Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Capitol Idea! (cont.)

Dorothy's ruby slippers!
After an indulgent brunch the next morning at Batter Bowl, we headed off to see America's founding documents. We had timed entry tickets for the National Archives, which house original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (In the exhibit space, they also have an original of the Magna Carta. Fascinating.)

We breezed in, and after a short wait, we were in the room with the documents. They are so old, and the ink on them is so faded, that they are hardly readable. They are kept in sealed cases to protect them from the elements, and no photos are allowed.

But for such fragile scraps of paper, they are powerful. The ideas they convey are still strong, more than 200 years later. It's fascinating to stand before them.

After spending some time breathing in the history, we went to the exhibit space. There are some really nice interactive exhibits that allow visitors to page through the history of major cases related to the founding documents. (Think a big tabletop that's one big iPad. You select certain amendments or clauses, then learn more about the court cases that have helped define them and set precedent. High-tech.)

Thomas Jefferson's writing desk. It's said he
wrote the Declaration of Independence on it.
Afterwards, we stopped for a quick lunch at Paul Bakery, where we chose some quiche, salad, and sandwiches, with a tasty dessert to finish. This place was quick, casual, budget-friendly, and delicious. Also very conveniently located.

Then, we moseyed on over to the National Museum of American History. Tops on my list were the Star Spangled Banner, Ben Franklin's cane, and Dorothy's ruby slippers. (I have to admit, I sung our national anthem as I stood in the dim lighting in front of the Star Spangled Banner. There is something so moving about it.) I loved this museum! Julia Child's kitchen, Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, a piece of Plymouth Rock! We also went through the whole "America on the Move" exhibit, which was really cool!

One item that I searched for, but didn't find, was Abraham Lincoln's stovepipe hat. After looking for it a while (in vain), I asked a museum staffer where it could be found. He told me that it was temporarily on display somewhere else. A sad moment.

All of that history made us hungry for dinner! We had reservations at Oyamel, and we were in for a treat! We sampled all kinds of goodies: warm chips with homemade salsa, a beet and avocado salad with citrus, some delicious shrimp with lime and garlic, tasty pork tacos, some carnitas and chicharrones. We washed it all down with their salt foam margarita, which I really enjoyed. (Salt in every sip!)

After dinner, we caught the metro home and turned in early.

Bartholdi Park
We started our day on Tuesday at Bartholdi Park. We wanted to check out this small park, featuring a gorgeous fountain designed by the same artist who sculpted the Statue of Liberty. The garden was in gorgeous bloom, so we took our time, admiring different parts of the park and enjoying the views from a variety of vantage points.

Afterwards, it was a quick hop across the street to the U.S. Botanic Garden. We were lucky in that it was a beautiful day! Before going inside, we explored the National Garden, a mix of quiet pathways through pools of water and a beautiful rose garden. Then, we entered through the conservatory. This garden reminded me very much of the San Antonio Botanical Garden, which we visited during a family vacation last spring. The garden court room is long, with rectangular pools, murals, and beautiful plants. Behind that, you'll find the jungle, which features tall palms, epiphytes, and a catwalk that's fun to amble across for a high-level view of the space.

The National Garden at the U.S. Botanic
Garden - every rose was blooming!
The garden also features several conservatory rooms: orchids (gorgeous), desert plants, plants from Hawaii, etc. There's also a fun little outdoor children's garden, which several small people were immensely enjoying on the day of our visit!

After a quick stop for lunch (a crisp shrimp Caesar salad and sorbet trio at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue - a little place we stumbled upon), we headed towards Ford's Theatre. I had booked us advance timed reservations for this visit (essential, as it's very popular), which was one of the must-sees for our trip. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, and I'd heard the theatre had a special exhibit to mark the occasion.

First, you stand in line to be admitted. Then, you're released into a basement (?) exhibit about Lincoln and his presidency. There were some really interesting displays in here, particularly the ones about Lincoln and his family. (And some hilarious anecdotes about his time in office. Long lines of petitioners routinely queued up at the White House to ask Lincoln for government job appointments. When Lincoln came down with a mild case of smallpox, he was recorded as saying, "At least now I'll have something to give everyone." Heh.)

Exhibits at Ford's Theatre
After enjoying the exhibits, visitors are ushered into the theatre itself. It's still a working theatre, so you may even see a set on the stage. A museum volunteer then talks you through the events leading up to (and immediately following) Lincoln's death. His box at the theatre is still decorated with patriotic bunting, and I'm told that no ticket buyer is ever seated there.

Afterwards, we crossed the street to the Peterson House, which is where Lincoln was taken for medical care after he was shot, and where he died. And here, the museum had a very special, very touching exhibit in honor of the anniversary of Lincoln's death. They had on display the coat he wore the night of the shooting, the American flag that had decorated his box (which they wrapped his wound in), the dark velvet cloak that Mary Todd Lincoln wore to the theatre that night, and the gun that John Wilkes Booth used to kill him.

And there, right at eye level, was the stovepipe hat. It was a jewel of a discovery for me.

Sign in front of the Peterson House
Our visit to Ford's Theatre ended up being the complete highlight of our entire trip. I found this attraction so incredibly moving, so sad, so human. It will stay with me a long, long time.

We popped back to the apartment to freshen up for a night out. We had dinner reservations and theatre tickets, and we didn't want to be late! Off we went to Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar for a delicious dinner. I chose the creamy carbonara with a glass of Oregon pinot gris. Heaven! I hadn't had pasta the whole trip (unusual for me), and this meal really hit the spot.

Then, it was a short walk to the theater at the Folger Shakespeare Library for the opening night performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

The cast and crew at the Folger Theatre
were amazing in this production!
Now, I'd worried about buying these tickets. I wasn't sure how much hubs would like the show. He's usually pretty good about going to musicals with me, and he doesn't mind the occasional play. But I was concerned that something absurdist would be a bit much.

How happily wrong I was! First of all, the cast and crew did an AMAZING job with the show. The whole cast was awesome, but Ian Merrill Peakes as The Player completely ran away with the script. We laughed and laughed and laughed! Hubs totally loved it! It was a great evening!

A quick cab ride home, and we tumbled into bed.

More to come . . .

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