Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dropped in on George...

... but he wasn't home.

White House close

Mom, Dad, Andrew, and I headed down to Washington, D.C. yesterday for a whirlwind trip. In the summer when Mom and Dad first announced they were coming down south, Dad said they only thing he really wanted to do was go to the Smithsonian Museum. I floored him by saying, "Great! It's free!" So we drove down to Silver Springs, MD and caught the train from there.

Dad knew that we wouldn't be able to hit every museum on the Mall, so we concentrated on the Natural History Museum because he wanted to see the dinosaur and ice age animal bones. We arrived about 11am, and while not overly crowded, it was already a bustling place. I think we definitely made the right decision of leaving Willow with Andrew's parents for the day. I do want her to see all the exhibits, but I think some day that isn't a Saturday when many people are on vacation would be a much better choice!

We went through the Deep Sea exhibit where I was mostly creeped out by the things in the ocean (you must all know of my aversion to deep water by now). Then we went to the Mammals exhibit that I was largely surprised to see an abundance of taxidermied animals.

Pouncing tiger

Lion attack

The poses were quite realistic and it was interesting to see. I can't say I was terribly impressed with the sterile white background to all of the animals. I suppose if they had more complex sets they would have to dust it all the time.

From here we went to the Dinosaur Exhibit, which was much more crowded than the first two:


I liked how there were different scenes set up to demonstrate different epochs of history. It was a little amusing how the humans (or rather neanderthals) were just an afterthought scene at the end - very reflective of where we are in the scheme of things chronologically.

We were hungry by this point and tried to eat in one of the cafes, but the Fossil Cafe had no seating and there was a long line outside of the Atrium Cafe... so we went outside and got hot dogs from the street vendor. It's a chancy bet - Andrew told me something weird about his hot dog that I am very glad he waited until I was finished eating to do so! After our quick lunch, we headed back in to my preferred exhibit, the Mineral and Gem Exhibit! I don't know what it says about me that I am so enamoured of shiny, pretty things...

Green Beryl

Who wouldn't be?!!

Okay, I do have a scientific interest in all of this - I started out on the asteroids hall and learned how to tell if the rocks you find are earth rocks or space rocks - it has a lot to do with if a rock looks aerodynamic (shaped during entry into the Earth's atmosphere), or has certain striations in it that demonstrate how it was cooled over millions of years. After learning about copper mining, gold mining, and how aluminum mining was once a more lucrative prospect than either of the other two, we got into the pretty stuff:

Jewels E

Jewels B

Jewels D

Jewels A

As well as big hunks of natural crystals such as this garnet:


and this amethyst:


(That person's foot beside the amethyst should give you a good idea of how bid the rock is.)

We finished by pushing our way through to see the Hope Diamond, and I have to say I was a little surprised at how small it was in person:

Hope Diamond A

The jewel itself is about the size of a large egg yolk.

The museum was getting a little too crowded by this time so we thought we would take a walk outside and see another museum. No such luck. We walked by the American History Museum and the line for that one extended all the way down to the intersection where the Washington Monument is:

Washington monument close

Look how little the people are at the bottom!

Dad wanted to see the White House, so we walked up there, and everywhere we went we saw the seat risers for the parade. I wanted to sit in one and have Mom take my picture and caption it as, "Jo is punctual as ever" but the many police around were not happy about people getting anywhere near the seats. We decided to walk back to the Metro Train station, and after walking many many many blocks we found an Au Bon Pain cafe, had snacks, and hopped on the train back to Silver Springs.

It was a great trip - my first to D.C., and I would love to go back. I will definitely take Willow with us next time, but I think it will be some warm spring mid-week day not anywhere near a holiday!


Beverly said...

I love the mineral and gem room! My mom is from DC, so I've been there many times. My favorite when I was a kid was the Natural History Museum, and I LOVED looking at all the gems. The Hope diamond always seemed gargantuan when I was younger. But you're right, it's really not as big as you'd think.

Teri said...

I love all the pretty sparkly things! GORGEOUS!!

Lucky mom and dad (and yet still no pictures of them!)

Nell said...

I love the Smithsonian. So amazing!!! And who wouldn't want to look at all those gems.

Bezzie said...

Yes you have to take Willow next time! We went to DC when Chunky was 8 mos old and we're definately going to hit it again before we leave the East Coast (we're here for a few more years...)

Ann said...

DC is a real treasure trove. We often go into the city (from Northern Va) on the weekends to take advantage of the free stuff. Let me know next time you're in town!! :)

Disco said...

Oooooh, pretty stones. I've been into DC a couple of times. It's very pretty, esp. in the spring :0)