An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life Lately: The Washington Review (art & basketball, the photo rule, who we saw, and what I wore)

With Nicholas graduating from Clemson in May, this past week was his last spring break. And since Jonathan's spring break was the same week, and since Joe was traveling to Washington D.C. on business, we decided to pull Timothy out of school and make a family trip of it. Four days in our Nation's capital . . .
~1~ Something for Everyone

As parents we know that vacations are a way to build lasting memories, but when there are so many varied interests in one family it takes a little juggling to make sure everyone is happy; as a result, we've learned that, at some point, everyone gets the chance to make a decision when we're on vacation, whether it's picking where to eat or what to visit next.

For this trip we collectively agreed to visit The White House Visitor Center and then walk to the White House to take photos (something we didn't do in our 2007 visit), and we knew we would meet our nephew/cousin for lunch in Chinatown (he works at the U.S. Mint), but after that our itinerary included a combination of "must-sees" and everyone's top choice:

Joe: Since this was a business trip for him and would therefore be gone during the day, he organized a nighttime activity by scoring tickets to a Washington Wizards basketball game.
Me: Tour of the U. S. Capitol (This was my baby; I contacted our congressman, I scheduled the tour) Nicholas: National Museum of Art (West Wing only as he was not interested in the East Wing's modern art)
Jonathan: National Museum of American History and/or National Museum of Natural History
Timothy: National Air and Space Museum

Something for everyone: two museums, a basketball game,
an art gallery, and a U.S. Capitol tour

~2~ Getting Around

We Metro-ed everywhere. Ironically, during our stay we read two articles in the Washington Post lamenting all the problems with the city's Metro system, but we found it to be wonderfully convenient. Basically we arrived at our hotel, parked the van, and never moved it again. Our hotel was two blocks from a Metro station, so Joe took the train to his meetings and we took the trains everywhere else. Admittedly there is an initial learning curve (What direction does this train go? Is this the right platform?) but after that first day we could maneuver through the system like a pro.

Riding the Washington Metro

~3~ The Hill in Capitol Hill

Fun fact: the U. S. Capitol sits on a hill. And we know this because on the day of our scheduled tour we walked from the National Air and Space Museum and climbed UP the hill to get to the Cannon House (the oldest congressional office building). The Cannon House is exactly one block beyond and one block over from the Capitol, so it was even more up.

Once we went through security at the Cannon House, we went up flour flights of stairs. To be sure there was an elevator, but it was a rather official looking one and it was being used by rather official looking people and we weren't sure if we qualified as being official enough. (We found out later that we were official after all.) Basically, with all that climbing we arrived to Representative Rick Allen's office hot, sweaty, parched, and generally disheveled, but in total awe of everything.

Many thanks to Representative Rick Allen and his staff
for their wonderful hospitality

~4~ The Highlight

There are basically two ways to schedule a tour of the U.S. Capitol: book online, or contact your congressman's office and request a tour. I decided write our congressman, Representative Rick Allen, and received a response the very next day with a date and time for our tour, instructions on how to get to his office, and a city map.

The tour was, without a doubt, the highlight of our trip.

We arrived not knowing what to expect, so everything that happened was a delightful surprise: the welcome from his staff, the offers of bottles of water, the official photograph around Rick Allen's desk (it should arrive by mail any day), the passes to the Visitor's Gallery for the 115th Congress, and a private tour of the Capitol.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to meet Rick Allen because Congress was in session and he had just left his office, but at one point during our tour we had to step aside to let Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pass. He was THIS close; I was so awe-struck I forgot to take a photo.

Trip highlight: tour of the U.S. Capitol

~5~ Cruel and Unusual

That's what Timothy thought when we spent an afternoon at the National Museum of Art (which was Nicholas' choice). Why? Because just last month he endured an entire rainy Saturday afternoon following me around the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and two art museums within one month ... oh, the horrors!

But wait, it gets even more dire. On the day we had lunch in Chinatown, we discovered that our metro stop was right next to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and ... well, we were right there anyway ... and there's nothing like seizing the opportunity ... so we decided to enter.

