Sunday, May 27, 2018

State Affairs: Trip to Washington DC


Despite all the jokes said by my husband's American friends about him being married to a Russian spy, you can hardly find a person standing as far away from politics as me. Yet, sometimes politics affect my personal life and demand me that I take action. I won't get into details as to exactly why I had to go to Washington DC, as it was a purely practical reason, and way too complicated and boring to even talk about it. Trust me when I say that I postponed this official business for as long as I could, a bit too long for my own good really, and there was a sudden sense of urgency when I finally plucked up the courage to deal with it. It all went well in the end, and the whole appointment took only 16 minutes, which became the most expensive 16 minutes of my life to date. I could of course fly to DC on my own which would reduce the spending by far, but what fun is there in that? We don't do things for purely practical reasons in our household, so when Mama had business in Washington DC, everyone else suddenly found things to do in Washington DC too! So fasten your seat belts, 'cause here we come!



The first thing that greets you as you arrive to the capital of the country is often the airport, and in our case it was Reagan Washington National Airport. I am not the most accomplished world traveler by any stretch, but I've arrived to or took off from probably a couple dozen airports in three different continents, and a half of dozen or so were capitals of some countries in Europe, Asia and North America. But this airport by far is the most beautiful of all the others that I've seen. Terminal A was designed by Charles M. Goodman in 1941, and Terminals B and C (which you see on my pictures) were designed by Cesar Pelli in 1997. I loved the impressive golden arches, intricate mosaics on the floor, and other art objects you can find all over the airport; and the lighting at night time makes the whole place feel magical.



We arrived to DC practically at dusk, it was a hot 92 F, high humidity in the air, torrential rain and thunderstorms! Seattle is famous for its rainy weather, but the fact is that the East Coast of the US has much more rain - when it rains, it pours here, and Spring often brings thunderstorms and tornadoes, all of which are extremely rare in Seattle. We do keep this fact a secret though - let 'em think it always rains in Seattle, it keeps the crowds out! For the rest of our stay, the temperature dropped to more comfortable 70s F, but it was still humid and rainy, so alas, the photos of the airport were the only photos we took with our camera - it stayed in Justin's backpack till we came back home, and all the other pictures  were taken with my phone, which isn't the best quality. I also used a few pictures from Wikipedia (source linked below images). 

National Mall, photo source  

As with the other 24 million tourists visiting Washington DC every year, we decided to focus on things that are A) hard to find anywhere else, and B) to our interest. I'll be honest with you, even though I am always excited to travel, I didn't have high expectations about the capital. I passed through the town many, many years ago, probably in 2004, and I vaguely remember streets with heavy traffic and stopping by the White House (I even have pictures somewhere in my archives). I always thought of it as a formal, official, perhaps even cold city - in its atmosphere, I mean. When we arrived to Washington this time, I quickly realized that I couldn't be further from the truth! The very first thing that surprised me - how green and welcoming it is! The old architecture of Georgetown (which was there before the capital was founded in 1790) was absolutely charming and cozy, with that heartwarming feeling of the Old World which both Justin and I absolutely adore, with tall trees surrounding the brick buildings forming the streets, and beautiful gardens here and there. My second impression was the impeccable elegance of this city. With this discovery, the realization came to me that it is something that I miss living here on the West Coast. Here, amidst the most gorgeous natural surroundings, with tall mountains, lush rain forest and ocean, we too have pretty towns and beautiful buildings of course, but they aren't nearly as old as the East Coast towns (the oldest here being founded in the mid to late 1800s). 

Approachable cozy Old World charm, on the one hand, and grand elegance of the state buildings as the result of visionary city planning, that's what makes the American capital an absolutely irresistible place to visit.   

A model of the first piloted hot air balloon by the Montgolfier brothers (1783)

We all were interested in museums, since we do love them, and Washington has a lot to offer - probably more than any other city in the US! The famous Smithsonian Institution, a group of museums and research centers, was founded by British scientist James Smithson. Just pick whatever slice of life interests you the most - and dive in! Museums are free for the public and opened every day! Since our daughter is only partially an artist, and another part inquisitive scientist, with a keen interest in the Universe, she wanted to visit the Air and Space museum. You can probably find everything about the history of humans exploring space, from the first hot air balloon to the latest discoveries. And as a cherry on the top, the Albert Einstein Planetarium with a variety of science movies - Anya, of course, chose the most advanced one, "Dark Universe"... which was a fantastic experience even for me, the feeling of diving into the universe, soaring and floating among the stars.


