Friday morning brought a tough goodbye. After a wonderful fun filled visit, our friends had to head home. After tears and lots of hugs we said goodbye for now and waved as they drove away.
Then we pulled ourselves together and headed back into the city. First stop today was going to the Senate Office building. We stopped by our IL senator Tammy Duckworth’s office and picked up passes for the House and Senate galleries inside the U.S. Capitol.
On our way back towards the Capitol we stopped to see the Supreme Court. The building is breathtaking.
Once inside, Ben and I tried to explain what the court does and some of the decisions that have been made in this ever so important place. Court was not in session but we were able to get fairly close and take pictures of the bench. The halls around the building hold a lot of interesting displays both about the history and construction of the building as well as history of many of the justices. We got to peek around a doorway and see part of the beautiful spiral staircase as well.
We headed across the street back to the Capitol. Maddy wanted to see the Rotunda again but we went right for the House gallery. The House was supposed to be in session until 3 pm so we started there. They must have ended early because there were just a few people down on the floor that appeared to be taking a tour. But we got to sit in the gallery and look for as long as we liked. Then we headed over to the Senate gallery. The Senate has a booklet they hand out to visitors with a lot of useful information. It gave us a short history of the Senate and then had a tour of the room. We were able to sit in the gallery and study everything with the girls. We read that 48 of the desks date back to 1819. The rest have been purchased to match over the years. I love that they are old fashioned wooden desks. Not fancy computer tables or long conference tables. In the 1830s writing boxes were added to the tops of the desks. Senator Daniel Webster supposedly refused to have one added to his desk, deeming it unnecessary. Madelyn and I looked for a long time for the 1 desk out of 100 that does not have a writing box affixed to the top. We didn’t find it. The room has such a historic feel. We found the roll top desks the official party secretaries use and the busts that line the top of the gallery. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed in either gallery.
Once done in the Senate gallery we headed outside and walked to the National Archives. This was our first stop in D.C. where we had to wait in line! We wanted to pop in just to see the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution. We waited in line to get inside and then waited in line again to see these sacred documents. Again no pictures allowed. We spent quite awhile looking at different sections of the documents and explaining in some detail what was included in each. The originals were impressive to see. The history in that building is amazing. The Declaration of Independence is almost illegible and very faded. The Constitution is in excellent condition considering how old it is. We talked about how the Declaration of Independence was never a legal document and it’s pretty incredible that it was saved so many years ago. The Constitution on the other hand was well preserved and cared for carefully. I hope our girls understood even a tiny bit of how important these pieces of history are to our country. What an experience to see them in person. We walked through a couple other galleries in the Archives building and then headed back to the boat. We were all pretty tired and grabbed a quick dinner at the restaurant next to the marina. Our days have gotten shorter and less ambitious as we run out of steam! However the long list of things to see persists.
Saturday we had a short list and no history lessons! We had a leisurely morning and headed to the National Portrait Gallery. Another beautiful building and so much fun inside. Right inside the front door is a floor to ceiling piece of license plate art spelling out the preamble to the Constitution. Ok, so a little more history. It’s hard to escape in D.C.! But it was fun to try to read it in license plate speak.
Next we headed straight up to the top floor and worked our way down. The girls love sculptures and unique art. We passed an awesome exhibit all made from old tube televisions. Then we stumbled upon an Art-o-mat. It was an old cigarette vending machine repurposed to sell small pieces of art. Some wood carvings. Some jewelry. Some tiny pieces of art. All $5. The girls chose a whittled piece. The put in their money and out it came. They opened it to find an adorable turtle. Great selection!
Then we moved into a room full of current day portraits. We found Katy Perry right away and then Toni Morrison. These were most impressive because they looked like large photographs but were actually oil on canvas paintings. When we got up very close we could see the brush strokes.
We continued to move through the various galleries and found a cool sculpture Madelyn liked. One of my favorites was a neon outline of the United States filled with old televisions. I liked this one more than the first television piece. This one had the TV screens each playing something that represented that state. Some played pieces of history like MLK giving his I Have a Dream speech in the Alabama outline. Some played fun pieces of history like The Wizard of Oz in Kansas. Washington D.C. had a mini-cam set up that recorded anyone who walked past the exhibit and showed that feed on a tiny screen. Next we found a random woman eating her lunch. Maddy jumped about a mile when she realized it was a piece of art and not real. They loved it. We found interesting piece after interesting piece on this floor.
Last we looked through the gallery of Presidents. We found some of the old ones that the girls know like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and the moved onto the Presidents we have had since Ben and I were born. This was a fantastic fun stop and such a change of pace from everything we had been seeing.
Continuing with the change of pace we headed across the street to The Spy Museum. Here we met a friend of Ben’s from Chicago and spent the rest of the afternoon with her. She was kind enough to wait in line and get tickets while we were in the Portrait Gallery so we got to skip the line and go right in. The girls enjoyed the museum but it was a bit overwhelming to them trying to understand all of the spy history and tactics. As we went in we all got to choose a profile and memorize all of the details of our cover story before getting assigned our mission. Molly was Sandra Miller and Madelyn was Angelena Falcone. I snapped a picture to help them but they did a pretty good job of remembering. As we moved along reading and seeing spy history we came to the kiosks where we input our cover story details and received our missions. Madelyn was traveling to Vietnam to obtain some security details. Molly was heading to Austria. They both completed their missions successfully.
Again since we can’t go anywhere without at least a little bit of a history lesson we found the Civil War spy room. The exhibit had 3 kinds of ciphers set up and the girls worked together to solve the hidden messages using the ciphers.
Finally some physical activity other than walking! The girls took turns hanging from a slippery, twisting, vibrating bar that appeared as if they were hanging off the side of a building. Maddy did a great job hanging on as long as she could! Molly is a complete monkey always. She can do monkey bars at a park for hours on end and has arm strength like not many 10 year olds have. As she got to about 20 seconds the attendant cheering her on told her she would get a prize if she made it to 60 seconds. Challenge accepted. She claims swinging back and forth and constantly regripping helped her hang on and of course she made it. She won 20% off in the gift shop! Music to her and Maddy’s ears!
Much to Madelyn’s dismay our next stop was a walk to the White House. I told her she couldn’t really complain. We took a cab from the marina to the Portrait Gallery. The Spy Museum was across the street. This was the first actual walking we’d done all day! Wednesday when we stopped by the White House we couldn’t get close because it was all closed off. We were happy to find the streets open this time. We got pictures of the back of the White House and Ben’s friend suggested walking around to the front since you can get closer. Absolutely! Madelyn grumbled. Ben and I took turns with piggy back rides for her and we made it. She pointed out as soon as we started walking that to get to the front we were going to have to walk a long way out of the way around. Yes, yes we did. And that’s just fine because we hadn’t already walked 8 miles Saturday.
After the White House we walked a bit back towards the Monument and past the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. We found a water fountain and grabbed a cab back to the marina to show Ben’s friend the boat. This was another great day in D.C.!