We planned to walk less today than we did yesterday, but I’m not sure we accomplished that! We started off early once again, making our way to the The Capitol Building to line-up for tickets. We found a distinct lack of signage outside the iconic building. It wasn’t clear which entrance was for visitors, nor where to line up for tickets. The interior of the Capitol Visitor Center was only marginally better.
Eventually we made it inside and near the front of the line for the 8:50am tour, which started with a 13 minute video describing some of the history of the Capitol. It was a bit over-the-top but I appreciated the refresher. Next we got to see the inside of the Capitol itself, starting with the magnificent center dome. It was really interesting to hear about some of the history. For instance, the artwork around the top contains the Wright Brothers and their plane, even though the Capitol was built during the time of Lincoln! The reason is that the last 30 feet of the painting were not finished until the mid 1900s.
We also got to see the “whispering room” and a bunch of other unique halls and rooms inside the Capitol (one contained a beautiful chandelier that was apparently purchased not too long ago for just $1500). Most surprising to me were the incredible number of statues! Apparently each State can have two inside the building at any given time, and they can be replaced after ten years. After the tour, we stopped in the cafeteria for a coffee, and went to get tickets for the House and Senate galleries!
Considering it’s not trivial for international visitors to get into the Capitol in the first place, we were surprised that all you had to do to get tickets to the galleries was walk up to a counter and ask. We did so, and decided to go sit it on the House of Representatives for a bit. After a couple more security checks, we found ourselves in a mostly empty room. A few representatives were discussing the recent credit card legislation and there were about a dozen other visitors. It was pretty cool to see, but we didn’t stay too long.
Next we stopped across the street at both the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. The former was underwhelming because we didn’t get to see much, and the latter was better than I expected. The interior of the Library of Congress is pretty impressive. I particularly liked looking at Jefferson’s Library. After a quick walk around, we decided it was time for lunch, and walked a few blocks east to a small diner called Jimmy T’s. It was pretty ghetto looking but hit the spot – I had the eggs benedict (they serve breakfast all day) and Sharon had the cheeseburger and fries. It was nice to be able to walk through some residential neighborhoods along the way.
After lunch, we hopped on the Metro and headed downtown. Our first stop was the Canadian Embassy, an impressive building on the outside that we didn’t get to see much of on the inside. We wondered how they managed to snag such prime real estate – Pennsylvania Avenue and 5th Street, with a clear view of the Capitol. Right next door to the embassy was our main stop of the afternoon – the Newseum.
At $20 per person, Newseum was the first attraction of the trip that wasn’t free. The building itself is incredible, and includes two incredibly large, hydraulic elevators. There are six floors to Newseum, and we visited each one. I particularly enjoyed the News History exhibit, the 9/11 exhibit, the Future of the News exhibit (where they had a Twittering the news section), and the Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs exhibit. They also display the front pages of newspapers from around the world. There was so much to see, and all of it so interesting. Newseum also includes a large number of interactive displays and consoles – dozens and dozens of touch screens that allow you to explore even further. I really enjoyed it!
With a bit of time to kill before dinner, we found a nearby Starbucks and sat down for a while. Our feet enjoyed the brief break! Eventually we made our back toward Georgetown, and right outside the Foggy Bottom Metro station discovered a small Farmers Market! Sharon was quite excited, so we had to stop and check it out. We ended up purchasing fresh strawberries (enjoying them right now) and a lavender teacake.
Our dinner reservation this evening was at Founding Farmers, a restaurant with a serious focus on local and sustainable food (and is the first LEED certified restaurant in DC). I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy sitting at a communal table, but it worked out just fine. We had the mini cheeseburgers to start, and I tried one of their local beers. For dinner, Sharon ordered the meatloaf and I chose the lobster mac and cheese. It was delicious, but we both left the restaurant feeling stuffed. I’m sure Sharon will have much more to say about it in her review.
We took our time walking back, detouring to see the Kennedy Center and Watergate along the way. We discovered that both are just about three blocks from where we’re staying! Tomorrow we’re going to the White House (well, to the visitor center and as close as we can get) and thankfully, it won’t be quite as early a start!
I’ve got a ton of photos to upload, but it’s taking quite a while to do so. You can find them in this photoset as I get them uploaded.