Monday, May 6, 2013

In the City That Always Sleeps Late

We went to Washington, DC this weekend, primarily to see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition at the National Gallery.  But we also squeezed in a few good meals and other sightseeing activities both in DC and beyond.

We took the kiddos out of school early so we could beat the traffic into DC.  Armed with lots of snacks and many audiobooks, we drove through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland before reaching DC.  (I don't think we actually entered Virginia, but I'm not certain.)  We made only one major stop, at Booth's Farmer's Marker outside of Wilmington; it's a collection of stands inside a large building, mainly owned and operated by the Amish.  Which means we had to explain the Amish to the kids--since they haven't seen Witness!  We bought some jams, some baked goods (mmm, pound cake and Amish butter cake), potato chips, a pickled tomato, a container of Amish baked lima beans, and lunch--typical diner food followed by pie and homemade tapioca pudding.  We eventually got into DC and checked into our hotel.

We were up and at'em very early, only to find that nothing seemed to open before 10, which felt rather late.  We took pictures on the Mall while waiting for the National Gallery to open so we could see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition, or what Bud kept calling "the art show."  It was a lovely exhibition, with many works I'd seen at the Tate or in other Victorian shows.   The labels weren't very consistent in information, but I could fill in the gaps for each painting by telling the kids about the realism in detail (especially plants!), literary preferably medieval  subject matter, overt symbolism, and all those big-haired models-cum-artists'-wives.  I'm not sure the kids really took to the PRB, at least not as much as to the Impressionism and Fashion show.  Sis liked a few of the images of Jesus, like Millais's Jesus in the House of His Parents; Bud wanted the stuffed wombat in the gift shop!  He also liked Millais's image of The Huguenot on St. Bartholomew's Day.

We skipped the rest of the museum in favor of lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian, the best food on the Mall:  wild rice salad, hominy and asparagus salad, aqua fresco (tamarine, red currant, and guava), fry bread with honey, garbanzos with aji peppers, squash with aji peppers, spring green beans with pork, roasted sunchokes and nettles, arroz con negro, yucca cake with black beans, bison steak, roasted salmon, tres leches cake, orange cake, and lastly maple pudding.  Oh, and Sis had chicken fingers!  Afterwards, the kids played in the rainbow cast by the prism in the wall of the main gallery while Mama and I figured out the rest of the day.

So, we went to the Museum of American History and saw several iconic favorites:  Lincoln's hat (Sis's favorite), Dorothy's red slippers (Bud's favorite), Kermit the frog, an old Apple II, an old cassette Walk-man, and the dresses of the First Ladies.  I also liked seeing Julia Child's kitchen.  We all played "I spy" with "America's Doll House."  And we all were struck by the giant flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star-Spangled Banner."  Of course, it's no longer just hung in the foyer, as when I saw it back in the early 80s, but has its own exhibition space, complete with a real rocket.

We spent the afternoon in the hotel, resting and napping, then ordered dinner from Hill Country BBQ.  Yum!  I know we'll be in Texas soon, but it was nice to have some authentic Texas food--collard greens, pinto beans, baked beans, potato salad, green bean casserole, sausage, brisket, chicken, banana pudding, and even white bread!  They also had Big Red, which I remember from childhood (we made strawberry ice cream with it at camp!).  

After dinner, we headed to the monuments.  Sis and Bud really wanted to see the Lincoln Memorial, so we were there at sunset.  And it was a beautiful evening.  But I didn't like all the steps--funny how fear of heights can hit me at such odd times; I could barely enjoy being at the top of the memorial. We then walked to the Vietnam Memorial, including the statue to the women, and then WWII, where we talked about how their maternal great-grandfather fought in WWII in Europe.  We reiterated the purposes of memorials and stressed that they had to act respectfully, though several huge groups of kids weren't.  The city is so pretty at night, beautifully well-lit.  And the kids are so rarely out at night.  It was a late one for us, but well worth it.

Again, we waited and waited for our morning attraction to open--the pandas at the National Zoo!  We'd been once when the kids were seven-months old to see the seven-month-old baby panda and then again a couple of years ago before the "baby" panda went back to China.  I don't believe the kids remembered either trip, but I think they'll remember this one.  Especially because Tian Tian came right up to the front of his enclosure to munch on some bamboo--we could even hear his teeth cracking the outer sheath.  We didn't stay long at the zoo but did ride the new Conservation Carousel, which is solar powered!  The kids rode it twice (adults just once) and then had fun petting some San Clemente goats.

After lunch on the go and a few hours in the car, we arrived later than expected at Valley Forge.  We still managed to explore the huts the soldiers lived in, visit General Washington's headquarters, drive through much of the park, see the artifacts in the Visitor Center display (gaming pieces, surgical tools, shoes, etc.) and visit the gift shop (I bought some tours for our historic house activities; the kids and Mama collect pins--and smooshed pennies.  Sis got some postcards for friends and her teacher).  My Revolutionary War history is spotty but improving, but I do know more than a second grader!  For now.  

The rest of the day is a blur of traffic, rest stop food, and more audio books.  More of a wimper than a bang but still a great weekend.

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