4th July!

Hey Dad,

So last night I had the best nights sleep I have had in weeks! 

When I eventually got up, we had some breakfast; a real breakfast! No breakfast biscuits in sight.

Marks said the best way to get into Washington would be the metro. So we set off, me wearing my shorts with the stars and stripes, they seeemed fitting today. We got off one stop early to walk around and explore a little bit. 

We walked past a church, which had a free concert just starting. It was wonderful, a string ensemble playing classical music. As we went in I noticed all the performers were in uniform. They were all air force. We sat and listened for ages.

We left the church and walked towards the mall. It was packed! We were right by the Washington Monument! It was so busy though I didn’t try and take a picture. There was people everywhere, which we were expecting, it’s 4th July in their nations capital. We made an attempt to walk down the street, but the parade was on. They really go all out! The parade was huge. 

We walked past a load of big important buildings, which were impossible to get to as there were hundreds of people standing on the steps to get a good parade view. We kept walking. We finally found the end of the parade route, so we were able to cross the street and get into the mall. 

We walked through a sculpture garden, partially because it didn’t look very busy, unlike the rest of the mall. It was pretty neat, sculptures everywhere. Rebecca would have enjoyed it. There was also a huge fountain with the National Archives building as a backdrop.

We walked though the garden and were standing right outside the National Museum of Natural History. Wanting to escape the blazing sun and hundreds of thousands of people, we went in. There was an Imax show about to start, which told the sorry of a young Explorer called Henry Bates who wanted to find out if species could change into other species. It was fascinating, and the sit down in an air conditioned quiet room was a bonus!

We left the theatre and walked around the museum. It was potentially the best museum I have been in. The exhibits and detail was unreal. They even had a whole skeleton of a blue whale! There were rooms that looked at fossils, mummies, bones, insects, gems and minerals, human origins, mammals and even the ocean. It was amazing. I even got to see the Hope diamond! There was so much to see you could not hope to take it all in! 

We left the museum to walk to the end of the mall, towards the capitol building. Every year the mall hosts a free concert to celebrate the 4th July. Mark knowing his stuff knew we had to get there early as they close the lawn when it reaches capacity.  We found perfect spots on the grass, with a perfect view of the stage. Then all we had to do was wait for the show to start. 

Before that though, the rain came. Mark explained it always rains on the 4th July, a bit like us and Glastonbury I guess! We got soaked. Neither if us had a jacket, not that it mattered as I don’t think it would have helped. Deciding we were already wet, and the worst thing that could happen is we get rained on in 30°c heat, we stayed put. Thankfully the rain stopped and the sun came back out. We were dry again in no time. 

The concert was about to start, and they ran through who would be performing. My jaw dropped.

First up, The Beach Boys. Yeah you read that right, The Beach Boys!! I got to see The Beach Boys perform live, right in front of me! Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the other acts included The Blues Brothers and the Four Tops. I honestly Dad could not believe it! There was also music from Broadway stars, which were accompanied by a full orchestra. 
At the end of the show, cannons were shot, and the biggest and longest display of fireworks I have ever seen exploded in the sky above the concert venue, behind the Washington Monument. It was incredible! Like unbelievably incredible! The fireworks must have continued for over 20 minutes. 

When the show was over, we had to make the attempt to get back to the metro stop. Needless to say the streets were packed and everyone was heading in the same direction. Amazingly we managed to fit on a metro first time round. It was very very cramped though. Thankfully it cleared out pretty quick and we were able to sit down and find some air. 

We got back to the house pretty late and both collapsed on the sofa. The concert was playing replayed on TV so we stuck that on the try and find our self’s on screen. I think we just about found us. Well I am not sure which one of us fell asleep first, but my phone went off in my hand waking me up on the sofa. I looked over to find Mark asleep on the chair.

Time for bed. Another big day tomorrow!

What an awesome day! 

Night dad x

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Meeting the Nejako’s

Hey Dad,

Well crazy day today. I am meeting the Nejako’s! 

