I just got back from a trip to Washington D.C. with some friends. It was amazing on many fronts. It was wonderful to get some time to reconnect with friends. It was fabulous to see the sights of a city I've never had the pleasure of visiting. It was essential to log a little more head time to decompress from my crazy year.

This trip has been in the works a long time and once upon a time was the only blip on my now hectic summer schedule. My dear friend and erstwhile running partner Abby and I were bemoaning last year (or has it been longer now?) how we love museum trips but most often kids do not. So we decided that we needed a girls' trip to D.C. to gorge on the richness the Smithsonians have to offer. For a long time it felt to me like just a pipe dream, but all of a sudden we were buying plane tickets and had recruited two more friends to join in on the fun.

Washington is such an amazing city. It is a little hard for me to wrap my head around the scope of what goes there. What attracted me most to the city was the enormity of the ideas represented there. The art and architecture I saw spoke to me of that kernel more than the artifacts, as awesome as they are. I would say the best part of the trip for me was the time spent basking in the aesthetic. I have always enjoyed art museums, but right now I am at a place where the humanity and the beauty of art just captivates and nourishes me deeply. Completely transfixing and transforming.

We flew out of Austin Thursday evening, leaving just enough time in the day to get to our accommodations and enjoy a little catching up before heading to bed. We used airbnb to find a place to rent for our stay, a great town house just a few blocks off of the National Mall. It was great to be within walking distance of all the action and also have a place to put our feet up at night and watch a little TV to unwind. Much more comfortable than a hotel.

Friday we started out things with a bang with a private tour of the Capitol by an intern with Congressman Lamar Smith. The Congressman himself was full of hospitality and thankfully savvy enough to avoid asking us about our political leanings. His view of the Capitol is pretty impressive.

Next we headed over to the Library of Congress which ended up being one of my favorite places all week. I was overwhelmed (that word's gonna get super overused in this post) with the beauty of the building and the scope of the work they do there. I have been a devotee of libraries my entire life, but this is just a whole different scale. Seeing Thomas Jefferson's personal library, which served as the starting point for the entire library, was super cool.

We had a little time at the end of the day and an immediate need to get out of the rain (a recurrent theme for the trip) so we stopped into the National Gallery of Art and I quickly realized that I was going to need to find much more time to carve out and explore their collections. I haven't spent much time in galleries of this caliber so I wasn't really prepared to find such a confluence of works by significant artists. I've seen a handful of "famous" pieces over the year but to be confronted by entire rooms of Monets and Renoirs and Rodins and Degas and Rembrandts and on and on was, you guessed it, overwhelming. I can't even begin to describe how moving it was for me.

Saturday Abby and I were up earlier than Rebecca and Melody so we started out early with a walk through one of the sculpture gardens. Rodin - need I say more? Stirs something deep inside of me. We still had some time on our hands so we strolled down the Mall, past the Washington Monument which is under heavy scaffolding right now to repair earthquake damage, on to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping by the Vietnam Memorial on the way back. My dad served in Vietnam and it was very touching for me to be there. Definitely a hallowed place. We stopped into the American History Museum to see the First Ladies and Presidential exhibits before rendezvousing with Rebecca and Melody to head over to the National Cathedral.

The National Cathedral was another definite highlight for me, perhaps my favorite spot the entire week. We spent a couple of hours there in total, exploring the gorgeous stained glass, visiting the crypt down below, walking around the gardens and listening to the carillon, and heading up top to see the incredible view from the towers. There was a service while we were there and it was very tender for me to be present for that. An amazing place no doubt. (Overwhelming!)

Next we drove over to the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum, which are housed together. How many high points can there be to one trip? The Portrait Gallery was spectacular. Crazy amazing. After that we headed back to the Mall and stopped into the Natural History Museum which was ridiculously crowded. I've been to enough museums of this type in my life that I just didn't find it worth the hassle. The day had been overmuch on walking so we ended things in another sculpture garden with our feet in the fountain and it was oh, so nice. We rested for a few hours at the apartment and then drove back down to the end of the mall to see some of the monuments at night. We stopped by the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the MLK memorial, and the FDR Memorial. Beautiful evening.

Sunday we started out the day browsing through Eastern Market. We had lunch at a lovely cafe and browsed through Capital Hill Books, which was charming and fabulous, but one had to just hope you weren't deep in the labyrinthine stacks when the whole thing caught fire. After that it was a unanimous vote to head back to the National Portrait Gallery since we had all enjoyed it so much. It was great to have more time to take in the incredible collection there. Portraiture is such an intimate vehicle, I do love it.

Monday we started out in the National Archives where I saw the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Which I realize is no small thing, but I actually enjoyed more the Documerica exhibit there which is a photo exhibit, commissioned by the EPA in the 1970's to document the American landscape and it's connection with humans. It was great.

The next big chunk of the day was back to the National Art Gallery. I'm starting to bore even myself with my bland language of amazement so I'll just say it was awesome. I heart art. We stopped by the American History Museum again (which ended up being my least favorite of our stops) and the Natural History Museum where I enjoyed most a collection of nature photography (surprise, surprise).

As wonderful as D.C. is, about two-thirds into my stay, I found myself feeling saturated. Just overwhelmed with the emotions stirred by all I had seen and a little jostled by the crowds. I started really craving some time in deep nature. Wishing for some time to be alone with music. I took a solitary run the last morning we were there, heading out from our town house to the Mall and down to the Lincoln Memorial for a third time. It was a lovely 5ish mile run, but just not quite what I needed. There was the skeleton of a big festival on the Mall and a lot of construction and fencing in seemingly every corner. It took away some of the serenity of the place for me and that was unfortunate. I guess I'm not as much of the city girl that I sometimes dream I am. I need nature uninterrupted and quiet from time to time.

All in all a beautiful trip. I feel like I approached it just right. We saw tons, but weren't so over scheduled to be exhausted. There was a lot I wanted to see, but didn't head into the trip with very many "must do's" so that I could be flexible and enjoy how each day presented itself. There is no way to see it all and my lack of an agenda let me walk away without disappointment at missing something. You can find my photo album here. Thanks friends for making it such a great trip. I can't wait to see where we go next year!


Melody said...

Love this. Now I don't even have to write in my journal! Just kidding. But seriously, I hope this becomes a tradition, because I had such a great time. Even being close enough to D.C. to get there every so often, I would never have been able to experience everything I did with kids in tow.

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