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A 30-something living in the foothills of the Virginia mountains; I'm saved by grace, addicted to coffee and my little sister is my best friend! I devote most of my time to exploring, reading, attending as many Nationals games as possible and documenting life here. My Prince Charming got lost somewhere along the way...but I'm trying to remain hopeful that true love exists.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Day in the District

I like to think that life is an adventure all on it's on - I mean, let's be honest...life is like the ultimate extreme sport and in the end, no one is making it out alive (unless someone knows something I don't...) so you might as well get out there and seize every opportunity to see and do everything you can.

Granted, this past Saturday it wasn't so much an extreme sport style adventure as it was taking in priceless works of art and eating really good burgers...so good, really...but then again, one could argue that for some people taking the DC Metro would be considered an extreme sport. I'm serious - I know people who would consider riding the Metro as taking their lives in their hands; living on the edge if you will. So, I guess for those people this Saturday was living on the edge. I like to live dangerously though and so for me, it was just a Saturday spent in the District - which, in my humble opinion is one of the greatest cities in the US of A!

Oh my goodness y'all - I love this place.
There is a place in Capitol Hill that has some seriously good burgers...but, I'm excited about the burgers and I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me dial it back real quick. I met my friend Rachel; who I've literally known all my life, on Saturday morning and we caught the Metro into DC to peruse the National Gallery. One of the things I've been most excited about since I moved to Northern Virginia is the opportunity to spend Saturdays/Sundays in DC exploring the museums without the rush and hustle that visiting DC on vacation tends to have. So, Saturday was one of those days and I thoroughly enjoyed it - who am I kidding, there is so much always going on in DC and I LOVE that it's only an hour away! It thrills me to no end to know that DC is the big city nearest me and I can pop into town whenever I want - Love. It. 

We were in DC in mid-May and we were directed to a place called Good Stuff Eatery by our friend Rhonda - and y'all, they are not playing around with their burgers and fries! By the time Rachel and I met up and hopped on the Metro, we were looking at about a 25 minute ride on the Metro and I hadn't eaten breakfast...so I suggested we ride out to Capitol South and just have lunch before getting down to the business of looking at art. I left where we were going to actually eat up to Rachel but I was pretty thrilled when she chose Good Stuff - because well, they aren't kidding - it's Good Stuff!

Even the walls in this room were considered art...& frankly, they were absolutely gorgeous.

This statue was basically my spirit animal - it was called "Girl Reading" & I get it. I do. 
I love the random people who situate themselves along the Mall to sell things - I will admit when I was in sixth grade, I definitely fell prey to buying some "legitimate" Oakley sunglasses for the low, low price of $10! I also bought an "authentic" Louis Vuitton purse for $25 when we were on a trip to DC a few years later. The innocence of youth, am I right? Ha-ha! The National Mall is being renovated "for your future enjoyment" which basically means it looks like an absolute nightmare right now - piles of dirt reaching sky high, chain link fences thrown up everywhere and construction vehicles parked right in front of that picturesque picture you were planning to take of the Capitol...

Oh wait - the Capitol's rotunda is surrounded in scaffolding right now! Ha, never mind! Something in DC is always being renovated or maintained...last year it was the Washington Monument, the year before it was the Supreme Court. Anyone want to take bets on what they'll fix up next? I've derailed from where I was originally going with this...so sorry. The people that are selling things? I may have found my favorite this past Saturday, based solely on his slogan! There was a man perched on his cooler selling "ice cold water" for only a $1...and his pitch was pretty excellent: Don't let dehydration ruin your vacation! Hehehehe - I love it!

Monet - Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers

Degas - Fourth Position Front on Left Leg
I enjoyed looking at a lot of the sculptures and we read a bit about Degas; his work is varied but he did tend to focus on sculpting women and dancers. One of his more famous pieces is called Little Dancer Aged Fourteen and is considered of interest because he dressed the sculpture in actual clothes and used real human hair as well. This sculpture was at the National Gallery but I didn't take a photo of it because...honestly...it was a little unsettling. You can look at the sculpture here...and even read about it some, if that's of interest to you. I found the sculpture a bit eerie because you could see the hair he used poking through the layers of beeswax that the sculpture is carved from and it gave it a slightly too lifelike appearance; like it might whip it's head around and look at me at any moment. Rachel and I agreed it wasn't really our favorite...

