Day 15, Saturday, June 30, 2012: Today Alaina and I got up and going at 6:45 a.m. in order to be on-time for our tour of the U.S. Capitol. We caught the Metro to Capitol South and arrived by 8:30 for our security screening prior to visiting the amazing
building. Prior to our 9:20 tour, we were allowed to walk around the Visitor’s Center and we explored the museum exhibitions that they have there. The museum there has
copies of letters from Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and many more prestigious
individuals. There is a scale model (1/20th of the actual size) of the cast-iron dome that crowns the building that is on display with one side open for interior viewing. It was so cool to see that model and then venture on into the Capitol itself for the tour. The tour starts in the crypt (originally built to house George Washington’s body…until they figured out [25 years later when it was finally finished] that his will states that he and Martha’s bodies are to remain where they are at Mt. Vernon. They should’ve checked their facts). The next stop on the tour was the rotunda, which is absolutely breathtaking. The dome has gilded
gold with frescos painted on it. The top of the dome has the “Apotheosis of Washington”
painted by an amazingly talented Italian painter. It was stunning. The outer circle of the dome has a fresco painting of different historical events that have occurred in America from the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Wright Brothers’ plane (the center fresco was completed in three stages by three separate painters). After we visited the rotunda, we came to a room called the National Statuary Hall
, which is filled with marble and many statues from the different states (each state is allowed two statues, so they are spread out throughout the Capitol…Sam Houston’s statue was in this room as a gift from Texas). There are even spots, in this beautiful marble room, that if you stand on one side and whisper, a person standing in certain location can hear it across the room.
After we finished the tour and looked through the gift shop, Alaina and I went through the tunnel between the Library of Congress and the Capitol. We searched some of the
museum galleries there before our docent led tour began. Some of the galleries had photographs of Carnegie Libraries from around the country, one was of a composer (which was really cool to see original, hand composed sheet music), and one room had information about politics and what Hollywood and TV have done with them. There was extensive information on Bob Hope as well as hysterical pictures from Saturday Night Live and other series that have done satires. Our tour of the Library of Congress was absolutely amazing! First of all, the entry room to the Library is breathtaking. It is marble with carvings and paintings over the entire massive room (and building). Our docent, Walter, was fantastic, and knew so much history about the library and architecture of the building. Our group was even lucky and got to see a Congressional Reading Room. That room was stunning. There were mosaics over the fireplaces at each end of the room and silk paintings in the ceiling.
The next amazing (I am still in shock that we saw this) was one of the 48-remaining in the world, fully intact, Gutenberg Bibles and one of the last Bibles ever to be hand written and hand-painted. Between that and seeing the room with the stacks (the actual Library) it was absolutely an amazing tour. After the tour, we visited every exhibit hall in the Library, and some of the highlights were: an Armenian Bible (the first one translated into Armenian) from AD 406; the first world map to list America on it; maps of the Inca Empire from explorers; the 100 most influential books in America’s history; Thomas Jefferson’s personal library collection, and many more amazing things.
After we exhausted the library, we caught the Metro to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
. It was huge and so cool! Some of the highlights of that museum were: the ORIGINAL flag that Francis Scott Key looked at when he wrote The Star Spangled Banner
(the flag is absolutely massive); Kermit the Frog; Dorothy’s red
ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz;
(ship); huge locomotives (I never realized HOW big they were until today); letters from Lincoln; Lincoln’s top hat that he was wearing at the Ford Theatre when he was assassinated; the First Ladies’ gowns and china (they all have had excellent taste); exhibits about slavery and emancipation to the March on Washington, and many more amazing things! We absolutely made sure to cover the whole museum, including the three gift shops.
After we finished that museum (which was at 7:15 p.m., they close at 7:30…long day), we caught the Metro and headed to Metro Center where we went to hunt down awesome fanny packs and ponchos for the 4th of July! I got a bright neon orange fanny pack and Alaina got a sweet neon green one (and we both decided to be a little patriotic and purchased light blue ponchos). After we purchased our delightful attire, we came back to our dorm room by about 8:30 and were just very grateful to sit (even on our mattresses that have springs sticking out of them) after a long, wonderful day of walking.