Day Two in DC began with brunch at Afterwords Cafe, which is, I am told, an Institution. I was leaning toward sweet, so I got the French toast. Excepting blah scrambled eggs, the food was good and the service was quick and excellent. I also appreciated the complimentary orange juice.
Suitably fortified for the morning, I walked a block to the Dupont Circle Metro station, which has the longest escalator I'd ever seen - seriously. I found the DC Metro to be very user-friendly and and efficient. The fares do change by destination and time of day, but $5 was more than sufficient to get me to the Mall and back again.
I came out at the Smithsonian station to a large crowd of people participating in an Epilepsy Charity Walk. One of the things that becomes quickly apparent is that the National Mall is equally a gathering place for locals and tourists. Throughout the day I encountered as many local joggers, kite fliers, and Frisbee players as I did international tourists with cameras.
The Mall itself is a very beautiful and, at times, very emotional place to wander.
I started my tour of the monuments at the impossible to miss Washington Monument. It's hard to grasp the scale of it without standing right next to it. I checked for tickets to enter the inside, but by the time I reached the ticket stand (around 9:45ish) they were sold out for the day. I didn't mind one way or the other, so I continued my way west toward the Lincoln Memorial.
Located between the Washington and Lincoln Monuments is the relatively new World War II Memorial, which was for me the most striking, and emotional, of all the monuments.
The monument is ringed with a series of bas-relief panels depicting various scenes, a family listening at the radio, soldiers in the pacific forests, nurses tending to the wounded, etc. The sculptures did an amazing job showing emotion on all the faces. I'll admit as I went from panel to panel I began to cry.
The back center features the "price of freedom" wall, with one gold star for every 100 lives lost in the wall. This combined with the panels puts a real human perspective on the war.
Next up was the Lincoln Memorial. With the Lincoln (and Vietnam) Memorial, my experience was akin to seeing American Gothic in a museum - it's cool, but the imagery is so familiar, its hard to see it as anything other than the image. The one surprise was the pennies people left on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in memoriam.
It was the memorials I was most unfamiliar with (WWII, Korea) that held the biggest impact. I think that impact was furthered by the fact that I knew people who had fought in those wars, whereas I didn't know anyone who had fought in Vietnam. The life-sized sculptures at the Korea Monument in particular made it easy to image my father-in-law among them.
After the emotion of the war memorials, it was a nice change of pace to the beauty of the Tidal Basin and its 2,000 blooming cherry trees located mostly between the FDR and Jefferson Memorials.
Blazer: J. Crew Outlet
Cherry Blossom Pin: FDR Memorial Gift Shop
Denim Skirt: Old
After I visited the Jefferson Memorial I worked my back to the Washington Monument, completing a five-mile loop of the major monuments. By this point my feet were killing me. I thought my boots were comfy, but not comfy enough for five miles. But the walking wasn't done yet - I only had one free day in DC, so I had to see more.
After an encouraging phone call to Mr. Cleaver back at the home front, I pushed on Eastward to the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I enjoyed both the pop-culture-y bits like Julia Child's kitchen and the ruby slipper, as well more educationa exhibits like Science in American Life.
Exhibits on American reactions to Atomic Energy and the Labor movement seemed especially timely in light of recent political events.
I was excited to discover the gallery of First Lady inaugural ball gowns at the museum and thought of how striking it was to see Michelle Obama's dark-skinned mannequin after rows and rows of white mannequins just a few exhibits away from a sit-in lunch counter.
After several hours at the American History Museum, I went to the far end of the mall to satisfy my geek leanings at the Air and Space Museum - unfortunately I only had about 30 minutes to do a whirlwind tour do to some dinner plans, but it was well worth it.
My last day in DC was mostly spent at my conference (I tried to look very work-y).
Dress: Notary Dress, made by me.
Scarf: Vintage, purchased at Ferdinand.
Fortunately, I had five hours between the end of the conference and my flight time, so I got so see the one thing I missed the day before - the Capitol.
Unfortunately, my coworker and I were too late for the tour, but we went to our Senators' office in the Russell building and got passes to the Gallery, which was very cool. Even cooler, I got to witness a roll-call vote for the confirmation of a NY District Court Judge.
All in all, it was a very satisfying first trip to Washington D.C. I'd love to go back and spent more time there with Mr. Cleaver, particularly at the other Smithsonian museums.