‘Washington DC’ Category

 

Know Your Neighbors 2 – North America

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – A little more detail on the ten countries of North America. Which country has the largest military budget? Which country has the lowest per capita GDP? Which country has mahogany forests? Which countries do not have an official language? In which country is life expectancy for females the highest? In which country is life expectancy for males the lowest? In which country do the most people claim to be Catholic? In how many countries is Queen Elizabeth II Head of State? How well do you know your neighbors?

Alphabetical List of Countries in North America

  1. Belize
  2. Canada
  3. Costa Rica
  4. El Salvador
  5. Guatemala
  6. Honduras
  7. Mexico
  8. Nicaragua
  9. Panama
  10. United States

Belize, Capital City Belmopan

Belize, the smallest North American country by population (392,771), is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. There is a Governor-General representing the Queen, and Prime Minister as Head of Government. The official language is English and the country is 61% Catholic and 27% Protestant. The defense budget is $23 million and there are 1,500 active troops. Natural resources are timber, fish, and hydropower. The Per Capita GPD is $8,786. Compulsory education ages 5-12. Life expectancy female 76.7; male 73.4.

Canada, Capital City Ottawa

Canada, the third largest North American country by population (36,136,376), is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. There is a Governor-General representing the Queen, and Prime Minister as Head of government. The official languages are English and French and the country is 44% Catholic, 23% Agnostic, 11% Protestant, 4% Muslim. The defense budget is $18.2 billion and there are 66,600 active troops. Natural resources are iron ore and various minerals, fish, timber, coal, petroleum. The per capita GDP is $47,871. Compulsory education ages 6-15. Life expectancy female 84.9, male 79.5.

Costa Rica, Capital City San Jose

Costa Rica, the eighth largest North American country by population (5,043,084), is a presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 76% Catholic, 19% Protestant, and 4% Agnostic. The defense budget is $454 million and there are no active troops, rather 9,800 para-military style police. Natural resources are hydropower. The per capita GDP is $17,645. Compulsory education ages 4-16. Life expectancy female 81.9, male 76.3.

El Salvador, Capital City San Salvador

El Salvador, the sixth largest  North American country by population (6,202,330), is a presidential republic, with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 66% Catholic, 15% Independent, and 15% Protestant. The defense budget is $141 million and there are 24,500 active troops. Natural resources are hydropower, geothermal power, and petroleum. The per capita GDP is $8,317. Compulsory education ages 1-15. Life expectancy female 78.8, male 72.1.

Guatemala, Capital City Guatemala City

Guatemala, the fourth largest North American country by population (16,867,133), is a presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 67% Catholic, 19% Protestant, and 11% Independent. The defense budget is $256 million and there are 18,050 active troops. Natural resources are petroleum, rare woods, fish, and  hydropower. The per capital GDP is $8,447. Compulsory education ages 6-15. Life expectancy female 74.2, male 70.1.

Honduras, Capital City Tegucigalpa

Honduras, the fifth largest North American country by population (9,325,005), is a presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 72% Catholic and 18% Protestant. The defense budget is $329 million and there are 14,950 active troops. Natural resources are timber, gold, coal, fish, hydropower. The per capita GDP is $5,130. Compulsory education ages 5-16. Life expectancy female 73.1, male 69.7.

Mexico, Capital City Mexico City

Mexico, the second largest North American country by population (127,318,112), is a federal presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The primary language is Spanish and the country is 86% Catholic, 10% Protestant, 3% Agnostic. The defense budget is $5.2 billion and there are 277,150 active troops. Natural resources are petroleum, various minerals, natural gas, timber. The per capita GDP is $19,969. Compulsory education ages 4-17. Life expectancy female 79.4, male 73.7.

Nicaragua, Capital City Managua

Nicaragua, the seventh largest North American country by population (6,144,442), is a presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 70% Catholic, 19% Protestant. The defense budget is $82 million and there are 12,000 active troops. Natural resources are gold, copper, lead, timber, fish. The per capita GDP is $5,524. Compulsory education ages 5-11. Life expectancy female 76.4, male 71.7.

