Outside Union Station, Columbus looked to be gathering his cloak against the cold rain, snow and blowing wind, or maybe he was holding it tight in case his naked companion got any felonious ideas. We were not about to let something like miserable weather ruin our trip.
The Capitol grounds were a construction zone in preparation of the coming inaugural, and all along the mall temporary crisis response stations were being installed. I guess a necessary thing in these times, but I was able to get this shot through one of the gigantic Japanese pagoda trees (Sophora japonica) on the side Capitol Hill.
After an hour or so warming ourselves in the jungle room at the gardens, we headed to the National Museum of the American Indian. We did not have time to tour the museum, that will be on another trip, but our goal was lunch. If you are looking for something varied to eat, their cafeteria serves good food that would not be unfamiliar to most native American groups. I had buffalo/winter squash soup, corn bread and a wild rice and water cress salad. It wasn't necessarily bargain friendly, but nothing is along the mall, except for the price of admission, which is usually free. The museum's building was designed to resemble a western rock face, and it is surrounded by a distinctive landscape heavy on the water features and using naturalistic plantings of native trees and shrubs.
Our next stop was the National Museum of Air and Space. The place was so crowded it was unpleasant, especially since there were only about three things in there I had any interest in seeing. I can appreciate the place's history and mission, but it's just not my cup of tea, especially with all the other things we could be seeing elsewhere. (If I had leaned over too far taking this picture and had fallen, I would have been uninjured, as there were more than enough people below to break my fall. I wonder how quickly anyone can say "look out below" in Mandarin, Farsi, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic. )
River Birches (Betula Nigra)
Lunar Bird, Juan Miro, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Graft, Roxy Paine, The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
The crowds were also epic at the National Museum of Natural History. Pardon me for a moment, but I have to ask why people choose to congregate in the middle of corridors and doorways blocking the way for everyone else. And why do parents let small children crawl all over marble floors where people need to walk (sorry for stepping on your fingers little girl, but I didn't see you, and your mother should have kept you closer). If you are a bored teenager and would rather listen to your music or text your friends to let them know how bored your are, go find a bench somewhere and leave the stairs for people who need to go up and down. If you wish to experience every minute of your museum visit from the other side of an iPad or laptop, than maybe you should just get out of the way and go to the gift shop and buy the DVD.
Despite the crowds I found the exhibits at this museum more to my liking. Is it telling that I am more fascinated by fossils, shiny rocks, and skeletons than I am by rockets and jet airplanes? One of the things I enjoyed the most was the exhibition of 2011's Best Nature Photography, and could have spent the day in that gallery alone, but then I might have missed Titanoboa. This prehistoric snake was 48' long and made a living eating alligators.
With museum-fatigue setting in we made our last stop the National Gallery of Art, and it was thankfully devoid of crowds. Here I was able to enjoy some of my favorite artists, and considering the chaos of the other museums, I think we could have been happy here all day. The museum was decorated for the holidays, and around several of the indoor fountains they had groupings of poinsettias, English ivy, cyclamen, white hydrangeas and white orchids. It was very nice.
After a full day we headed back to Union Station for dinner and a therapeutic round of adult beverages before the long, but comfortable ride home. I'll have my U.S. Botanic Gardens post up sometime next week.