The next morning Lucy and I woke up for breakfast with some of our classmates. She was more than a little disgruntled, though, because the hot water in our hotel room didn’t seem to be working!
The Tabard Inn continental breakfast was somewhat unconventional, compared to the other hotels at which we stayed. We walked into the restaurant, sat down, and ordered off a menu — but the food was still complimentary until after 9:30! Lucy and I barely made it in time — at 9:20, we joined the guys, Kelly, and Hope at their table. After we had ordered, I sat back and observed my classmates. All were relatively cheerful, despite the previous late night. But I could also see the shell-shocked look mirroring the grumpy expression Lucy had. As this clicked in my mind, everyone else at the table realized they had all awoken to cold showers that morning! The other hotel guests must have used all of it before we awoke. I burst into laughter, and couldn’t help but tease them. They shouldn’t have waited!!
After breakfast, a few of us decided to try and find Dr. Doyle’s bookstore. We would have just enough time, and we felt that it was a necessary quest! I had spoken briefly with Dr. Doyle, who gave me directions, which weren’t as helpful as I had anticipated, a predicament that we discovered when I tried to repeat them. Regardless, we ventured out into the city, determined to make the best of the directions. Unfortunately, we never did find Dr. Doyle’s bookstore. But Kelly was the only one in our group with the presence of mind to stop a local and ask about any local bookstore. While the rest of us raced across a street past a little old lady, Kelly hung back to talk to her. The lady gave directions for a fun store that was just around the corner!
Sheepishly, the rest of us followed her back across the street. We traveled about one block before we saw a red overhang labeled Kramer Books. Underneath that was another sign that exclaimed, “Café and Grill.” Turns out, the restaurant led into the bookstore! Amused, we shuffled through the tables of food to a back room full of books. The rest of our hour passed swiftly as we found old favorites and read blurbs from newer novels. Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel to meet our private bus for the final tour of Washington, D.C.
The first stop was the White House. Though everyone in our class had already been by the iconic building, we decided to hop off and take a class picture. Walking back to the bus, we saw a massive crowd of red, green, black, and white. It was a protest! Apparently, they really want the United States to help out in Syria. Tourists that we were, we snapped several photos before twisting our way through the crowd to the giant black and gold bus that awaited us.
The next stop had two destinations: the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial. We couldn’t get very close because of construction, but some of us managed a group picture. We also had some time to pass by the WWII memorial and take pictures there.
We spent a lot more time at our next destination, mostly because there were so many different memorials and monuments around. As a class, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial. It was absolutely beautiful, made of solid white stone. The imposing columns guarded Abe’s sanctuary, dwarfing all of us as we climbed the dozens of steps. Finally, we reached the monument itself. Inside, the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln’s second inaugural address bordered the side walls, while the enormous figure of Abraham Lincoln filled the center of the room. He stared out at the people below: black, white, and every color in between. Somehow, I felt like his impassive face would actually be smiling if he were truly in the room. Regardless, the structure looked impressive.
When we had taken our fill of photos, we scattered around on the steps of the memorial. Dr. Doyle and Ms. Spaniolo told us we had a little over an hour to explore the surrounding memorials before meeting back up at the MLK Memorial. The group I was with chose to see the Vietnam War memorial. It was beautiful, but I think what made it really special was Hope. The rest of us wandered through respectfully, listening to the tour guides and looking at the names of dead or missing soldiers. But Hope actually had someone to look for. Her mother’s uncle was declared missing during the war, and Hope wanted to find his name to get an etching of it.
I watched her for a bit, before walking over to ask her where the name of her uncle was engraved. She pointed it out, telling me that she was trying to get a pencil for the etching. Together, we got a tour guide’s attention, and she offered to do the job for Hope. I snapped a few pictures, but I also stopped just to savor the moment. I thought it was wonderful of Hope to do something like that, and it was incredible to watch. It made the memorial much more important — and more real.
We rejoined the group, and moved on to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. It is relatively new, so I was pretty excited to see it. Others have criticized it, but I think the design was very well done. White stone shaped an opening engraved with one of King’s quotes, and an enormous statue of him stood above visitors. The whole area was bordered by the Potomac River and a ring of black granite engraved with various quotes. It seemed really simple, but I thought that spoke more than any fanfare they could have come up with.
Our class reunited at the bus, which then took us to the Jefferson Memorial. In true Jeffersonian style, the monument was large and dome-shaped, hiding a larger-than-life statue of good old TJ, as well as engravings of his writings. We spent quite a bit of time there (we had, after all, read three entire biographies on the man!), before we trooped back to the bus.
Our final destination was the Capitol. We really only had time to get out and take a few pictures, but I certainly noticed how pretty the day was. It may have been the stark contrast between the white Capitol building and the bright blue sky, but I thought it was beautiful!
Finally, it was time to make our way to the airport. Our driver took us by the Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial, but we couldn’t stop to take pictures. We didn’t mind though — the week had finally caught up with everyone, and I think we were looking forward to a leisurely afternoon at the airport.
We arrived at the Washington Regan National Airport with several hours to spare before our flight. After passing through security, everyone went their own way for lunch and final relaxation time before the flight. At last, we were lining up to board. I checked my bag and made my way to my seat by Ms. Spaniolo. She and I chatted for a while, and I killed my second pen while writing in my journal. A little over three hours later, our plane landed.
This flight had been much longer than the first one, due to wind and a giant storm system over Dallas. Thankfully, we landed easily. It was getting into a gate that was the problem. D/FW had momentarily shut down, which meant that the flights were about one hour behind. Our plane had to wait roughly fifteen minutes for a gate — not exactly the best welcome-home present.
In the midst of everyone’s grumbling, a loud bell rang, and we heard the pilot’s voice again. He informed us that we would be moving into a gate soon, and everyone grinned. It took forever to get all of the passengers off the plane, regroup with the class, get our luggage, and board the shuttle bus that SMU had sent. But we did, and before I knew it, the familiar sight of the Boulevard and Dallas Hall were flashing past my window.
The bus screeched to a halt, and everyone scrambled for their luggage. After shouting our goodbyes, we made our way back to the dorms. I will admit, I didn’t care about placing my luggage neatly in my room upon my arrival. Instead, I just dropped everything at the entrance to deal with later. I was more interested in looking at all of the pictures!!
The last thing I remember from that night is closing my laptop as I promised myself that I would just rest my eyes for five minutes. Sighing, I curled up on my comforter — and remembered no more. It was wonderful to be back.