A Long Day on the Mall

Kevin 19/04/2008

There’s nothing like a good Breakfast to start the day off right. Our hotel – Sheraton Crystal City – did a great job putting together an excellent bacon and eggs breakfast buffet. It was ready on time when the band started to make their way downstairs shortly before 8:00 am.

I actually need to go back and give the hotel a thank you for accommodating us last night when our boxes and boxes of pizza arrived. They let us use one of the smaller ballrooms on short notice without requiring us to purchase the food at the hotel – a rare thing in the hotel industry.

Fortified by our hot breakfast, we loaded the band onto the three charter buses that are our transport for the next several days and headed to the National Mall.  We were looking forward to a day of exploring the museums and dodging protesters.

Of course – you can not go to D.C. without seeing democracy in action. On the news this morning we heard that an immigration protest by a skinhead group was planned. Security preparations were already in evidence when we arrived shortly before 10:00 am.

The band scattered  to explore as they wanted. Rebecca and I walked back toward the Castle – both to photograph some flowers we had seen on the way in and to log a virtual geocache (An Englishman in D.C.) that we had located as being in the area.

Being with the band we were not able to take off on the Metro to find some of the other real caches in the area, so we had to make do with the virtual caches that kind souls have registered on the National Mall. Since the Mall is National Parks run – all the regular rules apply. (Come on NPS – Geocachers are taxpayers too!)

On our way to the Smithsonian Castle, the exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden caught our eye. We made a detour through the sculpture garden – taking some great photos in the early morning light.

Returning from the castle we stopped at the "The Cinema Effect" at the Hirshhorn. This fascinating exhibit features works created from moving images in new and surprising ways. My favorite work in the collection was Anthony McCall’s "You and I Horizontal, 2005" which features a projected image through a haze. The exhibit space is set up where you have to break the plane of the image projection in order to exit the room – making each visitor a participant in the shared creation of the art of the moment.

From there we moved on to have a quick lunch of FryBread at the National Museum of the American Indian. The cafe in the museum is said to be the current best spot for a meal – and it does offer a wide variety of interesting items from Buffalo burgers to ribs. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time so we just grabbed a quick fry-bread and a couple of waters and moved on.

After a brief visit at NMAI we walked across the Mall to the National Gallery of Art. While not part of the Smithsonian – the NGA shares both space and price (free) with the Smithsonian on the Mall. We had hoped to see some of the Gallery’s collection of Ansel Adams photos, but the photo space is currently occupied by the "Impressed by Light" exhibit of British Photographs from Paper Negatives spanning 1840 to 1860. Since Kathryn has recently studied this technique in school, this was a great thing to get to see.

Leaving the NGA, we strolled our now tiring legs through the NGA Sculpture Garden, then down the map to the National Museum of Natural History. By this time in the afternoon the crowds had arrived – making the geology exhibit initially a daunting prospect. We made our way through the initial crowd, and found that inside past the jewelry on display the mineral exhibits were much less crowded.

From there it was time to start wrapping our day up, returning to the Air and Space Museum for a last look around before boarding the buses for dinner.

I have to give the folks at all the museums great thanks for an enjoyable, safe day. Even with all the activity in the Mall, I never felt safer yet less intruded upon by security. Even the ever present bag checks were carried out with a minimum of fuss and inconvenience. A well deserved thank you to the men and women of the various security details.

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