Life after Work

Vacation Day 4: Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Capitol, National Archives in Washington DC

Entrance to the Supreme Court, Washington, DC

We got up early, had bagel sandwiches for breakfast and walked to the United States Capitol, which looked splendid against the blue sky. Our first appointment for the day was the first “courtroom lecture” of the day at 9.30 AM in the Supreme Court Building, which is situated across the street from the Capitol. Using a side entrance (and a healthy portion of chutzpah) we managed to sneak into the building before 9.00 AM and were able to look around a bit, throw a glance into the Supreme Court Chamber and be first in the rapidly expanding line for the lecture. The Supreme Court Building dates from 1932, until then the Court was using space in the Capitol. Still, the building fits very well with the surrounding and there are numerous interesting details in the friezes, ceiling, and door panels. Courtroom lectures are held in the Supreme Court Chamber on weekdays when the Court is not in session. They are 30 minutes long and very educational in regards to the history of the Supreme Court and the building. Find out more here.

My mom and I in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC After the lecture we hurried over to the public tour of the neighboring Library of Congress. Entering that building was a huge surprise to me since I expected the interior to be somewhat similar to the Supreme Court, serenely white or ivory, but instead our eyes met with a riot of colors. Our tour guide led us past an original Gutenberg bible on display in a massive case. I’d like to know who gets to turn the page every once in a while to avoid fading or stress on a particular page. Then we got to see the Main Reading Room, truly a temple in its own right, and of course, we admired the beautifully painted walls in the Great Hall and Galleries. One could spend days or even weeks in this building and still keep noticing more details! 

Our tour ended just in time for us to hurry through the tunnel to the Capitol Visitor Center. Someone from Mr. Shadegg’s staff had suggested we could have lunch at the Senate’s dining room before our appointment for the Capitol tour, which is what John explained to a gentleman at a help desk who appeared sceptical buThe Capitol seen from the Visitor Center, Washington, DCt intrigued. Apparently not many people ask about this! He gave the three of us visitor badges and directions to the Senate help desk. Excitedly we hurried into the Capitol building, through the Crypt and turned towards the Senate (past the signs saying “No visitors without tour guides”) until we found the help desk. Sadly, the women there saw through our bluff (why would we want to eat in the Senate if our appointment is with a Congressman?) and politely suggested we use the cafeteria in one of the Congressional buildings. However… as a consolation prize we received additional visitor badges and were allowed to use an elevator in the Senate and the underground tram to the Rayburn Building (confused yet? I was completely disoriented!). We rushed through lunch and made our appointment to the tour with minutes to spare. Our guide Sara was fantastic! She took the time out of her incredibly busy day to show us and another family the major sights of the Capitol. I was afraid she’d rush us through to get back to her desk but she was extremely patient, gracious – and most importantly, knowledgeable. I hope we get to come back and visit the Senate some day.

Rotunda Canopy, The Capitol, Washington, DC

After our tour there was still one more big item on the schedule – visiting the National Archives for a peek at the original Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Constitution, and the Magna Carta. However, we were supposed to show up at a specific time and we were early, so we detoured through the National Botanical Garden, which was small, but beautiful. I especially enjoyed the scent exhibits which featured spices, herbs, and dried flowers in flower-shaped containers. Our feet were becoming mighty sore, but with so much fun and excitement, who could complain?

Our time in the National Archives was almost anti-climactic at this point. We had to push ourselves into the front to see the country’s most famous documents on display and because of the throngs of school children, it was difficult to linger and take some time gazing at the handwriting, signatures, etc. We were beat and our feet so sore! We rested a bit outside of the National Archives when we noticed the extremely disciplined and well-behaved group of school kids next to us. We complimented their chaperone on running the best behaved group we’d seen so far and found out about the St. Marcus School of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a private school that mostly serves children from low-income families with school vouchers. They rely on sponsors and donations to allow the students to go on field trips like this one to DC and New York City. Seeing how well-mannered and mature for their age these kids are, John and I are planning to donate to ensure that more of these children get a chance to get out of their environment and see these places. After chatting with the teachers and Tatyana, one of the students, we dragged our tired and hungry selves towards dinner. We found good food at Nando’s Peri Peri (around the corner from Chinatown) then limped back towards the White House one more time before finally crawling back to our hotel room.

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