Washington DC (Winter 2009)

From western end of Washington Monument with Capitol Hill behind it

As it turned out, the two-week block vacation that my husband had to take for 2009 fell on the Christmas Holiday. Even though I incline to avoid sightseeing in the cold, I was aching for a little action around that time, so I planned a 4 nights, 3 and ½ days visit to the capital city on our way up north to join my in-laws for Christmas in CT.

While I did the usual diligence preparing for the trip, my list of interest grew and my enthusiasm increased. Our nation’s capital really is a gem-packed place. Among others, intriguing history, fine architectures, distinguished landmarks and splendid museums, many of which are FREE, await everyone.

So I was finally back to Washington DC, after only 20 years, and in spite of the unforeseen once-a-decade snow storm, that delayed and shortened our trip by one day, we had a decent time and it left me wanting to come back for more. The blizzard, while causing some closings and inconvenient road conditions, was not a show stopper and presented a set of sceneries and experiences that we won’t have had otherwise.

DC remains the free and open city that it has been with some exceptions – added security checks and scans at some sites and the changed procedure for visiting the White House. To visit the White House, one has to plan ahead. “Requests must be submitted through one’s Member of Congress and are accepted up to six months in advance. “ See http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/tours-and-events for details. And needless to say, visiting the White House would have to come on another trip for us. It is, however, a no brainer to understand the need for tightened security rule.

Click Read More for photos.

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill-Western front

We went to the Capitol Hill first since I had made a reservation in advance on its website, http://www.visitthecapitol.gov, for 9:50AM. The smaller-than-usual crowd that day, due to the snow storm, made some of the things easier, shorter lines and even though we were late for our appointment, we were not turned back and instead put to the next group available. But I resented the gruffness of some TSA member at security check point, who treated every visitor indiscriminatingly as villain of some sort. Some staff members at the reception desk, while not as rude as the TSA lady, were cold faced, like the weather. Catching the various foreign tongues among our group, I felt sorry these foreign visitors who made such effort to be there were not received with more friendly spirit. Nonetheless, the Capital Hill Rotunda is imposing and we enjoyed our free little tour, preceded by an introductory film and guided by a lady who, finally, exuded some warmth and humor.

Fresco on the inner dome of Capitol Hill

Emancipation Hall at Capitol Hill’s Visitor Center

Supreme Court, across the street from Capitol Hill, was closed that day

View of a colossal Christmas tree and Washington Monument from Capitol Hill

Visiting our state senators

Senator Richard Burr’s office in Russell Senate Office Building

The senate would have a session later that day and we, based on instruction from our tour guide, tried to get tickets for the session by visiting the senators from our state. We tried Dirksen first but Senator Kay Hagan’s office was closed. Hers was obviously not the only one closed that day because the entire building was almost empty. We subsequently walked through the underground tunnel to Russell and found Richard Burr’s office one of the few open. That experience was interesting since that was our first visit to either of the building. The senate session however was uneventful where visitors outnumbered the assembly by multitudes. The entire 15 minutes we were there, one senator, who I could not see from where I was sitting, was making a speech on health care reform to a dozen or so people seated at the almost empty Senate Chamber, including 3 senators, their crews and a few other staff members.

Hall way outside Senate Richard Burr’s office at Russell Senate Office Building

The two staff members in the office at that time were friendly and courteous. Stacks of business cards bearing titles such as Legal Secretary, Press Relationship, etc. and etc. prompted me to ask about the number of people work in the office and I was told about 30 people work for Senator Burr.

Air and Space Museum

Air and Space Museum is cool

After Capitol Hill, our son’s patience was running thin and we decided it was time to change the scene and feed him. We made our way through the snow and eventually arrived at Air and Space Museum. Museum foods are expensive – almost double what are outside the museum walls. But the warmly heated museum revived me as I had reached my limit fighting the chill. The museum itself was awesome and we hoped it would keep our son interested for a good while.

This space module is located at the entrance to the museum café


Omni Shoreham was ornately festive

I found a great package for 4 stars Omni Shoreham close to National Zoo. The package included parking and daily hot buffet breakfast for a can-not-be-beat $150/PN. The hotel was practically empty, thanks to the snow storm. There are eateries nearby. We ate at an Irish pub and ordered take out from a Chinese place, both just across the street among other restaurants.

Lincoln Memorial

From western end of Washington Monument with Capitol Hill behind it

Second day in town, we set out via Metro Rail and ascended to the Mall at the Washington Monument stop. The monument was closed although the store and restroom were open.

Lincoln Memorial

We trod through the snow covered Mall carefully and slowly towards Lincoln Memorial. While I garbed in layers, shirt and wool sweater under an ankle length overcoat, my son had on but an undershirt and what to me a spring/fall jacket.

Reflection Pool and the Mall

Potomac River and Arlington Memorial Bridge behind Lincoln Memorial

A brief glimpse of White House’s eastern front

Museum of Natural History

Killer Whale at Museum of Natural History

Washington DC is not all for serious grownups. Museum of Natural History is one of those fantastic sites for kids.

Giant squid


A collage of gem bearing ore

Mesmerizing sparkles

National Zoo

Cute red panda was one of the few out braving the cold

Young panda, Taishan, taking a nap at its soon to be former home

Taishan was born to Giant Panda parents, Meixian and Tiantian, at National Zoo, but had to be returned to China and he left in the beginning of Feb.

Orange colored monkey with long tail

My son having a lark with this curious prairiedog

Playful baby guerrilla

National Cathedral

National Cathedral is magnificent

Looking to the choir and altar from the nave

Every window at National Cathedral is prominently marked by flaming stained glass

View of DC from top of the tower at National Cathedral

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