Our Washington visit -- part 2-- 02/23/09

Okay, to pick up where I had left off yesterday, after touring the Botanic Garden we crossed the mall and made our way back to our hotel, kicked off our shoes, had a cup of tea, and relaxed for a bit.

We have a niece who works in Washington (for the Nature Conservancy) and Nancy had e-mailed her about our visit and suggested that we get together for dinner. Right on cue, my cell phone rang a few minutes before six... she was downstairs in the lobby... it seems she had been attending a conference for the past two days in the same hotel we were staying in ( Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill -- a nice comfortable place, by the way, with a great location, just a couple of blocks from Union Station, just a couple of blocks to the Capitol and the National Mall, and reasonable walking distances to most of the museums). We got together in the lobby and set out down New Jersey to Massachusetts, and then a few blocks west on Massachusetts to the White Tiger Restaurant where all three of us enjoyed their Indian cuisine. (Good food and surprisingly inexpensive, I think we'll eat there again on some future DC trip).

Friday morning, coffee at the hotel and off we go for the day. We had remembered from previous trips that there was a good cafeteria in the Dirkson Senate Office Building and our niece had assured us that -- despite the post 9/11 security mania -- the public -- yeah, us, the taxpayers who pay for the government -- can still get in (you just have to go through a metal detector and put your cameras and phones, etc. through an x-ray machine, but you don't have to take your shoes off or empty your pockets or any of the rest of that airport nonsense). I really suggest giving it a try -- it's certainly much better food at much cheaper prices than you will find at any of the museum cafeterias. Nancy got a custom prepared vegetable omelet (with lots of vegetables, including baby spinach, and lots of egg) and a some fresh fruit and coffee and I got two eggs on a large croissant and some fruit and coffee and the whole thing came to around thirteen dollars. Don't try it at lunchtime because I understand that they have a two hour "staff only" policy to keep congestion down when it is time for employees to break for lunch. Okay, that's my big tip for Washington tourists. (The same thing is true of the House office complex, on the opposite side of Capitol Hill.)
From the Dirkson Building we headed straight past the Capitol and went to the National Gallery of Art. We started in the East building, the one that is modern architecture and has lots of modern art.
The West building is larger and more classical in design. The East and West buildings are connected by an underground passageway where you can walk or use a moving sidewalk. The ceiling and one wall are covered with thousands of lights that turn on and off in a pattern that gives the illusion of blobs of light following you as you walk (or ride).

Usually we give the East building a quick look and then move on the the West building where the real art is. (Yes, you might infer that we're not especially strong lovers of modern art.) This time, however, they had a special exhibit about Pompei that was fascinating. The last time we were in DC -- for JournalCon2004 (my how time flies!) -- there was a special Pompei exhibit (at the Museum of Natural History I believe) that included some of the same 3D computer video recreations of the villas, etc.

And then on to the West building where we enjoyed hours of looking at gallery after gallery filled with gorgeous paintings. We started with the Dutch Masters and mostly moved forward chronologically from there -- we'll have to hit the medieval and Renaissance art on a future visit -- spent lots of time with the painters of the Hudson River School such as Thomas Cole and Jasper Francis Cropsey and Worthington Whittredge -- we were both captivated by Whittredge's " Second Beach, Newport"
(Note to my brother and to Kate & Jim, you might be interested in this painting) One of these days I should try to get a photo of Second Beach today from a similar angle. Rather than posting any of the pictures I took of the art (low light, no flash, hand held, not very good photographs), let me show you what the building looks like:
A place where you can rest sit and rest your feet and your eyes in between strolls through the many galleries of paintings. And here's a close up photo of the flowers:

Eventually we moved on to the Museum of Natural History...

Where we saw an exhibit of Korean art and culture, took an historical tour through ancient Babylon and Egypt, learned about the application of forensic anthropology to unlock the history of Jamestown (the earliest settlement in Virginia), saw gems and minerals galore... including this one... the Hope Diamond.

And then, with just twenty minutes left before closing, we made a quick dash through the neighboring Museum of American History.

Well, cap that off with dinner at the Capital City Brewing Company's Capitol Hill location -- in the old Post Office building (and the site of the Postal Museum) on Massachusetts Avenue, right next to Union Station -- good bar food, good beer. (I got a plate of Buffalo wings followed by fish & chips -- plus two mugs of their very tasty "Prohibition Porter.")

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