A view of the National Capitol from the National Mall.

The Castle, the first Smithsonian's building and headquarters (1847) and 
the Washington Monument, the world's tallest stone structure and tallest obelisk (554 ft or 169 m)

Art and Industries Building, as of now closed for renovation (read HERE).

While we still had a couple of hours left before the museums and most buildings on the National Mall were closed for the day, I offered Justin to choose between the National Capitol and National Gallery of Art. I myself was more inclined to look at art, so I was pleased when he picked that one (he knows me so well). This art museum is not a part of the Smithsonian Institution, but it is also located on the National Mall - a beautifully landscaped park which contains many museums, cultural institutions, sculptures and memorials. And it is also free of charge!

National Gallery of Art, West Building (1941)


If you didn't know that the building itself was built in 1941, you'd probably think it was there since the beginning of time. It is magnificent inside and out, and holds one of the best collections of impressionist art in the world (the list of 25 most amazing collections of impressionist art HERE). It's not all, of course, but when you are short of time, you need to focus on something - and I love impressionism! To my surprise, my feet brought me just to the right place to see the fabulous museum offerings, with a side of some beautiful sculptures on the way.


One of Cezanne's self-portraits


I strolled through the current exhibition of Cezanne Portraits (on display through July 8, 2018) and learned that he was a very prolific portraitist! For instance, he painted his wife on a record amount of occasions, and what was especially curious about that, you can never really tell about her inner world - did he not know her well and tried to learn through his sessions? or he knew her so well and wanted to not disclose her inner world to the outer one? He also painted himself quite a few times, which is probably one of the most common themes for many artists approaching the genre, since we ourselves are the only models readily available at any time. (Hence the modern take on self-portraits - so-called selfies, some think that it's vanity and self-absorption, but I think it's rather our natural human fascination with the mystery that we are to ourselves.) 




I spent some of the best time of my life in front of the paintings, many of which I knew from reproductions, albums, etc., and a few that I got acquainted with during their visit to the Seattle Art Museum a couple of years back (read my JANUARY 2016 post about that) - we met as old friends! At some point, I realized that I was running from one painting to another trying to see all the details, all the brush strokes up-close and absorb as much I could ... but don't we actually loose something when we look at art too close, and try to grasp too much at a time? Then I slowed down, and in the next room just had a seat on a comfortable sofa, rather admiring the beauty from afar, basking in the atmosphere. If only I had this gallery close to my home - I think I would visit often, spending half a day in front of each painting! Or, maybe it only seems this way when you don't have easy access to classical art, but I knew I wanted to move to DC just for this gallery!



Glass pyramids by the National Gallery of Art's East Building.

We left the gallery right when it was closing for the day, and one of the happy coincidences was stumbling into the gift shop where I found a beautiful and very impressionistic rain poncho! And since Justin bought us a sakura umbrella at the Air and Space Museum gift shop, the whole family was covered to continue our walk in the beautiful rainy city.

The National Capitol (1793-1800)

I loved everything about our walk, even the rain! My face was covered with raindrops, my leather sandals were soaked in puddles, and my phone at some point started behaving wonky, so I had to turn it off and give it a chance to dry, but soon I got it out again and continued taking pictures of the magnificent architecture around us.



My fingers are getting tired of typing this short, but intense love story - and to tell the truth, you can find way better descriptions of these significant buildings, as everything I learn is basically from the resources online. Our day of getting to know Washington was coming to an end. It was time for the city life to slow down and take a break in the middle of a busy week. I will tell you that I have never in my life saw that many people in business suits in one place all at once, and as it was time to close down the business, we saw not only them and wet tourists in their usual gear, but also groups of fancy, rather formally dressed women and men, gathering for some after hours events and activities.


United States Supreme Court Building (1935)

The whole downtown area is an example of beautiful architectural and landscaping ensemble. The building for the US Supreme Court, for example, was designed in Neoclassical style to resonate with the National Capitol and the Library of Congress, in 1935. It is an impressive structure made of white marble, you can read more about it HERE. It has an uplifting and at the same time grounding feeling about it, and the beautiful lanterns gave it a soft glowing light in the twilight.

