DRIVING in to Washington DC was a bit like a dream. Every building we’d viewed on television over the years, or seen photos of in magazines, was right there before us, larger than life.
We found a motel just outside the city at Alexandria and checked in about 6pm after our drive from
I wandered to the shopping centre next door and found a nail salon open, so took the opportunity to have an infill which was well overdue. With new acrylic in place, I went back to the motel and joined Marie and Gordon for dinner at iHop, the restaurant adjoining our motel.
On Sunday morning we had to grab another bus to Eisenhower St Station for the metro ride into DC and for $6 each, we had return tickets into the city for our day exploring the nation’s capital. We got off at the Smithsonian. I’m pleased we all had good walking shoes on because we were in for a big day out on shanks’s pony.
Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum, part of the huge Smithsonian group of interesting places to visit. You could spend hours – or a full day – there, if you had the time.
Dragging ourselves away, we had lunch at the National American Indian Museum and then moved on to the Capitol building. We’d spotted the Capitol and the Washington Monument as soon as we got out of the metro station.
With their sheer size, they’re pretty hard to miss. We stopped for photos outside the impressive structure with hundreds of other tourists and sightseers and moved on to the sculpture gardens and cooled off our overworked feet in the fountain.
Our last stop of the day, the Natural History Museum, was an amazing place. We didn’t have nearly enough time to have a decent scout around, barely covering the ground floor, so we decided to return the
Arlington Cemetery was our first port of call on Monday morning and it was very different, climate-wise, to the previous day’s scorcher. Rain was threatening and it was much cooler, so we all took jackets, one of the few times we’d had to rug up.
It was a very moving morning, viewing all the graves of presidents, paupers, army chaplains, famous people and countless more unknowns, as well as slaves from the very early days of Arlington’s history.
We hopped on a shuttle bus to tour the grounds, with John F Kennedy’s grave the first stop. Just as we got off the bus the rain came down – and it poured – for about 10 minutes, soaking us to the skin.
The changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier was incredible to watch. The precise movements, the solemnity of the occasion and the reverence in which these military men hold their fallen comrades is something quite precious.
After our Arlington tour, I was fading fast. It had been a long, hard campaign to date with no early nights on our agenda, so I opted to return to the motel for a rest while Marie and Gordon continued on into DC to check out the monuments and attractions we hadn’t seen the previous day.
After two hours of snoring and dribbling on my pillow, I got up and did a few jobs that needed attending to – every bit of weight counts. I also repacked my bags for the 50th time. Where did all that stuff come from? And where was it all going to fit?
There was a shopping centre just across the road from our motel, so I popped over and bought some more stuff. Handy that. Just when I’d reorganised the suitcases ...
Marie and Gordon arrived back from DC with smiles broader than a billygoat in an apple orchard. Marie was totally besotted by America’s capital city.
Gordon, our resident happy snapper and David Attenborough in the making, was just as delighted with their big day out. Their only disappointment was the Lincoln Memorial’s reflecting pool, which was pretty hard to reflect on; there was no water in it. Apparently, like many parts of DC, it’s being renovated.
The next day we set off early from Washington DC to do a little backtracking. Winchester was only an hour or so away and it was such a shame to miss out on seeing inside Patsy Cline’s house that Gordon decided we’d go back and have another crack at it.
Arriving there at 10.30am, we were relieved to find the sign at 608 South Kent Street, saying “open – tour in progress”. We were even more chuffed when two lovely lady volunteers greeted us warmly, inviting us in.
There was a gentleman with them who Marie and Gordon spent some time speaking with. He was Charlie Dick’s younger brother, Mel. Charlie, who is still alive, was married to Patsy Cline until her untimely death.
Mel was just 10 or 11 when his brother married Patsy. He told Gordon he got the shock of his life when I walked in the door, as I was the image of Sylvia, Patsy’s sister. He thought Sylvia had come calling but it was just a little old Aussie instead.
Shortly after our arrival, a bus load of tourists turned up, so we all had the Cook’s tour. It was beaut. Real history. The volunteers really knew their stuff about Patsy.
Marie even sang a couple of Patsy’s hits, much to the delight of her appreciative audience. It was pretty special for her to sing in Patsy’s house.
After the bus left, the ladies and Mel kept us enthralled with Patsy stories. It was well worth the return journey. Mission accomplished.