On Monday morning we rose by 7:00am and checked out of the hotel. The hotel will store your bags for you at no charge while you sight see, it was very convenient. Everyone at the hotel was very nice and considerate, I was surprised because I read some not so very nice reviews. I think the key is that you reap what you sow.
Six months prior to our trip I had written to our state Senator, Wayne Allard and requested a tour of the Capitol or White House. A month before our trip we recieved confirmation of a tour for the capitol building. We arrived at the Senators office at 9:45am at the Dirksen Senate building after going through a security checkpoint that rivaled the one at the airport. There were 7 other folks in our tour, a mom and her young son from Denver, a family of four from Conifer and a gentleman from Colorado Springs. Katie, one of the members of the Senators staff was our tour guide. She told us that they typically have interns give the tours, but they were short handed that day. We proceeded to the elevators to the basement, we walked under the street over to the Russell Senate Building where we saw a replica of the statue that sits atop the rotunda of the capitol. We went through another security checkpoint then boarded an underground tram that took us to the capitol. It is used by members of the senate to transport them quickly to the capitol when a roll call or vote is called for, as they only have 15 minutes once they are called.
We exited the tram and went up a narrow flight of stairs that took us to the Brumidi Corridors. They are named after Constantino Brumidi who painted the murals that line the hallways. As these were painted over 100 years ago, they are in what seems to be a constant state of restoration. Here is a link to detailed information about these beautiful hallways - http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/brumidi/index.cfm
After viewing the detailed artistry in the corridors, we went through the hall of columns where we viewed some neat statues. Then we went out to a lower patio for an exterior side view of the capitol rotunda. We then proceeded to the house gallery. The senate was not in session in the morning, so we had the opportunity to sit in the gallery, first of course, was another security checkpoint. At this one, you have to leave everything with the guards, purses, cameras and all electronics. Throughout the tour, Katie had regaled us with stories of events that shaped the history of the capitol. Some were actual events, some were "capitol legends" that could not be validated but were entertaining none the less. One of my favorites was of a current senate member that is notorious for arriving extremely early on the day that the President gives his state of the union address, so that he can get an aisle seat on the row that the President walks up, so that this senator can get "camera time" shaking the Presidents hand.
Sitting in the gallery was a very humbling experience for me. I have watched so many state of the union addresses, watched C-span and realized, I was here in the room where so many political decisions and historical events have taken place. One thing that made a big impression on me was the seats in the gallery and on the floor. Next time the President does an address, watch how often the audience stands to applause then sits down again. The seats in the gallery are not really conducive to that activity, whereas they are cushioned, they are very narrow, with almost no leg room.
After visiting the gallery, we went to the National Statuary Hall, also known as the old hall of the house. Every state has 2 statues that represent important people of their state. The most interesting spot here was the whispering spot. From where John Adams desk used to be (there is a plaque to mark it) you can hear a whisper from the other side of the hall. The story goes that Adams used to pretend to be resting his head on his desk, but in fact, he was listening in on his opponents on the other side of the room. Katie and an intern from another tour group directed us to stand at the plaque, they went about 30 feet away and whispered to us and it sounded as if they were standing right next to us. In fact, with all the people in the room, it was amazing, because it was clearer than anything else. This effect is due to some sort of anomoly of the architecture of the room, sound bends and bounces in such an odd way. It was really cool!!!
Katie then took us to the rotunda and it was truly beautiful. There were 8 massive paintings on the walls, 4 of the paintings depicted the discovery of the new world, the next 4 depicted revolutionary scenes. Above each entry way to the rotunda was a relief with a different scene from history. There is a sculpted frieze at the base of the dome that shows the history of the nation, from Columbus to the Wright Brothers. In the bowl of the rotunda was a painting that reminded me of the sistine chapel, but instead of religous icons, they were historical ones. There were windows in the rotunda that allowed a beautiful natural light in the space that illuminated the room so nicely.
Katie asked us if we wanted to go to the front of the Capitol, to a balcony where they set up to do the inaugurations. She could not be sure we could get back in, and may be stuck with walking all the way around on the outside to get back to the office, but she said the view alone was worth it. We all agreed to try and when we got to the door, the security guard agreed to let us back in, although we had to go through another security check. We stepped outside and we were rewarded with the most amazing view. The National Mall with the Washington Monument in the background, the trees were lush and green, the sky was blue and clear. We were all in awe!!! Thanks Katie!!!
We went back to the Senators office and we couldn't stop talking about the amazing tour. Katie did a great job, she was informative, funny and just a genuinely nice girl who really enjoys her job and knows how fortunate she is to work in our nations capitol.
Jeff and I had originally planned on going to the American History Museum, but we were told that it wasn't open, so we decided to go to the Air & Space museum. On our way over we stopped at the National Museum of the American Indian. I was a little disappointed there. Although they had a great collection of Native American dress, I thought they could have done a better job of helping one understand the daily life, both historical and current, of the American Indian.
By the time we were through the Indian museum, we were pretty hungry, there is a food court at the Air & Space museum, so we went and had lunch at the McDonalds. It was the most efficient McD's I have ever been to. I would be curious to learn how many people they serve every day. They have lanes to order at one station, then move down the lane to pay, then go to the counter and pick up your order. They have multiple drink stations, trash compactors throughout the facility, tables galore, as well as condiment stations all over. The employees were nice, the food was hot, fresh and tasty. When we finished our "happy meals", we began to explore the museium. I think we must have said "wow" like a hundred times.
The space ships, the planes, the moon rocks, were all amazing, however my favorite was the space lab. You could go inside and see how the astronauts live in zero gravity, from the sleep restraints to the shower pods. We were "walked out" by the end of the museum, so we took the metro back to the parking garage, swung by and picked up our luggage from the hotel and after only a few wrong turns we werew on our way to our next hotel, the Cozy Cottage in Thurmont Maryland.
Thurmont is a small town north of Frederick Maryland at the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains. The Cozy, is a family owned motel that has cottages, suits and regular motel rooms, although there is nothing "regular" about the place. It has a restaurant, shops, and the Camp David Museum. We stayed in the Kennedy Room, one of the suites, it opens to a small sitting area with a rocking chair and a "fainting couch", there is a gas fireplace that divides the room, although not needed on this trip, it was a nice touch. The room has the most enormous King size bed I have ever seen, and the bathroom was the best. It had a jacuzzi tub that must have been 3 feet wide and 5 ft long, double sinks a lighted magnefying mirror, towel warmer, and a separate shower. I was in the tub within 10 minutes of checking in. It was awesome. We had supper at the Cozy restaurant, they have a traditional menu or you can choose the buffet, we both had the buffet and boy was it worth it. They serve downhome cooking, all homemade, ribs, chicken, ham, creamed spinach, mac-n-cheese and corn fritters to name a few. The salad bar was generous and the dessert bar sinful. Everything was great. By the time we were through, all we could do was to "waddle" back to our room and collapse. Check this place out at http://www.cozyvillage.com/