Saturday, November 16, 2013

Washington Wrap-Up

The weather turned quite a bit colder on Tuesday. Though it was only in the 40's, the humidity and the wind combined to make it bone-chilling. We were glad that we had been able to enjoy Mt. Vernon and the monuments and memorials in good weather the day before.

We started out the day with a visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Roman Catholic cathedral that I mistakenly thought was the site of President Kennedy's funeral. The interior of this church frankly struck me as cold and sterile.

We next retraced our route on the Metro to Union Station and walked from there to the Supreme Court Building, then across the street to the Capitol. The court was in session, so we were unable to see the actual courtroom, but it was still cool to see the place where so many historic decisions have been made and where so many demonstrations have been held over the years.

I hadn't thought we would be able to get on a tour of the Capitol, but we were able to walk in to a tour that was just starting as we arrived. I had hoped that we would be able to arrange a private tour by a congressional staffer - which is what we did in 2005 when I was there with Sarah, Adam and Hannah - but such was not the case this time. Nevertheless, we saw a nice film, followed by a tour of the Rotunda, the old Senate chamber and Statuary Hall.

"The Apotheosis of George Washington" in the dome of the Capitol

After a light lunch in the cafeteria of the Capitol Visitor Center, we undertook a bone-chilling walk to the Air and Space Museum. The highlight of our visit there was the IMAX 3-D presentation of "Hubble," which featured eye-popping and mind-blowing images of distant reaches of the known universe.

By the time we left the museum, we were a bit tired and frankly didn't feel like being out in the cold wind anymore. We took the Metro back to our hotel adjacent to George Washington University, had some down time in our room, then went out to eat after having eaten salads in our room the previous two nights.

The next morning, we were up bright and early and left for the White House at about 7:30. There was some mix-up on Mark's birthdate, so he had to stand off to one side for about 15 minutes while he was "re-cleared" as I waited. By the time we got to the next check point, where our names and birth dates were again checked prior to going through screening, we were both shivering in the cold.

The public tours of the White House consist of viewing a few rooms in the basement and all of the rooms on the first floor. Secret Service agents are in each room, watchfully surveying everyone and - technically - available to answer questions about the various rooms. When I and the kids toured the place in 2005, our Congressman had personally escorted us and arranged, as I recall, for a much more intimate tour. This time, it was much different; but Mark was able to visit the White House, and that's the important thing. As we walked out the front door, Mark quipped, "All that for a 15-minute tour."

After some breakfast, we headed back to the hotel, checked out, then drove to the National Cathedral, which was on our way to the airport.

It had been a good trip. Fun, thought-provoking, enriching. The time we had spent with Rachel in Philadelphia had been wonderful, and the time in Washington had been very meaningful in a way that I had not anticipated. I'm glad we went.

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