Thursday, November 2, 2023

[ARLINGTON] Arlington and Alexandria


I should have visited Virginia as a side trip when I went to Washington DC almost half a decade ago. After all, Arlington and Alexandria are both covered by DC’s metro system. It wasn’t that inaccessible from Baltimore either, though. I chanced upon a $20 roundtrip Amtrak ticket. The Baltimore to DC route lasts 45 minutes. Add another 20 minutes for the Red/Blue trip to Arlington cemetery. That’s two US states for you in less than half an hour! And so, we start with Arlington.


As mentioned, Arlington is on DC’s metro blue line extending all the way down to Alexandria and beyond. Maintained by the US army, the Arlington National Cemetery serves as a resting ground for almost half a million. There is no admission fee so you can get in for free, but there is an airport-like security system you have to pass through on the way in. Entrance to the cemetery is to your left after walking a few hundred meters upon exiting the blue line’s Arlington Cemetery station.


What will you see there? Well, tombs, obviously. Remember that you are in sacred grounds so behave appropriately. The grounds cover a staggering 639 acres so you can actually spend the entire day here if you so wish. I mean, if cemeteries are your thing, then why not, right? What else is there to see aside from tombstones? An eternal flame marks the tombs of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. The Arlington House provides a backdrop for it atop the hill.


The Arlington House is also referred to as the Robert E. Lee Memorial and considered historic. Built in the early 1800’s, it now serves as a museum featuring some tidbits of American history that I’m not really that invested in. I guess what I enjoyed the most was the area surrounding the house. Perched atop the hill, the views of DC and the Potomac River below are all worth the hike. The Pentagon is also visible from one of the cliffs, which is probably the best consolation you can get if you want to visit that but can’t because only US citizens are allowed to.


Another attraction you can visit is the amphitheater, which was weirdly empty when I dropped by. It is kind of strange because the motif suddenly goes ancient Greek but it is a large open space where I suppose grand meetings are held. In front of it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where you will find a lone soldier doing some ceremonial marching stuff, paying tribute to the unknown soldier. Now I don’t know whether there is, indeed, an unknown soldier, or whether this is just a general metaphor for every fallen American soldier out there hailed as a war hero.


Down from there is a terrace followed by a garden and yet another terrace overlooking the city down below. This cemetery just doesn’t run out of spectacular views and kind of reminds me of those European palaces with gardens for days. Once I was done, I hopped on the Blue line again to head south, this time to Alexandria. Alexandria is considered as Virginia’s historic district and its proximity doesn’t really give you an excuse to skip it. But I did. Sort of.


Well, I had an Amtrak train to catch, you know. But I did manage to get to see the George Washington Masonic Memorial. This one is visible from the King St. station platform. If you want to go up its steps and take selfies, then that will take around 5 minutes of walking. While the structure itself is impressive, and I took a peek inside to see a huge George Washington statue, it was rather empty when I visited. Maybe because not a lot of people are interested in Masonry? What is Masonry anyway? I didn’t even bother to Google it. There was an entrance fee of $20 or something, so it was a no-go for me.


The historic district of Alexandria is to the east as you approach the river, which I no longer had time to visit. If you have a day to spare, then I suggest you check it out.

[ARLINGTON] Arlington and Alexandria

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