Total Distance: about 5765 miles
Today's Destinations: Washington, D.C. - National Gallery of Art, Museum of Natural History
We find ourselves today, quite by accident, staying at the Embassy Suites just outside Washington, D.C. Here's how it happened.
My chief concern with visiting DC was figuring out where to park to take the Metro. As a small-town girl, this was a little overwhelming because there was so many options and we have no idea what stations are near parking. So we picked one that seemed good and not out of the way, drove there, and then started looking for parking. We pulled into the first parking garage that was open, then saw that it was the parking garage of a hotel. Figuring we would be killing two birds with one stone, we went inside to make a reservation.
Despite the rather impressive interior, it's just a 3-star hotel, and the price, although the most we've paid for a hotel so far, was not much more than any other hotel we've gotten. And it's a two-room suite. Oh, and three stars means still a continental breakfast!
So after that we went to catch the metro to the Smithsonian. Again, as small-town folks, we had some trouble here. A security guard actually helped us get our tickets.
You can't get the full "DC experience," or even the whole Smithsonian experience, in a day. This is why schools take trips here during spring break, because the National Mall has plenty of material to cover a very full week. We knew that going in so we decided to pick only the museums we really wanted to see: the National Gallery of Art (my preference) and the Museum of Natural History (Justin's). I also wanted to see the American History Museum, because I'm a US History teacher after all, and I was told it was really cool.
There is just so much to see in the National Gallery of Art. We only went into the West building, but that's the one that had my favorites: Raphael, Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Rubens, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Degas, Rodin, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Plus so, so, so much more! I tried to speed through the galleries because there was so much more to see than we had time for. I did catch the end of a guided tour though.
After that, we trudged (because our feet hurt) to the Museum of Natural History. I had spent about 20 minutes in there during our DC trip of 2007 because we didn't realize we were close to closing time by the time we got there. This time we spent more time in there, looking through most of the exhibits: the ocean, mammals, origin of man, bones, mummies, and of course, dinosaurs! Oh and also the Hope Diamond. It was so cool just to walk through everything. If we had way more time I would have loved to read a lot more of the information, because that's kind of what I do, but just looking and taking everything in was super rewarding. At the end, we went through a butterfly garden. You do have to pay to do this ($6 for adults), but it's worth it. You get to spend 15 minutes in the garden (they ticket it so it doesn't get too crowded because it's not that big, at least if you've ever been in a butterfly house). But there were so many butterflies! Sometimes they will land on you and you are just supposed to wait for them to fly away or ask an employee to brush them off with a paintbrush. Justin had one on his shorts for about 5 minutes.
We grabbed some dinner after that, but knowing that we still had to walk back to the metro, we decided to forego the American History Museum - on this trip anyway. Hey, we need a reason to come back, right?
So it turns out we are really glad we found a hotel before we went to the city, and really glad they let us check in early. All we had to do was ride the metro back, cross the street, and hit the hay.
We did some other stuff today too. Honestly, the best thing that happened today was that we had a good "family talk" before we left Justin's mom's this morning. Hugs and tears and all that.
Oh, and apparently my car picked up somebody else's TV signal somehow because when we got into the car and turned it on, we could hear QVC. The radio was off. The Bluetooth was off. We tried playing a CD, turning the volume all the way down, etc., and it didn't get any quieter. It was the most absurd thing. Just thought I'd mention it in case anyone else has ever experienced something like that.
We saw several street musicians in DC and gave money to a few. I wish the city could actually employ them. I hope they get by. On that same note, there are a lot of homeless people in DC. I know there are a lot of conflicting ideas about whether it's a good idea to give money to them, and I get all that. I don't always give money to people, but sometimes it just seems like the right thing to do. We passed a man whose sign said he was an Iraq veteran and recently became homeless. I know this is a huge problem for returning veterans. We gave him some money (wish it had been more), and Justin shook his hand and thanked him for his service to our country. We walked away and I just felt so depressed - we were in our nation's capital city, and there are people here who have literally risked their lives to defend this city and every other in the country, and the people who make laws less than a mile away are not taking care of the people who make their cushy lives possible.We should support our soldiers - not just when they're overseas but also when they come home.
I hate to end on a down note, but I think it's worth thinking about, especially this weekend. There is a lot to celebrate this Independence Day, but there is a lot of work to do too. Remember the people who can't afford to cook out and launch their own illegal fireworks while you're celebrating. Think about the ways we can make America the nation it aspires to be.