D&C’s Take on DC – Part 4

Welcome to the final post for our DC visit!  This post covers:  National Museum of African Art, Arthur M Sackler Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Spy Museum, Air & Space, George Washington Masonic Temple, Thanksgiving, Bureau of Engraving & Printing, Library of Congress, and visit to the Swedish House for a Christmas Fair.  Still so much to do and see in DC.  While it’s been a great trip, we were definitely ready to move on – writing to you now, over a week later, from frigid (approx 1 degree right now) Chicago!

Around the Smithsonian Institution Building….

National Museum of African Art (Sat, 11/19): interesting collection, well worth the visit!

Arthur M Sackler Gallery: odd and interesting museum.  It was easy to visit as it was right next door to the African Art Museum, but it had a limited number of exhibits, definitely not at the top of the list. I saw an Art of the Qur’an exhibit, a reproduction of the famous Peacock dining room that looked like it was trashed.  Chinamania below is a crazy pyramid of China.

Around the National Mall and National Gallery sculpture garden:

Smithsonian American Art Museum (Sat, 11/19): this museum shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery (that I visited earlier on during our stay.) I’m glad I came back to check out the other half!

Noguchi Archaic/Modern Exhibit: Noguchi was a Japanese American born in LA, considered to be a cultural ambassador between East and West. He aspired to ‘build bridges’ between opposites of modern life, addressing the collision of traditional cultures and modern progress.

James Hampton crazy tin foil art, the Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nation’s Millennium General Assembly, this took 14 years to craft. The throne embodies a complex fusion of Christian and African-American spiritual practices overlaying themes of deliverance and freedom. Objects on the right refer to the New Testament and Jesus, while objects on the left to the Old Testament and Moses.

American Art through 1940:

Shaker Furnishings:

Modern Art wing:

After a tasty brunch at Clyde’s, Dave and I went to the International Spy Museum (Sun, 11/20)

After choosing your ‘cover’ and spending a few minutes memorizing it, you watch a video (where we learned that DC has the largest number of spies in the world!) and then you go into the Spy School exhibit, where you learn about various skills, special training, and expertise of spies. There are interactive kiosks where you can test your ability to identify ‘drops’, suspicious characters, and other spies in disguise.  Throughout there is a huge variety of spy memorabilia, most of it very old and very cool!

A few featured spies!

George Washington Masonic Temple (Mon, 11/21)



Memorial Hall – Lobby, Statue, and Murals:

Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 Replica Lodge Room, includes furniture and other items used by Washington:

Royal Arch Masonry dress and memorabilia:

George Washington Museum:

Chapel dedicated to the Knights Templar. The stained glass windows in this chapel depict four scenes from the Christian Bible: Jesus healing the blind, the Sermon on the Mount, the crucifixion, and ascension.

Tower views:

Thanksgiving visit – Dave and I had a great time spending time with family in NY for Thanksgiving – a rare treat as it’s been years since I’ve been home for Turkey Day!  Many laughs, a lot of tasty food, and Dave got to go skeet shooting with Tommy and Natalie! Out to dinner on Thanksgiving Eve:

Shaw Bijou (Sat, 11/26) – really up-close and personal dining experience with the Drew and Ngoc! Amazing cocktails. Owned by Top Chef winner Kwame Onwuachi:

National Air & Space Museum (Sun, 11/27)

Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), America by Air, and Golden Age of Flight:

Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall:

Lunar Module LM-2 – Reproduction of a lunar module, identical to the ones that landed 12 American astronauts on the moon from 1969-1972.  LM-2 never flew in space, it was built for lunar landing testing, here on Earth. Note the camera focused on astronaut for proof of landing!

Mercury Friendship 7 – On Feb 20, 1962 John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in this spaceship, which he named Friendship 7.  The spaceship was tiny – astronauts couldn’t be taller than 5″11″. Astronauts joked that you don’t ‘get in’, you ‘put it on’!:

Gemini IV – achieved the first American spacewalk – June 3, 1965.  Edward White became the first American to walk in space when he opened the hatch and floated out of his capsule for 21 mintues.  Called Gemini since there are 2 seats.

