Marble, Cement & Guys in Wigs

As far as cutting-edge art and design cities, Washington DC doesn’t immediately spring to mind. However, I flipped my lid when I saw that a Barbara Kruger installation AND a Man Ray exhibit were in town. A junket MUST be arranged.

Junket Objectives

Additions to the Itinerary:

  • The Capitol
  • The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
  • Any of the Smithsonians
  • The Supreme Courts
  • Camden Yards

Transportation: $387 PSP to BWI on United

Cost of Lodging:  Stayed free with my brother

My brother lives just outside the district, so that was that. He sprung into action—booking film tickets at FilmFestDC, getting Senate and House passes from his senator, Orioles tickets–the perfect travel agent! I just sat back for the ride. So much design, so much art. Let’s start with the Capitol.

washingtondc_pamphlets

The Capitol

The Capitol Visitor Center is a well-oiled machine. And it has to be due to the tons of visitors they get each day. You’ll move through the vast lower-level center easily due to a timed online reservation system.  Additionally you can contact your representative and one of their staff will take you for a tour. I did this, but he stood me up! To be fair, he had a conflict and was extremely apologetic. Are you a poor planner? No worries, just show and they’ll hook you up with a tour.

The tour itself is limited—I counted three rooms—but if you get a good guide, you’ll come away at least a nugget or two of trivia to dazzle your friends. My guide was a loquacious young fellow, eager to throw his extensive knowledge on us.

If you watch national news, you may have seen scaffolding all over the structure. The cast iron of the dome is being restored. If you don’t watch national news, hey, the Capitol is being restored! Here’s the view from inside.

capitol-dome-canvas

The fresco looks heavenly with the billowy canopy around it! Here it is little closer:  The Apotheosis of Washington by Italian Constantino Brumidi. (one of my nuggets) Yes, that’s George Washington holding court in the center–a little unAmerican, but there you go.

capitol-dome-closeup

The other grand room you enter is the Statuary Hall which contains statues (natch) given by the states to the Capitol. Here’s Huey Long gesturing.

huey-long-statue-capitol

Do contact your representative to get passes for the House and Senate. We got lucky and Senate was in session so we sat there watching governance. Ok, to be honest, not much was happening, but I got to hear Harry Reid make a speech and saw other lawmakers milling about. Unfortunately, they take away all electronics before you go into either chamber, so I have no photos. But as a news junkie, I was thrilled to see these folks I see on the tv all the time. But that might just be me.


 

That’s nice. Sooo, should I go? Yes. The tours are 45 minutes or so, filled with factoids, (although the guides do vary in content and enthusiasm) and ornate design is EVERYWHERE. No surface is left undecorated. Even if the style ain’t your cup of tea, this is US history. And if you’re in the chambers while legislation is being made, this is the future.

I’m smitten. Tell me more. Don’t bring any liquids or food in. Or stun guns.

Location  Capitol Hill, Washington, DC 20510

Cost  Free always. And you get a headset so you can hear through the din.

Tip  Go during lunch for less crowds. And wish I’d known about the excellent website of the Architect of the Capitol prior to visiting. Don’t be like me, check it out to set groundwork for your trip.

 

 

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