WWII Memorial

As you’re probably aware, there are many, many memorials scattered throughout Washington D.C. Memorials to individuals, to the different branches of the military, and to the wars fought by the US, and most of those are at the National Mall, not too far from the biggest memorial of all, the Washington Monument. They are all well-designed and moving, but the WWII Memorial was my favorite.

It’s in a great location between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, so there are great views in both directions.

There are bas-relief sculptures on either side to represent the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters:

The center of the Memorial is a pool with fountains.

There are meaningful quotes scattered throughout:

Freedom Wall has 4,048 gold stars, and each of those represents 100 American WWII personnel who died in the war or are still listed as missing. It is staggering to see the stars and know what they represent.

We noticed a lot of people sitting with their feet in the pool, and at first I thought that was a little strange and maybe even disrespectful, but then we came across a sign inviting people to sit (not stand or wade) with their feet in the water, as a reminder of the way American soldiers celebrated the end of WWII in the fountains of Europe.

Once I understood the meaning of the fountain, and why people were soaking their feet, I also took part, and it was a moving experience to do so, especially with the view of the Washington Monument in front of me. It felt like being part of something bigger, more important.

There are both Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Memorial, to represent the two Theaters in the war:

There are also 56 columns surrounding the Memorial, one for each state and territory at the time of WWII (if you’re doing the math, Alaska and Hawaii were territories at that point, as were the Philippines). The empty space in the middle of the column represents the losses suffered during the war, and each column is adorned with two wreaths…one of wheat to represent agriculture on the home front, and one of oak to represent the strength of the country.

Even though I didn’t lose any family members in WWII, it was an incredibly moving place to visit.

Do you have a favorite memorial in D.C. or elsewhere?

The Library of Congress

Originally, the Library of Congress wasn’t on my list of places to visit while we were in Washington D.C., but the moment we walked past it, I knew I would have to see the inside!

It really is like a cathedral for books. The architecture is impressive, and the artwork in the building is absolutely stunning. I thought the Central Library in St. Louis was a big deal (and it is), but this is just so much more!

The big attraction, though, is the overlook above the Reading Room. I’ve seen it in pictures and movies, but that is nothing like seeing it in person. And the glimpse through to even a small section of the shelves that house the books is overwhelming!

It’s such an amazing facility!

I’m really glad that we added this to our vacation “to-do” list at the last minute!

Tasty Tuesday–Ben’s Chili Bowl

We only ate one meal out in Washington D.C. (the first time I had eaten in a restaurant since before the beginning of the pandemic!), and Ryan found a really cool local place for us to try…Ben’s Chili Bowl:

Before I get to the food, let’s start outdoors. In 2004, D.C. had a public art project, “PandaMania” and one of the remaining statues is located at Ben’s. Seeing it brought back fond memories of our STL250 cake hunting experience!

Ben’s is over 60 years old, and inside, it looks exactly like you would expect a restaurant of its age to…an old-school diner, which I loved!

Virginia Ali and her husband Ben started the restaurant together in 1958, the same year they got married. The big picture over the diner counter is like seeing a family photo in someone’s house!

I tried the Original Chili Half-Smoke (I wasn’t brave enough to try the spicy variety!). Normally, I can kind of take or leave hot dogs…usually they’re just ok. But the half-smoke at Ben’s was really good. There was a definite snap when I bit into it, and the flavor was fantastic. Chili, mustard, and onions are also the perfect hot dog topping…almost good as a Chicago-style dog!

The art on the building is so cool (and yes, President Obama has eaten there)…it really establishes the character of the place, and visually summarizes what Ben’s website says: “Our Black community is front and center in this story and Ben’s is a perfect case study – a study in our quest of freedom and its ongoing re-definition. Ben’s Chili Bowl is proudly Black-owned, and a historic landmark in Washington, DC’s culture.”

I love finding cool local places to visit when we travel!

The U.S. Capitol

We only took one guided tour during our time in Washington D.C., and it was significant…the US Capitol building!

The compass set in the walkway outside is pretty cool:

We got to see the room that originally housed the Supreme Court:

Every place you walk through in the building is imposing and beautiful:

A highlight of a Capitol tour is visiting the Rotunda…it’s such an immense space, and you realize how many other tours are going on at the same times as yours!

