A "Revolutionary" Journey Part II (Washington D.C. & Philadelphia)Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008
We met the driver at 1:10 and got back to Union Station by 2. I wandered there briefly. It deserves more time because it is full of shops and restaurants. I saw a very large table with an electric train on it and the huge Christmas tree in the main lobby. Near the electric train was a souvenir shop full of patriotic items including lots about the President and Vice President elect.
I took a taxi to the Newseum. http://www.newseum.org/index.aspx What a great place! Yes, I'm a former journalism teacher, but there is so much there to interest almost anybody. Walking by the front of the museum, you can read the front pages of that day from many cities. Inside there was a big display of election front pages and in the big screened theater there was a movie of Obama's speech in Chicago on election night and excerpts from inaugural speeches, I believe all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt.
Another part of the Newseum I enjoyed was the gallery of Pulitzer Prize photographs, many of which I can remember seeing. In this museum you can watch, read, work on--so many activities. There is an extensive collection of old front pages arranged by decades. You can pull out the drawer and see the glass covered front page. Brief films on several topics are offered. Two I can remember are on bias and the influence of TV news on the Civil Rights Movement. Lots of film clips are playing at all times including some from Saturday Night Live and John Stewart.
A film about 9/11 is presented all through the memories of reporters and photographers. This is very affecting. Outside the theater is a display of front pages on 9/11 and a display of the equipment of the only journalist killed there along with an interview with his wife. Another area of this exhibit is part of the antenna from the top of one of the World Trade Center buildings along with the names of the engineers working up there who were killed.
At the shop I was bemoaning the fact that I had not spent more time there, and the clerk told me to go to the ticket desk and explain that I just had not given myself enough time. They gave me a second chance ticket for the next day. I walked back to the hotel, thought it might be long, but it wasn't bad. I packed up my purchases from the past week and headed across the street to Fed-Ex to ship them home. It can't get more convenient than across the street.
I went to Barnes & Noble for a while and then decided to try the Mexican place on the hotel list since it was just around the corner--not a good move. Nothing like a cardboard tasting chicken quesadilla! I went back to the hotel and ate some cookies I had bought earlier. Oh well!
On my last day in Washington I planned to visit the Capital. I wanted to get in with the first group so I arrived at the ticket kiosk at 8:15. The line was very confusing; nobody was sure exactly where to start it. I hung around in the line by the kiosk and lucked out. That was where it started. Now if you want to visit the capital, there is a brand new visitors center which opened early in December, and I believe you can order tickets on line. http://www.aoc.gov/cc/visit/index.cfm I would suggest this unless you make other arrangements with your representative. I think this can be done and there were certainly small groups with badges that looked like this type of tour.
Each person wanting a ticket had to go to the ticket window and have the ticket placed in his or her own hand. Then we headed up toward the Capital where we had to wait outside for security to open. Luckily there was a bit of a plastic shelter to keep off the wind. The police were a half hour late opening security--who knows why? After clearing security our 9 am group went in after 9:30.
The tour was interesting. The guide had lots of information, but it is hard to remember much of it. He explained the height of the dome and the decorations of the Rotunda--statues, fresco of Apotheosis of Washington, other paintings of history. Then we went to the Hall of Statues, formerly the House of Representatives. He explained that each state could have two statues and could choose who was pictured. He also showed where one of the John Adams's sat and supposedly could hear what others were saying. He demonstrated for us. He pointed out the spot where Lincoln sat when he was in the House. Then we were on our own.
You cannot visit the chamber of the House without a ticket from your representative so plan ahead if you are interested in that. I did see the office of the Speaker of the House--I should say entrance with the sign above it. After the guide left us we could go downstairs to see other statues and also the original Supreme Court room.
I walked outside and around the capital to the Library of Congress Jefferson Building. I think this is the main one. It is very beautiful inside. We could go up the stairs past a huge mosaic of Minerva, Goddess of Knowledge, and look down into the main reading room, also very beautiful. However, we could not take pictures of that. Darn!
I went into two of the special sections, one of which was Jefferson's Library. When the original Library of Congress burned, he offered his to Congress, convincing them about how important a library is. He said he would accept whatever they agreed to pay. Years later part of his library burned too, but because of the catalogue, these books have been replaced through donations and purchases. I also visited the Bob Hope section on humor. Hope left his files to the Library. This area also included film clips and mementos, a multi-media approach.
Back outside I decided to climb the many steps to the Supreme Court especially since I had never visited there. The Court meets directly down the long hall from the entrance. The Court was not in session either because it was noon or the wrong time of year. We did get to look into the courtroom from the door. I went to the shop downstairs and looked around. I asked for a book about the capital, but the only one was just like one I already had.
I walked back around the Capital to head down the Mall and could see the scaffolding going up for the inauguration ceremony. I didn't see any places to eat so decided to go to main art museum. I considered going to the Pompeii exhibit there, but decided I had seen the real thing the year before so just went to the cafeteria. I stopped at what I later found out was the short order bar and had a not very good sandwich of roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, and onions--sort of a strange combination. With that I had a small orangina and a tasteless biscotti all for $13. Later, further into the big room, I saw other lines where you could buy salads and entrees. Check out the whole room first.
I went back to the Newseum and decided to see all the films including several I had seen the day before. Different ones I saw included TV and Vietnam, mistakes, and sources. I found another display about the President elect and one that I had not seen the day before--voting for the new First Dog.
The shelter dog was winning the one cent votes. Proceeds were going to the educational services of the museum. Saw the shot up car and also other articles obviously from dangerous assignments. I also visited the First Amendment exhibit. Also I looked up the name of the only reporter I could think of at the time--Ernie Pile from World War II. You can type the name into a search box and biography comes up. This was another great afternoon for me.
I walked back to the hotel and packed; then I went to Barnes & Noble for a bit. I decided to eat at the hotel. The minestrone soup was good. I had ordered chicken fingers and the waitress brought fries too, which I didn't eat. Unfortunately the chicken was dry and not nearly as good as I had had for lunch one day. I think it depends on what cook is on duty. Anyway it was a bit of a disappointing last meal in Washington.
Wednesday after breakfast, I checked out and took a taxi to Union Station. I found out that I could board this train on the same level as the main waiting area. This was good because I do not like down escalators, especially with luggage. When the track was announced I got in line even though it was 40 minutes early. Almost right away the line got very long so I was glad I had not waited. I did not go far down the track, just past the first class car. I ended up in the "quiet car," which means no talking above a whisper and no cell phones. This was fine with me.
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