Panama, Capital City Panama City

Panama, the ninth largest North American country by population (3,847,647), is a presidential republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The official language is Spanish and the country is 74% Catholic, 10% Protestant, 4% Agnostic. The defense budget is $738 million and there are no armed forces but 26,000 paramilitary police. Natural resources are copper, mahogany, and shrimp. The per capita GDP is $25,509. Compulsory education ages 4-14. Life expectancy female 82.0, male 76.3.

United States, Capital City Washington, DC

United States, the largest North American country by population (331,883,986), is a constitutional federal republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. The primary languages are English and Spanish and the country is 27% Catholic, 24% Independent, 20% Protestant, 17% Agnostic. The defense budget is $643.3 billion and there are 1,359,450 active troops. Natural resources are coal, various minerals, petroleum, timber. The per capita GDP is $62,641. Compulsory education ages 6-17. Life expectancy female 82.4, male 78.0.

Resource: The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2020

 
 
 

Final Glide

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – This is it. Today is the end of the NDI RTW. Tonight, I sleep in my own bed after 40 days of almost non-stop travel. I wonder if Katy cat will even remember me. But this morning I woke up in Washington, DC with two of my grandchildren, and this reality: our flight to Little Rock, the only DIRECT flight available (and I couldn’t bear going through Atlanta) didn’t depart until 6 PM. And the three of us were burnt out on DC sightseeing. So what could be better than a nice calm boat ride on the Potomac River to Mt Vernon? We were in agreement, up and packed and checked out by 8; at the Water Taxi dock in time to leave at 9.

The trip was a pleasant ride, the Washington skyline, a stop in Alexandria, and then ashore by 10 at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. “You just added Virginia to your state count,’” I told Kayla and Sam. We had four hours of our own time to wander; George and Martha’s home, their tomb, the farm and farm animals, a gristmill and distillery, the Mount Vernon Inn for lunch. Though there are a few museums there, we went to something called Be Washington, an interactive movie theater. “Step into Washington’s shoes. What would YOU do? Your daring plan of crossing the Delaware River paid off with great military victories. As Commander In Chief, are you willing to do it again and risk your men’s lives? The Battle of Second Trenton, The Newburgh Conspiracy, The Genet Affair, The Whiskey Rebellion – all tests of your “presidential decision-making capacity.” That was entertaining!

Back at the DC dock at 3:30; a taxi to Reagan Airport, and now we’re flying. Will everything happen that we’re expecting? Kayla’s Dad Rick has been at my house all week, cat-sitting Katy and, I hope, spiffing things up and laying groceries in; that was part of the deal. Sam’s Dad Scott flew in yesterday; my oldest son Mike, and Brenda, picked him up at the airport as they arrived by car from Colorado, so the four of them have had an evening together. Did they make banners? Did they buy balloons? I just trekked around the world at age 81. I want adulation, and cheers! At the least a hand sparkler or two.

I think we’re over Tennessee now. Sam and Kayla have nodded off. We are all exhausted.

I’m ready to be home.

 
 
 

Then Let’s Do That

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – It has been said there are so many museums in DC you’d need to live here and visit one a day for a year to see them all. We didn’t have a year, and to tell you the truth, our bodies were beginning to feel the effects of walking, standing, and getting jostled in crowds. Not to mention brain overload! Particularly MINE, I’ve been “on the move” since July 7. When reviewing the possibilities this morning, we all sighed. Nobody wanted to do the Hop On Hop Off bus, and Fodor’s list of Top 25 Sights didn’t excite us a bit. Yes, we want to do it all. But not today.

“Just throw a dart,” Sam said. Kayla had a suggestion too, “You’ve been here so many times GMom, what do you think we’d like best?” I gave a qualified answer, “I can tell you what impressed me the most, and what sticks in my mind even though I saw it years ago.” “Then let’s do THAT,” they both said, before I even told them what it was.

The National Archives, https://www.archives.gov/

I chose the National Archives first because it is the repository of “US History” like nothing else. If you want to go straight to the horse’s mouth – it is HERE. In one room, in one building, you can see the original founding documents of the United States. The room is the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, and it is the permanent home of three documents that are instrumental to the founding and philosophy of the United States.