SpaceShip One – privately-built piloted craft reached space and returned safely – capable of carrying 3 people into suborbital space flight (about 62 miles) in 2004. The success of SpaceShip One inspired the creation of Virgin Galactic whose goal is to send tourists into space:

West side of gallery – the Bell X-1 Glamorous, piloted by Chuck Yeager, proved that aircraft could travel faster than speed of sound (Mach 1) in 1947. It was bright orange to help observers track it during flight – seriously!:

Space Race:

Moving Beyond Earth:

Explore the Universe and Lunar Exploration Vehicles:

Skylab Orbital Workshop:

Spirit of St Louis (Ryan NYP) – In 1927 Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo nonstop transatlantic flight in history from Roosevelt Field on Long Island to Paris, France.

Bureau of Engraving & Printing (Tues, 11/29): After being ‘greeted’ by an unnecessarily rude attendant, we went on the tour with a friendly guide.  You watch a video of how money is printed and then you see some printing in action.  No photos allowed on the tour unfortunately.  Really cool to see (from far away and above) the separate stations printing 5’s, 20’s, etc. – and reams and reams of 20’s being inspected manually and then by machine.  The average employee sees more than $$ billion each day, more than they’ll earn in a lifetime.  Pretty staggering!  The tour was OK and somewhat informative, but I think we expected an even more close-up experience.  I wouldn’t go out of your way to do this in DC.

Old Ebbitt Grill – enjoyed some breakfast at this DC mainstay!

Library of Congress (Tues, 11/29) – Our Uber driver dropped us at the wrong building….Madison….

…then made our way through the basement tunnels over to the Jefferson building, which was completely spectacular – a must-do on your DC itinerary!

Great Hall:

Thomas Jefferson Library –

Throughout his life, books were vital to Thomas Jefferson’s education and well-being. In the midst of the American Revolution and while United States minister to France in the 1780s, Jefferson acquired thousands of books for his library at Monticello. By 1814 when the British burned the nation’s Capitol and the Library of Congress, Jefferson had acquired the largest personal collection of books in the United States. Jefferson offered to sell his library to Congress as a replacement for the collection destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. Congress purchased Jefferson’s library for $23,950 in 1815. A second fire on Christmas Eve of 1851, destroyed nearly two thirds of the 6,487 volumes Congress had purchased from Jefferson. Through a generous grant from Jerry and Gene Jones, the Library of Congress is attempting to reassemble Jefferson’s library as it was sold to Congress.

Jefferson’s library was divided into categories of Memory, Reason, and Imagination—which Jefferson translated to “History,” “Philosophy,” and “Fine Arts”—and further divided into forty-four “chapters,” the collection placed within Jefferson’s fingertips the span of his multifaceted interests.

If you look closely at the photos, you’ll note the following:

  • Green ribbons are books that were from Jefferson’s collection
  • Gold ribbons were recently purchased to reconstitute the library
  • Books already owned by the Library identical to Jefferson’s have no ribbons
  • Boxes denote ‘missing books’ from his collection

Main Reading Room:

The Dome:

A mural of twelve seated figures, male and female, are arranged against a wall of mosaic patterning. They represent countries, or epochs, which in 1897, when the building was constructed, were thought to have contributed the most to the evolution of western civilization. Egypt represents Written Records. Judea represents Religion. Greece represents Philosophy. Rome represents Administration. Islam represents Physics. The Middle Ages represent Modern Languages. Italy represents the Fine Arts. Germany represents the Art of Printing. Spain represents Discovery. England represents Literature. France represents Emancipation. America represents Science.

Portrait Statues: Art – Michelangelo & Beethoven. Commerce – Christopher Columbus & Robert Fulton. History – Herodotus & Edward Gibbon. Law – Solon & James Kent. Philosophy – Plato & Francis Bacon. Poetry – Homer & Shakespeare. Religion – Moses & St Paul the Apostle. Science – Sir Isaac Newton & Joseph Henry

Symbolic Statues:

Exploring the Early Americas Exhibit, including:

  • 3000 rare maps, documents, painting, prints, and artifacts
  • drama of the encounters between Native Americans and European explorers and settlers, and the pivotal changes caused by the meeting of the American and European worlds
  • Martin Waldseemüller’s 1507 map of the world—the first on which the word “America” appears

Nice view of the Capitol:

Gutenberg Bible – the first great book printed in Western Europe from moveable metal type. It marks a transition point from the Middle Ages to the modern world. Printing completed around 1455 at Mainz, Germany. Johann Gutenberg is generally credited for inventing this printing process. This bible was translated by St Jerome in the 4th century. Capital letters and headings are ornamented by hand in color. Only 3 volumes of this bible exist!

