Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dec 29 - Hello Washington DC!

This morning we treated ourselves to something that I love, the hotel buffet breakfast! It was reasonably priced and the children ate free so we thought we'd give it go. There's nothing like being able to choose a little bit of this and a little bit of that to start off the day!
I have been looking forward to visiting Washington DC for a while. Recently, my interest had been refueled by Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol! Our first stop was the US Capitol. We were booked on a 930 tour of the US. Security into the visitor centre wasn't too bad other than being strict about the no food and drink restriction. We had to throw out our apple and bottle of water. It was fortuitous that we forgot to bring our usual snack pack for Jonah. The Kohs had to leave their water bottles outside and hoped that it will still be there upon their return.
They were very organised inside and they do make it easy for families with strollers. The tour was highly informative and I thought it was of the right length. My only complaint was that my little headphone set was not working so at times I couldn't hear our guide properly. It certainly didn't take away from my experience though.
The rotunda was simply amazing. The famous “Apotheosis of Washington” fresco painted on the dome of the rotunda was so much more impressive in real life. 36 windows then surround the dome and immediately below that was the “Frieze of American History”, painted to appear as carved stone. The details were phenomenal. On the circular walls hung eight enormous oil-on-canvas historical paintings, painted by different artists. To the south of the rotunda was the semi-circular National Statuary Hall, a chamber devoted to sculptures of prominent Americans. The room has special acoustic properties such that if you stand at a particular spot in the room, you can hear the sounds from the corresponding spot on the other side of the room clearly even with competing background noises.
The US Capitol

Visitor Center (its driving me nuts not to spell it "centre!)
The impressive rotunda, windows then "Frieze of American History"
The dome of the rotunda
Close up
Even closer...
Detailed panels on the dome
The remarkable "3D" relief

"Women's Suffrage Movement"

Pocahontas being baptised so she can marry John Rolfe
A bust of Abraham Lincoln in the crypt of the Capitol

The semicircular Statuary Hall

Clio, the muse of History
The beautiful details on the ceiling
At the completion of our tour, we went through a tunnel which took us from the Capitol into the Library of Congress. It is yet another beautifully ornate building. The Jefferson library was inspiring. They did the display well with interactive "virtual" stations in front of each section where you were able to browse through the collection electronically and even read the pages! If not for the children, I could have been there for hours.

Library of Congress

The scale of this impressive building once again difficult to capture on camera!
The ceiling

Walking past the Supreme Court on the way to lunch
We walked back to Union Station for a quick lunch before taking the Circulator bus towards the National Cathedral, yet another incredible building. The scale of this gothic church was immense. The number of beautiful stained glass windows seemed infinite and I was so frustrated at being unable to capture the intense colours on camera. Malcolm pointed out a photography class learning how to take photos of the inside of a church and kindly informed me that they were talking about stained glass windows. However, his eavesdropping did not take in the vital information of the "how-to"! Arghh!!! After a quick view of the city from the observation deck on the 7th floor, we caught a taxi to Georgetown for some retail therapy.

National Cathedral
A cavernous interior, facing the main altar

One of the many stained glass windows
A reluctant Elliot at the observatory on the 7th floor

Mary, cradling her babe
The rose window

Georgetown was just gorgeous! It was so cute and quaint. I loved the feel of the area. The shops, however, were mostly your stock standard big brand names. It was nice browsing but I didn't find any super bargains nor did I find anything that I loved. Malcolm, however, bought a whole lot of things from GAP at a bargain. Hmmm...perhaps I was not looking hard enough. Darn those pesky children!
We had a lovely dinner at the Daily Grill. The children's meal was HUGE. For $5, they got a delicious chicken and vegetable pot pie, a drink and ice-cream. The adult meal was just as proportionate. I looked at my burger wondering how a normal person can eat this much. We shopped a bit more after dinner until the whining of the children became unbearable. So back to the hotel we went to end a great first day at the nation's capitol.

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