Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taxation without Representation - Museums and Monuments


Le Boyfriend and I recently returned from Washington, DC. Prior to departure, a few people looked a bit confused when I told them where we were going. I suppose the American capital (not to be confused with the Capitol) doesn't seem like an obvious destination for a Canadian, but I had heard wonderful things about the city. Based on what friends had said, pictures I had seen, and articles I had written, DC had many things that I enjoy: monuments, museums, delicious food, good weather, and the ability to walk a kazillion kilometres a day! For le Boyfriend, it had a soccer team and me, as a tour guide and lovely travel companion. Because I like to go back and read through my holiday archives, here is Part I of DC Adventures.

Matching the podium is essential for being President
DC is littered with wonderful museums. The Smithsonian Institute, dubbed America's attic, was initially the result of a $500,000 gift from James Smithson, an Englishman who had never actually been to the US. Almost all museums, and one zoo, which are associated with The Smithsonian have free entry. In DC alone there are 16 museums and galleries, a visitor centre ("The Castle"), and a zoo. Needless to say, we didn't partake in all available Smithsonian related activities, otherwise we would still be wandering The National Mall with an armload of brochures and learning fatigue. We and 8-million school aged children went to the American History Museum as our first Smithsonian stop. Wonderful museum, and I am now armed with a plethora of Civil War knowledge that will allow me to share unrequested facts with my fellow Canadians.

Fact you didn't know but now you do: Virginia and West Virginia used to be one state - Virginia. They split at the beginning of the Civil War. WV joined the union, Regular Virginia joined the Confederates. (In retrospect I may have learned this from my Lonely Planet guidebook initially, but re-learned it at the museum.)

DC also has museums that you, gasp, must pay for entry. Josh and I went to the Spy Museum, which was quite entertaining, but was a bit too full to enjoy in $20 entry fee capacity. However, I did learn a lot and can now pick up on spy suspicious activity should the Soviets start spying on wee PEI. There was also some information on 'celebrities' who lead a double life as spies, such as mediocre (according to ESPN) baseball player Moe Berg and sort-of spy (she didn't really consider herself a spy, and I do agree it's a bit of a stretch) Julia Child.

The Spy Museum was featuring a special exhibit on the villains of James Bond films and novels. It had some memorabilia from the films, information on who (if anyone) was the real-life inspiration for the villain, and a wee game called something like, "Bond villain or real person?" that gave you quotes and you had to guess whether it was said by a Bond villain or an actual person. The ones the were said by actual people are a bit concerning.

Lincoln Memorial

Einstein Monument
(or, "Statue that Visitors Climb All Over")
Much likes Museums, visitors flock to monuments in DC. Most are close to the infamous National Mall, i.e., the stretch of park between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol. Le Boyfriend and I followed 6 kazillion other visitors and 90 million tour buses and started at the Lincoln Memorial (with a warm-up stop at the Albert Einstein Memorial). The Lincoln Memorial is so iconic that Lonely Planet chose it as the cover of its Eastern United States guide book. Inside the Greek-temple inspired building is a large statue of Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair, looking over the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument. Some readers may appreciate a pop-culture reference to help visualize this area, to which I refer you to Forrest Gump. The peace rally that he unexpectedly joins takes place on the steps and grass in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Forrest runs into the reflecting pool to meet Jenny. Josh and I (i.e., mostly me) contemplated reenacting this classic scene, but figured it would be frowned upon even though it was, like 30C and the water would had felt sooo nice.

After the impressive Lincoln Memorial we strolled to the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial which I liked better, in a different way. The Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial are more grand and are meant to impress; however, it is essentially one large statue in one room. The FDR Memorial was designed to be like a book, (or so I overheard someone say who sounded knowledgeable and confident,) and each Presidential term was like a chapter. The Monument has walls with quotes of his, but the walls don't all connect and there is not a roof. There are many statues through the small "maze" of walls, and they tell a story. Based on my limited knowledge of FDR, it was quite well done, nice to walk through, and not nearly as crowded as the Lincoln Memorial or the museums we went to.

FDR and I listening to the radio
for WWII updates
Next up was the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, which I realized I had seen in the distance when travelling from the airport into DC. Not knowing much about Thomas Jefferson other than he was one of the first presidents of the US factored in with us having walked a lot in the heat, we may have breezed through this a bit quickly. Walk to monument, read some words on the wall, look at statue, leave to eat delicious Spanish tapas that make you consider moving to Spain and becoming obese.

We accidentally skipped the Martin Luther King Memorial so I just looked at a picture of it online. Now I feel like I was there!

The Washington Monument was closed due to earthquake damage so going up the 'tower' (?) wasn't possible.