I didn’t plan far enough in advance to score a White House tour, but the White House Visitor Center is well worth a visit. It has six permanent exhibits about White House furnishings and what not, plus a 30-minute film. Normally I’m a sucker for museum films, but I have an appointment to keep later so I’ll pass this time. On to my next destination, the Smithsonian Castle.
The mother ship of Smithsonian Museums, the Castle serves as its information center. They also have a film, this one narrated by Ben Stiller. You can watch it here. I particularly like the part of the film where the Natural History Museum guy says, “If I want to change this bird’s attitude I can pull these feathers up.” Really, a new hairstyle changes a bird’s attitude? I can SO relate!
I find it fascinating that the Smithsonian was funded by a British scientist who never visited the U.S. He did give his nephew first shot at the money, but specified that if said nephew died without heirs, his estate would go to the U.S. government to create an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men.” There are 19 Smithsonian museums; I won’t even try to see them all, but I do plan to spend most of my time here in one or the other. Where else can you see so many interesting and important things all in one place—free?
Wow, it’s almost time for my big adventure du jour. Until then, I’ll snag an ice cream from the cart outside and stroll through the beautiful The Enid A. Haupt Garden outside the castle. I love formal gardens; I find them particularly soothing.
Remember Vacation Rule #4? It’s time to put it into action! I’m going on a Segway Tour. I’ve wanted to ride a Segway ever since I saw one in person at Taste of Chicago several years ago. (Now THAT was a vacation that should have been virtual. I got in one good event before tripping on a broken sidewalk, busting my elbow into pieces, and spending the night in the ER, where none of the doctors looked like George Clooney…but that’s another story.) Anyway, when I saw they had Segway tours of DC I had to (virtually) go for it.
I’m booked on the 6 pm Day and Night Tour. Strapping on a fetching white helmet, I wobble a bit before getting a handle on the intricacies of Segway travel. It’s easier than it looks (so I’m told) and my balance has improved since I began yoga. According to City Segway’s brochure, my “self-balancing personal transportation device… requires no special skills to operate” which is a darn good thing.
Fortunately, there’s a 30-minute training session so we can all get comfortable before sightseeing. Then we’re off, gliding past all the major spots (White House, The Capitol, Washington Monument, FBI Headquarters, and so on) with ease, serenaded with fascinating stories from our guide. It’s a 3-hour tour, but unlike the ill-fated passengers of the Minnow, we avoid crashing on an uncharted desert isle and safely return to home base.
Our tour ends at 9 pm and it’s been a big day, so I hop a cab back to the hotel. Looking in on the Empress Lounge, I’m tempted to stop in to listen to some live jazz, but instead my beautiful soft bed beckons. (Besides, I have helmet hair from the Segway tour.) What a great first day in DC! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.