Sunday, 1 November 2009

Four days in DC: Part 2

Our second day in Washington - last Monday - was just as bright and inviting as our first. We caught the DC Circulator bus all the way across town from Georgetown to Union Station - itself a white gleaming monument to rival any of its illustrious neighbours - and then wound our way around the Senate offices towards the Capitol.

Impossible, as we approached the east front, not to think of George Bush making his final forlorn departure from this very forecourt by helicopter last January. After a quick trip across the road to take a peek at the Supreme Court building, we entered the new underground visitor centre at the Capitol and booked ourselves on a tour of the Rotunda and the statuary hall. We lurked in the background as our excellent guide, Camissa, asked people which states they were from, and told how the vindictive British burned down the original Capitol building.

She managed to secure us tickets to the House gallery, so we handed over our belongings at security and followed the signs through a maze of offices - we saw the corridor leading to Nancy Pelosi's office, and passed by Eric Cantor's room, glimpsing the young interns and staffers hunched over their screens - to the empty chamber (the next instalment of the interminable health care debate wouldn't begin for another hour), where we lingered respectfully for a few minutes.

Then it was out on to the west front, to try to reconstruct in our imaginations the scene of Obama's inauguration earlier this year, before heading for Pennsylvania Avenue.

We found our way to the glass-fronted Newseum, where we visited their impressive collection of original newspaper front pages dating back to the Revolutionary era, saw the burnt and twisted antenna from the top of the World Trade Center, and peeped into the studio used by George Stephanopoulos for his weekly roundtable discussions on ABC (the bigger studio, used by MSNBC's Chris Matthews for Hardball, was curtained off).

Crossing the road, we found our way to the National Archives, for a glimpse of the Bill of Rights, Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which were surprisingly faded and difficult to read - much more so than the far older Magna Carta (one of the four originals, apparently) that they have on display. From there, we took another turn past the White House before walking back to Georgetown.

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