Returning to D.C.

My “kister” (cousin who is more like a sister) Judy, and I recently returned from Daughters of the American Revolution Continental Congress (CC) for our fourth time.  This event takes place in our nation’s capital in June. DAR members, guests, and family members come from all over the world to attend the week-long annual meeting.  Business sessions, committee meetings, and social functions are topped off with formal evening ceremonies at which national DAR award winners are honored.

We attended the first time when I was a new chapter regent (president) in 2012. We were able to schedule a week after CC to do some genealogy research, see the sights, and enjoy an amazing 4th of July fireworks display from the fourteenth floor condo of a friend of mine in Alexandria, Virginia. The panoramic view of twelve displays is imbedded in our memories.

Sweet Hall

When my “kister” became a chapter regent in 2016, we attended again.  This time we scheduled a week before CC to visit Williamsburg and Jamestown. Not only did we walk in the footsteps of William Claiborne, our tenth great-grandfather, the surveyor for Jamestown in the 1600’s, but we visited a home, built by his grandson, that is on the National Historic Register.  In case you’re interested visit: Sweet Hall.   We also had time to tour Monticello and Mt. Vernon.

Just getting to D.C. from the West Coast is a full day experience.  So, there isn’t time to do much sightseeing the first day.  This year we were ecstatic to have our room upgraded at the JW Marriott.  Being on the “Concierge Floor” and having access to the Executive Lounge was a treat.  We had a view of the Washington Monument, White House and other historic buildings.  This hotel is within walking distance of DAR Headquarters, weather permitting.

View of the Washington Monument

View from our hotel room

Encompassing an entire city block, DAR Headquarters is one of the world’s largest buildings of its kind owned and maintained exclusively by women. Ground was broken for DAR Constitution Hall on June 22, 1928. The cornerstone was laid by Mrs. Calvin Coolidge on October 30, 1928, using the trowel George Washington used to lay the cornerstone at the Capitol in 1793. Mrs. Herbert Hoover was the guest speaker at the formal dedication on April 19, 1929. The first musical event in the hall was on November 2, 1929 and featured Anna Case, Efrem Zimbalist, Sophie Braslau, and Hans Barth.

Memorial Continental Hall, the oldest building of the DAR complex with a seating capacity of 3,702, was designed in 1905 by prominent Washington architect Edward Pearce Casey, designer of the interior of the Library of Congress.

Memorial Continental Hall

Upon its completion, Memorial Continental Hall was quickly recognized as one of Washington, D.C.’s most elegant buildings. The design for the building is in the classical revival style of the beaux-arts. Because of its classical detailing, the Hall fits in well with the Colonial Revival movement.

Memorial Continental Hall was designated as a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1935 for its role in world history, which includes hosting the famous Conference on the Limitation of Armaments in the wake of WWI (1921). Diplomats from all over the globe met to discuss limits on the proliferation of arms. Their work at Memorial Continental Hall remains a recognized milestone in global peace efforts towards disarmament.

Constitution Hall was built in 1929 and designed by John Russell Pope.  Since 1930, members of the DAR have come to Constitution Hall to conduct business and elect new officers during their annual convention (CC). Over the years, Constitution Hall has hosted many popular performers and speakers.

In 1985, the Department of the Interior designated the building a National Historic Landmark due to its national recognition as a center for the performing arts. Constitution Hall is the largest concert hall in Washington, D.C. and hosts a variety of events including concerts, speakers, films, graduations, corporate events, award ceremonies, television productions and gala dinners.

DAR Headquarters also houses the DAR museum, which collects, preserves, and exhibits objects made and used by Americans prior to the Industrial Revolution. Decorative arts are the primary focus of the museum, which has been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums for over four decades. Changing exhibitions and educational programs for all ages provide a variety of opportunities for visitors to experience the DAR Museum. Guided tours of 31 period rooms are available daily.
The museum includes:

  • A collection of over 30,000 early American artifacts;
  • Changing exhibition in the Main Gallery;
  • Permanent exhibits in thirty-one Period Rooms illustrating American decorative arts from the 1600’s to the early 20th century.

For more information visit: DAR Museum.

Our first full day will be busy with a tour of the U.S. Daughters of 1812 Headquarters and Museum, another lineage organization to which we belong.  Then attendance at a luncheon at Gordon Biersch with the other Oregon daughters attending CC. This will be followed by registration at DAR Headquarters, and our annual dinner at Old Ebbit Grill.

Old Ebbit Grill was Washington’s first saloon, founded in 1856.  It boasts a rich history and a “Who’s Who” list of patrons. With three hundred employees, they serve as many as one thousand customers a day.  One of our group members makes the reservation and we have a table in an alcove that makes conversation much easier in the very busy and noisy environment.  The half-mile walk from the hotel is slightly uphill getting there and much easier going back.

