Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wed 27 Mar - Chester, MD

Last day in Washington DC.

We have 2 more destinations on our agenda but in the end we only went for one, the Library of Congress (LoC), Jefferson Building (there are 3 buildings in total making up the congress library). We didn't go to the Postal Museum, another Smithsonian institute as by lunchtime we were "museumed-out".

The LoC Jefferson Building is next to the US Supreme Court so once again we pass the for and against crowds on marriage equality. Now we know what the case was all about, thanks to USA Today online. The case is about benefits and tax treatments for gay spouses, about whether gay couples should have the same benefits as heterosexual couples given that gay marriage is legal in 9 states and in DC. The test case was about an 83 year old woman whose gay partner died and who was slugged with an $360,000 estate tax despite the two of them having lived together for decades. If they were a heterosexual couple, the estate tax would have been zero. We agree with their concerns, seems very unfair.

We arrive at the LoC well before the first guided tour of the day so we explore some of the exhibitions.

A bit of background on the LoC - it is the largest library collection in the world. About 20 millions written pieces, films, music and now they are also getting a copy of every tweet! 7,000 new published works are added each day! It is used as a research library of the public and also of all congress bills. They keep running out of space and are now working to digitalize their collection.

First we wander to the basement for an exhibition about the Gershwins, Ira and George. American music heroes. The LoC has received a huge collection of composing notes, memorabilia and sheet music from Ira and from surviving family members and the estate.

Here is George's piano where many of those memorable songs were created.

Self portrait Ira painted.
There was also an exhibition about politics and humor, with an extra emphasis on Bob Hope.
We then join the guided tour for about an hour, but the guide this time was a bit dry and spoke very quietly and given a bit of a crowd it has sometimes hard to hear what he said.
The LoC, Jefferson Building is stunning so we wander around and take some photos after the tour. The building was intended to show America's wealth and focus on knowledge so it is designed similar to an Italian Palazzo, with lots of marble carvings and heavy decorations. The murals and mosaics are themed per hall; one on poets, one on great learning and so on.
Minerva features as a mosaic, painted on canvas in Washington, D.C. and then sent to Venice to be glass tiled.
The LoC is maintaining 2 copies of everything that is copyrighted (books, audio, video etc and also every tweet that has ever been tweeted...), one copy for the library and one copy for any potential future court cases. Even in the building's infancy, copyright was on their mind. The murals and paintings had copyright notices...
More location shots...
The ceiling of the grand hall.
These figures were given American motifs, such as having tools or given trades. The view was that this is America, not Europe and the focus should be on industry and work, not art.
The Grand Hall

We were unable to take photos of the public reading room but were able to download this from the LoC website. This was the view we had from the balcony. We wanted to explore this room more but you need to apply for a reading card and make an appointment to get in. Very grand.

After noon, we wandered back to Union Station and their basement food hall (very very busy) and had a very good Indian lunch meal, and pretty cheap.
Then, we decided to use one of the Circulator buses (there are 4 interconnecting loop routes) and we travel back to Georgetown and stop for a cuppa there before we take another Connector bus back to Phoenix Park Hotel and pick up our luggage.
Time to go east to see Mary Macrides in Chester to pick up Jim and Michel's car that we will borrow for the next month or so.
Bus 950 is leaving two blocks away from the hotel and is taking us beyond Annapolis out to Kent Island where Chester is located.
The 950 route is essentially a commuter route for DC workers living out east and since our stop is the second last local DC stop, the bus is pretty full and we had to do a bit of maneuvering to get our bags down the narrow aisle. Di sitting on the left in front of Hans.
Just before getting onto the Bay Bridge, there is a toll booth where the traffic comes down to a snarl. Not much better on the other side and we soon realise why. There are only 2 lanes in the bridge and one lane is closed.
Eventually, we arrive at Stephensville Park and Ride and Mary is there to pick us up. She drives us to her place and very kindly offers us her bedroom for the night.
After a couple of drinks, we go for dinner at Shells Yes just outside the development where Mary lives. We have some wonderful salmon and seafood and of course, more wine. Mary's friend, and Jim and Michel's friend, Burrdge, joins us and it turns out to be a very nice and pleasant evening with a lot of red wine consumed...
Later, all of us are back at Mary's place having a bit more wine...
Here is Di showing Mary something on the iPad.
Mary's dog is called Coco Chanel and suffers from a very short, short term memory but loves a belly rub from Burrdge.
A long day, and it's close to midnight before we dive into bed.
We were very satisfied with the day, full and perhaps just a tad tipsy at the end...


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