John & Brenda's Excellent Tour travel blog

The Hope Diamond

Smile...it's T-Rex!

Maybe Seth can remind me what the name of this dude is?

Monet's Japanese Bridge in the National Gallery

The Smithsonian Station on the Metro


June 13

One day in DC was not enough to see all we wanted so we planned another visit into Washington for Wednesday. We found that the local bus service stopped just outside our door and, for 75 cents, we would be at the Metro station in 7 minutes. It was slick as all get out and we were back at the Smithsonian in about 45 minutes. We're really getting the hang of public transit.

We chose the National Museum of Natural History as our first stop. We headed for the mineral exhibit and were soon enthralled by the impressive display of meteorites and asteroids. I thought I knew all that was necessary about these phenomena, but got very quickly wrapped up in the displays and write-ups. It is very easy to lose track of time in the museums and we had soon used up more than an hour in this one section. We ended up at the Tiffany and Hope diamonds, along with even more school tours. Brenda has pointed out that every encounter makes me an even more intense curmudgeon.

We moved on to a section on civilizations, where we were once again proud to see displays of artifacts from BC's coast. After another museum lunch lightened my wallet, we moved on to the prehistoric times and displays for which the Smithsonian is most justifiably known. The dinosaur and early mammal exhibits were imposing enough to finally quieten the school kids. Every corner we turned gave up something new to blow us away, from skeletons of T-Rex to mastodons to woolly mammoths. There is also an impressive interpretive display of the 5,000 year-old iceman whose remains were discovered frozen in the Alps several years ago.

We wrapped up our visit in the mammal section with animals from every continent represented. Having taken up most of our afternoon here, we quickly took our leave and headed up the street for the National Art Gallery. One of the information staff gave us a guide for the "less than one hour" visit so we could see the masters, at least. We were able to cover the gallery rooms for Rembrandt, Rubens, Da Vinci, Monet, Manet and Degas as well as several others.

The collections are amazing in scope and scale and we were delighted to see Monet's Rouen Cathedral studies we had been exposed to during our Seine cruise last summer. We were also taken back to our visit to Giverny when we saw his Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge in real life and were now seeing them in paintings hanging in the Gallery; it was quite a connection between our two trips.

After returning to our motel, we cleaned up for dinner as another thunderstorm came through. We went to a local Italian restaurant, which turned out to be immensely popular with the locals and had a great dinner after a short wait for a table. We used the Nordgren interview techniques on a couple at an adjacent table and found out more about the local lifestyle and economy.

June 14

While we had enjoyed our visit to the Washington area, we were not sorry to see the end of our stay in the Econo Lodge. Our destination for Thursday was the Philadelphia area and we found a motel listing just across the Walt Whitman Bridge outside Philly in Gloucester, New Jersey. It had the amenities we always seek, including fitness center, guest coin laundry, fridge and microwave. Our trip to the area took us through four states in less than 2 ½ hours; Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Lo and behold, just as Brenda headed for her workout, two tour buses full of school kids showed up and took over the pool and courtyard in spite of the cool and cloudy weather. By the time Brenda had finished her workout, the guest laundry was taken over by parent chaperones with bulging bags of laundry. It was after 11:00 pm when we finally got our last load out of the dryer.

We re-packed our luggage and organized Blue for our stay in New York. Knowing that we did not want to be dining in while in the "city that never sleeps", we cleaned out our traveling grocery box and cooler. By the time we fell into bed, it was well after midnight.



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