By now we were very familiar with the hotel and who to talk to about problems such as with the toilet that liked to wheeze continuously, which places to see and how to get to them, where to eat, how to get a taxi, and so on.
We also knew how to get to many places. We now were walking along with confidence––just like the other folks who knew where they were going. There were always lots of folks on the sidewalks––a real mix of tourists and office workers.
Not being a big city person, I have never seen so many men in suits in my life. Definitely, not a usual sight in Florence. And the traffic was horrendous. It was a very noisy place on the streets. Every car that turned, I swear, honked at least three times. And there were zillions of taxis and tourist trolleys and Metro buses. Just a very busy place. Most cars and taxis were small sedans, no big SUVs or pickups like in Florence.
We were there in October, which is not peak tourist season. But there were a fair number of tourists. In the various museums, we talked to folks from all over the country. The weather continued to be wonderful. So perhaps October is a good time to visit.
Day 11, Friday, Oct 11
We were up at 7 and after our fabulous buffet, we returned to the Newseum. We saw the last two floors and took photos.
Then we walked west to the Natural History Museum to see the Butterfly Pavilion. It was crowded with people and was very hot and humid. And everywhere you looked were the most wonderful assortment of butterflies. They were very attracted to Edna. Folks came up to take close-up shots of butterflies on her back, on her head, on her hand.
In the rest of the museum, we saw every type of critter, including every type of insect and spiders. We, also, saw every type of skeleton from tiny frogs to a giant whale.
We stopped and bought dinner from a food truck as we crossed the National Mall. Every day many food trucks were there. We ate the dinner in our room. It was another great day.
Day 12, Saturday, Oct 12
We were up at 5 because we were going on a cruise up the Potomac. We skipped one fabulous breakfast for another aboard the Spirit of Mt. Vernon small cruise ship. We took a taxi from the hotel at 8:30. It was a lovely day for a cruise on the Potomac up to Mt. Vernon. We sat with a large friendly family.
We took a shuttle the quarter mile uphill to Mt. Vernon. We saw George Washington’s home across a large expanse of lawn. The inside tour was well organized. It was a lovely older home, but not nearly as grand as I thought it would be.
We walked back down instead of taking the shuttle and saw the original tomb of George Washington and the new one where George and Martha are buried. After the cruise, we took a taxi home. That evening, we walked to the Bistro for crab cakes dinner for both of us. Absolutely wonderful. Another great day.
Day 13, Sunday, Oct 13
We slept in til 7:20 and returned to our fabulous buffet. We walked to the Hirshhorn Museum of modern art, which is also one of the many Smithsonian museums. It is a cylindical building that is a work of art in itself. It had lots of interesting work—not my cup of tea. I did find the building fascinating though.
We had lunch in the Smithsonian castle, the original Smithsonian building. It is now used for offices and a cafeteria for lunch. The cafeteria was terribly expensive; so we only had tea and a muffin. Then we toured the beautiful gardens intertwined between and around buildings with winding paths and plants that were labeled. They went on and on and were a highlight of the trip.
We then walked to the nearby National Museum of Asian Art that includes the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. They are also part of the Smithsonian museums. There were some lovely works dating from Neolithic times to early 20th Century.
The most interesting was the Peacock Room done for Mr. Freer by James McNeill Whistler. It’s Whistler’s masterpiece of “interior, decorative mural art.” There were also other works by Whistler. We walked home through the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and enjoyed spending a couple of hours reading in our hotel room in the late afternoon. That evening, we didn’t even feel like going out for dinner, so we had snacks for dinner, including popcorn already in the room.
Day 14, Monday, Oct 14 (Holiday celebrating Columbus)
We were up at 6:20 and had our fabulous breakfast. We walked to the major Metro station for our part of DC. We passed it every day. But this day we took the escalator uunderground. We got tickets for $20 worth of rides with the help of the person on duty. We rode the Met underground and popped up like a mole in the middle of the National Mall.
