Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring In The Capital

There is spring everywhere else and then there is spring in Washington D.C.! This city offers up so much to do in general; monuments, museums, history and then you cover it in a shroud of pink blossoms and it becomes even more mesmerizing. I honestly cannot think of a more perfect time to visit the Nation's Capital than during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Not to mention it brings with it the Cherry Blossom Run and with it old friends down from Brooklyn allowing us to chat while they're here in town to participate in the festivities. We caught up with the adorable Heather and her cute friend Collette while they were here getting their run on. It was so great seeing friendly faces and a preview of the scads of fun of what is to come next month while we are in New York City. 

Speaking of friends in town, towards the tail end of the blossoms in full bloom, Susy or as I like to call her "The Energizer Bunny;” seriously she is old enough to be my mother and she ran me ragged, but she popped in to town to visit with us for a week and explore the city. We had such a great time hosting her and seeing the city through the eyes of somebody that has never been here before was such a great and refreshing experience, seeing sites again through a fresh pair of eyes, it’s almost like seeing it all again for the first time.

This month has been so full of adventures and firsts for us in this city. I had planned ahead and knew we wanted to be here this time of year, so I had set up a bunch of tours through Congressman Matheson’s office and lucky for us his amazing staff were able to reserve everything we wanted to see. We toured the Capitol building and were able to stop by Congressman Matheson’s office and put in my endorsement for his run for Governor of the great state of Utah, which alone should encourage his guaranteed run! Hee, hee. On top of that we toured the Pentagon, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court and of course The White House; the East Wing and then a private tour through the West Wing by a friend of ours, Ryan, who works there.

 The tour of the East Wing of the White House is self-guided and one cannot take pictures once inside, which for me is hard; I had to keep telling myself if I posted them anywhere the Secret Service would be knocking on the door making an arrest, so the thought of rotting in Guantanamo and not finishing out our adventure kept me in line. We explored all the rooms, rooms we have all seen in pictures and in films, it was surreal and we learned a bit of the history and purpose of them through the staff stationed in each of the rooms, the information was very knowledgeable and we got to see the first pups out for a walk while there. The West Wing tour was fabulous and a complete surprise; our friend Ryan spoiled us by providing us a private tour with his sister and nephews; let’s just say the Oval Office, pretty awesome! Needless to say the next time I watch a movie or show that takes place in the White House, it is going to put a whole new spin on things.

Arlington is always a must when we are here, it gives us the opportunity to pay our respects to Tom’s grandparents and take a moment to remember those that have fought for our freedoms. I don’t think there will ever be a time I am not in awe the second I walk through those gates and honestly I hope there never is. Watching the Changing of the Guards is always an experience, the dedication of the soldiers to be there, performing their duty no matter the weather conditions, is admirable to say the least, and these soldiers have nothing but my utmost respect.

I meant to be so much better at writing about each experience this month, but we've been so busy, so I’m kind of throwing everything into one wrap up and I’ll try to be better next month; I feel like I have missed so much reporting on our adventures and I’m just tipping the iceberg of what we've done and felt here. We are finishing up this week with our stay in Washington D.C. and will be homeless for a few days until our place in New York is available on the 30th of April. Don’t worry, we will be staying here: The OmniBedford Springs Resort, not too shabby if I do say so myself. I mean if we are going to be homeless, why not do it in style! In the meantime, I will try to plan a little further out so I don’t have to scramble when we don’t have places set up back to back or end up in random, but lovely spots, like Lake Norman.

Overall, we have loved our stay here; there is always something to do from walking the National Mall, shopping in Georgetown or to touring one of many museums the Smithsonian boasts. We have been here for a month and I still don’t feel like we put a dent into all there is to see and do, definitely another place we will be back to visit and in the meantime, here are some more photos!

Four Score and Seven Years Ago

We had the greatest excuse to get out of the city and head for the fresh air of Gettysburg; good friends from Salt Lake in the vicinity, us longing to catch up with those from our home town and a chance to take in a little history. Becky, Mike and their little guy Dylon were in Princeton visiting her sister and so all took to the road and met on some middle ground to catch up and reminisce.

I can’t begin to tell you how great it was to see some familiar faces, and just start into conversation like we had never left; we started out with lunch, some catching up and mapped out all that we wanted to take in while discovering this onslaught of American history. Fortunately Mike had been here before, so he was great and navigating our caravan through the auto tour, making for a breeze and more talk time amongst us all.

