Sunday, August 11, 2013

Washington visit

A few weeks ago I spent a couple of wonderful days sightseeing in Washington. On the way to our hotel we passed this beautiful old house near DuPont Circle.

And then this one too.
Lafayette Park opposite the Whitehouse was a good spot to watch the passing tourists and hopefully catch a glimpse of the President or some visiting VIP's, but no such luck on the day I was there.

I was surprised at how close the house is to the street. The road is closed off just here and we watched a TV news crew filming a reporter against the backdrop of the Whitehouse for their broadcast. When after a while they decided to step up onto the pavement close to the fence for filming, several security guards materialized from nowhere and moved them back onto the roadway where they finished off their news report.

It was pouring with rain during our visit but that didn't deter us. There is so much to see. We crossed the Mall in the pouring rain to the Air and Space Museum and stopped briefly for a look at the imposing Capitol. There were rows of tents being set up along each side of the Mall, perhaps for the Saturday market the following day. I didn't envy them out in the rain.

I find the Air and Space museum quite awe-inspiring especially when I think of the brave men who set out in the aeroplanes and spacecraft on display. My photos of Bleriot's wood and canvas plane that he flew across the English Channel unfortunately didn't come out.

What a feat for the Russians and Americans to build their respective spacecraft and successfully link them up in space during the Apollo-Soyuz space mission. The green capsule is the Soyuz.

Nearby a collection of deadly missiles tower overhead.

The display of the aft end of the Saturn rockets that boosted the Apollo spacecraft into orbit is fascinating because there are only one and a quarter boosters in the room. A clever staging of mirrors makes it possible to see reflections showing all five as they would have been arranged for an Apollo lift off. It was difficult to capture all five in the mirrors but you do get an idea of how three would look in the photo below.

The leader of Mission Control Gene Kranz wore a white vest for each space mission, each vest made by his wife. It rang such a bell when I saw this vest and reading the information board vividly recalled seeing Ed Harris wearing such a white vest in the movie Apollo 13.

Although the display is dimly lit, I couldn't resist trying to capture a photo of the moon buggy.  It looks something like a beach buggy but the wheels are filigree-like and you can see right through them. Imagine this fragile vehicle driving across the surface of our moon.

Then later, making our way through the sculpture garden it was amusing to see real birds using the branches of this full-size stainless steel tree as perches, though I wasn't quick enough to photograph them.
I wanted to visit the Natural History Museum to see two things.

The first was the Hope Diamond, a large deep blue stone, measuring approximately 2.5cm (1inch)across. I found the white diamonds surrounding it quite dazzlingly beautiful. The Hope Diamond itself was so dark that I felt it lost some of its beauty.

Walking through the gemmology section I learned that beryl is a mineral and that both emeralds and aquamarines are simply different colours of beryl. The world's largest aquamarine crystal weighs around 60 pounds and is 14 inches tall. It has been cut and faceted in an usual way and the way it captures and reflects the light is stunning. I could have stood there for ages just looking at it.

The museum was about to close for the day but I just had to go and have a peep at the dinosaur exhibit, the second reason I had for wanting to visit the museum. The head on the left is of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and the skeleton on the right is of an unbelievably long 22m herbivore. Standing here I could just picture the dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park.

A last glimpse of Washington from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial and we were on our way.
And for me, from a water-poor country like South Africa where rivers are few and far between, crossing the wide expanse of Potomac River was amazing.

Embroidery? Yes, I have been stitching recently and I will post some photos soon of what I have been doing. I'll also sort through more photos of my US trip for a future post.
Till then, happy stitching!


  1. I have a similar response to water in the east of the US! I like Washington a lot. Thanks for posting these great photos.

    1. Hi Jillian. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. I thought Washington was beautiful. Because of the restriction on the height of buildings there are no towering skyscrapers and the city has a very pleasant open feel. I was also struck by the lovely big established trees and greenery everywhere. I'd love to spend more time there one day visiting the old historic areas too.