Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Washington D.C. Part Three: Did I Die and Go to Heaven?

Hannah wasn't able to get work off for any of the week days I was visiting.  While it would have been fun to enjoy the sites of the city in the company of another historically-minded person, I also found the experience of wandering around the nation's capital on my own quite liberating.  I could do everything at my own pace and on my own time.

So Hannah and I got off at the Metro station near her work.  She directed me as to how to get to the National Mall where all the Smithsonian museums are and then headed into her office building.  I continued down the street a little ways to visit the first museum on my "to do" list: the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Me and a koala bear, haha
I enjoyed meandering through the mammal, sea, and dinosaur exhibits.  All were extremely interesting and informative.  However, I found that the most visually stimulating section was just around the corner in a section I didn't think I would enjoy very much at all.  Having always prided myself on being a low-maintenance kind of girl, I found myself humbled while walking through the Gems and Minerals section of the museum.  Apparently I love expensive gems and jewels as much as the next girl.  That isn't to say that I will be blowing all my spare cash on jewelry in the future; I just won't say no if anyone ever feels so inclined to give me, say...a topaz ring.

Jewelry that the French Emperor Napoleon gave to his wife.
I saved the most interesting part of the museum for last.  Hannah had told me that the forensics exhibits were really cool and I couldn't agree more.  There was a special section that focused on the settlement of Jamestown that demonstrated how scientists could glean the profession of the colonist from evidence on his or her skeleton.  For example, a skull was found that had some abnormalities in and around the front teeth.  Through some analysis, forensic scientists came to the conclusion that the settler was a tailor and that his or her teeth abnormalities were due to constantly holding needles between the teeth.

After I finished up at the Natural History museum, I headed next door to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  If there had been no one else around, I probably would have released several audible sighs and squeals of delight.  But, alas, I wanted to be considerate of my fellow tourists so I kept my reactions to the awesomeness surrounding me in check.  I saw the original Star-Spangled Banner!  I learned some of the history of how changes in transportation in America have transformed our cities and lifestyles.  I learned the evolution of American eating habits in the Food Exhibit.  I saw the dresses that each of America's first ladies have worn to their husband's presidential inaugurations.  I absolutely loved the Americans At War Exhibition!  I seriously got a little teary-eyed while watching a short video presentation at the end of the war exhibition.  How can you not get emotional when images of war are flashing across the screen while a reading of the Gettysburg Address is playing in the background?  Do you have a heart? ;)
In the Food Exhibition! My Mom had a crockpot just like this one!

WWII poster in commemoration of the events at Pearl Harbor.
The shoes Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz.

Jackie Kennedy's Inauguration dress.

George Washington's sword during the French and Indian War.

The chairs Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant sat in to settle the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox near the end of the American Civil War.
The museum closed at 5:30 so, reluctantly and involuntarily, I shuffled out of the museum doors and made my way back to Hannah's office building.  We had decided that we would eat at a place called Gadsby's Tavern in Alexandria, Virginia that night.  After a quick stop at the apartment, Hannah, Wes, and I hopped in the car and headed toward Virginia.  We got there a little before our dinner reservation time so we stopped at a small candy shop around the corner from the restaurant, loaded up on salt water taffy, and then headed over to Gadsby's Tavern.  Gadsby's Tavern has been around since the late 1700s and served several well-known early Americans, including George Washington.  All the servers are dressed in colonial get-up and the food is time-period specific.  I thought it appropriate to order George Washington's favorite dish, which included a grilled breast of duck with scalloped potatoes, corn pudding, and rhotekraut.  The food was delicious and filling but I couldn't stop there.  I was on vacation for goodness' sake!  So I ordered some chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on the side.  Though it's a bit pricey, I wholeheartedly recommend eating dinner at Gadsby's Tavern.

My first full day in Washington, D.C. was immensely successful!  Next stop: MOUNT VERNON!

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