Friday, October 25, 2013

Weekend in the District of Columbia

Capitol with dawn lighting

With some airline tickets leftover  from a cancelled trip, Chris and I had an October deadline to use them.  He called with an idea-- how about a quick trip to Washington, DC to photograph and play tourist.   As well traveled as I may be, the nation's capitol is a place I'd not visited, so I was  eager to try it.   Chris made reservations, back in September for this quick trip.

Once the arrangements were made, changing them was costly. We sweated-out the government closures. We decided we would have to go, but might be forced to find substitutes for the monuments and national buildings we wanted to visit and photograph.  Our discomfort over the change of things being closed was minimal compared to the overall damage caused by the shutdown and the disregard of the Constitutionally established methods for passing, implementing and reviewing legislation.   But don't get me started on that topic in my blog.   What I want to share is the awe, the pleasure, the pride I found in our nation's capitol. 

Yes, there are homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks and park; yes, there are issues.
Jefferson Memorial in evening light
But there are also beautiful buildings, monuments, repositories of national treasures, people out enjoying the mall and the Smithsonian, running in a special event and otherwise  enjoying a weekend of spectacular weather and the reopened treasures.  My hats are off to the National Park Service employees; the monuments and areas around them were clean, well landscaped, and welcoming.  I appreciate the park interpretive rangers who assist visitors in understanding the history behind the things we were seeing.  

We were fortunate.  The shut down ended just before we arrived.  It meant the monuments and buildings were open, but the crowds were down. The large tour companies had cancelled and individuals had held off making plans.

We took a "red-eye" arriving at our hotel about 6 am. on Saturday.  We didn't expect our room to be ready, so we stashed our luggage and headed out in the early morning light to explore.  We walked, and walked, photographed, walked some more, ate, and generally enjoyed a long day, returning to our hotel in time for a light dinner in the lounge downstairs before crashing into bed.  We were up the next morning at 5 am in order to be back out for early light.   What a treat.  We grabbed a taxi to get to the Lincoln Memorial early, but as we passed the WWII Memorial and saw what the light was doing, we told the cab driver to drop us there.  Later, we walked to the Lincoln Memorial.

Rather than text, I'll tell the story through a photo essay.   You can click on photos to enlarge or to show as a slide show.  The captions won't show so you may want to peruse first and then go back and see the photos in larger, more dramatic format.

Another shot of the capitol at first light

Jefferson Monument in early morning

The next three photos are interior shots of the Capitol Rotunda. We did a tour, one that was rather disappointing in both content and delivery. However, we had a volunteer docent later at the Library of Congress, and a couple of National Park Interpretive Rangers, who made up for it.

Early morning skyline

From the Jefferson Monument looking toward the Washington Monument, currently encased in scaffolding for  retrofitting after earthquake damage.
A highlight of the weekend was the Library of Congress.   I had never thought of the library in a physical sense as much as I had in the concept of a repository for information; books, documents, photographs and other records as well as a cataloging system used in libraries throughout the country and ISBN numbers for published books.   So, walking in the doors of the Jefferson Library, one of several buildings of the Library of Congress, was a treat.    A volunteer docent took us on a tour.  As an interpretive guide I am particular about the tours I take.  This one was outstanding.  

My shutter trigger finger went wild inside the building.   It may seem like a lot of photos to my readers, but this is just a tiny selection to whet your appetite for this outstanding edifice. 

The main reading room.

I didn't lie on the floor to take photos of the ceilings and details of the interior as did the young couple here.  My  fellow Yellowstone photo guide, Wim,  recommends this technique.   I did find some wide balustrades and set my camera on its back.

Ceiling skylights



 Of course we viewed the White House, from outside.  Unfortunately the First Lady didn't get word I would be in town and so I didn't have tea in the Rose Garden.
White House at night

We got up very early our second morning with the intent of getting to the Lincoln Memorial for sunrise.  We grabbed a taxi to make it on time.  But, before we reached the Lincoln site, our cab passed the WWII Memorial, yes, the one that has been in the news lately, and the light was too good to postpone this site until later.

Each star represents 100 lives of service men and women lost during WWII

The sunrise highlights the Lincoln Memorial from the WWII Memorial

We walked along the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.   This would have been special under any circumstances, but having just seen the incredible film, Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis playing the lead, increased the impact for me.

I walked around the majestic columns of the Lincoln Memorial and was greeted with this colorful sight.  This was the Army Ten-Mile event with 25,825 people racing.  Here they are crossing the Arlington  Memorial Bridge, over the Potomac,  with the cemetery in the background.

The stark simplicity of the Vietnam Memorial is testament to the somber tone of this monument.   I've seen the photos of the monument, crowded with people looking for the names of loved ones, placing wreaths, and standing in quiet remembrance.  I am glad it was a rather quiet day for our visit.  A few people walked through (as was true while we were at the other monuments as well) and it was a quiet time to reflect on one of the defining events of my generation.

The walking continued.  

Pavement in Freedom Plaza on  Pennsylvania Ave. 

We had Sunday Brunch at Old Ebbett Grill, the oldest restaurant in the District of Columbia.  It began in  1856, but has moved a few times.  The current site was established in 1983.

the Old PostOffice

The Washington Monument, complete with scaffolding with Capitol Building in the background

I knew my RVing friends would enjoy this.  In a whirlwind weekend you cannot do justice to the Smithsonian.  You can't do justice in weeks.   But we promised ourselves a brief foray into the American History Museum where we picked just one exhibit; transportation.   In the Natural History Museum we chose the section on tectonic plates which is helpful to me in understanding and explaining some of the earth's geology on my tours.  But we treated ourselves to a detour through the butterfly display where we were up close and personal with live butterflies.

We ran out of time in the air and space museum and barely saw the large entry lobby

Our final photo ops were the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the FDR Memorial.  Again, our timing was right and we caught it with the beautiful light at the MLK Memorial as the sun set.   This is a simple monument but its placement along the line of sight from the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson (seen in the distance) is appropriate.   From here, we went to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial which is great even after the light of day is gone.   An interpretive ranger from the National Park Service was still on duty to talk about FDR.

After dark at the MLKing, Jr memorial.

In the FDR Memorial

And that ended our whirlwind trip to the capitol.   We left the hotel at 5 a.m. to make our flight home.  The flight was delayed by two hours, not that the airline made any attempt to notify us.  But the weekend was a great success and I am ready to return, sometime when it can be a more leisurely time and I can see some of the many sights missed this time.

Remember you can click on a photo and see them all, in large size, in a photo strip.  You won't have the captions but you will be able to see all the photos in a better format.