Diana commented that in all our time in DC, today we took our first guided tour. We toured the Capitol Building. Our tour was at 9:30, and we showed up early to be sure we had time to get through the security line. The line wasn’t bad when we got there (about 30-50 long on our side of the Visitors’ Center), but it looked like the line does get nasty during the day.
The Capitol Visitors’ Center had some nice displays about the history of the Capitol and houses some of the National Statuary Hall Collection of statues.
The tour begins with a nice film about the Capitol and what is accomplished there, then a guide leads you through the Crypt, the Rotunda, and Statuary Hall. Now, think about the logistics for a second. The tour is about 20 or 30 minutes long. Tours begin every ten minutes. Each tour is split up and led by four or five tour guides. Do you have a picture of how many different tour guides are shepherding separate groups around the Capitol simultaneously? Well, each guide speaks in a normal speaking voice into a mic that is broadcast to headphones that his group wears. So the noise level isn’t bad, but those headphones are kinda quirky. If your guide goes behind a marble column — you’ve lost audio. If your guide gets too far ahead — you’ve lost audio. Sometimes your headphones just don’t work. I had to exchange my first set, Diana went through four sets before she got on that worked. The tour was quick but good. We didn’t feel rushed, and the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable.
From the Capitol Visitors’ Center, we took the underground tunnel to the Library of Congress (which meant we didn’t have to go through security again… though the Library of Congress also inspects bags upon your departure). There were a handful of fascinating displays and great architecture/ornamentation. They are currently displaying Thomas Jefferson’s library, which he sold to the Congress for $26,000 to form the original collection of the Library of Congress.
Next we walked to the Supreme Court. You can see the court room, walk the halls and see statues and portraits of many justices, and view the two spiral staircases (which are amazing pieces of architecture with no center support). The cafeteria here was really good. There’s a salad bar, many ready-to-go meals, and custom-built hot sandwiches.
We took the Metro to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see the Visitor’s Center there (skipped the tour) and returned to our motel. For dinner, we went to the Hard Times Cafe — a “Chile Parlour” — which was pretty good. Tomorrow we catch a train!