After a very full day, we were ready to settle down to sleep!

Notes from a non-recovering Cruise-a-holic

As fairly experienced cruisers, we’ve learned a few tricks over the years that help make cruising more affordable. Having a Holland America credit card, that earns double points on all Holland America charges (ie the cruise itself, shore excursions, onboard expenses, etc.), has been worthwhile for us.  The 0% annual fee is a plus. However, this isn’t a card I’d recommend unless you are a frequent cruiser with Holland America.  We trade the points for onboard amenities, gift cards and merchandise. As a bonus, you can use them for airfare statement credits.  

Carnival Corporation is the majority owner in the four major cruise corporations.  We purchased one hundred shares of Carnival Corporation stock a few years ago.  As the parent company for Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, AIDA, P&O Cruises (UK), P&O Cruises (Australia), Seabourn, and Cunard, shareholders get benefits when sailing on these lines.

For each fourteen day or longer cruise, we receive $250 credit per stateroom on Holland America.  An additional perk is that the stock has increased in price since we bought, so we’ve also received dividends!  Our investment has paid for itself and reaped benefits.  The best of both worlds.

Though it does take time, we check several sources for information about ports and shore excursions.  One of the best has been Cruise Critic, especially for longer cruises.  For every cruise, their website has a “roll call.”  You can easily join Cruise Critic by registering on their website: https://www.cruisecritic.com.  Besides finding our “Roll Call” for the cruise we’re doing, information is available on destinations, ships, deals, cruise tips, news and reviews.  

Through this we’ve “met” people ahead of the cruise that share common interests!  For longer cruises someone usually takes charge and organizes an onboard  “Meet and Greet.”   And, many other cruisers share information about shore excursions they’ve researched and want to share with others to reduce expenses.  We’ve enjoyed the pleasure of shared experiences organized through these connections.  Besides the delight of the excursion, friendships germinate that  last for years.

For last year’s Grand South America cruise, another couple (Tim and Julie) posted about a penguin excursion.  Not being sure whether it would be too strenuous for my Honey, I inquired about the physical difficulty.   Tim  (from Minnesota, my Honey’s home state) checked with the travel agent and we decided against him trying this one. I did it and had a great time though!

Bishop’s Finger and Old Speckled Hen beers with our tour guide, Jimmy

With a few penguins

Magellanic penguins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did connect  with the travel agent who booked us on an amazing private penguin tour in the Falklands that was very doable for my Honey.   Not only did we arrive at the prime penguin viewing area a half an hour ahead of the ship’s tours, we went to the Globe Tavern afterward for adult beverages.  My Honey had a “Bishop’s Finger” and I enjoyed the “Old Speckled Hen” beer. Our tour guide, Jimmy, who seemed happy with our tip, treated us!

We ended up booking other private tours through Jelena, each  with excellent results, and have referred her to several friends. I very much appreciate that she is well traveled and responds in a timely manner to my inquiries.

Lunch on the balcony at Viñamar de Casablanca

With Sebastian, our guide, and Leonardo, our driver

At Viñamar de Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Valparaiso, Chile, Jelena arranged a tour to the Casablanca wine region.  Not only did we have a tour guide, we had our own driver!  Besides visiting several wineries, we went to one where we enjoyed a gourmet lunch overlooking the vineyard.  

Here is Jelena’s email:  jelena@skitara.com.  We’re currently booking shore excursions through her for our next cruise.

A few other helpful websites are:

https://www.tripadvisor.com

https://www.whatsinport.com

https://www.cruisingexcursions.com

Costco members can check:
https://www.costcotravel.com/Info/Shore-Excursions

It’s nice to have options . . . and, the fun of researching possibilities! Holland America seems to have realized that cruisers are smarter than the average bear.  They now offer a Best Price Guarantee.  From their website, “To apply for the onboard credit:

  1. Book your tours through Holland America Line.
  2. If you find the same tour elsewhere that is priced comparatively lower, complete the required fields below and submit the form. You must be logged into the booking # that contains the tour purchased through Holland America.
  3. Within two business days, you will be notified by email regarding the status of your request. If your request is accepted, you will receive 110% of the difference in the form of a non-refundable onboard credit to your shipboard account.”

We haven’t used this option yet, but will certainly give it a try!  Note the term, “comparatively lower.”  One of the tours we’re considering is only $5 more on Holland America.  Hmmmm . . . that might not qualify.  At any rate, we’re having fun trying to find things we haven’t done before and are getting excited about the adventure!