Washington D.C., Day 2

Took the train to Capital South station and walked over to the Capitol grounds.  Took a few exterior pictures, then walked across the street to the Supreme Court and snapped pictures of it.

It was a beautiful morning, but later turned a bit cloudy and cool – not bad actually for walking.  Returned to the Capitol and entered the Visitor Center.  Got a ticket(free) for a tour just starting.  First part of tour is a 15min movie called “From Many, One”.  I found it to be a rather moving tribute to the founding of our country and building of the Capitol.  Proceeded on tour through the rotunda (amazing), the Whispering Hall (original House Chamber) and some other room below with lots of statues.  It was a nice tour but unfortunately you aren’t allowed to wander so as to actually appreciate all the different art work (paintings, sculptures, etc.).

For some reason today the normal rule requiring that you have a pass from one of your congressmen to enter the HouseSenate galleries was lifted and everyone who wanted was permitted in.  As only the Senate was in session, only it’s gallery was open.  I decided to take the opportunity.  Tonight is the senate vote to determine whether to send the current Health Care bill before the full senate.  Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sam Brownbeck (R-KS), and Mike Johanns (R-NE) were discussing whether the current language permitting federal funds to be used for abortions should be removed from the bill.  Not really sure what the point of it all is.  They know how they’re voting and no other senators were even in the chamber listening, so they’re not changing anybody else’s decision…  Very interesting just to be there however.

I had a quick lunch at the Capitol restaurant, toured the museum exhibit and then headed over to the Library of Congress (LOC).  I missed the introductory film, but managed to latch on to the last tour of the day.  This is such a beautiful building it’s hard to put into words.  All of the artwork is filled with such symbolism it’s hard to appreciate all of it.  The only bit of symbolism that falls short today is the material chosen to gild the ceilings.  It isn’t silver or gold or any such “precious” metal – at least not today.  In fact, the most expensive metal of the 19th century was chosen, to display the wealth of our young nation.  Problem is that it wasn’t expensive due to it’s rarity, but rather in it’s production.  Though, plentiful it takes a tremendous amount of energy (electrical) to extract from it’s primary ore, bauxite.  Yes, the ceiling of the Library of Congress is gilded with Aluminum – foil that is…  It was also chosen as the material for the peak of the Washington Monument.

We have Thomas Jefferson to thank for the LOC.  After the War of 1812, in which the British captured and burned the capital, it was Jefferson who helped rebuild the library.  All of the original library contents (housed in the Capitol) were destroyed.  It consisted of about 500 pieces, mostly law related.  Jefferson offered to sell his personal collection of about 6500 pieces, but Congress originally balked at this citing the contents; philosophy, science, art, etc., as not being appropriate.  Jefferson’s reply to Congress was that there should be no subject of which the Congress is not interested.  Congress purchased Jefferson’s library.  The LOC is one of the last national libraries in the world to continue to collect works from sources worldwide.  The LOC is open to the entire world and there are but 3 requirements for obtaining a “Reader Card”; must be 16 years of age, must have a government issued ID, and you must be curious about some subject;-)

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After the LOC it was on to the White House where I got a few pictures as the sun was starting to set.  Walking across Lafayette Park, I also snapped a few pictures of some of the statues.  From there it was on to my final stop of the day – the Jefferson Memorial.  Unfortunately the sun had pretty much set, so I didn’t get any good photos, but it was still a pleasure to walk along the tidal basin and up the steps into the memorial.  I was tired and hungry so I made the trek back to the subway and headed back to the hotel.  Grabbed a bite and a beer at a Chipotle and then back to the hotel.

I’m beat.

Two days walking around D.C. and I’ve manage to develop one huge blister on my pinkie toe – Ouch!  I’m headed to Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon tomorrow before heading to the airport and home!

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