The Giant Bible of Mainz – 1452-1453:

Swedish House & Swedish Christmas Fair (Sat, Dec 3)

Final DC Dining!

Rocket Launch – from Wallops Island – sometime in Oct.  This was kind of cool.  We walked up to the George Washington Masonic Temple and were joined by at least 50 others to watch the rocket launch!  Dave also had live streaming coverage of it in the background on his videos.

Sampson the Cat!

Dave and I made friends with Dean and Mari’s cat, Sam – who would often keep guard our door and come in for a visit!


Final thoughts on DC: we had such a great time here. There’s so much to see and do, it’s so iconic, and we loved having friends and family close by. However, we wouldn’t want to live here – rude people, bad traffic (and signage), too much horn honking, high cost of living, etc.  Great to visit though!

D&C’s Take on DC – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of our ‘take’ on DC!  We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Dave and I had a great time in Sag Harbor with my family!  This post includes visits to:  National Botanic Gardens, Museum of the American Indian, Clearwater Beach weekend, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Pentagon Memorial.  We are getting down to the wire with our time here in DC – it’s been great to see so many sites, spend time with family and friends, and it’s gone so fast!  However we are really looking forward to spending some holiday time with our friends in Chicago followed by quality time with family in NY and St Louis!

Around the National Botanic Gardens & Capitol:

National Botanic Gardens (Sat, Oct 29):

  • One of the oldest botanic gardens in North America
  • Established by Congress in 1820
  • 65,000 plants with collections including: medicinal, economic, and carnivorous plants, orchids, cactus, and mid-Atlantic native plants.
  • 1 million visitors annually

They had a temporary Bats Matter exhibit – some highlights:  there are over 1,300 species of bats worldwide and they have very important jobs in our environment including:  pesticide and insect damage control (by eating millions of insects a day!), pollinators, and dispersers (fruit bats eat fruits and pass seeds as they fly, resulting in more plants grown.)  According to our landlord we have a bunch of bats that hang out in trees right in our parking lot.  Yikes!

National Garden: 3 acre garden features the Regional Garden of Mid-Atlantic native plants, Rose Garden, Amphitheater, Lawn Terrace, Butterfly Garden, and the First Ladies Water Garden.

Not nearly as impressive as St Louis’s or Phoenix’s.  I haven’t been to Chicago’s, but I’m sure Chicago’s is more impressive too.  The highlight was getting to observe a praying mantis! If your time is limited in DC, skip this.

National Museum of the American Indian
3 for 3 today with a ‘thumbs down’ rating for this venue.  Very few exhibits actually open and they weren’t very impressive.  It just simply does not compare to other DC museums or with the amazing Native American museums and experiences we enjoyed in New Mexico. I would remove this from your DC itinerary!  The Dance of the Jaguars performance was interesting.

Clearwater Beach Weekend with Trish & Michelle! (weekend of 11/4)
Michelle and Trish are dear friends (and roommates for years) from college – we try to get together regularly and have visited each other in DC, Chicago, and Maine.  We decided to go somewhere warmer for a long weekend, and scored a great place on Clearwater Beach!  It was a fun few days of relaxing, reminiscing, and catching up!


National Museum of American History (Sat, 11/12)
Where else can you see Martha Washington’s china, the original Star Spangled banner, and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers?  I could go on, I’ve been before, and would go again to this incredible deep dive into American history, culture, and life.  A+!

