Thursday, June 19, 2014

Washington D.C. Part 3

Having walked over thirty miles by this point in our trip, The Man and I were ready for a vacation from our vacation!  On Thursday morning, we rolled our aching bodies out of bed early for a busy final full day.  After breakfast, we took the Metro five stops to Capitol South where we walked another few blocks to the U.S. Capitol building.  We didn't have a planned stop here, but since we found an hour of extra time, we squeezed in this stop.  
Even without a meeting set aside with our congresspeople, we were able to get in line for a tour.  Our tour started around 10:00am, and we were done about an hour later.  The tour was very scripted, congested, and somewhat geared for children, but it was helpful to have some sort of guide.  Our group had about fifty people in it, and most of them seemed foreign.  The worst part of the tour was the noisy dome and the obnoxious groups of IGAs (irreverant groups of assholes, otherwise known as 8th graders).  The best part was actually after our tour had ended.  At our request, our tour guide took The Man and me to see one of Oregon's two statues in the capitol building.  Each state gets to send two statues to live in Statuary Hall, but not all of them fit in there.  One of Oregon's statues, Dr. John McLoughlin, is off the regular tour path.  It was pretty neat to be able to go "beyond the watercooler" and see the really big statue.  (Note: Oregon's other statue in Statuary Hall was of Rev. Jason Lee, which we did see on the tour.)  Unless you have a private tour or are actually going to meet a senator or representative from your state, the tour is just okay.  Glad we went, but not worth it to go through that much security to see again.

U.S. Capitol
We took the Metro back to our hotel to get our bags (which are not allowed at the capitol) and have lunch.  We stopped at Fahrney's, a pen shop just a block from our hotel.  I have a Retro 51 pen by Farney's that I received as a college graduation gift from a coworker, so going to the actual store was a treat.  We didn't buy anything while in the store (*cough, $$$!), but it was still really fun to browse.

As the temperature climbed, we treated ourselves to some frozen yogurt--which had been planned and put off every day since our vacation started!  We discovered the cheapest bottled water in the city, a steal at $0.29 per bottle!, as opposed to the usual $1.50 or more.  The frozen yogurt was awesome too.

Our last major destination on our vacation was saved for last for a reason: we knew we'd love it.  We took the Metro six very long stops over to Brookland where we had to walk a half-mile or so to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, or just Basilica for short.  This is a national pilgrimage site and one of the ten largest churches in the world.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
We were able to get a guided tour from a very nice gentleman, and we were thrilled that there were no IGAs in our tour group.  In fact, our tour group only had seven people!  The church is air conditioned, incredibly quiet (except for the choir practice, but that was achingly beautiful), and a literal feast for the eyes.  The Man and I were both quite literally dropping our jaws at the stunning architecture, mosiacs, and sculptures.

Our Lady of Czestochowa
One of our favorite chapels was the Our Lady of Czestochowa (pronounced 'chess-ta-HO-va').  The chapel is so much bigger than my picture makes it appear, and with tapestries on both sides and a mosaic dome above, it is truly an inspiring place.  Pope John Paul II prayed here when he visited, and The Man has Polish ancestry, so the chapel is meaningful to us as well.  I also enjoyed the Irish chapel with green marble walls and a chandelier that glows a soft green and bright white at the same time.  The Miraculous Medal chapel had incredible mosaics and a medal over two feet tall!  In total, there are almost a hundred chapels, oratories, and little nooks for prayer, reflection, or just sitting in peace.

Upper Church at the Basilica
We browsed the gift shop for an hour between our tour and when we headed to the Crypt Church (not actually a crypt, just what they call it since it is below the Upper Church) for Mass.  The gift shop was full of the typical offerings: plastic rosaries, silver necklaces and medals, and wooden figurines.  They also had a smattering of Washington D.C. souvenirs as well.  The Man bought a book, and I tried my best to find something I couldn't live without, but all I brought home was pictures and memories.

Blessed Sacrament Chapel
 Mass was both nice and a little odd.  We're used to how Mass flows in mid-valley Oregon churches, but apparently things are different on the east coast or in basilicas or maybe just with that priest.  Here things move methodically, reverently, sometimes slowly (sometimes less slow though).  Our Masses typically take right around an hour.  I've never been out of Sunday Mass in less than fifty-five minutes.  There?  Top-to-bottom, forty minutes.  They did all the same stuff we do, but they do it much faster.  No leisurely stroll through the Creed, no drawing out the Prayers of the Faithful.  On one hand, I really had to pay attention to keep up, so staying focused wasn't an issue.  On the other hand, I missed the reverence that our priests from the St. John Society have for Mass.  It's a different way of doing things, neither better than the other.  I'm so thankful to have experienced Mass at the Basilica!

Our Lady of Hope
We stayed until the church closed.  It was hard to leave a place of so much beauty and peace, especially knowing how long of a sweaty walk we had back to the Metro and how long that ride would be.  We had dinner and made our way to the hotel where we packed and prepared for our trip home on Friday.

Friday was our last day on vacation, and our flight didn't leave Reagan National until 5:00pm, so we had some time to kill.  We slept late, had a huge breakfast late, and checked out of our hotel just before 12:00pm.  We sat in a lower lobby at the hotel until 1:30pm before heading to lunch and then our final Metro ride to the airport.  Our plane boarded much earlier than planned, so we were glad to be at the airport a few hours early.  The takeoff was a bit frightening, but the flight home was superb.  Our pilot called out most of the state borders as we crossed them, named rivers and mountains, and was really good about giving landing time updates.  The Man and I watched two movies in-flight on my tablet (Gravity? not a great movie to watch while in the air).  We were both so happy to spy the blue-grey ribbon of the Columbia as we dropped out of the clouds--such a pretty sight after seeing the muddy, ugly Potomac all week.  Setting foot back in Oregon was (painfully) welcome.  We got home around 11:30pm and promptly showered and went to bed.

And then we got up before 7:00am on Saturday because our bodies had switched over to east coast time.  Our kitties were up for the early morning cuddles and loves, and they were sure to let us know how much we were missed all week with purrs and naps on laps. Glad to be home!

More next time about all of the food we ate on our trip.  

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