Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Back in DC! (cont.)

A piece of the Berlin Wall. You can actually
touch it!
On my third day in the city, I slept in and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. Then, it was off to Newseum. I still can't believe it took me this long to visit a museum dedicated to the press and the First Amendment.

First of all, this place is HUGE. I spent pretty much the whole day there to see it all. You enter at the ground level, pick up your map, and proceed downstairs. There, you can watch a free orientation video, view the Berlin Wall gallery (They have actual pieces of the Berlin Wall on display that you can touch.), and explore a rotating exhibit. The exhibit on display when I visited was Today's FBI: Fighting Crime in the Age of Terror. In this exhibit, they had the actual cabin of the Unabomber, Dillinger's straw hat, and, perhaps most tragically, several of the phones recovered from the World Trade Center towers site. (Recovery workers reported that the phones rang for days after the crash as people searched for missing loved ones.)

After the orientation floor, it's recommended that you go all the way to the 6th floor and then work your way down. On the 6th floor, the Vietnam gallery was closed, but I still enjoyed the front pages exhibit and especially the open-air terrace, which features sweeping views of the city. (Now that the scaffolding is off the Capitol dome, you can get some wonderful views of it here!) A Pennsylvania Avenue timeline in this space also walks you through the growth of the area. On a pretty day, you could stay up here a while, taking in the views and the air.

On level five, you can view up to five short films on the origins of the American free press and rummage through an impressive news history gallery of front pages from throughout history. ("Hitler Dead" was one notable headline.) There were also tons of cool artifacts, including Thomas Paine's writing kit and trunk, Nellie Bly's satchel, and the dry erase board on which Tim Russet wrote "Florida! Florida! Florida!" during the Bush/Gore election coverage. Fascinating. Level four features a 9/11 gallery with coverage, a timeline, and the battered antenna from the top of one of the towers. In addition, a very moving film about a photographer who lost his life that day, and a video that tells his story, will remain with me for a long time. 
The 9/11 gallery at Newseum

Somewhere on the fourth level, my rumbling tummy demanded lunch. I popped out of the museum and crossed the street to The Capital Grille. The man next to me at the bar ordered a sparkling water, a salad, and some seared tuna. I blithely chose a giant cheeseburger with truffle Parmesan fries and a Coke. I ate every bite with absolutely no guilt, and it was FABULOUS! This place was pricey, but the food was delicious. And for Newseum, it's hard to beat the location. 

If you keep up with your entry ticket, you can come and go all day. So after lunch, I headed back inside to tackle the rest of Newseum. Level three features the Journalists Memorial, which pays tribute to those who have perished while doing their jobs, as well as an editorial cartoon exhibit and the Knight TV studio (where you can sometimes catch programs being filmed). Level two features an interactive ethics center, which was really cool (I apparently have very high ethical standards!), the museum shop, and spots where you can stand in front of a backdrop and practice being a reporter. 

Back on the ground level, the Pulitzer Prize Photographs Gallery will remind you why people say, "A picture is worth a thousand words." It's the largest collection of Pulitzer-winning photographs on public display, and it is tremendous.

Amazing show at the Kennedy Center!
I was at Newseum about 30 minutes after it opened, and I stayed almost until it closed. It is an overwhelming place that will make you glad we have a free press and the four freedoms of the First Amendment. I am so glad I got the opportunity to tour it. 

Afterward, I went to the hotel for a break. When I got hungry again, I walked a few blocks from the hotel to have dinner at Boqueria, a Spanish tapas restaurant. I sipped a delicious white sangria, nibbling sautéed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, bacon-wrapped dates, fried quail eggs and chorizo on toast, and churros with chocolate. Service was speedy and friendly, and the food was DELICIOUS!

The next day was my conference. I had a great day of learning and development, then I joined fellow conference participants for a dine around at Blue Duck Tavern. This place was very close to my hotel, and it was wonderful! I started with a glass of red wine, then enjoyed a quail with whipped ricotta and figs. We ordered a few different sides - onions, brussels sprouts, fries - and shared them amongst the table. Then, we all split two desserts - the Key lime pie and chocolate, pistachio and cherries. Food was incredibly tasty, and service was prompt, friendly, and knowledgeable about the menu. Prices are spendy here, but the experience merits it, I think.

Why, hello there, George!
After dinner, it was off to bed before another full day at the conference. Once the event was over that evening, I hustled off to freshen up at the hotel before another evening at the Kennedy Center. I had a ticket to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and I didn't want to be late! I'd read the book this show is based on last year, and I found the perspective of the narrator so original and interesting. I couldn't wait to see how the story had been adapted for the stage. I hurried to the Kennedy Center and grabbed a quick bite at the cafe there before settling into my seat.

The show was wonderful! Really good casting, amazing choreography, brilliant use of technology that both added to the show and made perfect sense for the story and characters. Adam Langdon was a revelation as Christopher Boone, and I loved Maria Elena Ramirez as Siobhan. Gene Gillette had some beautiful moments as Ed (Christopher's father), and the rest of the ensemble did wonderful things to distinguish the different characters they played and find the fun in the production. A fantastic adaptation!

Van Gogh at the National Gallery of Art
It was back to bed after the show. I awoke late the next morning, and I took my time getting breakfast at the hotel. I had a late flight out of the city, so I had one more (mostly) full day to explore DC. I decided to spend it at the National Gallery of Art. one of the city's many free museums. Though I'd visited the museum's outdoor sculpture garden before, I'd never ventured inside.

There was so much to see! First, I went to the main floor, where I took in the beautiful rotunda and the garden courts on both the east and west side. Then, I explored the American galleries, followed by the 19th century French paintings (Monets for DAYS! Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cassat). I saw all the tiny little dots on Seurat's Seascape at Port-en-Bessin, Normandy. I poked through the 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings, where I confronted a self portrait of a very unconvinced-looking Rembrandt. Lastly, I also walked through the 13th to 16th century Italian galleries on this floor.
The Reading Girl, by Pietro Magni.

Feeling hungry again by this time, I stopped for lunch at the Garden Cafe on the ground floor. Fortified with some salmon and kale salad, I examined the 19th and 20th century sculpture galleries with relish. (I love sculpture, and these galleries were divine! WHOLE ROOMS full of Degas and Rodin! An Amazon Preparing for Battle by Hebert, her face fierce. The Reading Girl by Pietro Magni that looked real enough to breathe.) I also spent time in galleries featuring medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque sculpture and decorative arts, as well as those from the 17th and 18th centuries.  Lastly, I took a quick tour of the American decorative arts and paintings.

By this time, I was pooped! I cooled my heels a bit in the sculpture garden outside, then took a cab back to the hotel to pack. Then, it was off to the airport and home to my own sweet family!

I so loved my time in DC! What a wonderful city!!

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