Sunday, April 24, 2011

Last Spring Days in the District

interior of the Old Post Office
With my internship coming to an end, I spent the last few weeks catching up on things I wanted to see and taking family to some sites. When some relatives came to visit in the last week of April, our first stop was the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue. We went up the bell tower and saw the bells (made to be in tune to the bells at Westminster Abby) and went to the top for a 360 degree view of the city. After the Post Office, we walked over to Archives to look at the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. From here, we went to Good Stuff Eatery over in Eastern Market by the Hill for lunch. Our next stop was a tour through a congressional office of Capitol Hill.
The tour kicked off with a stop to the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC) where there is a replica of the statue above the rotunda. The statue dominates the interior of the CVC. After the video, we went through the tunnels connecting all of Capitol Hill and right past the underground shuttle that the representatives use to get to the floors for voting when they are in session. The Capitol Building was also home to the first location of the US Supreme Court before it moved to the present location. We also made stops at the old House and Senate floors before being granted passes to the present galleries.
There are statues throughout the hallways of the Capitol Building. Each state chooses two statues. The area in the rotunda is reserved for statues of presidents, with the exception of one unfinished statue depicting the unfinished struggle for women's rights and another of Martin Luther King, Jr. There are also several paintings and a mural in the rotunda. The paintings along the lower level were all made by the same artist who painted himself into every historical scene as either a man looking in the opposite direction of every other character or with his face on a woman's body. The mural going around the upper level of the rotunda appears as if it is 3D but in fact is just a flat painting. Approximately 70% of it was painted by an elderly artist, until he slipped on scaffolding and was hanging by his arms for 15 minutes before being rescued. Two other artists completed the mural.
Our next stop was over to Johnny's Half Shell restaurant for dinner. After some delicious seafood, we cabbed it over to the Lincoln and Vietnam memorials. My younger cousins were especially impressed with the Lincoln Memorial, dramatically reading the Gettysburg Address over and over.
The next day, we visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum as well as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. We spent most of the day looking at the outer space, 1950s passenger plane, ocean, dinosaur, and weather exhibits. After a break from the museums, we went to Adams Morgan for dinner at Lebanese Taverna. We all enjoyed the delicious mezze dishes (sort of like tapas - basically, platters of food for everyone to share) along with a fantastic dessert. I will definitely be going there again.
On my relatives' last day in DC, we went to Ford's Theatre, the theatere where Abraham Lincoln was shot. Despite being closed for years and converted into an office building after the assasination, the theatre is now operated by the National Parks Service and has been fully restored. It still puts on plays in honor of Lincoln's appreciation of theatre and the arts. Peterson House, across the street from the theatre and the place where Lincoln died, is currently being rennovated so it was closed when we visited. After the theatre tour, we walked over to the Museum of American History to see the original Star Spangled Banner and several other exhibits.


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