  • The Declaration of Independence, written in 1776, announces a complete break with Britain and expresses the ideals on which the United States was founded: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
  • The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. These four large sheets of parchment define the framework and powers of the Federal Government. Written in 1787, the Constitution established an ingenious practical system of government that derives its power from “We the People of the United States” and promotes the welfare of all its citizens.
  • The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly, among many other rights. The document on permanent display in the Rotunda is the enrolled original Joint Resolution passed by Congress in 1789, proposing 12 amendments to the Constitution. The 10 that were ratified became known as the Bill of Rights.

The documents are sealed in the most scientifically advanced housing that preservation technology can provide; the windowless Rotunda is carefully cooled; no sunshine and no photography allowed. Elsewhere in the building are many other important American historical items, including the Articles of Confederation, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, the Emancipation Proclamation, and collections of photography and other historically and culturally significant American artifacts. Seeing all those original signatures excited us the most.

The National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/

The National Gallery of Art is just across the street from the Archives, and houses more than 150,000 paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings spanning the history of Western art. It was my second choice for two reasons – when Sam and Kayla were small, we visited many art museums in Seattle and they always left “sparkly-eyed” and smiling. They talked about what they had seen, and usually got the crayons out as soon as they got home. The second reason for my choice was selfish; I wanted to be there again. I remember clearly my stop in front of a particularly magnificent Rembrandt in 1998, it left me breathless. The reds were so vivid; the depth of the painting so astonishing, I just kept looking. I knew, without question, that we’d be happier after visiting there today. Plus it is so well organized, the displays can be enjoyed without jostling. And we needed that.

The Gallery’s Sculpture Garden was really fun, odd and wonderful sights, Kayla kept snapping photos, and Sam, who has learned welding, was fascinated by all the metal pieces, such as Halegua’s, America, 1970, a 25-ft steel construction. https://www.nga.gov/collection/sculpture-garden.html I didn’t think I’d get them to leave, but they finally got hungry. Lunch at the Pavilion Café, overlooking the gardens and grounds; in the winter, there’s an ice rink!

We hopped on the free shuttle and rode the few blocks to the Washington Monument. I wanted pictures of them standing beneath, with the White House in view across the Ellipse. I have a picture of their Dads standing there together, all jacketed up; it was the Christmas holidays and there were reindeer on the Mall, and a Christmas tree from every state. Not a single barricade, as there are today.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing https://www.moneyfactory.gov/home.html

I kept my third choice a surprise; they didn’t know where we were headed until I told our taxi driver. I chose the “Money Factory” for two reasons also. On a summer visit to DC when their Dads were very young, we toured this money-making facility and they still talk about it today. I thought Sam and Kayla would be equally fascinated – the process is actually quite interesting, and involved. PLUS, most young-people-just-entering-the-workforce are obsessed with money; how to get it, spend it, and keep it.

“Have you ever paid attention to what a dollar bill LOOKS like?” I asked. “It’s a pretty intricate design.” They looked at me. Hmmm. Well now they know. We got to see millions of dollars being printed; the tour overlooks the production floor. And they learned these facts about a dollar bill:

  • The first $1 notes called “Legal Tenders” were issued by the federal government in 1862 and featured a portrait of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase (1861-1864).
  • The first use of George Washington’s portrait on the $1 note was on Series 1869 United States Notes.
  • The first $1 Federal Reserve notes were issued in 1963. The design, featuring George Washington on the face and the Great Seal on the back, has not changed.
  • Because the $1 note is infrequently counterfeited, the government has no plans to redesign this note. In addition, there is a recurring provision in Section 116 of the annual Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act that prohibits the redesign of the $1 note.
  • Of all the notes printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the $1 note makes up about 45% of currency production.
  • The Fiscal Year 2018 Yearly Currency Order contains 2.2 billion $1 notes.
  • If you had 10 billion $1 notes and spent one every second of every day, it would require 317 years for you to go broke.

Imagine that! Last choice of the day I also kept as a surprise. We picked up some items from the Market in our hotel and grabbed a bite to eat in our room before One Last Thing. I wanted them to see the monuments after dark.

