Thursday, April 14, 2016

Final Day of DC report: Museums, 3 / Orioles 0

 [[Once more, this is a delayed broadcast. See here and here for the first two installments.]]

Alas, it had to happen eventually and last night was that inevitable night. When we staggered in after a long day of sightseeing I opted for bath, book, and tea over writing up the day’s adventures and of course first thing this morning we had to be packing up and heading out the door. It has not been until now that we’re safely aboard Train #94 north out of Union Station that I’ve had a moment to write this Day 3, DC installment and already it’s more difficult to remember yesterday than seems altogether reasonable. Bravely, I persevere.

 We woke to rain and while it wasn’t too bad as I dashed the short block to the nearest provider of  morning pastry, by the time we were leaving the apartment officially for the day it was seriously pouring and we were half-soaked in the few minutes it took to reach the nearest Metro. Nonetheless, I was pleased to see the rain since it made it a perfect day for museum-visiting which was the order of the day. As it turned out, the weather was changeable all damned day, with it showering ever so lightly on arrival at the National Gallery so we walked through another part of the Outdoor Sculpture Park. There we saw some old friends: a giant eraser, a metal tree, and, most unexpectedly, a Parisian Metro Station.
I confess I had been a bit worried abut what Vermeers the  National Gallery would have to offer since their website didn’t seem to make much of it. I needn’t have worried; Scott pointed to the banners on the side of the building and asked, “Isn’t that . . . ?” Much to my embarrassment, I didn’t think it was. There are times when I don’t care how provincial I might appear to be so I freely asked at the information desk what they had in the way of Vermeers and where to look. It turned out that while one was on loan somewhere, they still had 2.5 on display; the “.5” is because it’s a painting “attributed to” rather than necessarily “by.” It was nice, regardless of who painted it, but my favorite was the middle painting, “Women with Balance.”

For the less Vermeer-obsessed, I note that the Gallery also had a decent selection of RembrandtsAnd, if Dutch painters aren’t exactly your thing, you might like the Degas, the Monet, the Manet, and Renoir. But maybe, like us, you’ve been to Paris recently enough that you’ve seen enough impressionists to last you a while. In that case, I’d recommend the rooms with the Turner, Whistler, Homer, Hopper, et al.  We gave short shrift to the Italians, aside from seeing “the one DaVinci painting in North America,” and, to be honest, we skipped a lot ofther stuff as well. Schedule to keep, don’t you know, which no, did not prevent us from stopping by the Vermeer room a few more times.
My new favorite Van Gogh
Oh, and the National Gallery also has half dozen or more Van Goghs, a few of which did less for me and one of which I quite adored.

The thing you don’t realize while you’re in the art museum is that groups of children being subjected to painting and the odd sculpture are relatively quiet. Once they get to the Natural History Museum, their lungs really open up. It was a madhouse there so we kept that visit pretty short, limiting ourselves to the Hope Diamond (it seemed a shame to snub it) and a lot of animal skeletons, including what they had to offer in the way of dinosaurs (because, yes, what we really wanted were dinosaurs).
T-Rex at the Natural History Museum
  On fighting our way out of the Natural Science Throng, we found that it was seriously bucketing down. Talk of finding a nice hotel restaurant in which to have a civilized and restorative cup of tea was forgotten and we hurried across the mall to reach what I insist upon thinking of as the Aeronautic Museum when I’m not calling it “like the Museum of Flight.” (Officially it’s the National Air and Space Museum.) Here we found ourselves fully understanding why the Smithsonian is called “America’s Attic.” The Spirit of St Louis” is heaped atop a practice Lunar Landing Capsule while my father’s Piper Cub is in danger of crashing atop Amelia Erhart’s Lockheed Vega.  By this time, we were both pretty weary so we sat and admired the real Wright Flyer (they are very proud about having the true original and all the signage stresses that what you’re looking at, yes, okay, what is on display has new canvas but it’s the original, not one of the many replicas out there so be impressed, damn it.) We were impressed, but we were also tired, and, for readers of Mona in the Desert, it lacked the personal connection of the American Airlines stewardess school requirements. (Are you an unmarried white woman, aged 21 to 26, weighing not more than 135 pounds, with two years or nursing school or college and just short of Hollywood gorgeous? Then you could be eligible for acceptance into stewardess training!)

 Do I remember anything like that level of detail about the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Missions? Not so much. Mona has a lot to answer for.

 As above, so full a day of culture absorption led to a quiet night in. Obabakoak continues to charm.

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