The central painting…well, it basically shows George Washington ascending to godhood wearing a Snuggie!

No, really!

Every state gets to donate two statues to the Capitol collection. Many of them (including one of the contributions from Illinois, Frances Willard), are located in Statuary Hall. Not all of them are displayed there, though, because they ran into problems with the floor not being able to support the weight of the collected statues not just once, but twice. So there are also statues scattered throughout the building…I’m showing a mix of locations here. One of the most moving pieces in Statuary Hall is of Chief Standing Bear, especially when you hear the story of how Chief Standing Bear, who was detained at Fort Omaha when he tried to return his son’s remains to their ancestral lands for burial, tried to sue, only to be denied because he was not considered a person under the current law. He challenged that decision and made a beautiful speech, in which he said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same God made us both. I am a man.” The judge rightly determined that he was indeed a person, and Chief Standing Bear went on to bury his son among their people, and he was eventually buried there as well.

Statuary Hall is a pretty cool place. even if you’re not focused on the statues!

The original model of the Statue of Freedom (the bronze statue that sits atop the Capitol dome) is on display in Emancipation Hall at the Visitor Center:

You can’t ignore the mistakes of the past, and I was happy to see this acknowledgment:

I had toured the US Capitol when I visited D.C. as a child something like 35 years ago, and my memories were vague and different. It was very exciting to go back as an adult and see different things and really understand what I was looking at!

Infinity

I thought this sculpture, designed by José de Rivera, located outside the National Museum of American History was really cool!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Fifteen

Bowling Green, KY to Belleville, IL; 279.6 miles. KY, IN, IL

We got started early on our way home, and I’m not going to lie…after over 800 miles of driving the day before, under 300 didn’t seem too bad! We even had a rainbow pointing the way home:

We stopped to stretch our legs at Smothers Park in Owensboro, KY. Since we were out so early, we didn’t need to worry about running into anyone, which was good, because I was feeling kind of like Typhoid Mary. It was kind of nice to end our trip the way we began, with a war memorial:

And there were some really cool fountains:

We picked up some donuts from the Donut Bank on the way home:

After driving 3,134.20 miles through 12 states and one district, not to mention taking 197,076 steps (close to 90 miles, I think!), through the streets of Washington D.C., Mount Vernon, Myrtle Beach, Disney World, and Kennedy Space Center, we finally made it home with the souvenir no one wanted…COVID-19. In spite of that, it was a great trip, and we made a lifetime’s worth of memories!

If you’re still interested in our vacation, stay tuned for a more in-depth look at some of the places we visited!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Fourteen

Orlando, FL to Bowling Green, KY; 802.4 miles. FL, GA, AL, TN, KY

We said goodbye to our room and Cabana Bay before piling in the car for a very long drive back to Bowling Green.

Did you know that Wawa’s Hoagiefest also applies to breakfast? I tried a breakfast cheesesteak, which was surprisingly good!

We took a different route back than we did four years ago, partly to avoid Atlanta, partly to avoid the mountains, and partly just to see something new. Our route took us through Valdosta, GA, where we stopped at Ella’s Top Corral, home of South Georgia’s best burger. It really was delicious, but for me, the star item on the menu was the fried okra!

Later in the day, we stopped at a Milo’s somewhere in Alabama (Prattville?). We weren’t too hungry after our big lunch, but I did enjoy trying the Mexi-fries.

We finally made it to Bowling Green a little after 10. And by that point, we knew we were all sick, most likely with Covid, so we scrapped our remaining plans for a visit to the Louisville Zoo, got straight into bed, and planned to leave as early as possible in the morning so as to expose Ryan’s parents (who very kindly still hosted us despite the risk) as little as possible.

Up next: Home sweet home!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Thirteen

Cabana Day; 12,488 steps

Our last day in Orlando was a “Cabana Day.” We rented a poolside cabana at the resort, and spent the day hanging out, swimming, playing ping pong, and building sand castles.

Of course, since we were in Florida, there was an afternoon storm that closed the pool for a bit, so we headed inside to the arcade, where we played Skee Ball. Turkey was the champion…he even hit the very rare “100!”

