Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vacation Day Three

On Monday we got started early visiting the sights of Washington DC. We had "tickets" to visit the Capitol in the morning. They warned us to be in line at least an hour before the tour in order to have time to go through security!! So, we had to get a pretty early start.

We started the day by doing something that would turn out to be a big hit, riding the DC metro. Molly picked the Metro as her favorite part of the whole vacation... Forget all the monuments, buildings and museums, the best part of the trip, for her, was riding the subway. Most of the riders on the metro (from our area) were African-American, so imagine the impact that our three Aryan kids made in the train cars. Molly always found someone to talk to and who would play with her, so I guess it makes sense that she had fun on the subway.

After standing in line for a little while we went through security and got into the Capitol about 40 minutes early. We joined up an earlier tour. I went to the desk and asked for the 9:40 tour (it was 9:45 at that time) and got tickets. We got in line for the 9:40 tour (at nearly 9:50) as they opened the door to start the tour.

Once again I admired the efficiency of the government.

After going under the Rotunda, we climbed up the stairs into the main Rotunda. At the top of the dome is a massive painting, the " Apotheosis of Washington" done in 1865 by Constantino Brumidi. The painting is a little strange...

Here's Washington being taken up into Heaven and becoming a god! Strange symbolism, but a pretty nice painting. Though I liked the paintings around the rotunda better.
These paintings illustrate 400 years of American history in a long band of images. The paintings are done in such a way that they look like carved statues, with depth. The illusion of depth is really well done and pretty convincing. I think this panel shows some American Indians about to get a raw deal...

Here are 2 panoramics that I stitched together. The top one is the exterior of the Capitol, while the bottom is about 120 degrees of the interior of the dome. The adults had a good time on the tour and I think the kids did as well, even if they were "soooooo bored!!!"
Here's Amy and the kids having fun in front of the capitol. Molly is laughing so hard she's about to fall over.
And here you can see most of the kids (Thomas was "soooooo booooorrrrreeeeedddd" and was standing over under a tree) and some random guy who wandered into the picture.
A nice picture of the Capitol and flag against the clouds. The weather kept threatening rain all day, but never really rained. It kept the day cooler and prevented sun burns (unlike the rest of the week)
And here's the Capitol's other side. This view is from the Mall looking toward the Capitol Building. When you turn around here's what you see...
The Washington monument, part of the Mall and the Smithsonian castle off to the left. Of course the picture also contains a tour bus. There were a lot of tourists (including us) around, and the real tourist season hadn't started yet.

Our next stop was the United States Botanic Garden. The Gardens were really incredible. Most of the plants were in greenhouses and so bloomed year round. Each section of greenhouse had a different "theme" or environment. We had to keep after the kids to be sure that Molly didn't pick some flower.

There was an entire section devoted to Orchids which was really neat. Here's a few flowers from that section (I think)

The desert section featured a number of blooming desert flowers, but was mostly cacti. Here's one that was much cooler than any cactus that I ever saw in Ridgecrest.

Amy and the kids in the jungle section. In the jungle there was an elevated platform so you could see plants that would grow up at the top of the canopy and a lower pathway to look at ground flowering plants.
One of the plants in the jungle section.

The Gardens also had a children's area. It featured hardy plants that could survive kids' "attention" and "help" all day long. There were 2 fountains in the center along with watering cans. Molly had a great time filling up the watering can and then going over to the plants and proceeding to tip the can sideways and spill water out the top all over her clothes. I went over to help her tip the can forwards so the water would pour out the spout. When I tried to help, she got mad and informed me that she "wanted to pour it all over herself". So, that was the end of watering plants for Molly.
Here's Thomas sticking his hand in one of the fountains at the Children's Garden.

After the Gardens, it was time for lunch. We went over to the new Smithsonian American Indian Museum. We went straight to the food court in the museum. It was really, really interesting. It looked like a typical food court with about 8 different "restaurants". But each restaurant represented a different native region. So, you could eat at the Northeast Woodlands, the Mesoamerican, Pacific Northwest, Great Plains, Southwest etc. Each place sold different dishes that were similar to what the natives of the regions would have had. So, the Northeast had dishes with Venison and Maple Syrup, the Pacific Northwest had salmon and trout, Great Plains had Bison Burgers, etc. It was a little pricey, but we really enjoyed it and the food was much better than normal food court stuff.

We only had time to eat and then left the museum. This theme repeated itself every time we went to a Smithsonian building. We walked into about 1/3 of the total Smithsonian buildings and managed to see only part of each one that we visited.

While heading out of the museum, we saw part of an exhibit that featured artwork which was created with traditional methods and modern materials. One of the most interesting was this...

A woven blanket made out of NBA jerseys. I wish we'd had time to see the rest of the exhibit.

After our brief tour of part of 1 floor in American Indian museum, we headed over to the Air and Space museum. We watched "When we left Earth" with the kids a while ago, so we hoped that they'd be interested in the space capsules and such, that they'd seen in the documentary. It was toward the end of the day, so they weren't as interested as I had hoped. But their father was sure interested.
This is one of the new vehicles in the Flight gallery. This is Spaceship One, the hybrid plane/rocket that flew to the edge of space a few years ago to win the Ansari X Prize and perhaps open up space to (eventually) everyone. The company that put the spaceship together is based near where I grew up, and for much of early life I dreamed of working for them (until my life took a different route). So it was really interesting to see another of their airplanes in the Smithsonian.

At the Air and Space Museum there was also a kids section. They had the shell of a Cessna (or maybe a Piper-I can't remember) with working flaps, rudder etc. Each of the kids got to sit in the plane and pretend to fly it.

Also, in the kids area there was a small theater where a Smithsonian employee gave short talks on Aerospace related topics that were geared toward the kids. She took a lot of volunteers
Here's Abby getting ready to stretch out a rope that will show how far the Moon is from the Earth. The talk was about how far away the Moon is and where other objects are in relation to the Moon and Earth.

Once Molly saw that Abby got to go down and participate, she stood up on the rails and raised her hand urgently. After a minute, the presenter noticed Molly and asked if she had a question. Molly told her that she wanted to do something. After we translated for the presenter, she had Molly come down and put some goggles that distorted everything. This was show that your body could adapt to different conditions (weightlessness, etc).

Initially Molly was supposed to have trouble and then improve. However, Molly being Molly did fine at first and then got worse. She asked Molly "how many of me do you see?" The correct answer was supposed to be 2, but Molly remembered that there was only 1 person and so answered that there was 1 person. Then she threw a ball to Molly, which she caught pretty easily (she was supposed to miss). Then after a minute, when she should have adapted to the goggles, she rolled another ball to Molly. Who then promptly missed the ball and spent half a minute chasing the phantom ball.
Here she is putting the goggles on Molly's face.

Here are the kids getting run over by an American Airlines plane.

After the Smithsonian, we bought ice cream from a sidewalk vendor for the kids. By that time the sun had come out and it was hot and windy, a perfect environment for kids to eat ice cream while walking...
Here's Abby after trying to eat a chocolate ice cream bar...

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