Preview of the new African American History Museum (which will take about a year to get into – tickets sold out through April):

American Stories Exhibit

First Ladies Dresses:

Some interesting facts on a few First Ladies:

Dolley Madison – she used her skills as a ‘hostess with the mostess’ to win support for her husband James and to mute the opposition in a highly partisan time. She had weekly parties in the drawing room that encouraged conversation and cooperation.  Relevant then, relevant now….  Dolley also bravely rescued important papers and treasures from the White House as the redcoats were coming to burn the White House in 1914 (only the exterior walls survived the attack.)

Mary Lincoln’s opinion was highly valued by Abraham – and she was instrumental in his 1864 election after writing to urge state party leaders to support her husband.  However, her attempts to provide counsel once Lincoln was in office was met with criticism from his cabinet and private secretaries. Mary Lincoln’s reputation was further damaged as she overspent on a massive White House redecorating project.

Presidential China:

While I was checking out the china, one of the docents told me that there are very pieces of China left from the Washingtons – this was because they often gave away their china to guests so they could take leftovers home (no Tupperware back then!)

American Presidency

The Continental Gunboat, Philadelphia (1776)

Gallery of Numismatics – Dave missed out!  Highlights include a US $100,000 bill and money from the

Transportation & Wine

Julia Child’s Kitchen – all the furniture, tools, and equipment belonged to Julia Child, and were part of her show set.  Kitchen table was flown over from Oslo, Norway, where they lived for some time.  The solid maple counters are 2″ taller than the usual, as Julia was 6′ tall. Julia and her husband designed the kitchen (and studio) according to work zones, making sure tools and equipment were placed near the surfaces where they would be used.

Arlington National Cemetery (Sun, 11/13)
I’ve never been to the Cemetery and decided that the weekend after Veteran’s Day was a fitting time to go.  I was also reminded of this having dinner with Cathy and Don, a veteran, on Friday night too!  Cathy also suggested the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, and I decided to make a day of it on Sunday.

Arlington National Cemetery used to belong to George Washington’s step-grandson, who left it to his daughter who married Robert E Lee.  After the Lees vacated the property at the start of the Civil War, the grounds were used as a camp and headquarters for Federal Troops during the Civil War and later provided a safe haven for former slaves seeking freedom.  The first military burial here was in May 1864.

It is now the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and families.  400,000….. staggering….

Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 funeral services each week day and between 6 and 8 services on Saturday.

It was pretty amazing to watch the Honor Guard at work protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Va.

Changing of the Guard:  what a regal, respectful, and special experience. It gives you chills. Here are some details:

  • An impeccably uniformed relief commander appears on the plaza to announce the Changing of the Guard. Soon the new sentinel leaves the Quarters and unlocks the bolt of his or her M-14 rifle to signal to the relief commander to start the ceremony. The relief commander walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
  • The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving sentinel meet the retiring sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown.
  • The Tomb Guard marches 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process. Twenty-one was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed — the 21-gun salute.

I’ve included some of my clips below (that had to be short due to technology constraints), but you may want to view a full ceremony, shot professionally by PBS, on You Tube:

I found myself wondering whether anyone has tried any shenanigans here.  According to my limited research, it doesn’t appear so.  Before the tomb was guarded families would picnic near the tomb as the view is tremendous – but since 1937 the tomb has been guarded 24 hours a day with apparently without incident!

There were a few wreath ceremonies as well…

Memorial Ampitheater

Mast of the USS Maine:

Memorials to the Crews of the Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and Iran Rescue Mission Memorial:


Arlington House/Robert E Lee Memorial:

  • Robert E Lee’s home for 3 decades
  • During the Civil War, the grounds of the mansion were selected as the site of Arlington National Cemetery, in part to ensure that Lee would never again be able to return to his home. However, the United States has since designated the mansion as a national memorial to Lee

Around Arlington House:

JFK and family:

Women In Military Service For America Memorial:

I think this is a must-do in DC, even though it took me years to!

Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
This memorial pays tribute to the 184 people who lost their lives on 9/11 at the Pentagon and on AA flight 77. I dialed into the narration and was glad I did as the design and layout of the memorial was explained, and it’s quite meaningful and special, despite its stark appearance.  Each victim is honored with a narrow modern bench with a name plaque and a rectangular pool underneath.  The benches are arranged based on birth year – the youngest victim was 3 years old (Dana Falkenberg, with her immediate family), the oldest 71 (John D. Yamnicky, a Navy vet.) They are also arranged based on whether the victim was on the plane (benches face the building) or inside the Pentagon (benches face away from the building.) I’d recommend combining with a visit to Arlington like I did.

