Day 3 in DC and we’re ready for another day of walking and exploring and walking more and learning and then walking even more (LOL)….and celebrating Brittany’s 15th Birthday!!! Lara and Brittany both made made sure we were up and about early and out the door to do what THEY wanted to do!!!
The U.S. Capitol was first on the list. It was also Columbus Day so we knew it would be more tourists than Congressional leaders. And what an impressive building to see in person! Lara and Brittany were amazed at the size, the grandeur, the space it covered on “Capitol Hill”. We started with a little “Photo Session” at the Capitol. After all, it offers quite the backdrop with stairs and statues in front of the massive structure. And the girls quickly learned that if they turned the camera the other way, they were able to get the National Mall and Washington Monument in the background as well! We spent quite a lot of time here, getting creative with the camera. I’ll put more pictures at the end of the blog because I must admit… they turned out to be very picturesque!
Inside the Capitol
Next…we went inside the Capitol which… according to what George Washington said to Thomas Jefferson in 1792… “ought to be upon a scale far superior to anything in this Country…” . And that it is! We were in awe of it’s beauty! And I think it’s important for both Lara, from Germany, and Brittany, living in America, to see firsthand where laws are made! The Capitol is home to Congress… the legislative branch of the U.S. government that represents the American people and makes the nation’s laws. It shares power with the executive branch, led by the President, and the judicial branch, whose highest body is the Supreme Court of the United States. Of the three branches of government, Congress is the only one elected directly by the people. We made a trip to the Capitol Visitor Center… the newest addition to this historic complex. At nearly 580,000 square feet, the Visitor Center is the largest project in the Capitol’s 200-year-old history and is about three-quarters the size of the Capitol itself. The entire facility is located underground on the east side of the Capitol so it doesn’t distract from the appearance of the Capitol and it’s beautiful setting…designed in 1874.
A Special Treat: Inside the Library of Congress
Since this was a holiday, it is only one of two days that the Library of Congress is open to the public. Usually, visitors can only see it from above through a glass window. We were able to go inside, read books, see the card catalogue room and just enjoy the historic experience! Brittany and Lara said this was one of their favorite parts of the trip!
For a little history and importance… The Library of Congress was established in 1800 by President John Adams. The legislation he introduced described a reference library for Congress only containing “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress – and for putting up a suitable apartment for containing them therein.”
Today’s Library of Congress collection is pretty impressive! It includes more than 144 million items includes more than 33 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages, more than 63 million manuscripts, the largest rare book collection in North America, and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings. WOW!
It was established with $5,000 and housed in the new Capitol until August 1814… when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol… burning the contents of the small library. Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books. His library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States. In 1815, Congress accepted Jefferson’s offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6,487 books, and the foundation was laid for a great national library.
Many of you may remember the Library of Congress as the setting in the film National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. The mystery adventure from Walt Disney takes you on a quest leading to the final clue in a mysterious and highly guarded book containing centuries of secrets. But there’s only one way to find it — Ben Gates, played by Nicolas Cage, must kidnap the President. Clips from the film were playing in the Library when we were there. And something that got a laugh out of everyone was a sign next to a door that read, “Escape route from the main reading room after they found the President’s Book of Secrets.” But look at the line below… “No, the Library does not have a President’s Book of Secrets.”
One place Brittany REALLY wanted to go was the The International Spy Museum… and Lara was game for it! For a couple of teenagers….there’s nothing like hidden cameras and secrets to get their interest up! Open since July, 2002, it’s the only public museum in the United States dedicated to espionage. The Museum features the largest collection of international espionage artifacts on public display. They highlight the work of famous spies and actions and bring to life the strategies and techniques of the people behind some of the most secretive espionage missions in world history. The goal of the Museum is to educate the public about espionage and its important role and impact on current and historic events. The Museum was in downtown DC and was much larger than any of us expected. There were rooms weaving throughout the second floor of the building… too much for us to get through the entire museum. At the end, there is a gift shop…of course. One of the girls’ favorite items was a T-shirt that said “Pretty Little Liars”. For those of you with teenagers… you probably know the hit TV show and find that shirt just as funny as I do! Even Lara “got it”…and she’s only been in America for 9 weeks!
And just down the street from the Spy Museum was a surprise!!! A Forever 21 store! A favorite among American Teens these days! And this store was 4-stories high! Oh My Gosh! Forever 21 stores in Arizona are only single level! Lara and Brittany had their eyes set on the 4-story Forever 21 in New York City!
Forever 21 is growing quickly… becoming a phenomenon in the fashion world! Terry and I took a seat inside the store entrance and let the girls shop, shop, shop!!! Brittany scored with a few items for her Birthday! Lara scored by meeting a father who was in line in front of us who spent time in Germany in the military. Of course, he had many questions for Lara about where she was from and, of course, was shopping with his own daughter!
I’d like to add another little tidbit about Forever 21 that I recently learned about and LOVE! It has received attention in the media for printing “John 3:16” on the bottom of their trademark yellow bags. Forever 21 says the Biblical quote is a “demonstration of the owners’ Christian faith”… and I support that! Amen! http://blog.forever21.com/
Birthday Dinner of Sushi with Troy and Anna
While the girls shopped, Terry and I were trying to decide where to take Brittany for her Birthday dinner. We wanted our Host/Hostess to join us so we decided to head back to Virginia. We trusted Troy and Anna’s recommendation of a Sushi Restaurant and glad we did! We had fun!
Tiramisu Birthday Cake
We saved the real dessert for when we returned to Troy and Anna’s home, where Anna had picked up Tiramisu for Brittany’s Birthday cake… one of her favorites!!! Overall… it was one of Brittany’s best birthdays and she said she was glad to spend it with us, with Lara and on a vacation of a lifetime. I think Lara was tickled to be able to celebrate with Brittany in this special way as well! Their relationship has grown to much more than just an Exchange Student staying in our home. They are truly Host-Exchange Sisters and definitely sharing one of the most memorable vacations of a lifetime!!!
TOMORROW….The Natural History Museum, Apes, the Hope Diamond and Old Town Alexandria! (more photos from Day 3 are below)