Today was both really fun and extremely frustrating. I missed that person on our student trips who stays a step ahead of us making plans and ordering food and arranging transportation.
At the bus stop there was man and wife with two college-age daughters–clearly tourists. I asked “Where are you from?”
“Really? What part?”
“Oh, wow, my family is from Northern Ireland.” (Almost always Irish visitors are from the South (the Republic, not the UK.) “Do you know, just by chance, sometimes this works, I’m sure you don’t, but…know my cousin Pervis Campbell?”
“Yes, I work for the Presbyterian Church and I know him well!”
So very fun! We hugged and talked and shared stories until our bus came.
The Washington National Cathedral was more than amazing!! I love Gothic architecture. The building is the sixth biggest cathedral in the world. It took 83 years to build and was finished the year Molly was born, 1990. (Seems recent!) When we approached it, there were pieces of the cathedral on the ground, surrounded by a little fence. That’s to show the parts that fell off the building during the earthquake in 2011, and to solicit funds for the repairs.
It was beautiful and I’m so glad we went. We took a tour, which was supposed to last half an hour and lasted an hour. It had taken longer than expected to get to the cathedral, so now we were squeezed for time since we had to be at the Capitol for our arranged tour at 1:40, and it was noon. After a long bus ride (no nearby metros) we arrived at the Capitol, but we didn’t quite know where the Visitor’s Center was, and by the time we figured it all out, we had 20 minutes to eat lunch. So we grabbed coffee, planning to eat after. (And I ate a Luna bar. They don’t allow ANY food, at all, even wrapped, in the Capitol, but I told them I was hypoglycemic and they did let me through. But they took Jim’s protein bar. when they searched his backpack.)
We had a great and funny guide at the Capitol and the building was so pretty and full of history and I felt really proud to be an American and have such a cool government building. The phrase on our seal, E Pluribus Unim (from many, one), reminded me how there have always been strong divisions in our country. Farmers, businessmen, landowners, laborers, rich, poor–we all want different things. But we’ve worked through our differences in the past and survived. (Questions of states rights, slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, and more.) Right now our elected officials are doing exactly what their constituents elected them to do, but not necessarily what’s best for the country as a whole. But we’ve been here before and survived.
After the tour we went to the Library of Congress, because there was a secret passage. Well, not secret. But a tunnel. Fun! What a surprise!! You guys, why didn’t any of you tell me this is the most beautiful building in America?????!! I almost missed visiting it, and it was the BEST part of the day! When we asked the woman at the information desk what to see, she actually teared up when she was trying to describe the architecture. It is, she said, her idea of Paradise. For me it was even better than the Vienna Opera House (my most recent high bar), and it’s IN AMERICA!! If you haven’t seen it, you should stop what you are doing right now and go. It’s that beautiful. They had all of Jefferson’s books, a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, Walt Whitman’s journal, a Gutenberg Bible, photos by Dorothea Dix and so much more. My photos don’t do the building justice.
So, now it’s 3:00 and we haven’t eaten and we’ve done a bunch of walking and we are exhausted. (Foreshadowing.) I guess congress-type people don’t eat because on Yelp there were very few restaurants close to the Capitol. So we went to one that seemed much closer than it was. Truly! This is where we missed that tour director person. We walked over a mile, took a bus another two miles and only after the bus drove away did we realize we were in a neighborhood with lots of PayDay Loan places and people with trash bags of belongings sitting around on the street. I don’t know where the restaurant earned all the positive ratings on Yelp, but it certainly wasn’t for the ambiance. It was in a sketchy strip mall that reminded Jim of the SF Tenderloin. Then my phone ran out of juice. We didn’t know where we were or where to go. (It was very stressful.) We got on the next bus thinking at least we would be sitting down, and could get off when we passed something familiar. I know that Kelly would be all like “MY PEOPLE!!” and if we got to know them we’d enjoy sitting down for a meal, and hearing their stories. But we didn’t know them. We looked very different from them. We didn’t belong and it was obvious to all. We got off when we recognized Union Station. The Au Bon Pain restaurant looked like an oasis in the dessert. And after we had filled our tummies with lattes and apple pastry and plugged in our phones, things began to look less tragic. I had planned to go to a free performance at the Kennedy Center, where we could go up on the observation deck and get a beautiful view, but, alas, it looked like another struggle to get there. We would have to find a cab, forgo dinner, and again we were pressed for time. Suddenly the idea of breakfast for dinner at the hip coffee-shop-turned-diner near our hotel seemed like a good option. (It reminded me of Sally Lou’s in SLO.) The one thing Jim had wanted to do today was sit and have coffee, and he finally had his chance…at 7 p.m. What do they say? All’s well that…