Celebrating the Fourth with independence: Part two

First Posted: 7/8/2009

As some of you may know, I went to Washington, D.C., this year to celebrate the Fourth of July. Many people have asked how the trip went since I came back, so I thought the best way to address that is to write about it this week.
The fireworks in Washington were a blast, literally. They were the best Ive ever seen and the music was absolutely amazing.
There is no greater feeling of patriotism that being on the west lawn of the Capitol for the celebration they have each year called A Capitol Fourth Americas Independence Day Celebration, that is shown on PBS. Unfortunately, I didnt DVR it before I left, so I have still not seen it on TV.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when Ms. Aretha Franklin walked out on stage to sing the Star Spangled Banner. I get goose bumps just thinking about it now. There were also performances by Barry Manilow, who sang Coca Cabana and Natasha Bedingfield, who sang Pocket full of Sunshine.
There were also performances by Elmo, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and the Cookie Monster. A nice man from Germany standing next to me pointed out even he thought it was a strange combination of performers. I have to agree. However, one of the greatest moments of the night, other than the fireworks, was when Aretha Franklin sang Respect. That is something that will stay will with me for a lifetime.
Before my trip, I had planned to go to the Smithsonian and to the Holocaust museum, but, time and travel and lack of a parking space did not allow me such luxuries.
I did, however, get to see Fords Theater where President Abraham Lincoln was shot and the outside of the house across the street where he died. I spent some time at Arlington National Cemetery. I got to see the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hear the playing of Taps. It was an awesome sight and one I recommend to everyone.
Some of my friends were a little concerned about me traveling to Washington, D.C., by myself, but I did just fine. I drove straight to my hotel with no problems. I will tell you that once you are there, getting around Washington can be a little complicated for the unseasoned traveler. I figured out the Metro train, with only a couple of glitches. I highly suggest getting a really good map that includes the Metro routes if you are planning to visit our nations capital. Even with the map, it took a while to figure out that even if you thought you were going the right way, if you got on the wrong train, you would end up in the wrong direction.
I will have to say that I found D.C. to be a very safe city. Sure, there were homeless people sleeping on park benches, but they werent bothering anyone. It was a sad sight to see.
The one thing that did surprise me though was the lack of food after 10 p.m. When I arrived at my hotel at 11 p.m. Thursday night, I found that there was not one vending machine with food in the hotel and room service had just stopped serving. I asked someone at the front desk about getting something to eat and they told me about a few places that were blocks and blocks away. After two days of jammed packed activities roaming around the city, with no time to eat, I would always find myself hungry after the 10 oclock hour.
Some other highlights of my trip include a nighttime walk on the national mall. I got to see the World War II monument and even hitched a ride on a tour bus full of teenagers down to the Lincoln Memorial. Those sights are absolutely breathtaking. Its hard not to feel a sense of passion toward the history of our country while in the presence of these timeless monuments.
I walked along the Vietnam Memorial Wall. I took a really amazing shot of the Washington Monument with The Wall in the foreground. I walked passed the White House on the Constitution Avenue side before I gave up walking and hailed a cab back to my hotel. I got to see the White House again on the Fourth of July from the Pennsylvania Avenue side and even got a stranger to take my picture there.
The one big take-away lesson I got from visiting our capital is that America is truly a melting pot. I met people from Germany, France, England, Korea, West Africa, Belgium and so many more that I cant remember them all.
There is so much to see and do in Washington. My advice to anyone who wants to go is take some comfortable walking shoes. Dont be afraid to ask directions. Eat before 10 p.m., and take lots of pictures.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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