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Virginia Countryside

Virginia Countryside

I recently made the trek from DC to Memphis and really enjoyed some facets of the drive.  For starters, Virginia is just beautiful.  Maybe it’s cause I hail from the flat part of Tennessee, but the different colors of the hills in the distance is awe inspiring and so calming.

Some other highlights of the trip included passing by the Sun Sphere in Knoxville, spotting the Cherokee Naiton’s bus, and saying hi to Nashville’s Bat Building Motorola Office Building from afar (see below).  Scanning the radio on the approach into Nashville, almost every station was country.  Man, I love it – connecting to a culture and a regional identity.  Country music, southern accents, and thunderstorms.  I am here.

While I’m soaking in the southern-ness, I’m planning to continue blogging about a few places in DC I visited before I left and have some exercises that I’d like to share. As I mentioned before, the blog is moving into a temporary state of flux.  Let me know if there’s any direction you’d like me to go, and I’ll see if I can work that in.

~ Happy Trails Ya’ll ~

Sun Sphere

Sun Sphere

Cherokee Nation Bus

Cherokee Nation Bus

Bat Building on the Left

Bat Building on the Left

More Virginia Countryside

More Virginia Countryside


CapitolLast December, the Capitol unveiled its $621 million visitors’ center.  I got around to checking it out in May (thankfully when it wasn’t flooding…).  Visiting the Capitol is pretty easy – as long as you have reservations – more on that later.

The Capitol visit starts with a brief 20 minute video about the United States and the Capitol building.  Construction of the Capitol began in 1793 with its much anticipated conclusion in 1892.  Let’s just say a couple wars got in the way… As I mentioned earlier, the building used to house the Library of Congress as well as the Supreme Court.  Most striking of the building is the dome which is topped by the Statue of Freedom.  Now, I think it’s near impossible to tell what the statue is when looking at the Capitol, but you can see a replica of it inside the Visitor’s Center.  (Warning:  the replica is a little ugly.  See pictures below.) Read the rest of this entry »

Washington MonumentWait… you’ve lived in DC for four years and still never went up the Washington Monument???

Well, as I’ve learned – it’s pretty easy to go up and tour the WaMo.  And it’s fun.

The Washington Monument is sorta at the epi-center of the mall.  As noted by Shannon, it’s not in perfect alignment with the White House and the Jefferson Memorial (due to marshy ground).  However, it’s off-centered-ness allows you to see both the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial from the Ellipse.

One of the reasons so many people in DC never go to the WaMo is due to its ticketing process.  You must have a (free) ticket in order to enter the Monument.  On 15th Street, starting at 8:30 A.M. you can pick up free, same-day tickets.

For those who only remember they want to see the Monument  while it’s tourist season, there is another option.  By paying a fee, you can reserve tickets in advance.  I went this route, and as long as you can wait 2-4 weeks, this is a good option.  In total, I paid almost $3 a ticket – and it was worth it.  It’s a game of roulette with the weather but seeing the city mid-monsoon is probably cool too…

An additional visitor tip before we get to the down and dirty on the Monument.  I went on a Wednesday evening with a 7:30pm reservation.  First, I got there 15 minutes early as instructed.  Then, I was immediately whisked inside (so don’t fret if you’re particularly early or running a little late).  Also, it was not crowded.  Peak season of tourists, but the late show doesn’t bring as many out-of-towners. 

Read the rest of this entry »

This evening I headed on the Mount Vernon trail to Gravelly Point Park to check out the view on the Potomac.  Approximate route from Rosslyn is here.

This is incredible!  It’s absolutely thrilling to watch this huge object soar over you and then gracefully land feet away.  My biking buddy introduced me to this plane-watching method.  Lie down with your feet facing the runway.  You’ll hear the plane approaching (suspense!), then get a great view of it passing over, and finally be able to see it land.

And to make this better than just hanging out at your regular airport, there’s the Potomac on one side and views into DC to see the Capitol, Washington Monument, and the like.

Check it out.  I only wish I was there when it was dark too…

~ Happy Plane Watching ~


Rolling Thunder by the LOCWell, after my tour of the Library of Congress, I decided to run to Rosslyn.  (Have I told you how much I love this city?)  I found the run particularly interesting – and not just because of the influx of bikers in town.  On this run, the memorials were not functioning as aesthetically pleasing tributes to different times in America.  On this run, I witnessed the personal ties that linked people to the memorials.

The WW II Memorial was decorated with flowers between each of its pillars – in honor of more than 400,000 who gave their life and the 16 million who served in the armed forces during World War II.  The visual reminder of why we get a day off from work really changes the focus of the 3-day weekend.  Thanks to all those men and women who have kept the U.S. safe.


Rolling Thunder at the WWII Memorial

Rolling Thunder at the WWII Memorial

Library of CongressThis was the theme of the tour during my Memorial Day Weekend visit to the Library of Congress.  As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I value the insights gleaned from free tours in museums.

