Friday, July 24, 2015

Exploring the Capitol Mall

The National Mall in Washington just became much easier to explore with the introduction of the Circulator Bus. A huge amount of walking is avoided at a very modest fare. It begins in front of Union Station and makes a figure-eight passing in front of the National Gallery and the Smithsonian Museums of Natural and of American History before circling around the Washington Monument. It then goes clockwise around the Tidal Pool to deliver you to the Jefferson, ML King and Lincoln memorials. The route returns passing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and again circling the Washington Monument on the way to return up the opposite side of the National Mall.

While in DC at a family celebration, we explored this new way to see the mall. It was extremely hot, and the Circulator allowed us to easily visit those sites, such as the Jefferson Memorial, with little stress. Here are some photos of what I found.

 I began straight off the Metro near the Capitol walking from the Federal Center stop to the US Botanic Gardens at the foot of Capitol Hill. It was 10 am, so I began outside before the heat soared.

The gardens offer a quiet  place among the constant traffic around the Mall. Still small glimpses of the buildings sneak into view like the National Museum of the American Indian (which is highly recommended).

Given the  heat, I found the gardens in surprisingly lush bloom.  This ramada was surrounded by native plants in brilliant bloom.

Hidden in among the natural stone were a wide array of colorful summer blooms like these.

Nearby is nice water garden with a Mallard drifting about looking for feed. The bench seemed a welcoming place to relax, but on this hot day visitors seemed more intent to keep moving and rest inside the air-conditioned conservatory areas.

As the heat built above 90F, I, too, retreated to the Conservatory building. One of my favorite places was a tropical orchid display.

Across the Mall,  one can board the Circulator at Union Station or at the National Gallery of Art.  The attractions at the east end of the Mall (near the Capitol) are easy to visit, so we rode to the west end.  Our first stop was the Jefferson Memorial.  Stepping off the bus, the west side is seen.  It surely echoes Jefferson's Monticello.

The east side presents massive steps up to the rotunda.  Note the red "Bike Share" bikes parked in front. They offer a second way to easily move through the city. Residents love them for fast commuting.

Inside the rotunda, Jefferson's statue is flanked by some of his most notable writing. His declaration of "We hold these truths to be self evident" flanks his left shoulder.

Another of his statements to the statue's right shoulder was new to me and certainly apropos 239 years later.  I felt moved to record it.

It was time to hop on the next Circulator for an air- conditioned ride to the Martin Luther King Memorial. The work of the sculptor appeals to me both for the overall memorial's design and for the beauty of the sculpture.

We were making excellent progress at a pace far exceeding what could be done on foot.  Back on a Circulator for the Lincoln Memorial.  More steps.

The view from the steps is a classic one towards the Capitol.

We found the Lincoln Memorial to be the most crowded of all.  The classic photo standing in front of the great statue seems to be the ultimate proof of a visit.  It took patience and holding the camera overhead to simplify the image.

Our long-delayed visit to the west end of the mall complete, we were again on the Circulator for a final stop at our favorite spot on the Mall.  The National Gallery of Art always has new exhibits, plus our beloved gallery of impressionist paintings. As usual, many hurry through taking snapshots without really seeing, and a few settle on the sofas and really see the art.

This time, there was a painter copying Monet's The Artist's Garden at V├ętheuil. This would seem to be the best example of really seeing the painting. It seemed that few visitors paused to see the paint being applied.  Isn't that a chance to go back in time as though Monet was working the canvas?

Thank you for allowing me to take you along on our exploration of the National Mall using the Circulator to catch some of the high points.  The standard fare is $1.00 for up to two hours of boardings.  They run very frequently too.


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