Then we walked to what we thought was the National History Museum. Because it was a holiday, Columbus Day, it was the first time for us to see lines outside of buildings. We got in the wrong line and waited for almost 20 minutes before realizing it. Then we went to the next block to the Natural History Museum and waited another 20 minutes in correct line.
Highlights were portraits of Presidents’ wives and of the Presidents. We also saw Julia Childs kitchen. We saw quite a bit, but there were whole floors that we missed. We were getting museum overload! So we left. We ate our usual quickie lunch in a small park-like area. Then we walked to the Newseum gift shop to add to our collection of gifts and souvenirs.
Then we walked west to the National Archives Building. No photos allowed. Very crowded. Got to see replica of Constitution. Apparently, it sat with sunlight on it and not well protected for many years. Did see originals of Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. Guards at attention everywhere. Lovely paintings on the wall high up and the rotunda was lovely. We got back to hotel via nearby Met. Had another too-expensive dinner from hotel store and bought more wine.
Day 15, Tuesday, Oct 15
We got up at 7 and after fabulous buffet, we walked a few blocks to 4th and Independence to get Met bus to go to National Cathedral. We waited an hour. On our last day in DC, we didn’t want to waste time waiting for a bus. But we needed a bus to go the 5 or so miles through Georgetown to the hill where the Cathedral is located.
It was worth the wait. The Cathedral is fabulous, it’s 1/8th mile long and has lower level below ground where even there the chapels have high ceilings. Not the 100-foot high ceiling on the main level with its fabulous arches and more than one level of stained glass windows.
The main area on the main level seemed like a cross between a cathedral and an events center with sound equipment and stacked folding chairs here and there. And workmen were busy hammering away on a platform around the pulpit for an upcoming special program. On this same level were many smaller chapels.
The chapels downstairs were filled with pews and it was quiet and seemed more churchlike. We took the 30-minute tour through the whole cathedral, which was very interesting. We learned that it took 83 years to build the cathedral. I bought a book in gift shop.
We took an elevator to the upper level where we could look down on DC and even look down on the Washington Monument. Afterwards, we had our quickie lunch on Cathedral grounds. We caught a bus with very little wait time back to a stop not far from the hotel.
Before heading to our room, we got info on when to catch taxi the next morning to get to the airport. Then we had another free hotel Tuesday night dinner. We took our dinners and ate them in our room and finished our wine from the previous evening. Then we got mostly packed ready to go the next morning. The National Cathedral was another highlight of the trip.
Day 16, Wednesday, Oct 16
We got up at 5 and finished packing. We brought our suitcases down and staff locked them in a closet, while we had our fabulous buffet for the last time. We called for a taxi, retrieved our luggage, and left for the airport at 7:10. Since our departing airport was in DC, it didn’t take long. We boarded at 8:30 and left at 9:15.
It was a pleasant flight. Much better than flying during the night. It was nonstop, and we arrived in LA at noon. It took 5 hours. Edna had to rush to catch her shuttle bus to Van Nuys where she would get her actual shuttle to Bakersfield. (I found out later that she made it and got home before I did.) I had an hour before boarding the plane to Portland. When I flew to LA, it was nonstop. But the return trip was through Portland. So I had a latte and blueberry scone while I waited. In Portland, I only had to wait half hour before boarding the flight to Eugene.
On this third flight of the day, I sat next to the CEO of Alden Ice Cream out of Tacoma area. He was pleasant and gave me two coupons for free Alden Ice Cream, which Freddies carries. Who knew!
I arrived in Eugene by 7. I got my luggage, found my car in long-term parking just as it was getting dark. Then the rain started—welcoming me back to Oregon. It was a long, rainy drive in the dark with glary oncoming lights—not fun!. I got to Florence by 8:30. I shopped for a few necessary items at Freddies and saw Todd, my yard guy, and my neighbor Ruth. Seeing folks I knew, made me feel right at home. Got to the house by 9:30. Groucho was so glad to see me, he was purring before I even picked him up. He made one of my favorite quotes come true, “One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home.” –Pam Brown
Glad to be home, but what a wonderful trip! It was indeed the trip of a lifetime!