Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Washington, D.C.

D.C. has long been on our list of places to visit, for many reasons: the White House, the Smithsonian Museums, cherry blossoms, and our friends Natalie and Steve. It was for all these reasons, but mostly for the last, that we spent this Spring Break in D.C.

Natalie and Steve were kind enough to host us, and during the day Natalie and the newest member of their family, baby Maggie, played tour guide to us as we explored the many sites within walking distance of their row house. Our first morning was spent gazing at the White House from afar (you can't get too close to it). It seemed so much smaller in person, especially compared to the other, larger buildings surrounding it. It was kind of humbling to realize that the President of the U.S.A lived in such a "modest" place (again, in comparison to the surrounding government buildings). Unfortunately, we didn't realize that in order to tour the White House, you need to petition your Congressman several months in advance for admittance. Which makes me wonder how Nightcrawler from X-Men ever managed to make it through security being 1) a foreigner and 2) a bright blue tele-porting mutant. Oh, well. Next time.

Isn't this more impressive than the White House?
After sauntering around the White House, it wasn't a far walk to the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the WWII War Memorial. We also saw the Washington Monument, but weren't able to go up inside because of the structural damage that resulted from the earthquake last fall.

Korean War Memorial
Vietnam War Memorial
WWII Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument

After this, Natalie and Maggie left us for a much-needed nap, and Andrew and I continued on foot to the Capitol, but never quite made it as we were sidetracked by the warmth of the nearby Botanical Gardens. After sheltering among the orchids, we then met up with fellow Mali RPCV Emily for a quick drink before returning to Natalie and Steve's for the night.


Museum of the American Indian
"Indian" Food

Our second full day there started with a visit to the Museum of the American Indian, one of the newer Smithsonians, but one of the best designed museums I've ever seen. It was very manageable for a morning visit, and there were lots of great dioramas about both the past and present tribes of Native Americans. And the best part was their basement cafe, which offered all sorts of "authentic" American Indian dishes like duck and buffalo burger, fry bread, and wild rice pilaf. It was very good food for museum fare. 
Supreme Court
Once again, Natalie and Maggie left us in the afternoon for some rest, but we plowed on for a few more hours, again trying our luck at the Capitol. Like the White House, reservations are required here as well, so we just spent some time walking around the building, passing by the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. We took a great guided tour inside the Library of Congress, which is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. And they have so many awesome things on display, like the Gutenberg Bible and the first map that ever used the term "America" on it.

Our last full day was a weekend, so Steve was finally able to join us for some sightseeing. We all headed downtown early in the morning to stand in line for the National Archives, which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution. It took awhile to get through the line, but as the Cherry Blossom parade was happening right outside the Archives, there was at least something interesting to watch while we waited.

Cherry Blossom Parade

Us and GW
We then drove out of the city and to Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. It was a beautiful estate in the countryside, and we had some great food at the restaurant and a lovely walk around the grounds. We also met up with another Mali RPCV, Amy, for the day. The Education Center there was one of the best museums I've been to. It was pretty new, almost 100% interactive, had lots of great information, and was huge. There were three theaters showing different films about GW inside the center! Unfortunately, we visited the Education Center last and so didn't get as much time there as we wanted, but I did get to see a special exhibit on Martha Washington's cooking, and I scored some Colonial recipes from the exhibit. I see a Colonial theme party in my future...

GW House

GW & MW Grave

Education Center