Day 1,454 of Traveling the World | Washington, DC | October 16, 2021

A TV journalist turns toward the camera and says, “Now, from Washington this morning….” and you think very seriously: government, lawmakers, lobbyists, infighting. But we discovered a very friendly, whimsical, and sometimes playful side to this amazing city. Every museum guard/greeter, server in a restaurant, and hotel worker enthusiastically greeted us with a smile, spoke to us at length, and thanked us profusely as we left. We found whimsy in restaurant menus (fried chicken with a glazed donut? – who does that?) and swings where there normally would be plain old boring benches! It has been a marvelous week in the country’s capital.

Our first photos are of the National Building Museum, which neither of us had ever heard of. We saw it on Google Maps, on the path from our hotel to the Smithsonian, so we decided to stop and see it. Are we ever glad we did! It is a magnificent room with gigantic brick columns (covered, of course). The room has been used for inaugural parties and political rallies. We passed a woman with two small children, playing on the floor adjacent to one of these towering columns. If she comes here often, what a great memory that will be for her kids! Sitting on a bench in front of the fountain was magical, as it was so quiet in this gorgeous space with few visitors. We also – finally! – got to the top of the Washington Monument! Over the past four visits to Washington, it has been closed for renovation, cleaning, or a special event every single time. We held our breaths as we approached, sure that it would close just as we got there. You must book your tickets online the day before, as only a limited number of visitors are allowed in the elevator at one time. They are still “free,” but with a $1 booking fee. And if you don’t nab your tickets within a few minutes of their 10:00 am availability, you may have to wait another day. We were surprised that the inside doors were actually vault doors!…very thick and heavy. We were also surprised that the elevator was built in from the beginning. It originally hauled freight and stones to the top, then switched to passengers once it opened in 1885, when it was the tallest structure in the world! (The Eiffel Tower eclipsed the monument just three years later, as it was twice as tall.)

There was still a good deal of fencing around the city, and many streets, sidewalks, and access ways were blocked off. In addition, many government buildings had giant planters along the sidewalk so that cars or trucks couldn’t be driven into the buildings. We “only” went to four museums this time (mainly because so many are closed early in the week, but all are open on weekends) – the National Building Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Natural History, and the Spy Museum. The Spy Museum had lots of interesting information, along with maybe a dozen short films on various spies and missions. There was enough info to keep you in there for an entire day, although we didn’t have that much time!

We enjoyed many of the restaurants we went to, particularly the unusual flavors in two Middle Eastern restaurants. There are photos below from a Mexican restaurant along the waterfront, Mi Vida. It was beautifully decorated, and they take a risk by serving food that is fairly spicy, although we greatly enjoyed it. All in all, it was a most enjoyable week in Washington, and we are left with a good impression, great memories, and satisfied appetites.

The National Building Museum. Who even knew it existed! FABULOUS columns and serenity.
A pretty fountain in the middle. It was heaven to sit and enjoy the quiet, as not many other people knew it was here!
The arches and design are dizzying.
An American Icon, the Washington Monument
View from the top of the Washington Monument toward the Lincoln Memorial
View from the top of the Washington Monument toward the Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin
Near the White House and Capitol, there were fences and warnings everywhere
We couldn’t even approach this statue, as canine dogs were in use!
A guard house, road barriers, STOP! and an arm barrier.
Many government buildings had these gravel-filled planters along the curb to prevent a Timothy McVeigh-like truck from getting close to the building. These planters surround FBI Headquarters.
This elephant is the “greeter” for the National Museum of Natural History. Photos of him abound on the internet!
…but few bother to capture his “better” side!
The Hope Diamond, one of the world’s most famous gems. From India, it is 45.52 carats, surrounded by 16 white diamonds. There are 46 more diamonds on its chain. It is renowned for its flawless clarity and deep blue color.
Sleeping Beauty,” in the Spy Museum. This is a motorized submersible canoe from WW II. It glides along the surface, then dives underwater, where the pilot, wearing an oxygen mask, operates unseen by enemy ships. The design evolved into crafts used today by US Navy SEALs.
Spy Museum. This shortened ice climbing axe was used to kill Leon Trotsky, in Mexico, as ordered by Lenin. It still has a bloody fingerprint!
Looks pretty good, doesn’t it? It is a blow-up tank, used to trick the enemy into thinking there were far more tanks than were actually there and to fool the enemy into thinking the attack would be in a different location than where it was planned.
Just more of the beautiful architectural ornamentation that we like so much.
And more ornamentation! We don’t know what it represents, but this looked so pretty atop a building.
The handsome Smithsonian’s Arts + Industries Building. Its pediment stone is titled, “National Museum, 1879.”
This gorgeous piece of furniture in the National Gallery of Art is the Pier Table, built in Boston, 1815-1825. It is made of mahogany and inlaid with marble and semiprecious stones.
This ornate, inlaid side chair is from Baltimore, 1815-1825. National Gallery of Art.
One of the pretty fountains with a statue in a central court in the National Gallery of Art.
“Odalisque,” Augusta Renoir, 1870. We like all of the Impressionists, but went wild over the dizzying colors and patterns that Renoir captured – on fabric, no less! And her expression is one of a very world-wise, weary woman, which is difficult to depict in a painting.
Another lovely small court with a statue and fountain, an oasis in the middle of the museum.
A view of the Potomac River, along with an advertisement for a concert: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Yeah. We suspect not many of our readers have heard of them, either.
A pretty, fabricated tree in the lobby of Mi Vida restaurant at the Wharf.
The colorful bar at Mi Vida.
Woman, lounging on cow. Ben & Jerry’s on the Wharf.
Thrasher’s Rum, a bar. The other side says, “Make rum, not war.”
Lots of seafood stands near the water, like all wharf areas around the world.
Washington does a lot to make the city friendly, such as these picnic-tables-with-swings-as-benches!
The Recreation Pier…with even more swings! So fun!
The Natural History Museum gave the names of many of the plants that surround it. Have you ever heard a cuter name than Snowflake Candytuft???