Everything official in Washington DC is big, imposing, and made of solid marble, limestone, or granite.  They are obviously intended to project an impression of power and permanence as well as recalling the greatness of the Greeks and Romans with their style.  They do a pretty good job of it but after awhile I got somewhat immune to it.  Still, I love the feeling of permanence.  It makes me wish my house were as well built.  But huge rooms made of marble tend to echo a lot.  The guard yelling at the crowd to be quiet comes across as unintelligible gobbledygook.  There are also a fair number of sad attempts at architecture from the 60s and 70s: ugly chunks of blocky bureaucracy and massively ugly apartment buildings but most of those are on the outskirts of town. 

We took the tour of the Capitol building on Tuesday, July 14th.  It is now fixed up with a palatial visitor’s center and plenty of space for long lines.  We were unfortunately herded about like cattle but that’s what they have to do to deal with such huge numbers of people. We were shown a brief film and then taken on a guided tour of the rotunda and the sculpture room off to one side.  There is much more to the building than that but that’s all the tourist gets these days.  The crowd control was very efficient and the docent that took us around was friendly and informative.  It was fun but left us wanting to see more. 

From there we took the underground tunnel that led directly to the library of congress.  That kept us from having to go through security again.  The LOC was something that I just put on our itinerary because it was right there and connected via an air conditioned tunnel but it turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip.  It is extremely ornate and the docent that led us through it was again, very informative and friendly.  Here, we were allowed to explore on our own after the tour but we chose instead to spend our time in the gift shop which was very nice. 

We went next to a café nearby for a quick lunch and from there headed back toward the hotel to stop at the Supreme Court building on the way.  It wasn’t far but we are pretty out of shape and the walking was a challenge.  This has become a pretty popular tourist destination although it is a working office building.  I guess the other two places we visited are the same way.  It was a quick stop since there is little other than the lobby and the courtroom for the public to see and you can only see that if court is not in session.  After this we headed back to the hotel for a siesta.

We headed back out at about 4:00 to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  That is one of many impressive buildings and they have now set aside a special entrance just for looking at these two documents which are in the huge rotunda.  I guess it’s standard for old documents but the place was extremely dim and the documents only illuminated with tiny pinpricks of yellow light.  They are quite faded even after all the care that has been taken.  I guess they are suffering from the sins of past displays. 

We left there about 7:00 and were not only tired from the day but in need of food.  We staggered back to Union Station and went down into the lower level where the food court is and got some Gyros.  These things were huge – the biggest I’ve ever seen and we both gobbled them down like it was nothing.  With that under our belts, we browsed some of the stores in the mall part and then went back to the hotel to bed.  We hadn’t really walked all that far and the temperatures had been quite mild but as I said earlier, we are out of shape and so the day did us in.  But we slept well.