Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 2 in DC: Dupont and a Capitol Idea

The Good; Days Inn on Connecticut Ave is very nice, close to the Metro, clean and reasonably priced.
The Bad; is when a previous guest sets the alarm clock in the room to start blaring at 5:30 in the AM. Who knows how these things happen? Was it an accident or was someone just trying to be evil and cruel? There are no answers unless you can hack into the guest registry.
At least a good breakfast heals all alarms and as we stumbled out in the morning trying to find a place to eat eventually finding ourselves at a bakery in Dupont Circle called Firehook which was just fab. I had a ham and cheese croissant with a cranberry muffin and chased it down with some very tasty black coffee. Unlike the plain croissant that I had at Starbucks in the Nashville Airport this one didn't taste like it had been freezer burned and left to die under a heat lamp.
After eating a delicious breakfast Ana and I hopped the Metro toward the Capital Building where we had missed out on the protests the day before but from what I saw on TV later that night wasn't really much to miss out on unless you are into white people shouting and having heart attacks. Yes, if you have a heart condition maybe traveling to the place with more steps than the Eiffel Tower isn't such a great idea.
It was cold and windy when we arrived at the Capitol Building
and we had to wait outside until we were let in by security with a long line of people. In a move that is somewhat like Disneyland or Universal Studios, you stand outside in one line only to be allowed through to stand in another line to get your tickets for the tour and finally the line for the actual tour. Of course you have to go through a security check point anywhere you go in DC. Metal detector and scanning your bags, my camera has gone through the x-ray machine so many times I think it might have a tumor or in the least is sterile.
The ticket read 11:30 but we didn't get started until about 15 minutes later which is understandable it is a government operation, ho ho. Also it isn't damn theme park people do ask questions and might actually want to see their nations Capitol unlike seeing the fake Jaws at Universal were they are on a schedule dammit, keep those rubes coming through the doors with their wallets open. We were rushed into a theater to watch how the Capitol was built and how the dome was added during Lincolns presidency the were rushed out again to meet up with our guide.
There were several groups at the Capitol, Boys Scouts and whole familes we ended up getting in line with a tour group that was waiting for the Pinkertons (I can't remember the exact name) and when asked by our guide is this all the Pinkertons me and Ana just shrugged and said I think there are more coming. Obviously we were talking out of our ass because we didn't want to have to find another tour group and the Pinkertons seemed like a nice enough gang.
We got outfitted with fancy headphones for the walking tour and proceeded to go up and down escalators first to the supports under the Rotunda and then back up top to stand under the Rotunda. The tour guide said that The Statue of Liberty could fit in the Rotunda and still have about 3 or so feet of clearance. This of course if she wasn't standing on her pedestal. I have to say that Lady Liberty gets a hard time from all these other parks and public spectacles. Even the St Louis Arch pamphlet talks shit about how tiny Lady Liberty could fit under the Gateway Arch. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if Mammoth Cave doesn't start bragging that Lady Liberty could fit in the bottomless pit or The Grand Canyon brochure could tell how many Statues of Liberty it would take to fill in the canyon. Is this because she is French?
We didn't get to go into the House Floor which kind of sucks but you have to have a written note from your congressman for that to happen. If I had only signed up for the Micelle Bachman Screeching Tour the day before but maybe that isn't such a bad thing to have missed.
Ana and I handed our headphones in, did the gift shop thing ( I bought some postcards and a nice pocket sized Constitution and Scroll) and then walked to the Library of Congress through the underground tunnel. We got a great view of the library from an upstairs balcony but you aren't allowed to take pictures which of course everyone who wasn't with a tour guide was taking photos. I wonder why they don't like photos here, I can understand pictures using a flash because supposedly it will cause things to deteriorate or that is what they say at Graceland. We walked back to the Capitol Building using the underground but first we had to go through the X-Ray and metal detector again, my camera is so riddle with cancer now.
We got out and started walking toward the Washington Monument and The White House which is probably not the smartest thing to do if you are out of shape. It is an optical illusion much like driving towards the Rockies, you think you will be there in 20 minutes but a hour later things are just a little closer and bigger in your windshield. The same is true for Washington DC and NYC for that matter, sure it looks like the Empire State Building is going to be a 15 minute walk but in reality it is 20 blocks away. Six hours later we arrived at The White House or what we could see through 2 high cast iron fences, a road with a police cruiser and cop guarding the way and another chain fence. Security could be said to be high but of course this was the day after the shooting at Ft Hood and tensions were high. Even the Capitol Building had police with tactical shotguns and fully automatic guns pacing back and forth.

After taking several dozen photos of the White House we walked over to about a dozen trailers parked along side the street filled with merchandise with Washington DC printed on various shirt and knick knackery. It is fun buying things from Asians especially finding prices and sizes. Which is probably why we ate in Chinatown at a place called Tai Shan (we remembered this after a series of googles and google Earth searches) where we drank hot tea and ate big piles of Sweet and Sour and General Tso Chicken. After looking it up here on the net and seeing that it only got 1 star amongst most reviewers I have to say what a crock of shit the online ratings really are cause I loved it. Maybe it wasn't the swankiest place on the strip but it was good then again we were starving and had walked 80 miles that day.
Ana and I rolled to the Metro station to Arlington with intentions to walk across the Potomac River and get to the Lincoln Memorial at night. A few stops later this older couple dragging a suitcase got on board just as the doors were closing. The old woman got on in time and the old man got through the Metro door mostly, as in everything above his left ankle got on board the rest was caught in the door. I couldn't help but crack up as he stood there dangling between being inside and being out. The look on his face made me think of the SNL skit with Dieter and his monkey that would bite the guest, his face screamed "That damn monkey bit me!".

Getting out at Arlington at night is a good idea if you can walk across to the next station which is about 100 miles away. The Arlington Station closes at 7pm so you are closing that escape route once you get off the train. We got a few stares from people as we left because we dared to leave the safe train and enter the closing station. As we were walking across the bridge we bumped into another night photographer who was good enough to have a tripod which makes things sooooooo much easier. As the saying goes, if I had his tripod and he had a feather up his ass we would both be tickled.
This is an amazing town for night shots no doubt about it, all that white stone illuminated with light almost glows against everything else around. By the time that we got to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial though we were both wiped out from walking and jumping on Metros to really go crazy. Ana sat on the steps looking across The Reflecting Pool while I was taking photos, wishing for at least a monopod and enjoying the cool night air. I finally made my way up to Abe and Ana and we hung out on the steps relaxing our sore feet looking over the Pool and to the Washington Monument. We only had about 10 block walk to get to the nearest Metro to look forward to so there was no need for hurry. Tomorrow would bring us back because we had tickets for the Washington Monument and a higher view of things.

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