We awoke this morning to no water in our room and a sign on the door declaring "NO WATER -- WATER MAIN BREAK" Not to be discouraged, I filled our ice bucket and microwaved some to drink. I managed to wash up with ice and soap but would really have appreciated a proper shave.
We agreed to try the bus system today and (after asking a few helpful strangers) managed to find a bus stop on Capitol street where an off-duty school bus driver told us which bus would take us near the Library of congress. $3 would get us an unlimited all-day pass and we got off just north of the capitol building, still a few blocks from the library.
The Supreme Court building is next door and as we walked past, learned that it was in session. There were a couple lines of tourists down the steps and two or three tv news cameras set up on the sidewalk so the newscasters could stand in front of the building while they talked about what was going on inside.
We entered the Jefferson building of the LOC and arrived just in time to join a small tour group. There was too much informaiton to copy all here but the interior was magnificent with statues, tiled mosaics and gold leaf everywhere. We had a great view of the main reading room from a few stories up and under the painted central dome which lifts nearly 100 feet above the floor. The reading room is a very restrictive area but so ornate and elaborate that I decided to make it inside of there no matter what, just to say that I did!
After the tour and a few more questions I found out how and where to get a reader's card (read: library card) and we trekked off through the underground passageways to the Madison building. Getting a card was quick and easy and after a brief lunch on the 6th floor in the expensive staff cafeteria we were back down and off to the Jefferson Reading Room to use them.
It's HUGE in there, and round. Research desks are arranged circularly with the info & book return counter in the center. I unfortunately dind't have the time to actually look at any books for you see, no book may actually leave the building and it takes 45 minutes to an hour for a librarian to retrieve your materials for you. However, I could, if I wanted, have requested anything there for my own research purposes including rare books, documents & manuscripts. In the vast and cramped catacomb of card catalogs in the adjoining room (complete up to 1980 when they switched to computers) I found several cards for Lord Dunsany, including some that had only a birth year meaning the cards themselves were antiques.
The reader's card itself is my favourite souvenir of the trip so far and it is still practical as a government issued photo ID. I will try to remember to use it when identification is required at the airport.
The tour of the nation's capitol building was neat. We got tickets and came back later as required. The tour was about an hour but at least a third of it was rules & regs, bag check and waiting for the group ahead to move on. Of the interior of the dome itself I was considerably underwhelmed, having long ago been spoiled by the beauty and magnificence of Wisconsin's marble columns, gold leaf, tiled mosaics and multi-tiered balconies, as well as a significantly ornate and wider dome. I hate to admit it but my first thought upon seeing this (as well as my dad's) was "this is it? But this one was added after the initial building was constructed as well as a number of other expansions whereas Wisconsin's was designed to be the way it is.
The tour inside the building was rather short, to my disappointment. It took us through the "rotunda" as they called it, into the original House (or was that Senate?) room in the south wing, then down to the crypt directly beneath the rotunda. The guide left us there and I delayed, looking at displays and reading plaques. Another group went through and dispersed shortly thereafter leaving us relatively alone. We then found the restroom and decided to leave.
One might think this was an easy task but exits were not obvious. The first one we tried was at a security guard station and the one on duty directed us to another door upstairs. However, we found this one to be locked and alarmed and would only lead us to the ramp and tour guide tent anyway. A stairway up from there and we were back in the rotunda with the only other two people on cell phones at either end of the large room. We decided to wait until a guard asked what we thought we were doing and kicked us out. This proved a fruitless endavor as well so we took our time examining the statues and displays that the previously tour-crowded room did not allow with ease.
It was quiet, very quiet. There were no more tours after the one following ours and the only other people there were on official business. The only sounds were echoes from far down the House and Senate wings. I wanted to poke around more for surely this was a greater adventure here than I had anticipated, but that is something that would be safer at my own capitol building.
Eventually, a guard did point the way out and along the way I picked up a pass from the floor that would allow me access into the Senate gallery while in session. I doublt I'll use it, but as you can only get those by writing your senator I'll hang onto it as a memento.
Public buildings were closing by the time we escaped the capitol and we decided to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We took the bus (which was a small ordeal I'd rather avoid recording) but after a couple transfers we were there for sunset. Half of the wall was boarded up and blocked off due to "improvements" to the lighting system but I still walked as much of the length as I could and placed my hand upon a blank section of the wall that was still hot from the sun. My dad got a little emotional having been in the Army there during the conflict, but I didn't know how to react. It was an entirely different generation that survived those times and I'm a bit numb to it. Especially since I despise war and the fact that the armed services are even necessary. It all seems so pointless. So I just stayed quiet and waited until we could go, trying not to say too much about how melodramatic the Nurses Memorial looked and that holding a patient that way is impractical and dangerous. I did want to see the wall, tho', and it was a bit different than I had imagined. I imagine it will be different if I ever go there again as there was much construction around it this time. I'm glad I saw it, and I know Dad is glad I was there with him.
Too poohed to walk, we took a cab to Union Station where I treated Uno's for dinner since Dad has been paying for the transportation. Then to the room where we found we were locked out as we had no reservation for the night even tho' Dad called to change them Saturday evening! Oh well. We're here, the water is back and it's time for a shower. . . if the water is clean.
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