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11 Jul 2015

Dare to Do Something Different!

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July 11, 2015 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Four Little Girks Exhibit at Newseum


By Renée S. Gordon

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama

Summer, no matter where you live, brings an opportunity to expand your horizons by experiencing new and different places and activities. Philadelphia affords people more than their share of chances to do just that because it is located within two hours of an awe-inspiring number of outdoor activities, restaurants, events, museums and historic sites and here are a few of the most intriguing events and activities that are available right now. Hurry and read the column and start your adventure immediately.

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was born in 1757, a French aristocrat but dedicated his life to the cause of freedom in both France and America. In 1777 he purchased and outfitted a ship and sailed for the colonies to volunteer his services to General Washington. He rose to the rank of major general in the Continental Army and after being wounded in the Battle of Brandywine he returned to France in 1778. He would go on to become a member of anti-slavery societies on two continents and an advocate of universal civil rights and religious freedom.

While recuperating in France he convinced King Louis XVI to aid the American cause by sending uniforms, munitions, five frigates and a 6,000 man armed force commanded by French Gen. de Rochambeau.  On March 21, 1780 Lafayette set sail aboard the L’Hermione, a French frigate, from the Port of Rochefort. The 38-day, 3918-mile, voyage arrived in Boston to a 13-gun salute on April 28th. In May the ship sailed on to Philadelphia. Lafayette’s second visit to the colonies would be the final time he would see Washington because he would not return until invited by President Monroe in 1824. On his third visit he toured all 24 of the states in the Union at that time and was honored at each stop. Lafayette died in 1834 and 168-years later Congress granted him honorary American citizenship.

The original L’Hermione, built in Rochefort, was one of four light frigates built for speed. The ship was constructed over a period of 11-months and featured 16,000 square feet of sail and 34 cannons. A replica of L’Hermione, representing America’s oldest ally, will make the transcontinental journey this summer, sponsored by private donors and local French municipalities, to promote educational, cultural and tourism opportunities and our longstanding relationship.

The House of Hennessy is a major sponsor of the project and the brand is intrinsically linked with Lafayette and L’Hermione. Richard Hennessy founded the house in 1765 in Cognac, France and was already thriving by the time Lafayette had barrels of it loaded aboard the ship. Cognac will once again make the voyage with two barrels of rare, limited edition, Hennessy 250 Collector Blend Cognac to be donated to charity.

Unlike the original the reproduction of L’Hermione took 17-years, 2,000 French oak trees and $21.6-million to produce. The ship will travel northward along the East Coast from Yorktown, Virginia to Castine, Maine docking eleven times. A schedule of public events and activities are planned as part of Hermione Voyage 2015. Tools are available online to track L’Hermione’s daily progress.!follow-hermione/c6gz

Washington, DC is a never-ending source of “different” things to do. Contrary to what some believe it is not filled with musty museums and dry historic attractions but is instead a place of constant reinvention and technological improvement. No, factual history does not “change,” but the way we view and interpret it is constantly evolving and DC is the best place to become part of the adventure.

The National Mall, “America’s Front Yard,” is a green space at the heart of central, southwest, Washington, DC. Since the 19th-century it has functioned as a place for celebrations, protests, huge gatherings and quiet musings. The original area designated as “The Mall” was the land that extended from the US Capital to the Washington Monument. Arrayed around the National Mall and in close proximity are the 19 Smithsonian museums and more than 100 private museums. The National Mall includes West Potomac Park and the most important monuments. Visitors can access a wonderful interactive site that provides maps, history and historic photographs.

Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant, came from France to join the revolutionary cause. Washington selected him, because of his engineering background, to design the new capital city based on the design of European cities. The two highest points were to be used as sites for the Presidential Palace and Congress House and Lafayette Park was originally President’s Park. Once the land became public it was renamed Jackson Square and it was not until Lafayette’s visit in the 1830s that the park was renamed in his honor.

Peru was settled thousands of years ago, as evidenced by archeological ruins, but the most tangible evidence of settlement dates from about 3,500-years ago when groups like the Chimú migrated south into the area. It is the “People of the Sun,” the Inca, with which most people are familiar but in actuality they did not move into the Cusco Valley until around 1100 AD. They developed a mighty kingdom, Tahuantinsuyu, that spanned 2500-miles, from Ecuador to Chile.

The kingdom was reliant upon a complex network of routes that formed the 25,000-mile Royal Highway, the qhapaq ñan. The Inca Road facilitated the transport of people, goods and information across the empire and was designed with various sized rest stations approximately every 16-miles. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

“The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire” is on exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian, one of the newest in the city, from June 26, 2015 until June 1, 2018.  The Great Inca Road traverses many types of terrain and today travelers in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru access the road.

The museum is located across the street from the festival and also houses the festival gift shop. The shop is the best place to purchase indigenous products and handwoven textiles as gifts and souvenirs.

The International Spy Museum features the only public and largest collection of espionage paraphernalia in the world. This museum’s collection traces spy history from its documented origins in Biblical times through 2003. It was founded in 2002 by former spies and continues to be operated by them. There are seven overarching themes on three floors and self-guided tours begin in the Briefing Theater with an orientation film. There are more spies per capita in Washington, DC than anywhere else in the world and you are poised to learn all about them.

Highlights of the tour include an Enigma machine, the first drones, a pigeon with a camera strapped to his chest, and 007’s car. The Bond theme plays, the car rotates, lights up and displays its weapons. “Exquisitely Evil: 50 Years of Bond Villains” is showcased in a special area. More than 100 authentic film artifacts from Bond’s 23 films are on view including the steel teeth Bond’s nemesis Jaws wore.

The Newseum was the 2014 Traveler’s Choice Winner and has been designated one of the Top 10 Museums in the nation. The Newseum is dedicated to showcasing the ways in which the media impacts on us as individuals and as a society. Exhibits are displayed throughout the Concourse and six-levels and include 15 galleries and 15 films one of which is shown in the 4-D Theater. The experience begins with a 4-minute orientation film.

“G Men and Journalists” is a very popular exhibit that provides photo ops with Dillinger, Hoover and Karpis. Dillinger’s death mask and the hat, vest and eyeglasses he was wearing on his last night are on display. In the FBI Exhibit visitors can see Ted Kaczynski’s cabin and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber’s, outfit including the shoe complete with bomb mechanism. Other highlights encompass “President Lincoln is Dead: The New York Herald Reports the Assassination,” on view until January 11, 2016, a portion of the Berlin Wall complete with guard tower and stunning views of Washington from the Greenspun Terrace.

Plan to spend several hours at the Newseum. Wolfgang Puck’s Food Section is located on the lower level and provides a wonderful dining experience and the Newseum Store is an excellent option for souvenirs and memorabilia.

When Nevada Senator William Stewart built a mansion on what is now Dupont Circle in 1875 it was regarded as a foolish move. Shortly thereafter other wealthy Washingtonians recognized the beauty of the area and began to build homes there. The area thrived until the stock market crash of 1929, at which time the magnificent mansions were divided into apartments or sold to individual countries as embassies. Today the area is lovely and quiet and offers easy access to tourist sites.

Kimpton Hotel Palomar is located one-block from Dupont Circle and is nestled in the heart of an eclectic restaurant scene and close to Georgetown and the National Mall. The hotel offers exemplary accommodations, WiFi, complimentary morning coffee and tea, evening wine reception, fitness center, pool and complimentary use of custom PUBLIC bikes. The Palomar was awarded TripAdvisor’s 2015 Certificate of Excellence and is a perfect place to stay while visiting DC. Additional information and specials are available online.

I wish you smooth travels!

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