The Library of Congress (1888-1894)



The last group of pictures were taken right in front of the National Capitol and next to the Supreme Court, and it is the magnificent Library of Congress which is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the USA. The Library was established in 1800, and Thomas Jefferson is credited for playing a significant role in creating the structure for the Library. The building which was named in his name was built between 1888 and 1894. From visiting Monticello in Virginia (about 12 years ago), the home that Jefferson designed for himself, I remember that he sold his extensive book collection (about 6500 exemplars) to the Library of Congress. For 50 years, this remarkable man collected books on a wide variety of subjects, from hot air balloons to philosophy, religion, architecture, music to travel and cooking, believing that no subject is insignificant.


Unfortunately, the mighty Google misinformed us as well as a few other unlucky tourists, as to the closing time for the building (apparently, there was an event scheduled in the Library, by invitation only, so instead of the usual Wednesday closing time of 9:30 PM, that day the facility closed at 5:00 PM). We still enjoyed our stroll through the rainy US capital, of course, but we did not have a chance to see the magnificent Library of Congress inside. On the outside, it probably reminded me of classical buildings and fountains of Saint Petersburg, Russia, more than anything else I've seen with my own eyes. And I don't think the comparison is unreasonable in more than one building - just as Washington DC, the Northern capital of Russia, as we call it, was also built by a rare in history visionary, Peter the Great, and his grand plan to build a magnificent city from scratch which he started realizing in 1703, long before the American founding fathers.

The Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson Building), photo source

If you have read right to the end of my long travelogue - thank you! I hope you had at least a glimpse of this beautiful city and its very special atmosphere, both classically elegant and grand, and yet at the same time very approachable, charming and warm. What also matters to a tourist, especially the one who wants to keep a reasonable budget, our hotel was nice and comfortable, and reasonably priced (Glover Park Hotel), the food was great, the taxi service was fast and inexpensive (it's a compact city!), and a lot of tourist attractions are FREE! We would certainly love to visit again one of these days, and who knows, maybe I'll see you there!

My new rain poncho from the National Gallery of Art.


And the clothes? I'll write about my clothes some other time!
Happy travels!

Linking with Patti's Visible Monday.

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26 comments:

  1. Many, many business trips to DC but finally three years ago got to go as a tourist. So much to do and see. You were in the pretty part of National (Reagan) airport. Delta and Sun Country what I mostly flew were in the stark drab area.

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    1. I would happily spend a week or two, exploring all the galleries, museums etc.!

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  2. Natalia DC is stunning! Thank you for this wonderful trip to see it. I only knew it from Television. I can understand your love for art gallerys and paintings. You look amazing in your new raincoat :)
    much love and a very huge hug, Tina

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    1. Thank you, Tina! The rain poncho was a great find!

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  3. Pity about all that rain but glad it didn't get in the way of your exploring Washington D.C. and its wonderful buildings. The photo of you in your rain gear with your happy face says it all.
    I have been there way back in 1983 and remember the buildings but also have memories of the area we stayed in which showed a very different view . So glad you enjoyed your time and your visit was a success.

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    1. Thank you, Jill! Unexpectedly, I fell in love with the city!

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  4. i´m exhausted and full of joy by only reading this! :-D
    you guys know how to travel and to enjoy what the world offers! love your photos! and your new rain cape - what a great idea to print it with a famous painting.
    i will come back and read this again&again to see all the details - like anya in front of painted anyuta´s eyes...
    hugest of hugses & much love! xxxxx

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    1. Thank you, Beate! You noticed Anyuta's eyes! :)
      I think there is something wonderful to discover everywhere, and we just need to keep our eyes and hearts open, instead of projecting someone else's ideas (or even our own old ideas) - just stay open-minded, I think that's what it was about to me.

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  5. I love it that everyone came along! I used to live there, and D.C. is one of my favorite cities. Your pics are great captures of all the beauty and history there. xo

    Patti
    http://notdeadyetstyle.com

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    1. Thanks, Patti! I would love to hear what are your favorite parts of living in DC!

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  6. Our trip to the nation's capital was a truly amazing if short adventure for our little family and I'm so glad we did it and so relieved that, though we pulled it all together on very short notice, it all came together so smoothly. And yes, we all came away knowing we'll want to go back for a longer visit so we can spend more time savoring all there is to enjoy in this unique city. :)

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    1. It really came together surprisingly smoothly! And even the rain did not bother too much! We did well! :)

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  7. What a fabulous introduction to Washington DC. I'd no idea it has such an Old World feel to it. The National Gallery looks like a fascinating place to visit. Love the family photo reflected in the glass pyramid, and I definitely need a rain poncho like that for my travels! I know you'll write about the clothes in a future post, but can I already tell you that you're looking great in the red trousers/embroidered blue top combo, and that the dress you're wearing with the rain poncho is fabulous. Lots of love xxx

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    1. Thank you, Ann! I will come up with new outfits using these pieces in the future - but they all worked well for me in this travel, and the rain poncho was a cherry on the top! I think you'd look fabulous in something like it!

