Washington D.C – Part 1: The Capitol


Into my second last week and wanting to make the most of it, i headed down to Washington DC last Tuesday evening. Staying with very generous friends of my Californian friends, I awoke Wednesday morning in the sweet suburb of Kensington, Maryland which is about 30 minutes from DC.

Washington, D.C. (formally the District of Columbia) is the capital of the United States, founded on July 16, 1790 and named in honor of George Washington,

The centers of all three branches of the federal government of the United States are located in the District, as are many of the nation’s monuments and museums. Washington, D.C. hosts 174 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of other institutions such as trade unions, lobbying groups, and professional associations are also located in the District.

In 1814, British forces invaded the capital burning and severely damaging the Capitol, Treasury, and White House. Most government buildings were quickly repaired, but the Capitol, which was at the time largely under construction, was not completed in its current form until 1868

D.C. is a planned city, designed by the French-born Pierre (Peter) Charles L’Enfant. The plan for Washington was modeled in the Baroque style and incorporated avenues radiating out from rectangles, providing room for open space and landscaping. By the start of the 20th century, L’Enfant’s had become marred by slums and randomly placed buildings. In 1900, Congress formed a joint committee, headed by Senator James McMillan, charged with beautifying Washington’s ceremonial core, bringing it the gleaming state it’s in today.

The District has a resident population of 599,657; because of commuters from the surrounding suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the workweek. I joined a portion of these commuters via the nice and easy Metro system (the lines are organised into colours – red, green , yellow etc). Venturing into Downtown DC, i popped out in Chinatown!

I walked down alongside the broad streets and beneath grandiose buildings, like the National Archives and Records Administration

I passed through the Sculptural garden

until i finally came to the Mall! The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year (more people than the entire population of Australia!!!). It was SO hot (think Jaipur, India) but i was nevertheless refreshed and invigorated upon finally seeing the area for myself. The “Mall” refers to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, with the Washington Monument providing a division slightly west of the center. It’s a HUGE area, spanning 3.0 km between the Capitol steps and Lincoln, and believe me, it feels even bigger when your spanning it by foot in damp heat!

The National Mall’s status as a wide, open expanse at the heart of the capital makes it an attractive site for protests and rallies of all types. One notable example is the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a political rally for African American civil rights, at which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

So sticking to the shade as much as possible, i made my way

past the huge sculptures, galleries and museums that line the Mall

drawing ever closer to Capitol Hill! The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, and the legislature of the Federal government of the United States.

seeking cover from the blistering heat i went down into the newly renovated visitors centre, filling my arms with brochures and gulping down icy cold water. I didn’t at this stage go on a tour as i had something special already lined up 🙂

I had lunch and LOTS of ice cold water in a wonderful restaurant near the Senate Office buildings named “The Monocle”. Due to it’s location and fine food, its apparently the local haunt of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress – so i can only imagine who i was dining with!

I may have again passed them without noticing as i walked the halls of one of the Senate office building to, believe it or not, visit the office of the Senator of Missisiipi! What? I know, strange, but one thing i’ve learnt is contacts are extremely important. A very generous American friend, contacted his friend who contacted someone else and organized for me to do a special tour of the Capitol with the Mississippi Senators interns!

We first stopped by one of the halls in which many important announcements are made

Before going in this fantastic private, underground tram that goes straight to the Capitol! Apparently there is basically a whole underground city working for the senators and other government employees. We popped up in the visitors centre that i was in earlier and skipping through line began to explore the beautiful halls of the Capitol after a great intro video

Peaking into majestic rooms

like the Old Supreme Court Chamber

We came to Capitol Rotunda which is reminiscent of a Cathedral dome – but instead of the figure of god frescoes at it’s centre

It’s old mate George! (George Washington that is). Other historic US figures are immortalized throughout the building in the form of statues. Each state contributed 2 famous figures and they are al throughout the building

There are many classical artifacts

But i just relished in wandering the halls and rooms where so many important whispers and negotiations have taken place. Discussions that have have immeasurable impacts in every corner of the globe!

It was a fantastic tour and i highly recommend to anyone visiting DC as it’s gives you great perspective and understanding of the Capitol and it’s processes. And if nothing else – it’s a beautiful building!

I traded one beauty for another however when i visited the Library of Congress.

As its name implies it’s the research library of the United States Congress but it’s also the de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States (est 1800) !

Thomas Jefferson sold 6487 books, his entire personal collection, to the library in 1815 and a special section of it was on display in a wonderful circular formation (as was his wish)

One of the several exhibitions was on “The Red Book of Carl G. Jung”. Its a 205-page manuscript written and illustrated by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung essentially detailing his experiments with the ‘unconscious’ – drawing elaborate portrayals of his dreams

I also peaked into the main reading room which is stunning – incredible marble and ornate wood and awning detailing

After this, i made my way towards the museums alongside the mall and a nice tree caught my eye (my mind gets in a weird space when i spend lots of time wandering alone 🙂 )

and as coincidence would have it – it was the American “Holly” tree! Sure my name has a slightly different spelling – Hollie – but just thought id share that little quirk with you!

And i’ll finish this post on that note as the next section -my visit to the National Art Gallery – will take too long and i have post fatigue! haha, hope you enjoyed. Oh and MY GOODNESS!!!!!!!!

I HAVE HAD OVER 9000 PAGE VIEWS! NINE THOUSAND!!!!!

absolutely incredible.

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