THREE art museums within one month, two within the same week. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? (Timothy's words)

In the end,  I caved. Oh, we still wandered through the museum, but I gave Timothy my iPhone and let him catch Pokémon to his heart's content. There's nothing like finding a Pokémon next to a painting by Edward Hopper or Georgia O'Keefe. And there's nothing like an art museum to inspire a little sarcasm ...

Art brings out the sarcasm in you-know-who.
Me: This is beautiful. It's not a triptych, would they call it a panel series?
Timothy: How about a comic strip?

Three art museums in a month. Oh, the horrors.

~6~ Freedom in a Cross-Body Bag

It's taken me a while, but I've learned this all-important rule of life: if you carry a big purse everyone will ask you to hold their stuff -- water bottle, jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks -- you name it. When you're a mom with young children this is the norm, but now that everyone is older and self-sufficient I like being hands-free with my Coach cross-body messenger bag. It's the perfect size for a wallet, iPhone, compact, lip gloss, sunglasses, map, and a tin of Altoids. That's it. That's all I need for a day of sightseeing, and now everyone carries their own water bottle and manages their own jackets.

Hands free with my Coach cross body messenger bag

~7~ These Shoes are Made for Walking

Any time you visit a large city -- think Rome, New York, Washington D.C. -- be prepared to walk. A lot. A city block is longer than you realize, metro stairs can go on forever, art galleries and museums are sprawling; in other words, we walked miles. And lots of them.

My point? Wear comfortable shoes. While I can wear boots for an afternoon walking around the High Museum of Art, they wouldn't work for city walking. But I didn't want to totally sacrifice fashion for function, so before the trip I invested in a pair of Fit Flop Sporty-Pop X Lizard-Print Sneakers in a pretty blush, the it color for spring. Not only were they super flexible, ultra-lightweight and sooooo comfortable, but for sneakers they were pretty darn cute.

See? This is why I lag behind.

What I wore for walking around

~8~ One Picture a Day

Here's a conundrum: I like to take photos, but Nicholas and Jonathan don't like to pose for photos. So before our trip I set one rule: I was entitled to one photo of them a day, with no complaining or eye rolling. Which is how I got this photo where they are both smiling. It was a good rule.

They're posing! They're smiling!

~9~ Final Word

There was a lot going on in Washington D.C. while we were there: FBI Director James Comey was testifying at the Capitol, confirmation hearing for Judge Neil Gorsuch were going on at the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress was voting on the health care bill, and President Trump made a couple of visits to the Capitol. 

Which is why I have to end with this: I absolutely love Washington D.C.

The architecture, the art, the history, our government ... it's all there. And politics aside, just being in our Nation's Capitol is a reminder of how we are all parts of the whole. It's exciting, humbling, and so inspiring.

I love Washington D.C. and can't wait to go back!


Suburban Correspondent said...

Metro is pretty efficient within the city itself. But commuting from outside during SafeTrack has been pretty hairy. Also, expensive.

DC is pretty cool - I do hope you made it to the National Air and Space Museum, though! That's my favorite one. Out our way is the NASM annex (Udvar-Hazy). That's always worth a side trip, if you have the time.

That Capitol Tour sounds wonderful - did you get to see the actual Senate gallery, etc.? The standard tour that they give you from the Visitor's Center doesn't cover any of that - very disappointing.

Maria (also Bia) said...

We did visit the Air and Space Museum; it was our second time and it's always a favorite. On our next visit I hope to get to the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Have you been to either of these?

And I still need to get to the Library of Congress. So much to see and do!

On our capitol tour, we did get passes to see the actual Senate gallery (and they were in session!); however, the line was still long and begged the question: Do we stand in line for an hour (or more) or go off to see other things? We decided to go off exploring when our intern/guide told us our passes are good for two years . . . so I decided that the next time my husband has to go to D.C. I will tag along and plan to get to the capitol EARLY so I can use our passes without waiting.

Have a great day!