Our next, and final DC post, includes: National Museum of American Art, International Spy Museum, National Air & Space Museum, Bureau of Engraving & Printing, Library of Congress, and Swedish House & Christmas Fair.





D&C’s Take on DC – Part 2

Welcome to our second post for DC which covers Aunt Mary and Jane’s visit and excursions to the National Cathedral, WWII & Vietnam Memorials, the National Gallery, and Mount Vernon.  There was plenty of good food, fine, and most importantly – company enjoyed!

National Cathedral (Thurs, Oct 20)

After accidentally missing the turnoff to VA from DCA where we picked up Jane and Aunt Mary, we decided to head straight to Bethesda MD for dinner with the DC Beatos.  After missing a turn somewhere (yes you’re seeing a theme and yes, I was the navigator :)), and ending up on the northwest side of DC, we decided to visit the National Cathedral, a fortunate accident!

Choir practice – wow:

Memorials (Fri, Oct 21)

A gorgeous day in DC – thanks to all of our veterans, with us and no longer with us, who fight and have fought for the freedoms we enjoy every day!

World War II Memorial

This memorial honors:

  • 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S.
  • More than 400,000 who died (the star display is particularly powerful testament) – 4,048 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war
  • All who supported the war effort from home

More about the memorial:

  • The memorial was opened in April 2004
  • 56 granite pillars, each inscribed with the name of one of the 48 states of 1945, plus DC, AK and HI territories, US Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Philippines
  • The Pacific and the Atlantic arches represent the ‘theaters’, the parts of the world where the major war events took place.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The memorial honors:  U.S. service members who fought in the Vietnam War, service members who died in service in Vietnam/South East Asia, and MIA service members.  3 million people visit it each year.

The memorial includes 3 main areas:

  • Main wall (completed in 1982)
  • Three Soldiers (European American, African American, and Hispanic American represented, and meant to provide a traditional element to the memorial)
  • Women’s Memorial (we didn’t see this – dedicated to women’s contributions, especially nursing)

More about the memorial and its design:

  • The selected design was very controversial, in particular its unconventional design, its black color and its lack of ornamentation.
  • When a visitor looks upon the wall, his or her reflection can be seen simultaneously with the engraved names, which is meant to symbolically bring the past and present together.  The wall lists over 58,000 names.
  • Several thousand items are left as momentos each year at the memorial.  Memorable examples include a Purple Heart thrown into the concrete of the foundation during construction, a Harley Davidson motorcycle with HERO on the license plate.

Enjoying the fall colors & waiting for lunch at Leopold’s Kafe, one of Dave’s favorite places in Georgetown!

National Gallery (Sat, Oct 22)

The National Gallery of Art has one of the finest art collections in the world. It was created by a joint resolution of Congress accepting the gift of financier, public servant, and art collector Andrew Mellon  in 1937. European and American paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, and decorative arts are displayed in the collection galleries and Sculpture Garden.

  • Ranked 2nd nationally and 8th in the world
  • 4.2 million visitors/year
  • Consists of East Building (modern art), West Building (more traditional), and Sculpture Garden – we only hit the West Building and it was a great way to spend a few hours!
  • Is the home to the only da Vinci painting in the Americas, Ginevra de’Benci.  This work could represent the first time an Italian woman was painting in a more relaxed open pose. Behind her spiky juniper leaves represent chastity and the subject’s name.
  • Home to many works of the European masters including Vermeer, Raphael, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Rubens.  Talk about time well-spent!

National Archives (Sun, Oct 23) – the stars of this show include:  Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Bill of Rights – known collectively as the Charters of Freedom.  Supporting cast includes the Magna Carta.  🙂

More about these treasured documents:

  • The Declaration announced to the world on July 4, 1776, that thirteen British colonies in North America were leaving Great Britain to form a separate nation, called the United States of America. In justifying the revolution, the Declaration asserted a universal truth about human rights.
  • The Constitution, drafted in 1787 after a hard-won victory in the War for Independence, codified the spirit of the Revolution into an ingenious practical scheme of government to promote the welfare of all its citizens.
  • The Bill of Rights, added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first ten amendments, explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. Preamble to the United States Constitution

Dinner at the Beatos with the Lams!