The Monuments At Night From a Red Roadster

This was just about the cutest thing ever, a small 5-passenger electric RED ROADSTER, driving us all around the city after dark. The route covered everything we still wanted to see (and some we’ve seen twice); but no crowds to contend with, just us and our guide.

First a drive through the entire Smithsonian complex, getting the story of each of the museums; then past the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. We stopped at the FDR and MLK Memorials, and got a chance to walk along the Tidal Basin. Then past the WWI and WWII Memorials to the Lincoln Memorial; great views there of the Potomac River and the National Mall, sparkling in the dark. Throughout the trip the guide gave us stories of the city’s history; then past the White House, and on to Capitol Hill, really something to see at night.

Of course, this is a fictionalized version of what we COULD have done in a COVID-free world; in reality, DC is mostly closed, or masked with limited opportunities. But this is my NDI RTW;  imagining makes anything possible. Then let’s do that.

 
 
 

Taxi!

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – Early morning planning by the window again, pulling together ideas for today. It’s a rainy Saturday, so the Hop On Hop Off bus might work best. Yesterday turned out great, it was a TAXI day with “first things first.” The Embassy of Iceland is only open on weekdays, so that had to be a Friday thing. It is way over on K Street NW, and opened at 9; we got a taxi right after breakfast. Taxis are everywhere in DC, hovering near hotels, just waiting. We had a decent tour of the city on our first morning ride – down New York Avenue, onto Massachusetts, around the circle where New Hampshire and Connecticut cross. I asked our driver to keep going on Embassy Row so Kayla and Sam could see the other countries nestled here: Haiti, Korea, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Cameroon, Marshall Islands, Chad, Slovenia, Japan, India, Turkey, Oman, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Iran, Britian, Finland; it was dizzying, we could barely keep up. We circled the US Naval Observatory before heading south through Georgetown towards the Potomac, and the Embassy of Iceland. It’s in the House of Sweden, and represents Iceland vis-a-vis the United States, as well as Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay. “Here we are, back on Iceland soil again today, nice.” We let them know just how much we enjoyed visiting their country and signed the guestbook.

Taxi! Next stop Nationals Park. Our drive along the Potomac passed the Watergate, and the Kennedy Center; across the river was Arlington Cemetery, and Kennedy’s grave. Turning east we passed directly by the Lincoln Memorial; the Pentagon was to our right, across the river, the World War II Memorial and the Washington Monument on our left as we crossed over the Tidal Basin. Our driver kept up a running dialog but there was so much to see our pictures will be blurred. We turned south again and there was the Park.

Nationals Park is the home ballpark for the Washington Nationals, a National League East division team that’s been here since 2005. “They were the Montreal Expos before that,” Sam explained. This is a new park, opened in 2008; it seats over 41,000 and is the first LEED-certified green major professional sports stadium in the United States; it cost $784 million to build. (That we got from our tour materials.) In 2018 the Major League All-Star Game was played here; then last year it hosted games 3, 4, and 5 of the World Series, the first in DC since 1933! Games 6 and 7 were back in Houston, and the Nationals won all 7 games, defeating the favored Astros and securing their first title in franchise history. Yes, the team and Manager Dave Martinez were honored at the White House. The Park sits beside the Anacostia River in the Navy Yard neighborhood; the Washington Monument and the Capitol are visible from the upper decks on the first base side of the field. No games while we’re in town, but the tour was fun. https://www.mlb.com/nationals/ballpark

Taxi! Two miles to the Air and Space Museum. Last year 6.2 million visitors stopped in; it was the fifth most visited museum in the world, and the second in the United States. So wow! It’s all about aviation, spaceflight, planetary science, terrestrial geology, and geophysics. There are 23 galleries in the main museum; on display are 61 aircraft, 51 large space artifacts, and over 2,000 smaller items. Name dropping – the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule flown by John Glenn, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, the Bell X-1 which broke the sound barrier, the model of the starship Enterprise used in the television show Star Trek, and the Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane. The Wright Brothers papers are in the Museum of Flight in Seattle (they outbid the Smithsonian!). Sam’s Dad (Kayla’s Uncle) is affiliated with the production of Boeing planes at the big plant just north of where they both live; interesting to see the many Boeing exhibits here. The space craft was mind boggling in size; a lot of gazing up, plus IMAX® films on a five-story screen, and a quick cafeteria lunch. https://airandspace.si.edu/

