We started at the Old Post Office Building. You can climb to the top during the day and have a 360° view of the city. We plan to do that tomorrow. Our tour group included a couple from Hawaii and one from Canada as well. Larry pointed out that the Canadian Embassy is in a prestigious position as it is on Pennsylvania Avenue and close to our Congress. Our embassy is afforded the same prestigious position in Canada. We drove by the Capital Reflecting Pool and the statue of President Garfield, he is one of the four presidents who were assassinated. The statue consists of three statues each wearing a different hat, to represent his three roles.
The Capital Building was built in stages with left side ( when looking from the front of the building, though most of the time we see it from the back as that is what faces the Mall), being built first. Our guide shared lots of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that a flag was flying over the right side of the building, from the back view, meant that the House was still in session at 9:00 at night. He said that was unusual. No flag was flying over the right side of the building which meant the Senate had adjourned for the day. Next time we go to Washington we need to arrange a tour with one of our representatives of our senator. I think it would be interesting to observe them in session to see if they really get anything done. (I know pure sarcasm, but look at the boat we are in and it is sinking fast.)
We stopped to look at several of memorials as there are really only one monument in D.C. The rest are memorials or statues to people. I liked the statue of Benjamin Franklin at the Old Post Office as it has a plaque on each side with a title for each of his roles in life: patriot, philosopher, philanthropist, printer. I love the fact that it credits his different roles in life and in the founding of our country.
We also went to the Lincoln Memorial which has two tiers of states carved above it, the first is those that were states when he was assassinated, the second those that were states when the memorial was dedicated, and lastly so as not to be forgotten Alaska and Hawaii are engraved in the steps below the memorial. We get walked on and most people do not even realize they are there. I would not have known it if Larry, the tour guide,had not pointed it out to us. Sadly, I did not get a picture of them and that is one I really wanted. It was too dark when we were there on the tour and we did not get back over there the next day before we left. Inside the memorial are carved quotes from his Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address. His memorial is representative of Greek temples with Doric columns.
The Jefferson Memorial is also very powerful. Seeing it at night may have made it more powerful, but you look at that ginormous statue and think of the man and all he did for our country and it is very overwhelming and powerful. It made me feel small and insignificant in comparison. I mean I have not done near what he did in my lifetime and I can never surpass his writing of the Declaration of Independence. His memorial is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, which is magnificent and his does it justice. The statue is bronze, though originally it was a plaster model. I find it interesting that a man who did so much for the beginning of our country almost got a lesser memorial because it was thought that this memorial would rival or overpower the Lincoln Memorial when it was being built. Both men are great but Lincoln would not have been able to do what he did if Jefferson had not done what he did. Think about it, the country had to come first before it could divide and be made whole again. The memorial represents him as a philosopher and a statesman. There are five quotations from his writings carved in the memorial.
The Washington Monument is also powerful, but in a different way. It stands like a centennial in the center, tall and straight like a soldier watching over the city. It is very stark when compared to the memorials to other presidents. There is no face, no quotes, nothing to show the man who lead our country in war, and as first president under the Constitution. It is 555 and 5 1/8 inches tall. Because of a lack of funds the monument was build over time and marble from two difference quarries was used to complete it. It is because of weathering and the different quarries that the monument looks to be two different colors. George Washington was also the only president not to live in the White House, though he did choose the architect who designed it. He also set the standard of two terms, which every president except Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
While in D.C. we also visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The first flag actually took my breath away. It was huge, and the emotion tied to the history was overwhelming. I wonder where the missing star is and what about the other pieces that were cut off and given away to visitors. I think the efforts to preserve the flag are exceptional and show the love of our country and our history. The exhibit is well done and I love the interactive display where you can tough different parts and have information revealed about the flag's history and preservation. I think it is an excellent teaching tool and am glad that it is also available on-line.
We went in search of the National Gallery of Art and by change ended up in the building the old art or the West Building. It houses art from the Medieval period through the late 19th century. What I consider to be art, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, van Gogh, da Vinci. My kind of art. I was in heaven trying to take it all in, as was Tom. We were there until they kicked us out at close. I did get some postcards of a few of the pieces we saw. I was thrilled to get to see Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci, as I love his works. There was Saint George and the Dragon by Raphael, and The Annunciation by Van Eyck. There were pieces by Degas, Botticelli, and Rodin. I could have spent days in there alone. It was magnificent and definitely on the list to spend more time at when we return to D.C.
We also visited the Holocaust Museum, but that is a post in and of itself.