As you know, Nan has been writing to her Penpal Nancy since like the 194os. We have been brought up our whole lives knowing we are connected to this American family in a very special way. Today I get to meet them. 

I got up and drove the two hours to their house. I am staying With Mark, Nancy’s grandson. So the grandkids of the pen pals are meeting. 

Talk about being welcomed in with open arms! Marks aunty Judy was there too. It was amazing meeting them, and finally putting a face to the names. 

They both knew so much about us and our family. Story’s Nancy had told them just like story’s nan has told us. Judy in particular has amazingly fond memories of Aunty Jean when she was stationed out in Washington DC. Judy had so many tales from when she was a child with Jean coming over and doing the usual crazy and amazing Jean things. She was so amazing to talk to. I gave her an update on how Jean is now and showed her some photos. 

After a speedy catch up, we headed over the Marks parents home. It was Marks birthday today, so we were heading for a family get together. Again I was greeted with open arms, all with story’s and questions about our family and the conversations between our Nans. There was Marks parents, along with Marks sister, her husband and their adorable daughter. Marks other nan was there too, along with Mark, Judy and myself of course. 

We spent all afternoon sitting in the garden and eating BBQ food. Home cooked food! Yes! 

After many many stories were shared we all got back into the cars and headed out to a beautiful park. We were going to listen to the Baltimore Philharmonic orchestra play. It reminded me a little of the old ‘party in the park’ we used to all go to. Families with a picnic and blankets sitting on the grass listening to live music. It being 4th July tomorrow, everyone was in a party mood. The atmosphere was amazing, and everyone was so happy. The music was great, and the fireworks amazing. Sadly our view was slightly obstructed by a tree, but that didn’t really matter. 

The whole evening was wonderful, and I felt so welcome and part of the family. They are all just so lovely Dad, and it was so clear Nancy cared as much about nan as nan does about her. 

We got back to the house and crashed out. It was a very long day! Mark pulled out a photo album and we looked though it. It was unvelieveable! One album at photos in Nan must have sent in her letters. Photos of Nan and Grandad on their bikes and photos of you and uncle Jim as small children. There was another album, filled with when Nancy and her Husband Mark came to visit the UK. I was able to put some names to faces for Mark. Well there were pages in there full of us grandchildren. Photos I have never seen! Nancy must have taken them on her camera and came back to America to get them developed. We were like 4/5 ish with a baby Charlotte at like 18 months if that. The photos were at our old house too! I forgot what that wallpaper looked like! It was amazing to think that we meant enough to Nancy to not only take the photos and have them developed, but to put them in a photo album and keep it all these years! 

Mark showed me to the spare room. Dad there are photos of Nan and Grandad all over the house! there is even a photo of them at the foot of the bed in the spare room, standing outside Nan and Grandad house. There was one of Jean too! There is even some of Jean’s art work on the wall, which she must have sent to them a few years ago. 

I can not believe I am here, in a house Nan and Grandad have visited many times! 

Another huge day coming up, it’s the 4th July!

Night dad x

Falling Water

Hey Dad,

So today is all about one building in particular. Falling Water. It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and it’s a building I studied a huge amount at university. To be honest I think even you would make a pit stop to go and see it. 

I checked out and jumped in the car, the building was only an hour away! The satnav took me off the toll road interstate and managed to direct me in the opposite way of all the tourist signs. Again, I followed the satnav. This time it worked out in my favour, it took me through some local towns and farms. The houses were beautiful, with loads of land around them and views over the rolling hillside. It was like driving in some parts of the UK, with a narrow road and high trees lining the route making the road dark as it dips down a hill. It was a really nice drive. 

While driving along admiring my surroundings I kept stumbling across Jellystone National Park. Of course that is home to Yogi Bear! Wondering if I would see anything Yogi Bear related I drove past a huge statue! I was going to fast and had a car behind me to stop, so I kept going, figuring I would go back later. 

A little further down the road I came to falling water. One catch. They are sold out of tours today. Damn! But I can buy a ticket to view the grounds, so I can see the house, I just can’t go inside. I decided I could cope with that. I want to are the structure and the outside more anyway. I paid for a ticket and was told to come back in an hour. Lunch it is! 

