Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Travel Tuesday - Washington DC, The Final Word

This is the last word on our trip to Washington this summer. If you want to read my previous posts, you can click here and here and here.

Day 3
Guess what. It was hot again. Really hot. Who ever thought going to Washington DC in August was a good idea?

Believe me, we figured out pretty quickly why Congress takes a recess in August. And it's not to give the tourists a break from all the long lines (although that was one of the side-benefits we liked). It's just too darn hot to be in that city in August! Nancy Pelosi's linen suits would get all wrinkled in that heat and humidity, and we can't have that now, can we?

Not to be deterred by the heat, we headed out early. We had scheduled an 11:30 Capitol tour, so we thought we'd check out the Library of Congress first. I remember visiting this building when I was in high school, but I had forgotten how spectacular it was.

Here's just one example of the beautiful mosaic work that surrounds most of the walls and ceiling:

"Shelley" . . . get it?!

As book lovers, we all fell in love with the Library of Congress--especially the special display of Thomas Jefferson's library. Talk about amazing! There we were with all of his books; I felt like we could almost touch history (but we didn't dare!). We didn't have time to take a tour, but we all agreed that next time we're in Washington that would be at the top of our list.

Know why we didn't have more time to spend at the Library of Congress? Because we had to zip across the street to the Capitol Building for our 11:30 tour.

I've already written a little bit about our Capitol tour here (go to the section labeled "Bad"). This was two hours of our lives that we'll never get back, and I'd really rather not rehash that experience, so I'll just leave it at that. Except to mention that once we finished with Tonythemonotonetourguide, we were starving, so we headed to the Capitol Building cafeteria where we spent $45 for a pretty mediocre lunch--B and I even shared a sandwich and we still almost had to leave our firstborn!

We all wished we had stayed back at the Library of Congress.

Anyway, fed and relatively happy, we headed down the street to the National Archives. I guess you could say we were taking the "National Treasure" tour that day since so many of the places we visited were in that movie. I wanted to see the Declaration of Independence because my family lore has it that one of the signers of the Declaration is my great-great-great-great-great (yes, five greats) grandfather--Charles Carroll of Carrollton, MD. Funny thing is, he's also highlighted in "National Treasure." (Of course, my husband would quibble with that family lore, but until it's proven otherwise, I'm sticking to my story.)

Because lines were short, we were able to zip in and out of the Archives pretty quickly. It's definitely worth it to take a look at the most famous documents in American history. Very cool (in more ways than one). And, once again, free. Plus, they have one of the best gift shops in DC.

After the Archives, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do next, so we started walking toward the White House. But, have I mentioned it was hot? Just a few blocks down the street, we needed to get inside again, and since we were near the Old Post Office Pavilion, we ducked inside to get some relief from the heat.

In my research before the trip I had read that you could get a great view of Washington if you went to the top of the observation tower in the Old Post Office Pavilion. (And, yes, it's free!) So we braved the old, rickety elevator that wasn't air conditioned and made it to the top. Kind of a fun detour and definitely a great view. This picture was taken from up there--you can see the roofs of the Federal Triangle buildings in the foreground.

Our last stop for the day was the White House. We had seen the south side of the building on our bike tour, but I wanted the rest of the family to see the north side. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, everyone was SO hot and SO crabby, that they didn't exactly appreciate the view. Needless to say, the Christmas card picture didn't happen. 'Nuff said.

Day 4
On our last day in Washington DC, B looked at me and said, "I feel like how I felt on the last day at Disney World." That pretty much sums it up. Tired. Exhausted. Hot. And starting to get ready to go home.

But we had a plan and we were determined to execute the plan if it killed us. It very nearly did.

Before we left, we decided that each family member could choose one thing that they really wanted to see or do. Mine was the National Archives . . . and the bus tour . . . and the bike tour. It pays to be the trip planner.

Abby's choice was to see the American History Museum of the Smithsonian. Maggie wanted to see the International Spy Museum. So those were on our list for the last day.

The American History Museum is really fun. We found all of the wonderful treasures that we wanted to see like Dorothy's ruby red slippers from "The Wizzard of Oz," the original flag that "The Star Spangled Banner" was written about, and, best of all, Julia Child's kitchen. Abby was our tour guide that day, and I'd say we pretty much saw every square inch of that museum. Again, this was one of those days when August played to our advantage because the lines were minimal. I really wouldn't want to be there over Spring Break.

We started melting down on our way to the Spy Museum. Literally. Hunger and heat were taking their toll on us. I think we would have killed each other if we weren't actually in public. Thank goodness for the cafe where we got some lunch and a little respite from our day--it saved our lives.

Next, the International Spy Museum. We had heard about this from some friends who had been to Washington earlier in the summer, so Maggie decided this would be her pick. I had reserved tickets online before we left, but we showed up about an hour early. Thankfully, they let us in.

This is an interesting museum (and one of the very few places we actually had to pay for admission) based on the CIA and FBI and spying of all kinds. Kind of made me want to start a new career. Many of the displays are interactive--the kids seem to love it--but it's a little narrow in places, and crowded, so you can't get near all of the screens. Even so, it was fun. If there's a little James Bond in you, check out the Spy Museum--you'll enjoy it.

Believe me, after that busy, crazy, hot, go-go-go week we were ready to head home. After a fun night in Grove City, PA, visiting with some very dear college friends, we finally made it home. To our beloved doggie, our own comfy beds, and mountains of laundry.

Even though it was a great trip, I'm with Dorothy. . . . There's no place like home.

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