Aug 17, 2016

Virginia and DC (Or: that time I found Cabeswater and went to the Library of Congress)

Virginia was my third US destination, with a brief detour into DC along the way. I spent less than a full day in the city, which is nowhere near enough for everything I’d have liked to see and do: I didn’t get to go to any of the many museums, or do a tour of the monuments, or catch up with blogging friends in the area, all of which really make me want to go back. Having said that, my day in DC was still perfect. After considering my options carefully, I picked two very bookish places — the Library of Congress and Politics & Prose — and had a wonderful time at both. Also, my friend and I listened to Hamilton on the drive there, and I timed it so “The Room Where it Happened” was playing as we reached the city, and needless to say that’s one of my very favourite memories of the whole trip.

A few photos:

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Entrance to the Newseum (where unfortunately I didn’t have time to go) with the First Amendment engraved.


Mandatory shot.


The Library of Congress!

The LoC was one of the high points of my trip. It’s stunning in every sense; I walked around for nearly three hours in a permanent daze. The Thomas Jefferson building is absolutely beautiful, but it’s more than that. The public areas of the library and its exhibits put forward a certain narrative about nationhood, as national monuments and museums always do; there are gaps in such narratives, even if they’re under constant revision, and those gaps matter. At the same time, there’s something there that does genuinely move me — the impulse to preserve and disseminate knowledge is important to me, and the project that underpins the LoC’s whole existence is one I fully believe in.

I had a lot of feelings during those three hours is what I’m getting at here.

Also, much like at the Art Institute, I was very lucky with the special exhibitions. In addition to the permanent displays at the Jefferson building, I saw “America Reads”, “World War I: American Artists View the Great War”, a Jacob Riis photography exhibition, and “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom” (which according to the LoC’s website ended in January, but was most definitely still there in July). They were all excellent, and added so much to my visit.


Detail of the LoC’s vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible.


Give instruction onto those who cannot procure it for themselves.






The “America Reads” exhibition.


...and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 exhibition.


Thomas Jefferson’s Library.




View of the stunning Main Reading Room.


“World War I: American Artists View the Great War”.


Walking past the United States Botanic Garden.


Homeless lives matter: street art in DC.


Politics & Prose!


Delicious lunch at the coffeehouse.




...I had to.


I loved this Hogwarts House Picks display! I kind of want to steal the idea for my library.

...and I was of course thrilled that my house (Ravenclaw) would be reading Small Gods and a book about Ada Lovelace.

I was also very happy to see Hope in the Dark everywhere. ♥ In case you’re wondering, I managed to walk out with only one book: a copy of Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language. My trip made restraint necessary, but at least I know I couldn’t have picked a more perfect book.

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, which was an amazing place. My only complaint about my day there is that thinking “It’s a forest; it’ll be nice and shady; how hot can it possibly be?” proved a bit of a miscalculation. Very hot, as it turns out. It was 38 degrees Celsius and 80% humidity — we were reduced to puddles even in the shade, and didn’t do anywhere near as much exploring as I thought we would. But no matter: it’s incredible to just be at a place like that. At one point we spotted some National Park Rangers, and my friend immediately went, “They work for Leslie Knope!” — thus sparing me the effort of having to say so myself. I also saw my first chipmunks there, plus cardinals and monarch butterflies.

We did get to do a bit of walking in the forest, and I may or may not have whispered “...Cabeswater?” at every tree in sight.




The Filene Center at Wolf Trap.


Again, thank you for bearing with me thus far. I only have one travel post left to do (New York), and then normal service will hopefully resume.

27 comments:

  1. Lovely! Am enjoying your travel posts.

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  2. Were you at Wolf Trap for Sufjan Stevens? Leslie and Christy and I were there, too! Such a near miss! And yes, it was sooooo hot, even by Virginia standards.

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    1. Argh, I am such an idiot! Yes, I was, and I knew about Leslie because Chris and Debi told me she'd posted photos on Instagram when I got to upstate New York. I sent her a message of apology, which I now extend to the rest of you! I should have put two and two together and realised you'd be likely to go, and I can't believe I missed an opportunity to say hello to all of you in person! I'll most definitely be back, though - as I said, I really, really loved DC, and there's so much I didn't get the chance to see. I'll definitely be in touch when that happens!

