Sunday, 20 August 2017

USA 2017 - Laura starts her roadtrip

It was time to leave the Washington area and start exploring.  We hired a car, loaded up our bags, took one last look at the swimming pools and headed out on Route 66 (it wasn't the route Karen would have taken from the hotel to her home but our GPS in the car directed us that way).

Last look at the two swimming pools

The hotel lobby restaurant, sadly with no other Sasha collectors in sight anymore

Travelling on Route 66

Just over an hour later we arrived at the home of Karen W, one of the three organisers of the festival, to collect my daughter's lost and found Festival souvenir.  We had a lovely chat with Karen as she gave us tea and snacks. I saw the two sewing machines in her dining room where she had done that epic amount of sewing for all 100 souvenir outfits.  On the table was a Sasha baby to welcome us.  Unfortunately I didn't take any photos of Laura meeting the baby or thanking Karen for looking after her missing bathrobe.  Thank you Karen for being so kind and providing a very welcome break in our journey.

After saying goodbye to Karen, we drove north through Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania.  Our next stop was the historic town of Gettysburg which I had long wanted to explore as it was the sight of a devastating battle during the civil war in July 1863 and later that year the place where Lincoln gave his historic address. 

After leaving all the rest of the Sasha family at the hotel in the late afternoon, Laura travelled in her doll bag as we explored the central part of the town, we parked beside the information centre at the south end of the town and walked up to the central square as we were not only looking at the story of the battle but also for a restaurant!

Looking north up Baltimore street, Gettysburg

Reading about Tillie Pierce, a 15 year witness of the battle

Viewing memorials outside the Stoever-Schick Building on the square, which was a general store at the time of the battle

One of the many information boards in the town, this was explained about the arrival of Confederate soldiers in the town a few days before the battle

Map of Gettysburg at the north end of the square

Reading about the Gettysburg Hotel on Lincoln Square
which has hosted many famous visitors over the years

The Gettysburg Hotel

The David Wills House, where the Gettysburg address was written by Lincoln

Sign about the Wills House

Laura looking up at 'Return Visit' the statue of Lincoln with a modern day man in Lincoln Square

The information about 'Return Visit' - the statue of Lincoln meeting the modern day man

In a shop window was this display of Civil war artefacts, Laura was surprised to see that the cannon was quite small

Laura was interested to read about individual acts of heroism and compassion during the war, such as that of The Compiler newspaper man who asked a Confederate surgeon to operate on an injured Union soldier and was accused of helping the enemy 'capture' the Union solder

The Compiler newspaper building today

Laura was pleased to find that the town has a beautiful Library building and that another statue of President Lincoln was outside the library, standing upon a plinth with an inscription of his Gettysburg address.

Laura with President Lincoln outside the Library building
Laura liked the information notices in some windows of houses in the street which told about the 'Women Behind These Walls' providing female witness accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg.

A woman behind these walls: Agnes Barr was one of the many women who helped in the makeshift hospitals which sprang up in the town during and after the battle

Many buildings in the town carry this sign - Civil War Building, July 1863
Laura discovered one of the saddest stories of the battle, that of the only civilian to be killed, young Jenny (Jennie) Wade.

Jennie Wade was born in a house in Baltimore Street, the house where she died only 20 years later was not much further south along the same road

The Women Behind these Walls information about Jennie Wade in the window of the house where she was born

Jennie Wade's birthplace
Laura was astonished by the cannon ball lodged in the wall of this house - it didn't appear to have damaged the house much and has been left there ever since.

Cannon ball in the wall of a house

The Jennie Wade House, where Jennie, was killed by a stray bullet. Laura could see a statue of Jennie outside the house but could not go in as it was evening, after museum closing time.
The following morning Laura visited the Gettysburg National Military Park - first stop was at the museum and visitor center.

The Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Centre
In the museum was a restored Cyclorama, a huge circular painting which was toured to show people something of what the Battle of Gettysburg was like, in the days before cinema.  Laura saw a film about the war and the battle then went to see the Cyclorama which was recently restored.

There was so much detail in the cyclorama painting, which was suspended around a purpose built room as it would have been when it was a travelling exhibit

The story of the battle was portrayed with a commentary, spotlights and sound effects

Laura thought that standing in the middle of a huge 'animated' painting all around her was quite overwhelming

Around the base of the painting the foreground was built up with real artefacts like a stage set, so it was quite hard to see where the real things finished and the painting began
In the museum there were many things to look at and read, Laura was pleased to see the military band instruments, especially the flutes!  It reminded her of a Sasha friend who plays the flute.

