Monday, March 17, 2008

Maryland Vacation Dec 2006

Maryland ~ celebrating the New Year of 2007
Flight Simulators, Memorials, Jousting, a Kiss and Frisking

Greg and I arrived in Maryland at night. Holly, Mike and their three children (Deanna, April and Michael) greeted us at the airport and took us on a tour. As Holly said, "DC at night is enchanting." The buildings glow at night and of course, Greg added, "It's because of the lighting." Men.. Mike drove and showed us how DC drivers don't mind the white lines. (The problem being too many options, from what I can see.) Mike and Greg hit it off with a common sense of humor, ending lines for each other from movie quotes to music. It was like a trip to the twilight zone.

One thing to note about the night tour is that we passed a number of times by the September 11th sculpture that was recently created. It has three prongs that reminded me of a crown, each reaching to the sky and curving outward. The three prongs symbolize the three planes…

Deanna, April and Michael had adorned the house in "Welcome Aleta and Greg" signs throughout the house, giving us a warm, welcoming feeling.

The next day, we took the Metro to the Smithsonian Mall. Greg wanted to visit the National Air and Space Museum, so that was our first trek. I was happy to go to this museum, given it was my first time in that particular one.

National Air and Space Museum is massive, with all sorts of artifacts and historical references from the Wright Flyer to the Apollo 11 command module. There is an area for the flight simulators, which we went on. The cool part is going off the tracks, a floating type of feeling.

As we walked to the other side of the National Mall, we took a slight detour, which was found in the middle grounds. The sculpture garden was a lovely stroll to unwind and a place where the guys found many laughs.

While we continued on, we took some pictures of the Senate building. Holly remarked, "You'll remember that you came to DC the day of President Ford's viewing." The line was wrapped around the building and down a path for people to pay their respects. Somehow, it seemed appropriate that in the middle of the day, the moon was seen in the sky...

National Museum of Natural History was not my first time being there, but I was happy to go again. (Though I probably should have taken Holly's advise and visited the art museum. That will be on my "must do" list when I go to Maryland again.) But still, I had a renewed interest in the gemstones and jewelry on display. There are several examples from the French crown jewels, including Marie-Louise's emerald tiara (which I read was later replace by turquoise) and the Hope diamond, a definite breath taker with its multifaceted violet hue.

At night, we joined up with Erin, Martina and Willa to walk in the park and see the lights. Tons of sparkles were everywhere in almost every tree, adoring many paths of the park.

Holly and Mike explained that the light display started off as something small, done by the park employees and has grown into the massive winter wonderland that it is now. There were lights in the shape of wolves (including howling sounds) and deer in the forest... along with spider’s web and flowers of all types, including purple wisteria vines hanging down through a trellis. The best light display was the dragon in the pool; there was even steam that would come out of the dragon's mouth every so often. We ended the path at the pond that had blue lights over it, reflecting in the water... It was a lot to take in and enjoy!

The next day was another one of long walks. Our first, and the one I really wanted Greg to see, was the Vietnam Memorial. We both have the picture of the Memorial in our homes and I thought he would appreciate seeing it... The design of the wall, starting small at your feet to towering far above you in a corner and rising again... it's a simple design that sets aside the politics that eclipsed the service and lives of the veterans.

We listened as one guide explained how the corner of the wall is the "beginning and end" ~ meaning on the right side of the corner is the start date, listing in chronological order the first death and so forth (the names continue on the left side and end in the corner adjacent to the beginning). Greg asked roughly how many names were on the wall and the man answered, "58,234."

Mike went to a list and searched for a name, a member of the family that he knew was in the war. It was a touching moment to find the name on the list and go to the wall, where the guide took a piece of paper, placed it over the name and used charcoal to get an etching of the name for Mike to keep.

Near the corner section of the wall, there was a Christmas tree. The ornaments that hung were postcards filled with letters to those that served in Vietnam signed from loved ones.

From there, we spent a few brief moments at the Lincoln Memorial (as Greg stood at one end of the reflection pool, he was having a Forrest Gump moments and cried out, "JENNY") and then to the Korean War Memorial. I don't think the chilling affect of the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials will ever disappear or weaken, no matter how many times I see them.

The newest memorial was for WWII, which both Holly and I wanted to visit. On the long trek to the memorial, Greg challenged Michael to walk backwards the entire length of the reflection pool. Greg teased Michael and tried to get him to turn around, but I would tell Michael not to give up. Sure enough, Michael made it all the way there, walking backwards! What a trooper!

