Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Washington, D.C. in Five Days

Eric and I decided to take a vacation, just the two of us, to Washington, D.C. We realized it had been years since we had taken such a trip, and felt that it was overdue. Since we've made that decision, we're desperately trying to make up for lost time and make the most of our location -- in addition to D.C., we took last week's trip to Chicago and have another one planned for July.

We returned late in the evening yesterday. Since you are not a captive audience, I'll spare those of you who don't want the full details and photos and sum up our trip here: we walked way too many hours every day, I have never been through so many metal detectors, and we crammed a lot of the traditional sights into our itinerary. In short, we enjoyed ourselves.

Here's a whirlwind recap.

Day 1 - Thursday
Wake up around 4:30 AM, head to the airport. I brought size 13 metal knitting needles through security to work on a scarf with nary a second glance (I've taken small sock needles through before, but these are as thick as my thumb).

After a layover, which contained a nice breakfast in the Detroit airport, we took a train and then a taxi to our hotel, located near the Capitol.

Walk to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for our tour. I wasn't allowed to take any photos during the tour, but here's a fun photo of a $500,000,000 certificate from way back.

Explore the National Mall for several hours, take many pictures and walking breaks. Gain a couple blisters. My favorite memorial is the one dedicated to FDR. They had four sprawling 'rooms,' one for each of his terms. I apologize for the difficulty in reading the quotation; the sun didn't cooperate.

Eat dinner at the hotel restaurant around 9 PM. Way overpriced for negligible quality.

Day 2 - Friday
Take a tour of the Capitol. Stand in a security line for about 40 minutes with all the schoolchildren in town. That set us back and limited some browsing later. This photo is of the 'whispering room,' where Congress originally met. The acoustics are such that in certain spots, you can be on opposite sides of the room from a small, whispering gathering, and it is as if there is a microphone projecting those words to you. We had a small demonstration and I admit it was impressive.

Head to the Library of Congress, take another tour. Drool over the glass display containing Jefferson's library collection (alas, no photos allowed). Wish that architects took as much pride in building details as they did then, although I realize it all comes down to money.

Go to the Supreme Court for yet another tour. Learn the Court will be in session on Monday, and decide to nix the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum so that we can come back.

Head to a yarn shop (Stitch DC), spend money on yarn and a book. They forgot to include one of my small items in my bag, and when I called for them to credit my account when we returned home, they offered to mail the product to me instead, citing how this is cheaper financially for them, as the credit-card fees are high. I don't mind in the least, as this means I still get my purchase.

Meet some friends from college for a nice dinner. It was a great chance to catch up since we haven't seen each other in three years (since their wedding).

Day 3 - Saturday
The Holocaust Museum took four hours to explore. It was sobering, as we were prepared for. In one transition room, they have the sides of the floor covered several deep of shoes that had been taken from the victims. In others, collections of scissors and utensils collected. One bright spot was Denmark, whose citizens united to save 90 percent of their Jews, and of the 500 who were taken, only 51 died. Refreshing to see a positive mark, when so many other countries feared helping Jews and instead let them perish. We could have easily spent more time there. Our main reason for finally leaving, however, was the desire for food (it was after 2 PM).

We traveled to Chinatown and ate at a little Chinese place. Then it was time to check out the National Portrait Gallery. We browsed the main floor, but I was mostly interested in the presidential portraits, so I made a beeline for that section. Eric especially appreciated the political cartoons that were at the end of the gallery, and I caught a few of those.

Finally, we took in the National Archives; after all, we thought it would be good to see the documents that shaped our nation. It's amazing to see how faded they are; in particular, the Declaration of Independence was nearly illegible. Pictures may follow for this and later days once I transfer them to my computer.

Day 4 - Sunday
By Saturday, I was beginning to lag -- there was only so much walking I could be expected to do, and apparently being out for up to 12 hours is too much. We decided to cut out the Natural History Museum.

Instead, we filled our day with a trip to the Zoo and the National Cathedral.

The animals at the zoo were smart, and were out in the early morning, but we had less luck later in the day as the sun beat down.

At the National Cathedral, we caught -- you guessed it -- another tour. In case you were curious, they have a moon rock in one of their stained-glass windows. And more chapels than you can count.

Day 5 - Monday
We stood in line to hear the Supreme Court in session; they were handing down decisions, and we were able to watch them for the half hour they were in court. Chief Justice Roberts introduced Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia as they passed on the decisions. Then a few lawyers were admitted to the Supreme Court Bar, and the session was over.

After a great lunch at a small local deli, we checked out of our hotel and began our trip home. Our cat, even though we had friends checking in on her, was so delighted to see us return.

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