We found another hotel guest to take one last family picture:

And then picked up some surprisingly delicious pizzas from the hotel diner for dinner:

The children had a fun time playing with their lightsabers, and I thought they looked really cool through the screen in the room:

One last look before bed:

Up next: A very long and exhausting day of driving.

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Twelve

Kennedy Space Center; 10,984 steps

Our last big outing in Florida was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time…tour Kennedy Space Center (I’ll have more details on our day at KSC in the future)!

I was so excited to see the Rocket Garden!

We took a bus to the Apollo/Saturn V Center, and it conveniently went right past the Vehicle Assembly Building. It’s almost impossible to comprehend just how massive the structure is!

It’s also difficult to understand the scale of the Saturn V!

We got to see Artemis I on the launchpad for a test run…it was so exciting to get a glimpse of the future of space travel!

I thought the Moon Tree Garden was also really cool:

We took the bus back to the main complex, where we got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis:

We also took some times to remember the lost at the Space Mirror Memorial:

I really enjoyed the Astronaut Hall of Fame:

It was a great place for all of us space nerds to visit!

And we even got to see (and hear!) a SpaceX launch!

When we got back to the hotel, we finally had time for an evening swim and walk…we’d been out so late every night up until this point, we just didn’t have an opportunity to explore the resort!

Up next: A relaxing day by the pool.

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Eleven

Animal Kingdom; 28,465 steps

Our final day at Disney included visiting all four of the parks, starting with our first trip to Animal Kingdom:

Every Disney park has a central, iconic location…at Animal Kingdom, it’s the Tree of Life:

We headed straight for the Kilimanjaro Safaris upon our arrival.

We got to see a lot of animals in fairly realistic habitats.

After the safari, we walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (and saw an adorable baby gorilla!), and then walked around the park a bit:

We got to listen and talk to a talented musician who played the kora:

There was a cool kite show on the water:

We didn’t forget to take a family photo!

We only went on one other ride (we had talked about the Kali River Rapids, but at that point, I was just over being wet and wearing a plastic poncho, and the Expedition Everest roller coaster, which some of us thought about riding was closed)…the TriceraTop Spin, which I thought was fun.

We only spent a few hours at Animal Kingdom, because we had some other things we wanted to do. We drove over to EPCOT so we could hop on the monorail to visit a few of the resorts that had anniversary pressed pennies we wanted to add to our collection.

One of those resorts was the Contemporary, which is home to a fantastic Mary Blair mural (details to come later).

While we were riding the monorail, we passed by Donald Duck in his 50th anniversary finery:

Once park hopper hours began, we stopped by the Magic Kingdom to collect a few more pressed pennies…and see Eeyore, who waved his ears at me (I was really good at frantically waving at characters by this point!):

We then headed into EPCOT, where we finally found Goofy:

At this point, we split up so we could maximize our penny finding. Bunny and I headed off in one direction, and I’m pretty sure we had the best time, starting with the views on our route:

And then I finally met my favorite Disney character, Daisy Duck!!!

Bunny and I decided we would take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios while everyone else drove. I feel bad that they missed out, because it was a really fun ride, and we even got to make a transfer at one of the hotels!

At Hollywood Studios, we found Donald and Daisy (again). I told you I had the waving thing figured out, because they definitely noticed me!

Since Bunny and I had a little extra time, we shared yet another Mickey-shaped treat:

And took a look at The Hollywood Tower Hotel. I had no interest in riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, but I did want to see it.

Once we regrouped, we got in what I think was our longest line of the trip, to ride Rise of the Resistance, which was really, really cool.

We also rode Star Tours twice, and Darth Vader showed up both times, which was very exciting. A few members of our family actually managed to ride all three Star Wars rides that day, which was quite an accomplishment given their popularity! Plus, those who were interested also managed to squeeze in a ride on the previously-mentioned Tower of Terror, and they had a great time, especially since they got to ride it as the sun was setting!

It was really had to leave, because we knew that even though we still had a few days of vacation left, our time at Disney was over.

Up next: Kennedy Space Center!