this, my last day in DC, and i was already ready to go home. not because i was bored with the city - far from it, there's much more to explore! - but having walked for 3 whole days, my feet felt like bloody stumps at this point. maybe if somebody could push me around in a wheelchair i'd be excited but at this point all i'm really looking forward to is getting to the airport and waiting for my flight home. i packed up all my stuff and walked with amanda to the bus stop (amanda put arrow into his cage before we left) where we rode it to dupont circle. that's where we said our good byes (until she comes back to boston in a few weeks at least) and i rode the train to the smithsonian stop. it was only 9am so the first thing i did was to walk to the washington monument and see if i could get a ticket to go up the monument. i was surprised to see that all free tickets for the day had already been "sold" out. disappointed, i started my slow walk to the other end of the mall, where the botanical garden awaited my spectator's delight.
but first i made a detour to the EPA building and took a few photos of the statues carved into the facades:
the day was blustery, perhaps the coldest day in the 4 days i've been in DC. i had on both my jackets and walked down the mall strapped to my oversized backpack. while at the other museums bags were merely hand-inspected by a guard, here at the botanical garden (which is just across the street from the capitol) everything had to go through an x-ray machine. i didn't mind and actually was sort of relieved that i didn't have to fish everything out of my backpack. unfortunately there are no storage lockers so i had to carry my bag with me while i toured the various exotic plants.
the temperature inside the garden was downright tropical, and i immediately stripped down to my t-shirt. conditions were occasionally tight, and i found myself leaning over walkways just to let people go through. the jungle garden was a kaleidoscope of foliage, and the desert garden was also interesting in its myriad of cactus displays. there was also a medicinal plant garden and i got to rub my fingers on some patchouli leaves (which, i was amazed, actually smelled like patchouli).
there was an orchid garden crammed with all sort of delicate flowers. there was also a water fountain which i visited frequently and i even used the bathroom - so clean you could eat off the marble floors. with the extra weight, it wasn't long before my feet started to hurt again and i rest on a bench for a while. later i found the special exhibit room, some presentation about plants and scents. they had these flower-shaped receptacles that contained various spices. as a fan of smells and a life-long dream to one day start a scent museum, this was quite inspiring and i went around and smelled every single "flower."
next i walked to the library of congress. originally this wasn't on my list of to-do, but amanda recommended the architecture so i figured it was worth the effort. i had to wait in line to get in, they'd only allow so many people at a time. once inside, i wasn't particularly impressed. that was only because i wasn't in the main hall. once i realized i could go upstairs, it was like discovering the new world.
i was there just in time to join a tour. besides getting bits and pieces of interesting information, the tour also took us into the balcony so we could look down into the main reading room. from the tour i learned that the ceiling of the library of congress is actually gilded in 32k gold as well as aluminum. huh? aluminum? well, back in the days, aluminum was more precious than gold or silver or platinum because it requires electricity to produce large quantities. the library was also one of the first buildings in the US to have electric lights. the british burned the original library in 1812 so thomas jefferson sold his book collection to congress. jefferson sorted his books into three categories: memory (e.g. biographies, historical text), reason (e.g. science books), and imagination (e.g. art volumes).
from the library of congress i walked back to the mall...
it's weird seeing the capitol building, it almost doesn't seem real, having seen it so many times on television and in the movies - to actually see it in person feels strange. i think you can actually tour the capitol building but i saw the long line when i visited the botanical garden and figured it wasn't worth it.
the national gallery of art was my last museum. i was more interested in getting something to eat than seeing any paintings, but i was there too late (3pm), the cafe was closed. fortunately i had some gum which became the poor man's breakfast and lunch. i was surprised how fast it took me to see most of the paintings - i was done in an hour.
checking the time and the bus schedule, i decided to try and catch the 4:30pm 5A public express bus leaving for dulles airport. i grabbed the metro and arrived at l'enfant plaza. i had no idea where the bus stop was so i walked around the building in a circle. finally i came across a bus stop but no signs for 5A. i asked the people waiting and they told me where to go. i crossed the street and they started shouting at me and waving. with my bad hearing i couldn't make out what they were saying, but they were pointing at something and i saw the 5A bus turning a corner. i quickly booked it and ran to the stop, where there was a line of commuters already waiting, so it took a few minutes to board everyone, including myself. fortunately i was able to get a seat. i couldn't say the same for the people who got on from the subsequent stops but i couldn't worry about them, i was the one with massive feet pains, i needed to sit down.
the whole trip to the airport would take an hour, and with rush hour approaching, who knew how much longer. i was tired so i fell asleep, waking up when the bus finally made its final stop at the airport. i had 3 hours before my 8:50pm departure so i was in no hurry. i printed out my boarding pass from the jet blue kiosk and passed through security. the metal detector found the battery i was hiding in my pocket (just testing, keeping homeland security on their toes). i made my way to my gate and bought food from fuddruckers (hehe), one of several airport dining service booths. i got the crispy chicken sandwich covered with salsa and onions and hot peppers. i can't remember the last time i ate at fuddruckers, and maybe i was just really hungry, but that was the best damn chicken sandwich i've had in a long time, made me wanted to get another one. instead i cleaned up my table, filled my gatorade bottle with water from the drinking fountain, and parked myself in front of a ceiling-mounted television broadcasting CNN.
at 8pm i made my way back to my gate. soon afterwards we started boarding for an early departure. i had seat 6A and sat next to a woman with so much hair i couldn't even see her face. she had an annoying elbow that hogged the middle arm rest. once the plane was in the air and satellite television was playing on my LCD screen (i had a pair of headphones this time), i forgot all my troubles. i watched a live baseball game then later some SVU. i listened to XM satellite (first time!), trying to find that all 80's station. before i knew it though, we were arriving in boston. jetblue, i will never fly with another!
once i was off the plane, i made my way to the silver line bus stop. a few other folks were already waiting there. i quickly put on my jackets, the temperature was in the 30's and i heard that earlier it'd even snowed in boston. i only had to wait about a minute before the bus arrived. a young man on the bus wearing a blazer stared at me when i got on. i stared back, our eyes locked. 4 seconds must've passed before he looked away, leaving me victorious. he must've been foreign, because staring contests often lead to stabbing contests.
from south station the red line brought me back to porter square. walking home, i noticed two guys running across the street in my direction, shouting "give me your money!" and laughing. i was stunned for a second before i realized it was rob and his insane friend lee. they were out in porter square hearing some music and were just on their way home. lee got into his truck, mentioned how he wanted to be on the weblog, and then sped away. rob took his own car home while i walked the 8 minutes before i could finally rest my feet for good.
how was washington DC? memorable but exhausting! i would definitely go back again though, like soon. i never got a chance to visit the national arboretum, and i definitely want to ride the washington monument (that came out wrong). there's still a few lesser museums i want to see and all those ethnic restaurants! next time, i'm just going to spend a few days where all i do is eat.