 The docent, Cora, was very knowledgeable in forming this link.  In order for Democracy to function optimally, a learned populace should elect educated leaders.  And not only should leaders know the law and government, but they also need to understand economics, the environment, health, science, etc.  Oh – Jefferson Ideals… it makes you want to read a million books just thinking about it.

Now onto the History of the Library of Congress:  The LOC was established by Congress in 1800 and was housed inside the Capitol.  (Looking at the Capitol from the LOC, it would be in the right wing side of the building.  I’ll put up a picture of this later today.)  When the British burned the Capitol in 1814, they incidentally burned the LOC as well.  Too bad for them burning buildings did not equal winning the war.

For the rest of the post I’ll showcase some of the Architectural/Decorative Highlights of the building and share some of the intereting Historical Tidbits I learned.

The LOC has soooooooooo much information!

Holocaust Museum LobbyWelcome to the Holocaust Museum… have a meaningful experience.

As it’s name indicates, the museum’s focus is on telling the story of the Holocaust.  Since it’s opening in 1993, over 30 million people have visited the museum – and from my experience on Saturday, that number is growing rapidly.  Most notable upon arriving is the architecture.  There is an incredible mixture of stone, glass, steel, and light – quite stunning.

The museum captured the story from Hitler’s rise to power to the liberation of the concentration camps.  Overall, I found the museum to be informative and impactful.  I visited Dachau  previously and definitely still appreciated the insights offered by the Holocaust Museum.  Well done, Holocaust Museum – I had a meaningful experience.

More About My Visit


Wall is on the horizon

Wall is on the horizon

Last night, I expected to head down to the Georgetown Waterfront with some friends to relax while enjoying a chocolate crepe.  However, we were vastly disappointed when our path and view was blocked by an enormous wall…

All the rain in the DC area transformed the Potomac into a raging river.  So Georgetown prepared itself by building this plywood wall.  I’m sure this circumstance wasn’t nearly as disappointing for me as it was for the bus full of prom kids.

~ Jessica ~

PS – My friends and I agreed that we never noticed this tower until the view of the Potomac was blocked.

*** Sunday, May 10th Update – Some friends reported that the wall was down last night.  Lucky for them!

This past weekend, I made it to the Freer Gallery of Art with a friend.  This is one of the less popular museums on the National Mall – making it a great hidden gem.  The museum focuses on art from China, Korea, Japan, Asia, and the near East.  I made a point to time my visit with a tour.  I have found that the tours consistently enhance my experience.  The guides push the audience to make observations and conclusions in a non-threatening environment.  Their presence makes the museum experience much more interactive with an added component of learning.  One of the things I love most about this town are these opportunities to continue learning.  DC is an amazing place.

Some of the highlights of the experience included:

* Japanese Art:  The tour guide pointed out how influences of Chinese Art moved to Japan.  In this series of seasonal screens, the artist always painted Clouds, Evergreen trees, and Mountains.  Here’s an example of how one of the screens looked.  The Clouds symbolize how perceptions change.  The Evergreen trees represent longevity.  And I unfortunately never heard what the Mountains symbolize – however, I would guess they symbolize the grandeur of the Earth.

I also saw these beautiful painted lacquer boxes.  There is a lot of nature and symbolism in these works.  It’s really exciting to learn the layered meanings of the pieces.

* Islamic Art:  The intersection of art and religion resulted in highly stylized writing adorning these works.  (See the outer ring of the bowl.)  Another characteristic is the arabesque pattern – or the wandering vine.  That piece is particularly interesting – since it also reflects the global trade occurring at the time.  The cobalt blue is native to the region, but the artists learned how to fire their pottery to the porcelain white from the Chinese.  I guess the world was only slightly curved back then.

No discussion of Islamic Art would be complete without mentioning geometry and symmetry.  This textile displays this concept perfectly.  When you zoom in, you can see the balance even in the flower bouquets inside of the fans.  Beautifully disciplined.

* South Asian & Himalayan Art:  Here we focused mainly on religious pieces.  Nandi is a piece that would be set outside the temple.  It has the characteristics of an Indian bull – notice the hump!  But what I found most interesting about it is how the bull is resting on a lotus pedestal.  The lotus is a plant that rises out of the mud (and adversity) towards the sky (and purity).  Most of the pieces in the room were all sitting on top of lotus pedestals – pretty neat.

Like other pieces in the museum, this art showcased many different meanings within one piece.  This double berry seed necklace are sacred for the Hindu god Shiva.  And this necklace is made to look like closed jasmine seeds, prompting the viewer to imagine the smell of jasmine.

That’s all for now for the museum round-up.  Many thanks to the Freer Gallery and my tour guide for a great experience.  I can’t wait to see another museum this weekend.