Four Days in Washington, DC

4 people,
1 small hotel room,
7 museums,
5 monuments & memorials,
1 living history village,
and many miles later… I have some highlights to share.

Here we are on the steps of the National Gallery.

I’m that one… in the pink shirt. On that top step.   

Now do you see?

By the pillar… No, the other pillar.

I actually squealed (and got a slightly dirty look from a National Gallery guard) when I saw this painting…

I loved Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer and have always wanted to see “A Lady Writing” in person, but I had actually forgotten that the painting was here until I turned a corner and saw her.  Stunning.

The Smithsonian is simply amazing.  We spent time in the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of the American Indian, Museum of Air & Space, and Museum of Natural History, where the gems and minerals were just incredible.  (I thought of you and Samantha,


We also checked out the International Spy Museum, which not only has cool spy stuff like a lipstick pistol but also tons of fascinating history on espionage and its role in world events. 

Ford’s Theater was closed, but we toured the house across the street where Lincoln died after being shot.  I was impressed with the small historic site  but even more impressed with this man…

…a National Park Service guide who told the story of Lincoln’s assassination to a different group of visitors every ten minutes with the animation and enthusiasm of someone reporting it for the very first time.  I love people who do their work with passion.  And yes…it was neat to stand in the room, too.

Did you happen to see the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS over the weekend?  I was there.

Okay, technically, I was at the dress rehearsal on Saturday night and not the actual concert.  We packed a picnic and joined the crowd on the Capitol lawn for an evening of music from the National Philharmonic, United States Army Band, Sarah Brightman, Idina Menzel, Rodney Atkins, and Gladys Knight. 

It was a gorgeous night, so sitting out on the grass with the kids, listening to music was just perfect.

We also drove down to Colonial Williamsburg for a day, toured the Governor’s Palace, and checked out the historic park. 

My favorite stop was the apothecary, who had an authentic 18th century amputation kit. 

(If you’ve read Spitfire, you know why I was excited  to actually see the tools.)

Monday was our monument and memorials day, appropriately enough.  I especially liked seeing the World War II Memorial, which is new since my last trip to D.C. 

Looking back at the Washington Monument…

All along the memorials, we saw flowers, photos, letters, and other tributes to people’s loved ones.  So very many stories that we won’t soon forget.

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day Weekend brought a trip to the Finger Lakes to visit family on Canandaigua and Keuka Lakes, both lovely and swimming with activity (and both warmer than Lake Champlain, I might add!).  Weekend highlights include:

  • Shopping with Mom and Sis in a belated Mother’s Day celebration.
  • Eating an ice cream cone every day.
  • Catching three fish.
  • Joyfully watching J and E play with rowdy, fun cousins.
  • Laughing at husband and brother-in-law wearing wet suits to help install dock (no pictures…even though they were entertaining).
  • Visiting the grave site of one of my main characters in SPITFIRE…
    My historical novel SPITFIRE has two main characters – a fictional 12-year-old girl who disguises herself as a boy to fight in a Revolutionary War naval battle on Lake Champlain, and a real 12-year-old boy who was a documented crew member on board one of the vessels in the Battle of Valcour Island.  His name is Pascal de Angelis, and after that battle, he went on to do some privateering as the Revolution continued, spent some time in a British prison, and ultimately, settled down to found a village in Oneida County, NY.  That village, Holland Patent, is along Route 365 — one of the roads that leads from my house on Lake Champlain to our parents’ homes in the Finger Lakes.

    On Saturday, we stopped in Holland Patent to visit Pascal, who is buried in a cemetery not far from his old house.  It’s the first time I’ve been there since I spent a day at the Holland Patent Free Library, researching his life as I prepared to write SPITFIRE more than five years ago.  It’s also the first time my family has been with me to “meet” Pascal. It was like introducing them to an old friend.

    Today, Holland Patent is a pretty community with tree-lined streets and friendly people who are passionate about remembering their past.  The village green showcases a memorial to veterans, dating all the way back to the American Revolution. 

    P.C.J. is our Pascal.  (The CJ stands for Charles Joseph.  His son shared the same name.)

    If you keep driving along Route 365 through town, you come to the house where Pascal de Angelis lived when the village first began.  It’s easy for me to imagine the spirited young boy from SPITFIRE growing old here with his wife Elizabeth and their children.

    Not far from the house is the cemetery where Pascal and his family are buried.  It is truly a lovely resting place, full of tall old trees and creeping vines, and Pascal is surrounded by family and early villagers in this place that he made his home.

    This cemetery is beautifully tended, but somehow the flag that marks the graves of veterans had fallen down and blown from Pascal’s grave.  I’m not family, but I feel like I know him well enough that it bothered me, so I made sure it was back in the ground, secure, before we left.

    It may sound silly, but I told him about his book, too.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  Here was a boy who had already seen some rough waters at the age of twelve.  His father had died on a ship as the family moved from the Caribbean to the Northern Colonies.  The captain of that ship married Pascal’s mother almost immediately, and then when he got Benedict Arnold’s call for seamen on Lake Champlain, he took 12-year-old Pascal along with him.  The boy marked his 13th birthday on the day the  American ships were fleeing up the lake, with the British in hot pursuit.  Quite a coming of age.

    I wish Pascal had left behind more documents to tell the story of what kind of man he became, but unfortunately a journal from his days on Lake Champlain and a pension document at the end of his military career were all I could find.  I would love to know more about the man he became when the guns were quiet.  For this Memorial Day, though, it was enough to drop in and say hello, to let him know that children will soon be reading his story, and to honor the boy who grew up too quickly so many years ago on the waters that I now call home.