We flew to Washington DC for the last week of October, to visit our daughter. We took a midweek trip to the Shenandoah Mountains to see fall colors and hike while she was working. There is always so much to see in our nations’ capital. We visited all three branches of government, several museums, had some delightful meals with our daughter and her friends, and also visited some cousins in Maryland. Plenty of scope for thought, and art to appreciate, on this trip.
10/21 – Flying east –
We had cloud cover until after the Rockies. From my window seat, I watched the land beneath me change from the flat patchwork of the agricultural midcontinent to the wrinkles of Appalachia.
Ohio? large power plant on a river
Pennsylvania? wind mills on the ridges
Swooping into National Airport over the Mall – Lincoln Memorial
Potomac River, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol
10/22 – National Portrait Gallery, and Alexandria, VA
On Friday we had some business downtown, then had time for a brief visit to the National Portrait Gallery.
My daughter wanted to show us the new portraits of the Obamas. Unfortunately, they were on loan to another museum, but we did visit some favorite presidents:
This Shepard Fairey portrait of Barack Obama was in the place of the official portraits.
John F. Kennedy by Elaine de Kooning
I also found a few women to admire:
The Four Justices, by Nelson Shanks. Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagen, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg
After driving through a slow traffic jam that provided a great view of the Washington Monument from every angle, we followed the traffic out of town, and ended up at the Alexandria Waterfront, where we found a delicious Thai dinner on an outdoor patio overlooking the Potomac River.
Alexandria River Walk
“Virginia is for Lovers” – we saw a formally dressed wedding party pose for pictures here, among the many people taking selfies by this sign.
10/24 – Old Ellicott City, MD
During our stay with cousins in Baltimore we visited Old Ellicott City on the Patapsco River. This city dates back to the 1600s, and is famous for its historic mill, railroads, and frequent flooding. The architecture reminds me of towns I’ve seen in England. Recent flooding repairs are ongoing. The town is known for public art, though being a Monday, most shops and museums were closed.
Mural and sculpture
Old brick work
Public mosaic, made from objects collected from the riverbed.
Steep streets above the river
B&O Railroad Museum
Bricks and siding
Shop windows showed Halloween decorations. Pumpkins made of many media caught my eye: ceramic, glass, wire, beaded, painted, fabric, even knitted!
We spent the next three days in Shenandoah National Park, to be described in the next post.
10/28 – The Supreme Court, The Library of Congress, the US Capitol, the National Museum of the American Indian
On Friday afternoon, we returned to DC and set out to see more sites. Our first stop was the Supreme Court Building, which I had never been to before.
The Supreme Court Building from across the street.
The plaza has two large fountains.
We walked up the steps to the portico.
View from the top tier back to the Capitol
Looking up between the pillars – light fixture
Library of Congress, right next door.
We had time for a quick look around the Library of Congress before our US Capitol tour.
Library of Congress building
The main chamber has beautiful marble carvings and murals representing classical literature and scholarship.
There is an upper balcony,
and a beautiful glass ceiling.
There were many exhibits I would have liked to examine in detail, but will have to hope to return another day.
Our daughter’s friend offered us a Capitol tour. I had been once before, more than ten years ago. There is so much to see in this building – I was glad to go again. We began in one of the Congressional office buildings, then were escorted through underground tunnels and security checkpoints to the Visitor Center.
Side dome, where media interviews are given
Skylight with view to the Capitol Dome, and the Statue of Freedom on top.
The main hall of the Visitor Center has lots of space for tour groups, and a selection of statues of famous Americans.
U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
Replica of the Statue of Freedom on the top of the building
Statue of Freedom
Next we passed the original Supreme Court Chambers.
Original Supreme Court Chambers
with Original Clock. Much of what is in this room has been replicated.
We also passed a giant bust of President Lincoln on our way to the main Rotunda.
The main Rotunda is massive, and nearly impossible to photograph. Our guide said the Statue of Liberty would fit in this space.
Paintings, carvings, friezes…
Ceiling carvings, windows, painting
Close up of the center of the dome.
The Frieze of American History circles the upper level
Upper gallery, special tours only.
Paintings all around the lower level,
and more statues – Lincoln again.
Pioneers for Women’s Suffrage
Our next stop was The Old Senate Chamber.
The Old Senate Chamber
Replica of the original desk
Intricate floor tiles
We didn’t go into the active chambers – but it was pointed out to us where the building had been repaired after the January 6th insurrection. Next we walked through Statuary Hall. Here are a few of the women represented there:
Our time was up. We returned to the Office Building where we began, with a stop to see artwork celebrating the western states.
Maps of the western territories
A one hour tour is hardly enough time to begin to see all that the U.S. Capitol building holds. Each wall, floor and ceiling is embedded with meaning, signifying historical events. As we walked through, our guide told us interesting facts about the architecture, the statuary, the building’s history. We could hear other guides emphasizing different aspects of the building. It was a privilege to get to view a slice of it, and I would be willing to go back again, for another view.
And we were not done yet! On our way back to our hotel, we walked through the National Museum of the American Indian, with just enough time to view one exhibit hall:
Entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian
Inner dome – a more modern architecture than the Capitol.
There were many styles of indigenous art on show. We passed these hallway pieces on our way to the gallery with the Preston Singletary exhibit:
Preston Singletary is a Tlingit American artist, who represents traditional stories and subjects using various forms of glass. Part of the gallery was a walk through the story of the raven, and there were many other beautiful pieces on display. :
It was nearly closing time for the museum, so we left without seeing the other galleries – another place I would like to return to. We exited the mall side of the museum.
As we crossed the mall, we got another view of the Capitol, with the current construction scaffolding, and the Washington Monument.
Washington Monument. This was Friday afternoon – I think they were setting up for a festival on the weekend.
10/29 – Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden, National Mall, the White House, Potomac River Walk, Flying Home
Our last day in DC was a beautiful sunny fall day so we opted to do outdoor things. We started with a picnic lunch in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, a sunken green space filled with a variety of outdoor art pieces.
View across the garden
The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin
King and Queen by Henry Moore
Double Candle by Stirling Ruby.
This modern glass and steel grid had interesting reflections and transparencies:
Next, we walked across the mall, past the Washington Monument, and then the White House.
Looking west to the Lincoln Memorial
North side of the White House
Later, we took a walk along the Potomac River near Mt Vernon before heading to the airport for our flight home.
After we boarded the plane, I could see the quarter moon rising. We flew west, chasing the sunset, with the moon visible over the wing the entire way, until we dipped below the clouds in Oregon.
Quarter moon over the airport…
Rivers of light below,
Quarter moon and sunset still on our horizon.
I was ready to be home, in time for Halloween in Portland.