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Exploring Washington Alone

17 May

On our first full day in Washington,

we walked down the street from our hotel

to enter the Metro at Dupont Circle.

This is the metro entrance…

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It was like an almost vertical descent into the bowels of the earth.

It was rather unnerving.

Standing on the escalator down,

you felt like you were falling forwards

and I kept wanting to lean backwards.

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Oh and I think it’s the second longest escalator ride I’ve ever taken.

(The first would probably be at Universal Studios, LA).

But we eventually reached the bottom….thank goodness!

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I must say, using local transport was a great way of experiencing a new place.

We thoroughly enjoyed it, even though we sometimes saw more of the city than we planned.

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Washington Metro stations were quite clean and pleasant.

And the locals were almost as nice and knowledgeable as the New Yorkers.

The Washington Metro was a little more cumbersome to use than the NY subway.

But we learned.

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We had an interesting start to this first day.

We travelled to Union Station for breakfast

but, on arrival, Ethan started to feel really unwell.

Before we’d left Union Station, it was decided that Ethan and hubby

should hop back on the Metro and return to the hotel for the day.

Since the rest of our group had shopping plans for the day,

that left Brayden and I to roam the city by OURSELVES!

Exciting and terrifying both at the same time!!!

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(This photo was taken just before we sent half the family back to the hotel.

Doesn’t Ethan look awful.)

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So Brayden and I boldly hit the streets.

I was on a mission to find the Library of Congress

and Thomas Jefferson’s book collection.

No one else had wanted to see this

so I was excited to have my freedom to spend as long as I wanted there.

(Poor Brayden just had to suffer through it.)

It wasn’t too much of a walk and there was plenty to see on the way.

We walked past the Supreme Court building.

(You could be forgiven for thinking you were in Rome

with all these glorious classical buildings.)

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Notice the flag.

We’d noticed the flag at half mast when we were in Philadelphia.

It turns out that one of their Supreme Court judges had died.

Aside from the fact that a man had passed away,

the death of one of these judges was apparently a very big thing.

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As we got closer to the building,

we could see the media pack outside the building.

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And then the line up of people extending for blocks around the corner.

We simply had to ask what was happening.

If you don’t ask, you don’t learn.

These people were lining up to view the body of the recently deceased judge.

It’s hard for me to fathom wanting to do this.

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We continued on.

The Capitol Building is right across the road from the Library of Congress.

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Sadly, it’s being renovated at present, so it wasn’t very picturesque.

But even if it was gloriously beautiful,

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I only had eyes for one building –

The Library of Congress.

It’s pretty ordinary from the outside, but inside…

(Cue the heavenly angel music.)

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It is breathtaking…

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and so it should be.

This is a palace of books!

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The book are through these arches

and those doors at the end

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but tourists are directed up

the stairs,

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and then some more stairs,

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peering back of course to check out the awe-inspiring architecture of the foyer,

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to the viewing gallery.

This is what we saw.

**Cue even more angelic music**

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“Where are the books?” you ask.

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Peer through the arches

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and you will see the treasure.

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There is nothing more beautiful

than a gorgeous library.

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I eventually dragged myself away

…well, truth be told,

Brayden dragged me away.

Someone had to break the spell.

There was still so much to see in the Library of Congress,

like another copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

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This was our second Gutenberg Bible on this holiday.

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We also HAD to see Thomas Jefferson’s library of books.

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When the British burned Washington and the Library of Congress

in the War of 1812

(although the inferno happened in 1814),

Thomas Jefferson, who had the largest collection of books in the US at the time,

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offered his collection as a replacement.

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I can not fathom giving away my whole library.

The only good that could come from that

would be the joy of starting a new collection.

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We spent ages in the Library of Congress.

They had a fantastic gift shop

that held me like Odysseus‘ sirens.

But eventually,

with Brayden tugs and shoves,

we set out across Washington again,

First, we circled the Capitol building.

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Its back was as grand as its front.

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We admired the view from the Capitol building,

down the mall,

to the Washington Monument

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Then ventured off to find the National Archives building.

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This is home of the handwritten original copies of

the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

All of which simply had to be seen in the flesh

…or is that parchment.

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We also stopped in to see a copy of the Magna Charta.

We’d read about it last year,

so it was great to be able to show a copy of it to at least one of my sons.

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We didn’t stay long at the National Archives.

Too many things to do, in so few hours.

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Next stop, the President’s house.

Okay, well this was taken at a little gift shop

down the street from the president’s house.

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But we did wander over to the President’s place

– aka The White House

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and take the mandatory photos.

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The White House is a lot smaller than I imagined.

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The President had some unhappy folk on his doorstep.

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Protests and peaceful aren’t words I tend to associate together

so we didn’t linger long.

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Instead, we wandered around behind the White House

and headed for the Washington Monument.

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Our pace was slowing by this point.

Our feet were saying not nice things to us

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so we stopped to take some time to watch the squirrels.

I loooooved the squirrels.

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Since we didn’t have plans to enter the Washington Monument,

we simply admired it as we walked passed.

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Did you notice the two different colours of marble?

They apparently stopped work at one point,

when they ran out of money,

and, later, when they resumed work,

they had to use a different marble.

I’m undecided whether I think it enhances it,

or just makes it funny looking.

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Our final destination of the day,

(it was simply as far as our feet could take us

plus it was getting late and we were NOT staying out by ourselves after dark),

was the National Museum of American History.

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We’d read the story behind “The Star-Spangled Banner”

and simply had to see the Fort McHenry flag

that is believed to be the flag that inspired the anthem.

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(You simply must read “By the Dawn’s Early Light” by Steven Kroll.

I loved the story behind the US anthem.)

Sorry, there’s no photos of the flag.

It was too delicate and precious to allow photography of any kind.

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After walking all over Washington,

we dragged ourselves, limping almost,

to the closest Metro,

which wasn’t close enough for our likings.

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After finding a helpful American,

we negotiated the Metro ticket machine.

Then we found another helpful American,

to make sure we got on the correct train platform.

Then yet another to help us switch trains and platforms.

Thankfully people were lovely and happy to help

and even wanted to talk once they found out we were Australian.

Finally we found ourselves walking UPHILL

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to safely reach

our hotel.

We felt this was an *angelic music* moment too.

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