There is such a surreal feeling standing on the battlefield of Gettysburg, knowing it was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War and honoring the reverence for those that all lost their lives, regardless of what side that they were on. Looking out over the vast battlefield, and visualizing the heartache of war, especially one that was so violent and face to face is terrifying, the cost of lives that took to get our nations people to value freedom for all; seeing Gettysburg, the battlefield really honed in the words of Lincoln and gave such a deeper meaning to the Gettysburg address. It is something you really take to heart, it has an emotional aspect and a new meaning, it becomes more than just the words I memorized as a child in school.

 "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate- we can not consecrate- we can not hallow- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." 

                                                                              Abraham Lincoln November 1863

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit this National Park, I highly recommend that you do; it truly will give one perspective on the value of freedom and life. Also, the town is adorable and I am now thinking I need to manage a way to get it on our list of places to stay on our journey; I can’t even imagine growing up in the town of Gettysburg, you would just grow up being a history buff.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Congressional Cemetery

The Congressional Cemetery is amazing, and it is just around the corner from our apartment. Not only is it the final resting place to many famous people, but it also doubles as a dog park, a dog park that  has a three year waiting list to get your pet in to!  But lucky for us, they do day passes for tourist dogs for a small donation; so Miss Ethel and I hit the ground running today, and we were ready to freely run around and thoroughly enjoy this place.

Ethel loved being off a leash, playing and exploring at her own pace while I bonded with the camera and attempted to give this place a little justice through pictures. Ethel was great at staying close, but found her adventurous side as she weaved through headstones, sniffing about and in full on play mode; she even met a fellow dachshund named Mildred that she completely hit it off with.

It was such a unique experience taking in all this history, the sacred ground and then watching dogs roam and play freely; I found it to be a great use of open land. From my understanding , the cemetery fell into a neglected state, so the Capital Hill residents took it upon themselves to repair it, and the annual dog park membership goes to pay to upkeep and maintain the cemetery; talk about killing two birds with one stone and creating a situation where everyone wins.

Two of my favorite burial sites to visit was that of J.Edgar Hoover and Belva Lockwood. Belva Lockwood, was a feminist before the term had ever been coined; she was the first woman nominated to run for President of the United States in 1884, way before women ever had the right to vote and she still received 4,000 votes! Pretty extraordinary on all accounts!

This place is often overlooked by that other famous cemetery, but I say it is a must see and definitely a change of pace and has a great energy to it; though the dogs may add to that happy vibe.


Home Sweet Washington DC

We have arrived in our nation's capital, and are so excited to be here.
This city holds a lot of special memories for Tom; for starters it is his birthplace and the final resting place for his grandparents who are both buried in Arlington National Cemetery, so being here, really and truly is home to Tom! As grown-ups we have both had the opportunity to visit as well, but of course  long weekends don't even put a dent into all the amazing history this city holds, so a month stay will hopefully do, and if not, we can always come back!

This Capital Hill Apartment is absolutely perfect; it feels brand new, it is "Bonnie" clean and the finishes are similar to what we had at home. Not to mention we are two blocks from the metro, a quick 1/2 mile to the Eastern Market and Historic Eighth Street and then a mile walk to the U.S. Capital Building. Everything is accessible by foot or the metro which is a dream for me, I would much rather not drive if at all possible.

My favorite feature, we have a buzzer; I get to buzz people in! I feel like such a city girl now! Ethel's favorite; we are on the main floor apartment, so she has easy access to the fenced back yard and there are so many squirrels to chase! Oh and I must mention that Ethel's doggie daycare, Wagtime Too, is just over 1/2 mile from us as well! She had her socialization visit on Monday, and passed with flying colors; we are all thrilled that she has a great place to play and visit while Tom and I are off touring and playing this month.

So here she is, our lovely city apartment, buzzer and all!
I have a dressing room and a ginormous closet; kind of in love!


Tuscany or North Carolina?

There is a reason that Jesus turned water into wine, its amazing, and regardless of where we happen to be at the time, I can always manage to find a vineyard, its like a sixth sense that I have; so the Compagno's hit the road and landed upon the gem, Raffaldini!

Now you know the wines have to be great when Raffaldini family motto is, "Fortune favors those who dare," and this little reminder is on every bottle of wine they sell; I don't know about you all, but the closer I get to the end of the bottle, the more daring I tend to get! Of course I am slightly kidding here, but it is a great reminder as you sit down to relax and open a bottle of their wine; it puts a little perspective on the fortunes of ones lives and not just the monetary, but of living and loving life to the fullest!
The vineyard reminded me so much of Napa and Sonoma Valley as the grape vines covered rolling hills and went on for days and just when they were out of sight, another vineyard with more vines would pop up just around the corner. Needless to say Raffaldini was beautiful, the tasting was delightful and finishing up the tour with a lovely picnic on the grounds was the crème de la crème. Wine, view and picnic made for a perfect afternoon.