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  8. I am in love with this love letter to a city! I'm so glad your practical reason went so well and you could enjoy the rest of your time there.
    xo Jazzy Jack

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    1. Thank you, JJ! You got it right - love letter to the city, I love that!

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  9. So glad you enjoyed your trip! My two girls just got a chance to go and loved it! Air and Space Museum was my favorite decades ago, but I'd love to go back.

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    1. How wonderful for your girls! I can share their excitement! Hope you'll visit again too, some day soon!

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  10. I have to say that I also thought that Washington was a cold place, made for bureaucracy, not friendly, but your interesting review has made me change my mind!. It looks amazing and enjoyable, with lots of art and culture, museums and libraries!.
    That Old World feel is probably which make it looks more welcoming!. Even if Real Old World is not always so charming and cozy!
    Looking forward to see more of your outfits, as your dress looks really cute (are there parrots on it!?) and love your red and blue outfit!
    besos

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    1. Thank you, Monica! I am glad if I could help to see it differently! I will definitely shoot these pieces in the future - the dress especially needs some good lighting to show off details! You will love it! ;)

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  11. I don't remember what I thought of DC, I only saw glimpses of it, and I didn't really know much about it, expect for the main attractions, such as National Capitol. I remember reading that the Dome was modeled on that in Vatican, and it is certainly a beautiful dome indeed. How nice there is so much to see in this city, even apart from these monumental structures and buildings! Often it happens that a city has hidden gems to be discovered on a revisit. From what I can see from your photographs, DC is a beautiful city. So great it has so many museums! I think I knew about the impressionist collection, but I didn't know about the Air and Space museum. My nephew would love to see that. For the record, I think that a scientific and artistic mind can happily coexist. Science requires creative thinking, just like art. I'm sure your daughter is great at both. Science can teach us a lot about everything. I love science, biology, chemistry, physics, aviation, all of it. It's all so interesting.

    I haven't visited Washinton D.C or Saint Petersburg but I can see similarities between them. Based on photographs I saw, I would say there are architectural similarities, especially when it comes to historical buildings. All of the cities I lived in were surrounded by mountains, and often build on rocky terrain, so I find this kind of neatly built cities to be exotically beautiful.

    You look so lovely in that dress...and so adorable with that artistic rain poncho and that big smile. Such a nice outfit. You look stunning....and there is always next time to talk about the clothes.

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    1. Thank you, Ivana! I did not have a chance to read much about the architecture yet, but they definitely went for the classic Rome feel/association - that little I was able to detect with my own eyes. :) Isn't it fascinating what each of us defines as "exotic"? It's so true - we all have our own starting points...

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  12. Well I am terribly upset that you had to go to Washington DC for an annoying reason but what a wonderful trip you certainly had. These photos of the Smithsonian and all of the art are fantastic. The Cezanne portraits are beautiful .
    I also love you in that fabulous dress and the perfectly styled umbrella. Now if you are Russian spy, and I know you are not, you are a very beautiful one. I love that last photo of you wearing the red white and blue.
    ❤️❤️❤️
    Elle
    https://theellediaries.com

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    1. It all went extremely well, so I am only celebrating! Thank you for your kind words!

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  13. Dearest Natalia,
    the Reagan Washington National Airport is really impressive - and I've also seen many airports in my life! However, I have never been to Washington DC - so I am very glad that you took me to this interesting city! So far, I only knew the Smithonian Institution from the wonderful novel (and movie) "The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet". In the museum with the Impressionist exhibition, however, I felt more like being in France ;-) Your new rain poncho from the National Gallery of Art is great! It was a good idea to combine the necessary trip to the capital with a family trip and such a beautiful city sightseeing!
    Hugs from here, Traude
    https://rostrose.blogspot.com/2018/05/was-gibts-sonst-noch-vom-mai-zu.html

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    1. Thank you, Traude! Some day, I'll visit France too... I wonder if it'll remind me of DC, haha! :)

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