Monday, July 13, 2009

Touring Washington D.C. in less than Four Hours!

We're on the train going through Maryland right now, stopping in Cumberland, and about to enter Pennsylvania. We've had a great day! We had to get going early today.

Packing everything up on Saturday night. Ugh...

Joseph hauled Doorposts boxes down to the motel lobby for UPS to pick up on Monday, then hauled all the suitcases down,too. The heat outside was oppressive. It felt like we were walking into an oven at 7:45 in the morning. We drank orange juice while we waited for our cab.

My traveling bouquet from Harrisonburg, on its way to Washington, D.C.!

The cab was equipped with a GPS system that talked to him and told him where to go. He didn't seem to know where the train station was. The voice told him to turn left, he looked down the road and didn't think it was right, and then the voice told him it was recalculating, and that he should turn left at the next road. "Turn left," "Turn left," it kept saying, until he finally turned.

In the cab

We were at the station about a half hour before the train was supposed to come. It was kind fun, sitting out on the bench against the building, facing the tracks, and imagining what the area must have looked like during the Civil War days, with the soldiers building earthworks to defend possession of the railway.

Looking south from the Manassas Depot

A breeze came up and made the wait much more pleasant. It's a good thing, because eventually a man came out and told us the train was an hour and twenty-five minutes late.

Waiting for the train

It actually ended up being a very relaxing wait. The town visitor center is also at the train station, so I had an excuse to go in there and gather some more brochures for reading material. (Ask Joseph how much I have bugged him picking up brochures wherever we go. Ask me how handy a lot of those brochures have been.) There was also a little museum display between the station waiting room and the visitor center that was interesting to look at. We are our breakfast while we waited for the train, and I had fun breaking off tiny pieces of bread for the little birds. (There is the most incredible song bird around Virginia. One was in the trees out our door at the motel. It just sang its heart out, and had quite a song to share. I never did see it, but I would sure like to know what it was.)

At last the train came. Poor Joseph had a load of suitcases to pull up into the train, since we couldn't check any luggage at that stop.

Joseph mailing the only postcard we managed to send out. Oops...

The ride went by quickly, with interesting things to see out the window. Then poor Joseph had to get all the luggage back out of the train.

The inside of Union Station looks like an airport, but much more beautiful -- shops, car rentals, ice cream (I bet you think we had some. We actually voted for lemonade after we came in from hiking the city for 3-1/2 hours. We've gone two days without ice cream!).

The main part of the building has the high arches of train travel's old days. Joseph studied a map (in one of the brochures I had picked up :-)) while I found a bathroom, and then he guided us to the Capital Building.

Back side of the Capitol Building

We walked all around it,l but couldn't go inside.

Standard tourist shot from the side

Tour guide has moved on to Washington, D. C. now

The we realized how close we were to the National Gallery of Art and made a beeline for it. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me, even though we were constantly frustrated by our time constraints. We started with a special exhibit of small French paintings -- Pisarro, Manet, Degas, etc. I was surprised at how little some of the paintings were!

New assignment, girls. Help us figure out which artist did this painting. We liked several of his, but now we can't remember who it was.

Then we were about to leave the east building, which looked like it mostly contained modern art, when we remembered seeing a poster for an exhibit called "Heaven on Earth." It was amazing! I'm so glad we didn't miss it. It was all medieval illuminated texts, mostly from large (2-3 feet high) choir books. A real life look at these is so different than the pictures in the books! Exquisite detail, gold leaf that is much more reflective than the book pictures can show, etching in the gold leaf, tiny, tiny details, and deep, brilliant colors. I had never realized how transparent the parchment was either.

One shot of the marvelous show of illuminations.
Even this one was forbidden, Joseph was told after he took it.

We couldn't take any pictures. It's probably a good thing. We would have taken one of every piece in the exhibit! (I bought a couple books -- 5 minutes in the book shop -- that should inspire my calligraphic efforts.)

The west building housed the works we were most interested in. How do you do the National Gallery of Art in an hour and a half? We spent all day last year in the Chicago Institue of Art, and this museum was far bigger.

There were rooms and rooms of medieval art. How about a field trip for art history, girls?

A flyer listing the highlights a visitor might want to see if they only had an hour, helped us know that we wanted to see a DaVinci, some Raphael, Titian, and van Eyck, and in our journey to those paintings, we kept seeing more and more that we wanted to see. Joseph was talking pictures as fast as he could, I was turning this way and that, trying to figure out which ones to focus on, with so many to claim our attention.

Girls, we saw some Fra Angelico and Filippo Lippi, Sandro Boticello, and many others that we read about in our art history.

Da Vinci!

Raphael's St. George Slaying the Dragon.

Lucas Cranach the Elder

The Raphael Madonnas were beautiful.

We had agreed that we needed to head back to the train station by 2, and Joseph very dutifully dragged me out of one room after another, as we'd see things while we were trying to reach the front door.

We almost missed a whole room of Rembrandts.

Of course, everything we had seen in the museum paled in comparison to this marvelous piece of junk -- I mean sculpture.

This is what we felt like by the time we made it back to the train station.

We actually made good time getting back to the station, in spite of the heat and our weariness. We sat in the shade on a bench for awhile, Joseph some took pictures of all the weird tour buses. We had to get back by 3 to get our carry-on bags out of storage before they charged us anymore than the outrageous $28 they had already charged. (It was worth it, though, to not have to drag suitcases all over town. We were doing good to just drag ourselves.) The train left D.C. at 4:07, and that's where we are now. We went through Harper's Ferry (very picturesque) and several other pretty towns.

Harper's Ferry train stop. I was talking to Grandy as we went through here

West Virginia rock. The tracks ran through a path cut through this kind of rock.

The last stop, Cumberland, had 8 different church steeples that we could see. Now we're on a windy stretch through a forest of deciduous trees.

Wind mills going through the hills past Harper's Ferry

The sun is setting and we're gearing up for "Sense and Sensibility" after it gets too dark to see the scenery anymore.

Hey, Benjamin! We're going to go through Pittsburg!


  1. I think the tourguide needs to shave.

  2. Okay, now I am officially jealous! Those medieval illuminations sound so cool!!!

    I can't believe your bouquet has lasted so long!

    Be good and get your article done! :)

  3. I agree with Suzy about the tour guide...