I don’t know which was better, consuming glorious carbohydrates or getting of the National Academy grounds for a day. Started the day with a breakfast of french toast, then six of us drove up to Springfield VA to catch the metro. It actually takes quite a while to get to the National Mall from the outer edges of the metro system and the trains were crowded, elbow to elbow standing room.
We got off at the Smithsonian station so we could walk up the mall to the Capitol, where we were meeting others from our class for a tour of the Capitol building. The weather was just about perfect, sunny, warm, with a nice breeze and the skies were great for photographs.
Once at the Capitol building, we were met by a Capitol Police Lt and two Capitol Police Officers. They started by taking us past the chain barriers for pictures on the outside of the building. We then divided back up into two groups for an officer guided tour of the building. Having just done the regular tour back in November, this tour was more colorful and interesting as well as going some places the regular tour does not.
We went in a different entrance to the building. On the tour we were able to see the chamber of the House of Representatives from the floor level and even sit in the seats of the chamber (not any of the ones in front like the Speaker’s, though). We saw several lounge and cloakroom areas as well. Many of the coolest parts of the tour were off limits to photography for security reasons, so I don’t have any photos of them. There were still lots of general areas I do not remember seeing on my prior visit, where we could take photos. Our guide was a wealth of information on both the history of the building and the security measures in place. We did go through some of the public areas as well, and it was a very cool two hour tour.
Our guide passed on interesting arcane trivia in some of the tiny details. He pointed out small munchkin sized doors in the wall at one point (in a no photography area). The doors led to grates in the outside wall in a direction that would catch the prevailing breeze in summer and the passage would be filled with blocks of ice to help cool the building, in the days before electricity. He pointed out blood stains on a set of marble steps where a congressman and a newspaper reporter had an altercation that resulted in the congressman shooting the reporter and the blood soaked into the stone. He also pointed out cat footprints in the cement floor at one point, left over from where a cat apparently crossed the fresh cement during the original construction.
After the tour we wandered the city for a bit and found a place to eat lunch. We stopped in the Air and Space Museum briefly, but it was packed and we wanted to make it back for supper at the Academy, so we did not stay long. The behind the scenes tour at the Capitol was a really neat experience and well worth the trip into DC. We did make it back in time for supper: steak (or something that resembled a steak), baked potato, and a frozen yogurt cone. Tomorrow I will be back on the wagon and working on school assignments.