Taxi! Tours of the Capitol begin in the Visitor’s Center on the east side now; I remembered that from my 2013 visit. Tours are free but you need an advance reservation, ours was for 3 PM. First a 13-minute intro film, then stops in the Rotunda. The Dome is encircled by murals, and the fresco on the eye of the ceiling is called The Apotheosis of Washington. The walls of the Rotunda have large paintings depicting significant events in American history such as The Signing of the Declaration of Independence. Other stops include the Crypt, National Statuary Hall, and connecting corridors of the Capitol, where there are statues representing every state. We got pictures beside the Washington and Arkansas statues. The Arkansas statues are of James Paul Clark and Uriah Milton Rose, both lawyers and politicians; the Washington two are Mother Joseph and Marcus Whitman. I visited their duplicates in the Olympia capitol with Kayla in 2012. https://capitalcitiesusa.org/?p=4667#more-4667 I’ve visited two state capitols with Kayla, the other was in Honolulu; and two with Sam; Juneau, Alaska and Jackson, Mississippi. Both have been to the Little Rock capitol with me, and now the US Capitol! Our guided tour didn’t include the Senate and House galleries, but we were able to make a quick walk-through to see where our state representatives and senators meet to conduct business. And debate. Live streaming is available when in session. https://www.house.gov/watch-houselive

Taxi! Our hotel for a rest before deciding on dinner. I was hoping the “roller skating waiters” French restaurant was still open; not so, it closed years ago. But Martin’s Tavern is still open, with this enticing blurb: A GEORGETOWN TRADITION. For almost nine decades, visiting guests, future presidents, senators, staffers, and stars have called Martin’s Tavern their home away from home. It’s where JFK proposed to Jackie, and where baseball greats including Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Yogi Berra dined in the “Dugout Room.” Every president from Harry S Truman to George W Bush has come to dine, discuss, and relax while shaping the nation’s history. https://www.martinstavern.com/

While we enjoyed our salads and all manner of good solid American food we watched for any presidents since George W Bush to pop in. And shaped our own history, NDI RTW style.

Taxi!

 
 
 

Politics and Legacies

Linda Lou Burton posting about Washington, DC from Little Rock, Arkansas – When asked what they most wanted to see in DC, Kayla answered: the National Air & Space Museum. Sam answered: a Nationals game, I go to a baseball game in every city I visit. My choice was the Capitol, I never tire of seeing it, outside and in. I’ve been going to DC since I was fourteen, back before everything was barricaded and closed to cameras. According to an old scrapbook, I visited the White House on June 14, 1953, when Ike and Mamie lived there, though I have no memory of “politics” then, except for the familiar “I Like Ike” slogan, surely one of the catchiest any candidate has ever had.

Eisenhower’s 1952 presidential win was a landslide, with an electoral margin of 442 to 89, ending a string of Democratic Party wins that stretched back to 1932. Eisenhower was the last president born in the 19th century, and the oldest president-elect at age 62 since James Buchanan in 1856. He was the third commanding general of the Army to serve as president, after George Washington and Ulysses S Grant, and the last not to have held political office prior to being president until Donald Trump entered office in January 2017.

We’ve hit DC in an election year, on this NDI RTW, and my 18-year-old grandchildren will be voting in a presidential election for the first time this November. What is important to take away from their visit to our national capital? The current buzz is awful, mean-spirited, and not particularly useful in helping anyone make good decisions. Have election-years ever been this bad before? The answer is – well, yes, they usually are.

For instance, not everybody liked Ike! Before, during, or after his presidency. The Wikipedia report of the life of Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) describes his many accomplishments, from his birth in Texas as the third of seven sons to photos of the 66 medals and awards he received from all over the world. Some of his official titles were Supreme Allied Commander and Operation Overlord, Military Governor in Germany and Army Chief of Staff, President of Columbia University and NATO Supreme Commander, President of the United States (1953–1961). Pretty lofty stuff.