For the actual memorial ~ it is huge, with each state listed on columns going in a circle. Can I say that I thought it was a bit too grand? For the lives lost, this would not be true.. But I suppose the personal touch of the Vietnam and Korean Memorial was more symbolic of what was given by the lives of our soldiers. That said, I'm glad to have visited the memorial.

Afterwards, we went to another familiar place to enjoy the "Awakening." I'll always remember the first time I saw that when we visited during the winter with my family and the Awakening was seen in snow. It was a beautiful sight!

That night was New Years Eve. We went to Erin's for a light meal in the early afternoon. Her house was candle lit for Christmas and holiday music playing. Greg was introduced to Rocky and Gabby. It was the first time that I met Gabby as well. Gabby understands English and is learning to speak it. Greg lived in Miami for a number of years and had a roommate who spoke Spanish, so he could understand Gabby's conversation. After enjoying a delightful meal, we took some pictures and then headed out to....

(imagine voice booming)


The show is set in the 11th century and began with us receiving the black and white colored crown. Holly explained that our crown color corresponded to our seating and she said, "As long as we don't get in the green section we’re OK." (later to learn in the show that the green knight was not well looked upon!) During our wait to be seated, we browsed the store, took a group picture with Princess Esperanza, and enjoyed the mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Once seated, we were greet as Lords and Ladies by "serving wenches and serfs" with a four course meal, from bread, to soup, chicken, ribs, potato and pastry. I didn't think I'd like the "no silverware, medieval style" but it was fun.

As for the show, what excitement and entertainment! We cheered for our knight, who wore black and white, with the Fleur de Lis symbol. The horses were absolutely beautiful with the stunts they performed, including one horse kicking up in the front and leaping up with the back legs, where the horse is literally kicked up into the air, other horses danced to music, etc.

We were also amazed with the falcon in flight, swooping low into the crowds. Of course, there is the story line of the show, which I won't reveal, but it was filled with knights in a tournament of skill and competition (including colorful javelin throws to jousts and the once thrown off of horseback, fighting battle with swords and other various weapons).

But the night was not over yet and midnight was 30 minutes away after the performance ended. The guests were welcomed into a club section, adjacent to where the show took place. Champagne was given, top hats for the men and feathered tiaras for the women, horns to blow and noise makers to shake, along with music to dance... It was a party atmosphere and smiles aplenty!

The King addressed the audience and gave a grand count down, with everyone counting down with him.. At the stroke of midnight, sparkling confetti came down, along with a huge balloon display. This was the first time that I greeted the New Year with a kiss. It was a wonderful night! I agreed when Greg told Holly that she really planned a great event for our New Years visit.

The next day we were to fly back to New Orleans with a late flight home. There was plenty of time to show Deanna how to make jewelry with the crimp tool and also use the knotting technique. She picked out the stones to use and designed it herself. She was quick to catch on and she told Holly, "Mom, I'm going to be doing this in front of the TV." I smiled a knowingly smile... ah, the joy of crafting!

The boarding flight from Maryland to New Orleans was an experience for Greg. As we walked up to the Maryland security area, the lady was checking air flight tickets to the driver’s license, as per typical routine. Unfortunately, though Greg’s license was renewed, the sticky on the back had fallen off. The security lady said, "I’ll have to red line you."

I walked in the regular line where I only had to do the metal detector part and when I saw Greg going into the machine, I asked the lady in front of me, "What in the world is that?" She answered, "It’s the sniffer. It checks to see if there is any bomb related materials in your possession." Greg said it was air blasting on him. Then he proceeded to the metal detector in front of him, no problems.

The next extra step he had to go through was to have his shoes cotton swabbed and tested for chemicals. Umm, Greg works for a company called K2Chem. What do you think happened? The security guy told him that he tested positive for a type of chemical that alerts them to potential bombs. Luckily, Greg had a business card on him, but he still had to be frisked and then, finally was released. All because… he didn’t have the sticky renewal on his driver’s license!

The flight home had some turbulence, but I think Greg slept through the lighter part of it. It was late by the time we arrived in New Orleans.

My parents had a New Years day meal of "health, wealth and happiness" (mixture of cabbage, black eye peas and ham) waiting for us on our return. I was glad to see the tradition of New Year's day.

It was a fun weekend!

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