We had a wonderful dinner at the (DC) Beatos featuring homemade fried Vietnamese spring rolls (courtesy of the Lams), the best lamb chops, and some balance beam dancing!  It was a great time to spend with Dave’s family and get to know the Lams!

Mount Vernon, home of George & Martha Washington (Mon, Oct 24)

Our expectations were pretty low going into the visit, and I’m so glad we went! Interesting facts about Mount Vernon:

  • The house was originally built in 1735 by Washington’s father – Washington’s half brother Lawrence lived there until his death in 1752 – he left the home to George.
  •  We learned that Washington was a self-taught architect who designed an expansion of the house in 1758 (raised the roof to make the mansion 2 1/2 stories high.) In 1774 he added the north and south wings, the cupola, and piazza.
  • The piazza is one of George Washington’s contributions to colonial Virginian architecture.
  • Opting for vivid paint and wallpaper through much of the house, Washington made choices that expressed the tastes of his era, when the use of bold colors was a sign of wealth.
  • Mount Vernon has a full basement, but there are no secret passages leading from it (unlike what you heard in the movie National Treasure!).
  • Washington himself hosted as many as 677 guests at the Mansion in one year, in 1798.
  • George passed away at Mount Vernon in 1799 from a throat infection.  Martha moved to a bedroom upstairs and never slept in their bedroom again.

Around the mansion:  the lawn, or ‘bolling green’ as Washington referred to it, required extensive maintenance as it was regularly smoothed with a large stone roller and cut with scythes.


While we were walking around the garden I felt a little something fall on my arm – I was concerned as I wasn’t near a tree.  Yes, sure enough, a bird crapped on me – do they say that’s good luck?  Should’ve bought a lottery ticket that day – ha ha!

Close up with a butterfly:

Rooms we saw inside the mansion (photos from website):

Mansion Outbuildings

Washington Tomb

Jane and I saw a wreath laying ceremony and we all said the Pledge of Allegiance – can’t remember the last time I did that, it was touching.  George’s tomb is on the right, Martha’s on the left.

Donald Reynolds Museum and Education Center

Very nicely done museum – we didn’t have much time to spend there unfortunately.  It is well worth a visit and you could easily spend a few hours checking out all the exhibits.  Turns out, George ‘married well’ as Martha was one of Virginia’s wealthiest widows….

New York for 1 night (Tues, Oct 25)

I took the Amtrak into NYC for the second time this month for a team meeting.  I stayed at Lotte Palace which I think could have the largest guest rooms in Manhattan.  The view was pretty amazing.  Unfortunately World Series game #1 was not good – but we know how that turned out don’t we??!!!  Co Cubs!!

Next post includes:  National Botanic Gardens, National Garden, National Museum of the American Indian, Clearwater Beach visit, followed by Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon Memorial.

D&C’s Take on DC – Part 1!

First off, Go Cubs!  They are en route to Cleveland and it’s do or die for them!  Now, onto our ‘take’ on DC…

Welcome to the first post for our DC adventure!  We are now living in Alexandria VA, a few blocks away from Old Town, the historic heart of the city with old brick sidewalks, a pretty Potomac waterfront with a view of the Capitol, shops and restaurants, and a plethora of historic colonial homes.  We are very happy with our choice of location and with our place.  We almost went back to Charleston instead given the outrageous rental prices, but were lucky to find our new pad!