Military band instruments of the Civil War
Laura was interested to see the differences between the Union soldier uniform (Billy Yank) and the Confederate soldier uniform (Johnny Reb).

Billy Yank

Johnny Reb

There was so much to see and so little time as Laura had an appointment to keep further north, so only a quick tour of part of the battlefield was possible.

The battle route is lined with cannons, this was along the Confederate lines

The cannons pointing towards Gettysburg

Laura's one stop on the battle route was at Little Round Top, which gives a hill top view of the battle field

The information board about Little Round Top

Laura stood beside the monument at Little Round Top and looked out over the battlefield

Laura could see Devil's Den, a rocky outcrop in the battlefield where so many soldiers had died in July 1863

Devil's Den from Little Round Top
Laura wanted to explore further but there was no more time available to spend in Gettysburg as there was a 2 hour car journey to her next appointment which was a musical one.  She hoped that one day it would be possible to return to learn more about this historic place.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

USA 2017 - Laura explores Washington DC

Monday morning after the Sasha Festival dawned very hot in Washington DC and we were glad of the air conditioning on the bus (even though it aggravates my tonsils).  We were joined by two Sasha friends for the day as Charla and her granddaughter had never been to Washington DC before and wanted to see the main sights, which meant a lot of walking. The journey was over an hour by bus from the hotel to the centre, so there was plenty of time for chatting and looking at the route.  Laura was starting her grand tour of the USA and was safely travelling in the bag by Lorraine.
Girls and Laura on the bus to Washington DC
After buying sun cream, snacks and water after getting off the bus at L'Enfant Plaza we walked to the Washington Mall to see the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument under blazing skies. 

The Capitol Building

Looking the other way towards the Washington Monument

We soon realised that being outside for any length of time was going to be very tiring because of the heat and as everyone wanted to see the White House I knew of the perfect doll treat on our walk to that famous landmark.  Norvell had first told me about it when driving me around Washington DC on that cool November day we spent together in 2014 and I had tracked it down a couple of days later - now was my chance to show it to everyone else.  It had the added advantage of being in exactly the same building as the Star Spangled Banner (of huge historic importance to Americans).  So we went into the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  First we visited the Star Spangled Banner in its light controlled room (strictly no photographs allowed) then admired a Lego version of the Statue of Liberty. 

The Statue of Liberty in Lego


Then after making enquiries because it had been moved slightly due to refurbishment of the building, we found the big Dolls house, not far from where I'd seen it before.

The information board about the Dolls' House which belonged to Faith Bradford

Laura was amazed, it was the biggest dolls house she had ever seen,
much bigger than the 3 at home

Admiring the dolls house

Looking closely at all the details and the tiny furniture

I took several more photos of the house than this and plan a future blog post to compare the photos of 2014 with those of 2017 as I didn't blog about it just after my previous visit.

We braved the heat and sunshine again to continue our walk to the White House.  Thank goodness for some shady trees along the curved path on the area in front of the house.


The Washington Monument

Squirrel in the shade near the White House

Girls and Laura in front of the White House

Laura at the White House

After a rest on a bench in the shade, then a further rest with ice lollies in another shady spot between the Washington Monument and the WWII memorial, we approached the memorial.  The girls soon had their feet in the water of the fountains, wading was officially not allowed however they weren't the only people cooling off and I think the veterans of that terrible conflict would not have begrudged them a short paddle in the cool water on that blazing day.

The World War II memorial on a hot summer day

Cooling hot feet
On the walk to the Lincoln memorial we enjoyed seeing ducks under the trees on the grass by the glassy still lake.
Ducks in the shade

Saying hello

And so at last we came to the steps on the Lincoln Memorial.  It was crowded with people, much more so than in November.

At the Lincoln Memorial

Having a rest beneath Lincoln's very famous second inaugural address
The girls get Laura to pose with Lincoln

Laura and Lincoln (and her girl)

We walked back towards the bus via the Korean War memorial which I had not seen before, it was too hot to take too many interesting detours from the route to see other memorials in the area and we were all tired.


Approaching the Korean War memorial

Freedom is not free - a sobering reminder to always be vigilant in peaceful and determined defence of freedom for everyone

When we reached L'Enfant Plaza and sat down on benches to wait for the bus, the rain suddenly poured down for about 5 minutes so we sheltered as we ate snacks.

