on July 8, 2009
On a recent trip to the States I stopped in Washington DC for a day on the way home. We wanted to pack in as much as possible. I was with my Mum, Dad and aunt and although Mum, Dad and I had all been to Washington before, my aunt hadn't so we wanted to show her all the main tourist sites. I think the Lincoln memorial is one of the iconic symbols of Washington and so was high on our list.SOME HISTORY: As a History teacher I always feel I should add a little information here! The Lincoln memorial commemorates Abraham Lincoln (yes the clue was in the title!). Abe (to his friends) was the 16th President of the USA and is famous for many reasons, most notably, getting assassinated! He was also President during the American Civil War, gave the Gettysburg Address and emancipated the American slave population.The Memorial was planned from 1867 (two years after Lincoln's death) but the was not started until 1914 and wasn't finished until 1922 (they take their time these Americans!). Since then its become a bit of an American landmark and features on the one cent coin and five dollar bill. It was also the site for various political rallies, including being the location for Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech. GETTING THERE:Obviously there is first the task of getting to Washington itself. The main airport is Dulles International and flights can be caught with lots of airlines there from the UK. Once in Washington the Memorial is pretty hard to miss as Washington itself is fairly small. Parking close to the Memorial is practically impossible (especially for us as our visit coincided with that of the Pope!). If you don't mind a little walk then you can park on the roadside in certain parts of the city. However, my aunt was recovering from a broken foot so walking a long way wasn't an option. We went on one of the tour buses and if you're only in DC for a short stay I would recommend one of these - they stop outside most of the attractions and give you lots of extra information that you don't get driving yourself around. You can also get to the Memorial using local bus routes and metro. ADMISSION AND OPENING:The Memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day. There are park rangers (it is run by the National Park Service) available from 9.30am - 11.30pm. The Memorial is completely free (always a bonus with me!). THE EXPERIENCE:There are two ways of getting into the Memorial. The first is up all the steps at the front or there is a lift. We used the lift due to aunt's foot. The lift entrance is to the left of the steps as you look at the Memorial. In the lift entrance there are some displays and this is also where the toilets are. The displays are well worth a look, even if you're not planning on using the lift. There is information on the design and building of the Memorial. There is also a display about the Civil Rights movement in America, especially about the 'I Have a Dream' speech. I found this part very interesting as a History teacher and the rest of my family were fascinated because they could remember the speech being made from that spot (although my aunt who couldn't remember it claimed she must have been out that day.....! I think not paying attention was a more likely explanation!). Once you get off the lift upstairs there is a huge space where Abe sits. He is walled in on three sides and sits looking through a row of columns onto the Mall, with the Washington Monument and Capitol Hill beyond. The walls are decorated and inscribed. On one side is the Gettysburg Address (four score and seven years ago....) and the other side has Lincoln's second inaugural address on it. Lincoln himself sits in the middle and is around 6 metres tall and 6 metres wide. Needless to say he makes his presence felt. He is carved from marble. You can't get too close to Abe as he is surrounded by barriers. There is an absolutely tiny shop to the left as you look out of the memorial. It sells books and posters to do with the Memorial, Lincoln, Martin Luther King and general American History. I picked up some postcards and copies of the 'I Have a Dream' speech and the Declaration of Independence for teaching. I also picked up a list of the coincidences between Lincoln and JFK's deaths. Some of them are quite spooky (although some of them are a bit tenuous) so look those up if you get a chance.WORTH A VISIT? Definitely! The Memorial is one of the icons of Washington and I think is one of those places you have to go to. You won't stay there long because realistically the attraction is just a big statue! As the Memorial is free you can stay 10 minutes without worrying that you haven't got your money's worth. So if you're in Washington pop in and have your photo taken with Abe!
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