Tuesday, July 24, 2007

D.C. Trip Travel Log 2

[Once again, my pictures were taken by Jonathan, and clicking them links to his blog.]

Monday, July 23, 2007. 10:30 PM Eastern Time.

After wending through the woods for some time along the beautiful Patomic, the city of Washington opened before us. One moment, we were in the forest, and the next, there was the massive wall of the Pentagon ahead, girdled by a sizable parking lot.

We were on the Virginia side of the river, and, looking to the left, we caught glimpses of the White House and the Washington Monument. We drove through the city about an hour looking for our hotel. It was only a couple of miles away, but the roads' erratic directions, abrupt dead ends, and confusing names (e.g. 1st Street NE, 1st Street SW, 1st Street SE, etc.) made finding our way difficult.

But that was OK. On the way, we got a flavor for the city. The road was exciting: Since the sides were already filled with parked vehicles or too narrow to admit them, cars kept stopping right in the middle of the street. Some of us began to feel distinctly underdressed as we noticed that the larger part of the people on the street wore suits or shirts. Mark and I remembered with dismay that we had packed no formal clothes.

Washington has an amazing feeling. It is a large metropolis, and yet small and well kept. There is more of granite, marble, and brick in it than concrete, steel and glass. Many of the buildings are old and dignified; others are modern, but staid and structured. The streets are busy, but not chaotic. There are foreigners everywhere, and yet no place could feel more American. The dominant color of the architecture is white. Everything one sees has a spacious, organized, feel, and the friendly people lend a hospitable atmosphere to the place.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007. 11:00 PM Eastern Time.

Today was fantastic. We started by taking the subway to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. A lot of it was good, but my favorite exhibit was the one on Wilbur and Orville Wright. It was full of authentic specimens of their life and work. There was the plane that had made the first flight at Kitty Hawk, a bicycle from their shop, and pamphlets and type from the printing house they ran.

From there we walked to the Washington Monument. Close up, its colossal-ness amazed me. The WWII monument nearby was even more overcoming. I loved how the stones were engraved with quotes, because ideas are more moving than just a physical structure. But the physical structure was good: somehow, ideas gain a sense of ponderous reality and permanency when combined with a huge stone monument. That gigantic circle, with its fountain in the middle, had me almost in tears.

The Lincoln memorial had emotional power as well. The inscription above Lincoln called the place a temple, and it felt like it. It evoked awe. Huge and high, pillars stretched up to the ceilings far above. On the left wall was engraved the Gettysburg address, and on the right one was Lincoln’s second inaugural address. …

Although the Smithsonian American History Museum is closed for renovation, we were able to see some of its highlight exhibits featured in the Air and Space Museum. They included Thomas Edison’s first light bulb, the top hat that Lincoln wore when he was assassinated, George Washington’s uniform, a stump from Spotsylvania shorn by bullet-marks, Einstein’s pipe, Mr. Roger’s sweater, and Louis Armstrong’s cornet. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

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