Rainy pavements and a rainbow after a shower
It was fun to spend the day with Charla and her granddaughter as we explored Washington DC a bit, even though the weather was so hot (we agreed that Cherry Blossom time or Fall would be better times to visit the city). Sadly it was their last day as they were starting the long drive home the next morning and we were all very tired when we returned to the hotel, though my girl still found her way into the swimming pool for a short time before we had dinner.

On Tuesday morning the other dolls wished Laura well as she prepared for her second day exploring Washington DC, they all wanted to come as it was slightly cooler.

Schoenhut, Sasha and Makie display in our hotel room on the Tuesday morning

Once again we got the bus to the city, this time travelling with Pat P and her husband who were planning to visit some of the sights we had seen the day before, so after chatting on the bus we said goodbye to them and walked to the nearby Smithsonian museums.  I loved the National Museum of the American Indian when I had visited before and had been looking forward to returning.

The entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian

Laura examined the birch bark canoe in the main atrium, there were several other boats in the atrium, some had been built in the museum to demonstrate the traditional crafts

Laura loved the native American dolls from both South and North America

The  small native dolls were gorgeously detailed

There was even a wooden aeroplane in the cabinet of toys and artefacts

Some more dolls and treasured items

Wonderful beaded shoes of different designs

Laura liked the traditional rope bridge built to span a gorge in South America

A close up of how the rope bridge was secured

Laura liked the Llama weaving on display

There was even a modern Noah's ark, made of clay, from Peru

The pan flute reminded me of a Sasha friend who plays the flute, the bag beside it was decorated with Llamas

In a gallery upstairs is this modern bronze statue by Edward E. Hlvaka called Allies in War, Partners in Peace which commemorates the alliance between the colonists and the Oneida Indian Nation against the British during the war of independence in 1777-1778.  Laura was fascinated by the details, including the animals and the corn cobs.  The figures are George Washington, Oneida diplomat Skenandoah and Oneida woman Polly Cooper.  I had seen it on my previous visit.


Laura gazes up at the Allies in War, Partners in Peace

Laura liked the animals

George, Polly and Skenandoah

Laura with the turtle

Laura sits on the statue
Round the back of the statue was a surprise - a settler girl with her doll.

The back of the statue

Two girls with their dolls

A beautiful pose
In other galleries we came across the ideals of the different tribal nations and how they worked with nature to survive.

Laura liked this description:

"The gifts of the seven grandfathers were the seven teachings - honesty, love courage, truth, wisdom, humility and respect.  These sacred teachings and an understanding of the four directions are passed on to members of the community in the teaching lodge.  They help us live in harmony with nature and benefit everyone in the world.  For four days in the spring, people come to the teaching lodge to learn what their names represent, what medicines do, what the clans are and what their responsibilities are as men, women, children, grandmothers and grandfathers. Everybody can come in.  Gerry Raven, Community Curator, 2000"


Information about the seven teachings

The four directions

Inside the teaching lodge
After a little time in the museum shop (where Laura found a gift for Peggy Sue Schoenhut), we walked to the museum next door - the Air and Space Museum.  I had loved this museum too in 2014 and took lots of photos then to show my husband who is an aeroplane enthusiast.  Certain galleries could not be missed, even though we didn't have as much time as we would have liked because the other museum had been so fascinating.  We made a bee-line for the opening chapters of the story of flight to see the iconic Wright Flyer, the first powered flight.

Laura gazed in amazement at the Wright Flyer

The pilot of the Wright Flyer had to lie on his chest and control the plane with his arms in front of him, it must have been very scary and exciting to take to the air in this machine in 1903

The information about the Wright Flyer

Along the wings of the Wright Flyer

In a gallery nearby was another adventurous flyer of those pioneering days - the famous Amelia Earhart's plane which she flew solo across the Atlantic in 1932, the first women to achieve this feat.

Amelia and her Lockhead 5B Vega

Laura hails and salutes Amelia Earhart

After looking at the Apollo Moon landing galleries, in the museum shop Laura's girl bought a different Amelia Earhart t-shirt as she was outgrowing the one she had worn the day before. Laura found a gift for her friend Henry.

Laura outside the Capitol building in the Washington Hall
When we returned to the hotel the swimming pool was used again by a certain girl again before dinner!

It had been a very interesting two days exploring Washington DC and some of its wonderful museums. Now it was time to say goodbye to the big city and start visiting a bit more of the country.