Though his reputation declined when he left office – crictics dubbed him as “an inactive golf-playing president” – historian John Lee Gaddis summarizes how he may be remembered: He did, after all, end the Korean War without getting into any others. He stabilized, and did not escalate, the Soviet–American rivalry. He strengthened European alliances while withdrawing support from European colonialism. He rescued the Republican Party from isolationism and McCarthyism. He maintained prosperity, balanced the budget, promoted technological innovation, and facilitated (if reluctantly) the civil rights movement.

I’m reading about Ike on my laptop this morning, near the window of our hotel room that overlooks the city. We’re only three miles from the capitol, we saw it as we came in last night. Maybe I’ll mention some of Ike’s legacies to Sam and Kayla when they wake up, before we start our adventures. Both have visited the Civil Rights Museum in Little Rock with me, where the story of the integration of Central High is told. On September 4, 1957, the Arkansas National Guard was called in by the governor to “preserve the peace” by preventing the nine newly enrolled black students from entering the school. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and ordered them to support the integration, and held firm through the chaotic times that followed. Another legacy that might be of interest to Kayla: after Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union in October 1957, Eisenhower created NASA as a civilian space agency and signed a landmark science education law. Kayla’s interest in the National Air & Space Museum is strong; she attended Space Camp a few summer’s back, and her school interests are science and math, classes that were not available, especially for girls, when I was a teen.

Two states were admitted to the Union during Eisenhower’s presidency; Alaska on January 3, 1959, the 49th state, and Hawaii on August 21, 1959, the 50th. I’ll remind Sam of our visit to the Alaska capital in 2012; we went back a second time just to get pictures of all the newspaper articles of “statehood day” and to see the short-lived 49-star flag. We talked about the fact that Eisenhower was the only president ever to serve under 49 stars. https://capitalcitiesusa.org/?p=5308#more-5308

I’ll tell them about “The Pledge of Allegiance” too; how it was changed in 1954 to add the words “under God;” something Eisenhower encouraged Congress to do because Communism was so feared in the country at the time. And then there is the legacy of the FREEWAYS! The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 authorized construction of “The The Dwight D Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” How many miles of freeways we have in the country today I do not know; I do know that the longest stretch is I-90 that connects Boston and Seattle – 3,020 miles. I was living in Seattle when the very tail end of it was completed in the early 80s, in fact, I moved downtown to get away from the construction noise!

It’s getting noisy outside now, cars moving on a busy morning, and I still need to figure out how to get us to all the places we want to go. A baseball game is out; the Nationals are in Baltimore today, but maybe we can get a taxi to Nationals Field and at least tour the place. The National Air & Space Museum is about halfway between our hotel and the stadium; so is the Capitol, my plan is lining up.

Will we see Secret-Service black limos go whizzing by today? Campaign posters everywhere? Is POTUS in town?

 
 
 

The Soup Bowl

07 Welcome to Washington DCLinda Burton posting from Washington, DC – I call it “DC.” When I lived in Seattle if you said “Washington” folks thought you were referring to the state; Washington DC is considered the “other Washington” there. But I’m on the east coast today, easing into “the District” from Maryland and headed for the US Capitol, an icing-on-the cake post-stop in the Journey Across America. The majestic dome loomed tall as I approached; I circled in confusion and landed a parking spot on the other side. The Washington Monument was a few blocks to my right, covered in scaffolding due to earthquake repair. I coaxed the cats to the window to 07 capitol aheadlook; then tied my red wool scarf tight around my head before stepping out into the wind. Not a day for sightseeing. But people were out; a Chinese chorus was performing across the street; cameras were in evidence in every hand. Washington, DC! What is so special about this place? Why do 19 million visitors come every year? It’s exciting, and vibrant, that’s why; a bubbling soup bowl brimming with a little bit of everything. The resident population is 601,723 (US Census 2010), but that jumps to a million throughout the workweek; commuters pour in from the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. After all, the centers of all three branches of the federal government are 07 car and capitolhere – the Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. Flags from all over the world fly here; count 176 foreign embassies. The headquarters of international organizations, trade unions, non-profits, and lobbying groups are here. There are more museums here than you could visit in a year; 19 within the Smithsonian alone. The architecture, park spaces, and memorials are stunning. You’ll find both inspiration and controversy here; it’s all in the soup. » read more