This past weekend, after my brother graduated from Loyola University Maryland (congrats to the class of 2018!!), my family and I went to Washington D.C. for a few days to cap off the special weekend. I had been really wanting to go to D.C. for about a year now, and the city didn’t disappoint! The last time I was in D.C. for an extended period of time I was 13, so now to be seeing the monuments, museums, and buildings as an adult was really amazing, especially with my “art history glasses” on!
My mom, dad, brother and I drove down on Sunday morning, and we went straight to the National Gallery of Art. I had been hearing about the collection for years through my studies and experience working in the art world, and I was absolutely DYING while walking through the galleries. The museum was privately established in 1937, with the core of the collection being donated by Andrew Mellon, from his belief that the United States “should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations”. The pieces in the museum collection include fine art and decorative arts, spanning from the middle ages to contemporary. I was SO excited to see The Alba Madonna by Raphael, and of course, the portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci (fun fact: the portrait of Ginvera is the only painting by Leonardo in the Western Hemisphere! All others are in Europe, with a recent acquisition of one to the UAE). The museum is so enormous, that we weren’t able to see all of the collection during that visit, but it will be there waiting for me when I go back!
After leaving the museum, we checked into our hotel, staying at the Trump International Hotel, Washington DC. The newly founded hotel is in the building of the Old Post Office, which is a gorgeous Neo-Romanesque structure that is over 100 years old, and the only Forbes Five Star hotel in downtown DC. The building’s bell tower offers the second-highest viewpoint of the city, preceded by the Washington Monument. The rooms were stunning, and the service was impeccable.
On Monday, we started the day with a guided tour of Library of Congress. All of the American symbolism and history that has been woven into the fresco’s, murals, and mosaics is astounding (I love symbolism!!), not to mention the collection that they hold. The Library is still a working library that allows researchers access to its collection, which is a big one, as it is the largest library in the world! On the “museum” side of its collection, the Library holds former President Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books, which were purchased by Congress in 1814. The Library of Congress also houses one of its most prized possessions, a Gutenberg Bible. It is only one of three complete bibles, printed on vellum, from the year 1455 (aka it’s a big deal!). The other two are in the collections of the British Library in London and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris; so far I’ve seen two out of three of them! You can read more about the historical impact of the Gutenberg printing press here!
Following the Library of Congress tour, we took a walk through the Botanical Gardens, which was so beautiful, and a lovely break in the day. After lunch, we started on our way for a tour of the Capitol Building. We had just gotten about 20 minutes into our time slot, when we were all interrupted by a protest that began in the middle of the Rotunda, and unfortunately all tours happening that the time were halted. But the most amazing thing happened later that evening that made up for the unfortunate cancellation … stay tuned!
That night same night, my dad surprised us all by arranging to see the taping of Tucker Carlson Tonight in studio at Fox News! Tucker and his family lived in my hometown in New Jersey for about a year when he was taping his show in Manhattan, and my dad and he became friendly through business. He was so funny and generous with his time, and so cool to see a show like that “in action”!
After the taping, we all went back to our hotel with new friends we made that were staying at our hotel as well. Our newly made friends are friends with Californian Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who joined us for drinks at the hotel, and by the end of the evening he took our group on a tour of the Capitol Building at midnight!! WHAT IS LIFE?! That experience was really the highlight of the trip, for me. The building was empty, and the Congressman shared so many interesting historical stories with us about the building and his time as a Congressman. Our group was able to sit in the House Chamber (which “tourists” rarely get to do), for a bit as he continued with his stories, then moved on to the Old Hall of the House, then finally into the Rotunda. I had a very moving personal moment standing in that room, while looking at the murals depicting exceptional points in the United State’s history, hearing about the triumphs of the men and women before me, and the history of my country. It was a moment I will never forget!
After returning to our hotel at 2 am, and sleeping in on Tuesday morning, we left downtown D.C. to pitstop at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum located within the National Arboretum, which is about a 20 minute drive outside of the downtown. My brother really encouraged us to go, as he has a passion for bonsai. Everything from the architecture to the trees themselves were incredible! The oldest tree in their collection was nearly 400 years old, and was a gift to the United States in the 1970’s!! After our stop at the Arboretum, we made our way back to Baltimore to drop off my brother, and then back to New Jersey.
I am so grateful for the amazing long weekend that it was, all of the people we met, and the experiences we shared as a family. I can’t wait to go back to DC to visit again!
What is an incredible moment that you’ll never forget?! Let me know in the comments below!