. Tall, majestic columns representing each state and territory (including the Philippines) circles a fountain to honor the troops who fought in the last great war — a silent reminder of what we all have lost.

There are 4,000 stars; each star represents 100 American lives lost

Grey skies

On our last day, we left early to visit the White House and the Lincoln Memorial.

We didn't book in advance (1-6 months prior) so this is the closest we could go.

The favorite President

And to cap off the perfect trip, in typical Chris and Steffi fashion, we missed our train. Oh, we tried to make it on time — ran, took a cab, rode the Metro, ran to the hotel and back to the station — but the train left when we were literally 10 feet away from it! So we hurried to DC’s Union Station and waited for the next train.

I’m really glad we went on this trip. It wasn’t exactly planned but we had a lot of fun and saw lots of things and places we wanted to see. Also, here’s a tip for future travelers: try to go and leave on a weekday off-season. Not only are hotel rates so much cheaper, sometimes a tenth of the weekend price, but train fares are lower as well. All the museums and galleries are free and souvenirs are relatively inexpensive. (I recommend the Chinese guy’s souvenir booth just past the public path by the White House. Not only is he incredibly cheerful, he has good stuff and won’t overcharge you.)

Until our next trip!


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