Time for a little break from populism and policy, two of my friends are in the district today (visiting from Arizona, which officially has more snow than Washington) and are doing the machine gun version of sightseeing. I get to tag along for the ride. Photos and views from the outside to be added later today!
UPDATE: The Actual Day
We woke up quite early in order to catch the bus over to the metro station. Now, while I do praise the public transit system in the metro area, the bus by my house is a rush-hour only bus, so it makes the available schedule for getting into and out of DC and bit tight.
That being said, we made it through the surprisingly light traffic to the metro itself, and trundled to the Smithsonian stop by mid-morning. Our first stop was the National Archives, where the founding documents of America are held. Our brief wait outside had us listening to a liberal political science professor from Kansas and a conservative tourist from Oklahoma exchanging lively words as to the relative worth or lack thereof of Obama, government, and Katherine Sibelius. I followed what any DC local would do and did not get involved in political discussions. Those are for work, not tourism.
The Archives opened up at 10:00 am and we were able to go right up to the documents, read the history of the paper, the writers, the importance of events surrounding them and the context they were written in, and what the faded text actually
Where America's foundations lay
reads as. Going in the off season is much nicer than a summer visit, you actually have time to spend with the documents, taking in their full import, rather than shuffling past to let the next thousand people in. After visiting the documents, we went into the exhibits section and learned about the specialty cases which hold the documents, as well as what kind of records are kept in the building – everything from census data to genealogies to the report cards of past presidents.
We left the archives behind and crossed the street to the National Gallery of Art. A perennial favorite of mine. We walked through the American and French painters from the 19th century – wonderful exhibit; and my first real introduction to American art.
National Gallery of Art
Walking through the art is always a pleasant experience, and this time was no different. The landscapes and figures are painted in immaculate hues. Homer and Ryder, two well known painters, are part of the permanent collection, and are well worth checking out.
We had to cut our visit to the Art museum short in order to make it to the Capital building before lunch. As we walked towards the building, one of my friends commented ‘It’s so much bigger then it looks’. Followed up by ‘Why is it still so far away’, a theme which continued throughout the day. The sentiment, however amusing, is true. Any one of the museums or monuments can look like it is right across the street, and still be a half mile away. We eventually made it though, and took a few photos of the building. The Capital building is both extremely large and extremely impressive, but in order to get the proper tour which we were unable to do that day, you should schedule one with your House Representative of Senator’s office. We also watched the tour groups pretend they were holding the capital on their shoulders, looked for some protestors (there weren’t any; congress is still out of session), watched the Capital police and the secret service drive around and then soldiered on to lunch.
Lunch was at one of my favorite burger joints, Good Stuff Eatery, owned by Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef fame. They serve up burgers, fries, and milkshakes, and do all of the above extremely well. Lunch consisted of fried vidalia onion petals, hand cut fries, the blazin barn burger (pickled daikon, carrot, mint, cilantro, thai basil, spicy mustard) and spike’s sunnyside (farm fresh cheese, bacon, egg, brioche bun, special sauce).
From lunch we went back to the metro, took it from Capital South to the Smithsonian again, and walked to the Washington Memorial. The stop consisted of walking around the base of the memorial and then continuing on. Tickets are available to ride to the top, but are on a timed schedule, which we could not wait for. After the Washington Monument, we went to the World War II monument. It was the first time I had been to the WWII monument and I was impressed.
WWII Monument at Night
The monument is under repair currently, so the water was off, but the even the effect of an empty concrete bowl seems poignant to the memory of those who served.
We spent about twenty minutes reading the inscriptions in the stone before we walked down the reflecting pool and to the Lincoln memorial. The statue of Lincoln remains as impressive as ever and his speeches, carved into the marble walls, as timely and moving as their reputation deserves. We left the Lincoln memorial and walked the short distance over to the Vietnam memorial, both a saddening experience to see the names of the dead, and even more poignant since the man who helped make the memorial possible was recently found dead.
The Lincoln Memorial
From the Vietnam Memorial, we trekked up to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station and over to Arlington National Cemetery, our final stop along the monument and memorial trails for the day. At Arlington we made the two major stops everyone must when they visit. First stop was John F Kennedy’s grave, with its eternal flame and “ask not” speech engraved in front of a sweeping vista of Washington. The second was the tomb of the unknown soldier, where the changing of the guard can be witnessed – a symbolic show of respect to all of the unknown Americans who died overseas.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Our whirlwind tour of the monuments concluded with the changing of the guard at 4 pm. After six hours of sightseeing and 7.2 miles of walking, it was time for some food, beer, and rest.
We took the metro up to the DuPont circle exit and walked over the Kramer’s Books and Afterward’s Cafe, a local favorite which serves excellent varieties of both books and beer. My favorite is the Banana Bread Beer, which tastes exactly as its name suggests. After a couple of beers and some rest, we got back on our weary feet and walked the short distance over to Brickskeller, a Washington DC icon. I was more than a little startled to find out that it had changed ownership and is now under the name ‘Bier Baron’. I am still unsure as to how I feel about this development, but the beer list appeared to be the same and it was dinner time. After settling into the name change, the experience was still great. The beer selection is wonderful – somewhere around 500 different options, and the food was better than before. I’ll continue to watch what comes from this change in ownership and hope that it will continue to interest me, because the environment (underground, brick walls) is what really appeals. From the Bier Baron we walked back towards DuPont and to my favorite bar so far, Darlington House.
Darlington House bar
The service is always friendly and the drinks are both well mixed and stiff (try a Manhattan). We spent about an hour there before calling it a night, around 9:30 pm, and walking back to the metro and home.
It was a long, packed, and fun day, and in my opinion, one of the best ways to do the most of DC possible in a day.