I went back at my allotted time and started to walk through the grounds. The house is set in a national park, and it’s just beautiful. The whole area is made up of trees and shrubs, and small path ways leading people to Falling Water.

The building was beautiful! I walked around every inch I could, and then walked even further to get some good photos. The structure was just so ahead of its time. Seeing it close up was awesome! The inside looked really cool too, but I was not overly disappointed. I walked around the house and the grounds for over an hour just looking at how the building even stands up, and how it interacts with its surroundings. It is built over a waterfall after all! 

Back to the car I drive back to where I saw the big Yogi Bear. He was cool, but he was on a camping ground. I abandoned the car on the side of the road and ran up the exit drive of the camp ground.I snapped a photo and ran back to the car before I was seen. 

The drive to my overnight stop was across country over all the hills and woodland.finally no interstates! I pulled over everytime I saw a lookout sign, just to see what was around.  The area was just so pretty, and green! 

I eventually made it to a small town called Cumberland. First thing I noticed was nothing. Not one person, or open shop, no birds and not one single car. Weird. A little freaked out I checked into the hotel. Realising I needed to eat I ventured out into the abyss. I stumbled across one homeless person, a cat and a water fountain. The whole town centre was empty! The only thing open, a McDonald’s. Typical.

I went in, wondering if I was even hungry enough to eat this kind of food, to find the restaurant was full of people. On closer inspection, it was full of single middle aged men. All seemed to have tatty clothes and had an unkempt appearance. Feeling slightly on edge I ordered at sat in the corner so I had a good view of the tables. I ate pretty fast, the looks and stares were very off putting. A family came in, ordered food and walked out with it. I followed them out and walked back to the hotel. 

Well another day gone, and another big day tomorrow! 

Night dad x

Driving South, and looking out of place

Hey Dad,

So I realised something crazy this morning. I am currently as far North as I will go on this trip, and I am right on the Canadian border on the East coast. Well a month or so ago I was in San Diego, close to the Mexican border on the West coast. I have literally driven to the opposite points of the country. 

Anyway, I packed up this morning to head towards Washington DC. Of course i have a stop to make on the way. I checked out and headed towards a town called Pittsburgh. This is just a over night stop really, 4th July weekend funnily enough seems to make all the motel and hotel rooms really expensive. This was the cheapest in the right direction.  

The drive was another dull drive down a interstate, with not much to see. One thing that was pleasant though we’re the hills. The landscape was no longer flat, and there were views across countryside. That made a welcome change. 

After another day of driving I checked into the hotel and chilled out for half an hour. I walked over to the only restaurant I could see out of the window. This is where it got funny. 

I walked in, and instantly twigged that the people in the restaurant and sitting waiting for a table were all very smartly dressed. The waiters had clean white pressed shorts with a tie on. Well me walking in with my leggings, hoodie and trainers definitely stood out. I asked how long the wait was, and the woman said that there was no wait for a booth at the bar. Fine. 

I sat down and was given a wine list, a big long wine list. I was certainly not in a fast food place! Not feeling overly hungry I ordered an appetiser and a side salad. The waiter then cane over with freshly baked bread and oil. Yep this was a nice place. I started to with I had at least brushed my hair before coming out! 

I should point out this restaurant was on the end of a retail complex. It had a mobile phone shop next door and a fed Ex store next to that. The frontage made it look like a basic but nice family restaurant. Nothing to suggest it was a more up market place. The food was really good mind, which after checking the price of it I was glad. 

I ate, paid the bill and walked out pretty quickly. As I was walking out a party of a dozen young girls walked in. Must have been a birthday party, all dolled up to the nines. They were about 15, but dressed to try and look 18. They each walked in and looked a little shocked at me walking out. I was not in a puffy dress and high heels that I could not walk in, or have curled hair with pretty jewels in it. I laughed to myself and left. 

Well back at the hotel, and ready to plan for tomorrow. Ohiopyle tomorrow, which holds one building in particular I want to see!

Night dad x