August 8, 2010

Not Quite the Other Side of the Smithsonian

July 7, 2010--With the weather being so hot through the first 4 days of the Pennsylvania Triangle, I figured I would get a really early start on Day 5 to beat the heat. I woke up and had buffet-style breakfast in the hotel terrace restaurant. There was a chef on hand making omelets to order, flipping the eggs in the pan with artistic flair. It was very impressive.

I was out and walking to the subway by 8:00AM. Most of the museums wouldn't be open for a few hours, so I chose to make the Jefferson Memorial my first destination. It is a long walk from the subway station and my early start didn't trick the sun. By the time I reached the memorial, the heat of the day was already in full force, topping out at 101 degrees.

The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite of the monuments. I have always thought Thomas Jefferson to be one of the most interesting and unique figures in American history, a man way before his time, brilliant in many ways. This beautiful domed structure, the statue it houses, and the profound words that adorn the walls are a great tribute to a great individual. I sat on one of the benches for a long time, pondered the words and scenery that surrounded me. This is an awesome place.

My next stop was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. There is a wing of the museum called "Daniels Story." It takes the visitor on a poignant journey through the life of Daniel and his family from happy childhood in Germany to concentration camp. The tale is told through diary entries that hang on the walls; the surroundings put the visitor right into the story. Very well done, moving and intense...

From there, I walked across the National Mall to Constitution Ave NW, where another row of Smithsonian museums waited. My plan was to walk the length of Constitution Ave, taking in the museums the way I had done on Day 4. However, the elements were really beating me and my feet had turned to lead long before I reached the American History Museum. I had to stop for a moment so I sat down beneath a shady tree. I took a banana out of my bag and started to peel it. Just then, a squirrel hopped from the tree and squatted beside me. I broke off a chunk of the banana and offered it to him. He took it out of my fingers and began eating. I sat beneath that shady tree for quite a while, catching my breath and having a snack with my new friend. It was a nice moment.

The Museum of American History is another 4-level building full of great exhibits chronicling the growth of America in transportation, science, popular culture, warfare, etc.

By this time I was having trouble walking around. I was exhausted from the heat. I knew that I would not be able to walk the entire length of Constitution Ave so I decided to go straight to the one place that I didn't want to miss: The National Archives!

Photography is not permitted inside the Archives building, but what I saw looked kinda like this:

Defeated by the heatwave, I stepped off of Constitution Ave, leaving the Smithsonian museums behind me to find a restaurant for lunch. I discovered a great place called the Gordon Biersch Brewery. I am amazed by the fact that even the restaurants in Washington DC seem to all have that familiar classical architecture. I entered the dinning room to see the beer brewing vats gleaming before me. I ordered a plate of spicy jumbalaya and a sampler tray of their microbrews. Let me say that when it comes to drinking beer, I definitely go for quality and not quantity. I love to taste the care and artistry in my glass. I never drink to get intoxicated. Everything at Gordon Biersch was delicious and I was very happy to be resting indoors. :)

Refreshed from lunch and getting my second wind, I walked over to Ford's Theatre. Entering this hallowed place takes one on a trip back to April 14, 1865. First, guests pay a visit to the basement museum that follows the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Photographs and movie reels give a glimpse into the life of the man. An announcement is soon made and the visitors are told to migrate to the main theatre. Here, one sees the President's Box draped in American flags and hears the story of Confederate spy, John Wilkes Booth, and the assassination of America's 16th president. It gives one an eerie, chilling feeling to be standing in the very room where such an important historical figure was murdered. I became wrapped up in a moment of great reverence. Ford's Theatre was definitely one of the highlights of my trip to Washington DC.

From Ford's Theatre, it is a short walk to the White House.

After returning to the Hilton to clean up and rest for a little while, I was back on the subway headed to Nationals Park to see the Washington Nationals play the San Diego Padres. There is nothing better than to be at a ballpark on a clear summer evening, hot dog and soda in hand. The sky gets lit up with fireworks every time one of the Nationals players hits a home run. A beautiful night. A fun game...

"He that followeth
after righteousness and mercy
findeth life, righteousness, and honor."

~Proverbs 21:21