Happy Holidays (Come Early)

Happy Holidays (Come Early)

The end of Fall is rapidly approaching, with Thanksgiving right around the corner. The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are falling, and Christmas merchandise is conspicuously (ALREADY) all around. My time in the District is sadly also coming to a close. However, this past week I was able to take advantage of my surroundings and explore the area outside of Washington D.C. a bit more. I was lucky enough to observe Veteran's Day at Arlington National Cemetery, and I got to take in the sights and sounds of the Christmas tree lighting at National Harbor.

 

Exploring Arlington

My roommate Guneev and I both didn't have work on Veteran's' Day, and we also had never been to the Arlington Cemetery. We decided it was highly appropriate to use our day off in observance of our nation's veterans to visit the cemetery. We discovered as we were walking up to the entrance that security was holding back guests until President Obama's motorcade arrived. Obviously I was disappointed to have arrived late and not be able to be part of the crowd to see him give his address at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. BUT I did get to see the motorcade drive in, and in one of the limos I was very clearly able to see Vice President Joe Biden. He waved to the people gathered on the sidewalk as he drove by. It was honestly one of the most exciting moments of the Fall for me! I am a big fan of the Vice President.

 

Quick snap of VPOTUS!

 

The first thing we noticed was how big the grounds were. Grave markers stretched as far as the eye could see, and this was just on one side of the cemetery. It was incredibly sobering to see row after row of fallen service members from all of our nation's conflicts. I thought I was opposed to war before, but seeing the human cost in such a direct, unavoidable way drove the point home. It was a fairly steep walk up the hill towards the Lee house. It's there because the land that Arlington now sits on used to be Robert E. Lee's plantation before the Civil War. It became a burial ground for Union dead and then a National Cemetery for all our country's fallen service members and veterans. On the right base of the hill, I stumbled upon President and First Lady Kennedy's graves. I got chills as I looked upon the Eternal Flame marking the final resting place of one of the greatest Americans to ever serve in the White House. Evening more surreal was seeing that at the front of the hill's base and to the left of it lied the graves of Senators Bobby and Ted Kennedy. I thought it nice that President Kennedy's final resting place is beside his brothers. There's also a marker for older brother Joe Kennedy Jr. on the hill as well. It was a very profound moment, which made it very fitting for the day considering the Kennedy brothers' military service.

 

The Eternal Flame and the grave markers of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Arabella Kennedy

 

Christmas Tree Lighting at the National Harbor

Apparently one of the biggest signs of the Christmas season in the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia area) is the lighting of the big Christmas tree at National Harbor, Maryland (across the Potomac from Alexandria, Virginia). I was curious to check this out for myself, and I was definitely not disappointed. It was a bit chilly out as we waited around for the event to start but it wasn't too bad. It was good Fall weather for taking in the sights of the Harbor, which is a collection of shops and restaurants with a boardwalk on the Potomac river. At first my friends and I had trouble finding the tree, because we thought it would be located out by the water. Instead, it was a little bit more inland near the main square. It was certainly a sight to behold even before its lights were turned on:

 

The tree is 60 feet tall!

 

Everyone waited with anticipation until the host of the event, a local weather forecaster, began the countdown. Once it hit zero the tree lit up in several varieties of colors and patterns along to a melody of Christmas music. It was a great show, and afterwards there was a fireworks show over the Potomac! This, too, was accompanied by Christmas music. I'm most definitely the type of person who won't tolerate anything related to winter holidays until AFTER Thanksgiving, but even I couldn't help but to get into the holiday spirit. It was a great time enjoyed with friends, and now I understand why the National Harbor Christmas tree lighting is seen as the start of the holiday season!

 

A beautiful tree, plus the Farris wheel in the background!

 

The trip to the National Harbor capped-off a great week full of exploration and experiences, even if it took us about two hours to get back home due to our Uber driver being stuck in horrible traffic (which turned out to be ok, because the gas station where we waited on him to arrive had a TV with the Arkansas-LSU game on). I was glad to try to take advantage of my limited time left in D.C. to get out more in the surrounding area, and I will definitely do more of that every soon. Stay tuned!

 

Until next week,

 

Barrett

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