      Also, I hope you enjoyed the show. To me it was one of his best.

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    2. I very nearly asked if you were going when I saw you were in town that day, so I'll share the blame for that near miss :) It would have been nice to meet in person! And yes, it was a terrific show. I'd never seen him in person before, and I hope he comes back.

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    3. Dang! So close! I joke that all of Northern Virginia seems to be at the Wolf Trap concerts I go to, because I keep running into people I know there, but it turns out even my international web of people show up at Wolf Trap! And yes, that day was super hot.

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  3. I love that you bought Adrienne Rich's book there. Now it will always hold the memories of that day for you! Thoroughly enjoyed the images and commentary of your day as well: thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, exactly! I read part of it at Wolf Trap the next day, so it's associated with that too. That's one of my favourite things about buying books while travelling.

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  4. Lovely! And Dream of a Common Language, if you are only going to get one book that is an excellent one! The poem "Transcendental Etude" is one of my favorites ever.

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    1. I can see why. I especially love "Hunger", but really, the whole book is amazing. I should have listened to you and read her years ago!

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  5. I honestly can't tell you how much I love these posts. I just can't. They are so very happy inspiring. :)

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    1. Aww, I'm really glad you're enjoying them!

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  6. You didn't drive all the way to DC from Denver, did you? Cuz that would be bonkers. A great way to see the country, but damn that's a long drive.

    I've been to DC once and didn't even poke my head into the Library of Congress! It looks so pretty, too. Maybe next time...

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    1. Haha, no - that would have been amazing, but I would need two months rather than two weeks! We flew into Virginia and then drove once we were there. And yes, definitely go to the LoC if you're in DC again! It's so worth it.

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  7. I live very close to Wolf Trap. Didn't realize you were visiting so close! Can you believe I have not yet been to the Library of Congress?? It looks like a beautiful place, and so inspiring.

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    1. Argh, I can't believe I managed to miss so many blogging friends! Next time I'll need to plan better. And as I was telling Tasha again, definitely go to the LoC as soon as you can! There's no way you won't love it.

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  8. I did a lot of research at the LoC and the Folger. Your photos make me miss them.
    You didn't mention the mosquitos--another thing that comes with the heat and humidity--did you get bitten?

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    1. Funnily enough they left me alone in Virginia, though I did spot a lot of people at Wolf Trap spraying insect repellent all over themselves. My friend said it was because they were all going for him instead :P But when I was in upstate NY, I had dinner outside at Debi's with her family and Chris and Eva and they had a field day with me. I had bite marks all over the next day.

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  9. If I ever get to Washington DC again, I will visit the Library of Congress and Politics and Prose. If I don't, your post and pictures here gave me a feeling of being there. Thanks!

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    1. Aww, you're most welcome! I hope you do get the chance to visit!

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  10. I have never explored Wolf Trap OR the Library of Congress - what on earth. I need to do both. I tried to go to the Library of Congress last year, but it was closed on the day I tried to go.

    Still so sad we missed each other, but so happy to see it all through your eyes with these photos. <3<3<3

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    1. Yes, you do need to! Wolf Trap is very Cabeswater-ish (in my imagination, at least) and I really think you'll love it. I bet it's amazing in the autumn, too. And the LoC is of course the LoC :D

      I'm still very sad about that too, but I'm sure one day I'll get to give you that hug! <3 Also, do you still use the regularruminations e-mail address I have for you? There's a story I wanted to tell you that I think you'd enjoy.

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  11. It's been a few years now since I was last in the DC area but now I really want to go back! I've been twice and there's definitely a lot I still haven't done there (like the LoC) and some things that I want to do again. I'm so glad you got to see some of the broad diversity of the US on your trip! Next time you have to come all the way out to the West Coast though. ;)

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  12. Welcome to my neck of the woods! You saw some great places in a short amount of time. If you have a chance on your next visit the Newseum is cool but a full day on its own and I'd definitely see the LOC first. So many things to do here. It's been an ugly summer but glad you had a good time!

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  13. I really enjoyed the Library of Congress when I went a few years ago with fellow book bloggers! I was so excited lol. I'm glad you had a good time but ugh that heat :/

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.