[I'm going to backdate this post since I actually went on this trip two months ago but never got around to finishing the blog post, which was actually published on 11/20/2009]
One of my friends and I went down to Washington, DC last weekend for the day. The highlights of the trip were visiting the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives.
I was able to book tickets for the Capitol through their web site. They’re free, and not difficult to get like some other tickets (such as the White House). We got there nice and early, but the Capitol was closed (some security issue, they didn’t elaborate). The one advantage to this was that we happened to be standing at the front of where the line forms while we waited, so when they re-opened, we were are the front of the line. The tour was not all that impressive, they only take you through a few rooms (the basement, the old Supreme Court Chamber, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall). If you want to see any of the actual House or Senate chambers, you have to get tickets from a member of Congress in advance (and even if you do, they won’t let you take cameras into the House or Senate chambers). Still, it was neat to see the parts that they do allow the public in. The artwork in the rotunda was amazing, and the tour guide showed us why Statuary Hall is sometimes called the Whisper Chamber (if you stand on a certain tile and whisper, you can be heard on another tile on the opposite side of the room due to the acoustics of the ceiling).
After a quick stop in the Capitol cafeteria (and I mean quick, since we decided not to pay the outrageous prices), we went through the tunnel over to the Library of Congress. We hadn’t planned on coming here, and didn’t want to waste time signing up for a tour, so we just tagged along with a tour that was already in progress. As a result, I missed the warnings that we weren’t supposed to take pictures in the main Reading Room, so I got a few good shots. The tour guide didn’t seem to care, but of course a nosy tourist loudly yelled, “You can’t take pictures in here!”. Thanks a lot…
After a few pictures outside with the Capitol in the background (experimenting with focal length, took some of the shots with the background slightly blurred), we took the Metro over towards the National Archives. After a quick stop to take some pictures at the Navy Memorial, we had a quick lunch at Starbucks and then got on line for admission. After about a half hour in line, we were able to explore the Archives (including another half hour in line to attempt to see the original Constitution). The room where you can see the original historical documents is very poorly managed. The guard insisted that “we operate on a no-line system”, once you’ve gotten to the front of the line to actually get into the room, you’re supposed to go right up to the document that you want to see, and lines are not supposed to form around each document. So, I walked right over to the Bill of Rights, and got yelled at (by the same guard who just said that there were no lines) to “go wait in line if you want to see it.” Ended up only getting a brief glimpse at most of the documents since we didn’t feel like sitting around for another half hour. On the way out, they have a comment notebook for suggestions. I noticed several pages of comments along the lines of, “Is there a line or isn’t there?”
We took the metro back to Greenbelt afterward (definitely the best way to get into the city if you’re coming from the north down I-95), and made a quick stop at the College Park Ikea so I could buy an additional shelf for my bookcase (which I later discovered I already had in the closet, so now I have bonus shelves) and then visited my sister at her college on our way home.
I geotagged the photos, as usual. Here’s the map: