I had a tough beginning to my week last week, I’m not going to go into it here, but I really needed to get away, and thankfully I had a trip planned to Washington, D.C.! I went to visit my friend Katelin who is in law school out there, which was great, not only because I love her, but also because I got to have the perks of travelling alone (only having to go to the places I wanted to) with none of the drawbacks (I still had someone to eat dinner with at the end of the day.)
I took a million and one pictures – that I, for complicated logistical reasons, left in D.C. and will upload when I get them from Katelin (probably after her finals) – so the pictures in this post are just from google…sorry.
Here’s my list of my 5 favorite toursity things I did while in “our nation’s capital” (as every P.A. announcement and ad referred to D.C.):
1. National Archives
Yes, I had to wait in line for a ridiculous amount of time, and the actual Constitution and Declaration of Independence are really too faded to actually read. But despite this, it was still a really cool experience. For one, I thought it was really heartening that there was that long of a line, that that many people wanted to come and pay homage in some way to these documents that are the literal foundation of our country. Also the building itself is gorgeous. The architect, according to the little visitor brochure I was handed on my way in, wanted to build a “temple to history.” And it really feels like that, to the point where lining up to walk into the rotunda, feels a bit like lining up for Communion. (But not in a creepy way or anything.)
2. National Portrait Gallery
I went here my first afternoon in D.C., but by the time I came across the room devoted (temporarily Katelin later assured me) to the life of Ronald Reagan, I was already on Gipper overload, but then I came across a liberal cure. The special exhibition rooms devoted to social movement leaders and a really great visiting installation The Black List. I especially loved, the video interviews, which I can’t find them anywhere on-line.The portaits were all straightforward and clear. I especially liked this one of Maya Rudolph:
3. American History Museum’s First Ladies Wing
I love the Smithsonian; I love that it’s free, and I love archival collections. But I’m also really girly sometimes, and I love dresses and balls (I’ve never been to a ball, but I’m sure I would love it.) So it was a lovely surprise to stumble upon the collection of inaugural ball gowns in the American History Museum. It was incredibly crowded, but some of the dresses were worth it (both the beautiful and the strange.)
4. National Cathedral The National Cathedral was the only tourist attraction I visited that was pretty far off the Mall, in fact with the strangely shifting weather of springtime in D.C. and the ridiculously long escalator ride it takes to exit the Tenleytown Metro stop it felt like a bit of an epic quest to get there. But it is really gorgeous once you do. Even with the mesh protecting the altar from loosened rock (collateral damage from the earthquake last summer) the main sanctuary definitely lived up to expectations, but my favorite part of that day was definitely the basement chapels. There are at least 3 of them, and I wouldn’t be surpised if there were more hidden away somewhere, and despite the fact that they are underground, and therefore necessarily dark and a bit gloomy feeling, I thought they were so comfortable feeling somehow.
5. Folger Shakespeare Library
Located behind the Library of Congress, the Folger is a beautiful art deco temple to Shakespeare, but it also is the home of the world’s best docent, Harold.He was incredibly proud of working at the Folger, and he really wanted all of us who came there to know it. Technically the library is not open to the public, but Harold really wants to show it to you. He also wants to tell you that the library is almost 80 years old, and that they have more First Folio’s than any other place in the world, by A LOT.The exhibit I went there to see was also very interesting. And I broke my rule against buying new books, to buy this beautiful little chapbook: