Monday, November 18, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Day 4: National Zoo, National Cathedral, Embassy Row

Back to Washington, D.C. ---
On Sunday, November 3rd, we got bold enough to actually drive ourselves into the city instead of parking and taking the Metro into the city.  And even for a Sunday, it was still difficult.  That's the only time we drove into the city -for good reason!
We drove to the Washington National Zoo first.  Unfortunately, our drive to the city included a meltdown from our special-needs 10yo son that continued to spiral out of control as we approached the zoo.  (I think he was getting very tired from all the "go, go, go" that we had been doing lately. He wanted to stay home to play outside or watch movies, poor lad.) Nevertheless, once we got to the zoo and he realized that it was a fun place, he snapped out of it.
The zoo is very nice.  Besides all the normal zoo animals, the main attraction at the National Zoo is the panda bears.  One of the pandas had a cub in August, so she and her cub weren't on display.  However, we were still able to see at least one panda - as well as a roaring lion, silly orangutans, majestic elephants, and many other animals.
After spending a few hours at the zoo, we drove a couple of blocks away to see the National Cathedral.  We waited until the morning services were over before we showed up in our blue jeans and sweatshirts, but then we were able to receive a guided tour of the cathedral. 
What a building!  It far exceeded my expectations.  Apparently it is the 6th largest cathedral in the world and rivals any cathedrals in Europe.  The stained glass windows are beautiful, but there was one in particular that caught our attention: the "Space Window".  This window sticks out as being different than the rest in appearance.  It commemorates the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and holds a piece of moon rock in the center of the window.
Within the cathedral are several smaller chapels.  One was so cute!  It was called the "Children's Chapel", and it is built to the scale of a 6yo child.  Everything was in miniature!  Another notable chapel was the "War Memorial Chapel" which houses the books that contain lists of those who have served honorably in the military.
There is much more I can say about the National Cathedral.  The bodies of deceased presidents and other public service officials have been laid in state within the cathedral.  President Woodrow Wilson's sarcophagus is actually in the nave of the cathedral.  The detailed wood and limestone carvings are beautiful, the stained glass is beautiful, the vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses are beautiful - overall just a very beautiful building!  This is definitely worth a visit if you are in the D.C. area.
Our last mission of the day after leaving the National Cathedral was to drive down Massachusetts Avenue, otherwise known as "Embassy Row".  Mansion after mansion after mansion on this road are actually foreign embassies, each one with its own distinctive national flair.  We saw embassies for a couple of countries that I didn't even know existed! (Shame on me!) It was very neat to see each one with a different flag flying out front.  We even noticed that the embassy for South Africa had a bronze statue of Nelson Mandela in front.
At last we drove back home, braving the treacherous roads once again.  Alas, we all made it home in one piece, so all was well.