This destination has another unique benefit in that we have friends and family close by – and we’ve been enjoying getting together with them!  Of course the election makes this area an interesting place to be – surprisingly though there’s hardly any lawn signs around us – guess people are keeping their votes to themselves!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the DC area, most of it in the early 90s when I was staffed on a Freddie Mac project in Northern Virginia with Andersen Consulting (while I wrote manuals for mortgage-backed securities, I had NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING to do with the financial crisis that would unfold many years later :)!!  I was so lucky to see DC before 9/11 with my Mom, when life was a little more carefree – we did the White House tour (which was more extensive then), we got special tickets for us to sit in on a session of Congress (tort reform was the topic – how can I remember that and not remember things from last week?!)  I also was able to attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, go to the National Press Club, visit the major monuments, and tour many of the big Smithsonian museums.  I’ve been back quite a few times to visit my college friend Trish and the DC Beatos.  I look forward to exploring some of the smaller, less famous, and new sites (Museum of African American History) DC has to offer.  Our stay here so far has reminded me of what a very special area this is.  No matter what you think of our government, presidential candidates, and the current state of our nation, you can’t resist some awe seeing the White House, Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial.  This is it, this is the US, something I appreciate even more after spending a few months in Canada!

I arrived late the evening of Sat, Oct 1, after spending a record # of hours at the Montreal airport working on the blog.  Dave had been out at the local bar/restaurant Thiesman’s making friends and getting tips from the locals!  We spent the rest of the weekend exploring King Street and buying provisions for our place.

Great Falls:  Billy Goat Trail (Sun, Oct 9)

Enjoyed the outdoors, exercise, and some incredible views with the DC Beatos (Drew, Ngoc, Julia, and Sophia)!  This was a treat for Dave and me who are used to ‘urban hiking’ in our ‘concrete jungles’!

Local Alexandria Touring (Sat, Oct 15) – decided to stay local and check out historic Alexandria – there is quite a bit to do and see around here, including hanging out at George Washington’s watering hole (which we have yet to do)!

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Yes you read right – the building was a torpedo plant in 1920.  Ironically the building was planned in Aug of 1918 and construction began on Nov 12, 1918, 1 day after Armistice Day (ruh roh.)  They did still create torpedos for testing off a river barge in MD, but only for 4 years.

In 1974 it became home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof.

You can find a huge variety of art here – lucite, pottery, glass tapestries, jewelry, clothing, sustainable art, sculpture.  85 working studios, 7 galleries, the Alexandria Archeology Museum. It was cool to watch some of the artists at work in their studio/shops – nothing like wheel throwing right in your store!  Made me miss my Tues night pottery classes at the Jane Adams Center in Chicago.  Wheel throwing was definitely not my speciality – but kind of rocked the hand-building (which is much easier)!

Glass Harp (Jamey Turner)

This was magical.  Gracie Lou Freebush from Miss Congeniality has nothing on this guy!  But seriously, he has played the Kennedy Center, on numerous TV shows, including Tonight with Johnny, and has traveled the world, performing with orchestras, and sharing his talents for many years.  He travels with all these glasses (I thought my suitcases were tough to manage!) and has had a breakage here and there, requiring a quick purchase of Hungarian glassware (Bsharp please!) from a local vendor!  Note the ‘bagpipes’ in the 2nd video!

Christ Church

Just walking into the church, you feel like you are stepping back in time.  You’ll get to sit in the same pew that George and Martha Washington owned (at a cost of 36 British pounds), as this was ‘their’ church when they were in the area.  They didn’t spend much time here as they lived in New York, our first capitol during his first term, then Philadelphia for his second.  Remember Phillie is where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution were written.  The White House was not built and Washington DC was not our capitol until 1800.

Robert E Lee was confirmed here and had his own pew (looked like his signature was on the metal plackard.)  He freed his slaves before the Civil War.  You can see his portrait and Grant’s below in my National Portrait Gallery post.

This church is well worth a visit, so is the 15-20 min chat with the very knowledgeable docent.  She was from West Virginia originally and I learned that the state split from Virginia during the Civil War in 1863.

  • Church was opened in 1773, it was oriignally Church of England, then became Episopalian after the Revolutionary War.
  • The church was likely built with help from slaves.
  • The church was occupied throughout the Revolutionary War to protect it (we know from visiting Charleston that their church steeples were Civil War bomb targets for the Union arm.)
  • All Anglican churches have the 10 commandments and the Lord Prayer flanking each side of the ‘wine glass’ pulpit.  An acousting ‘sounding board’ is found above the pulpit to help amplify the sermon.
  • Some windows are original, as is some of the interior window trim.