25 January 2011

Three hours, three museums? No problem!

It is to my everlasting sorrow that the two times I've visited Washington, DC, for work that I did not have enough time to explore the amazing, free, cultural attractions that our nation's capital offers.  This trip to Winter Institute wasn't much different, but my roommate, Nieves, is a take-charge kind of gal, and when we discovered that we had roughly three hours to explore (plus transit time on the Metro) between checking out of our hotel and having to be at the airport, we made A PLAN, aka: Operation Hide/Seek or Bust.

Smithsonian Castle
8:00 am--We're up and out of our hotel, the Crystal Gateway Marriott, which is conveniently connected to the Metro, and make our way to the Smithsonian Castle, the *only* museum that opens at 8:30 am.  we have breakfast in the cafe there and bide our time reading The Onion before wandering around.  It was astonishingly small--I had no idea that basically only two rooms were open to the general public--but had samplings from all of the other Smithsonian locations to whet the appetite.

One room of the Castle
Nieves gives this exhibit the thumbs-up!

9:55 am -- We depart the Castle and head straight across the Mall to the Museum of Natural History, whose doors all mysteriously swung open at 10:00.  After pausing briefly for a few photos ops with the elephant and the sealife exhibits, we head straight for the gem & mineral exhibition.  Growing up, I was a total rock hound, and to this day I'm fascinated with anything pretty and shiny (apropos of my surname)--turns out that Nieves is, too, so it worked out well!  The Hope Diamond is now in its new (temporary) setting, and I also really liked the large quartz crystal sphere on display--the largest of its kind in the world.  


10:45 am -- We dash away again, this time heading towards the National Archives to meet Nieves' friend, Andrew.  We have just enough time to duck into a cozy little tearoom called Teaism, to warm up with some World Peace.  Or, if you're just a little bit insane like me, with a nice glass of iced Moroccan mint tea.  Of course, it was so cold earlier that morning that my eyes watered and then my tears froze to my cheeks, but I'm a fool for Moroccan mint.  And apparently a fool in other ways as well!

11:30 am -- We hit the National Portrait Gallery right as it opens and head straight for the exhibit that Nieves was dying to see, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," which has gained some notoriety for caving in to (minority) public opinion and removed a video display from the installation.  I'm so glad that Nieves told me about this, as I might never have heard of it otherwise.  The entire exhibit comprises works either by gay artists or featuring homoerotic content.  Sadly (but understandably) the National Portrait Gallery  does not allow any kind of photography in the temporary exhibits, so all I have to show from this museum are a couple of snaps I made when I had to, umm, skip to the loo. 

I really like the heart shape created by her breast and her embrace.
If I hadn't been trying to shoot this sculpture without interference
from other works of art, I might never have noticed it. 

12:30 pm -- We hit the museum gift shop, bid adieu to Andrew (and you, and you, and you!), and descended to the Metro once more, with plenty of time to stop for a pretzel before catching the shuttle to the airport.  

Would I choose to have a whirlwind tour of DC like that if I had my druthers? Well, heck no!  But I'm pleased nonetheless that Nieves and I had such a productive time with the few hours that we had.  Imagine what kind of itinerary we could plan if we'd had the entire weekend free to see what we liked...we could take that town by storm.  Eighteen-year-old interns, hold on to your hats! (inside joke--you'd have to be there)


  1. What a whirlwind tour! Sounds like you saw just enough to whet your appetite but picked some pretty good things for that quick taste of DC. Like a good tapas restaurant! Tracie


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