The Thinker - Rodin

Even the stairwells at the National Gallery seem like art to me - carved out of white marble...

I do love a good rotunda & the National Gallery's West Hall certainly has stunner - I love the way the sunlight filters in!

Columns of green marble - so pretty!

The fountain in the main entrance of the West Hall.

Rachel pointed out that this was entitled "The House of Cards" - so I had to snap a picture.
We wandered through the galleries looking at paintings by the English, American landscapes (which I thought were breathtaking) and of course, portraits. One picture that really caught our eye was The White Girl: Symphony in White No. 1 - and of course, I'm sure that's why it was strategically positioned at the end of the corridor, peering toward you through the arches of multiple doorways. We immediately decided that trying to get a picture of the painting positioned at the end of the arches was a goal...and pretty quickly thereafter decided it was also an exercise in complete futility! Every single time we'd have a clear shot, someone would walk into frame! A couple guys even caught on to what we were trying to do and stood in the middle of the archway and waved at us - because, of course they did. The security guard got a laugh out of it and we finally just gave up; I only managed to get one shot that was even remotely close to what we were hoping for...

The White Girl...& some random man's arm...*sigh*

James Whistler - The White Girl: Symphony in White No. 1 
I must admit - my favorite painting(s) all day was the series titled "The Voyage of Life" by Thomas Cole. It is a series of four paintings that depict life from beginning to end; told through the voyages of childhood, youth, manhood and old age. The pictures were breathtaking; filled with color and imagery and I probably could have stood and taken them in for quite some time. Each of the pictures had descriptions provided by the artist posted beside them; I've linked to a discussion about each of the pictures here - they really are fascinating and I think they were easily my favorite part of the day.

Childhood - an infant guided through smooth waters by an Angel...

Youth - taking control of life; steering toward the hopes & dreams of man...

Manhood - the rough waters of life; relying on faith to navigate through perilous times...

Old Age - a life lived with faith; the old man looks toward Heaven...

The Shaw Memorial - Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Watson & the Shark - John Singleton Copley
Watson and the Shark was probably one of the more interesting pieces we saw on Saturday - it was painted by John Singleton Copley and it's interesting because it was painted based on a true story of Brook Watson. At the age of 14, Brook Watson was swimming in the harbor of Havana, Cuba and was attacked by a shark; he was bitten in the leg and then bit a second time, in which he lost his right foot/lower leg. Watson did survive the attack and went on to become a prominent British merchant and politician...with a wooden leg as a souvenir of his adventures in the harbor! Copley actually studied maps and pictures of Havana, Cuba before painting this picture because he'd never been to that area but wanted the picture to be fairly accurate. The painting hung in The Christ Hospital in London for many years...which seems a little strange to me; it's certainly not a calming painting - although maybe it imparted the idea that at least you weren't being attacked by a shark. Ha-ha!

Ha-ha! A shot through the archways that actually worked!

The "walkway" from the West Hall to the East Hall - I loved it!

The Atrium of the East Hall - the only portion of the building open because of...say it with...RENOVATIONS!

A water feature in the downstairs lobby/gallery/dining area between the museums - I love it.
The National Gallery is home to the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the United States - a work called Genevra di Benci; unique in that both the front and back of the canvas are painted. This painting was obviously a really big draw at the museum - it definitely drew a crowd and I most often heard people asking where the da Vinci painting was. It is a beautiful picture and it's fascinating to stand in front of artwork done by someone who has contributed so much to the history of art as well as history in general...and it doesn't hurt that watching the show DaVinci's Demons makes me even more fascinated by who DaVinci was and all he did...

Leonardo di Vinci - Genevra di Benci

Wandering the galleries...

A few pieces of modern art were on display from the East Hall...

This piece was called "No"...and no...I didn't get it...
Once we'd passed about three hours perusing paintings and sculpture in the West Hall, we went out the Sculpture Garden and found seats in the shade to watch the fountain for a while. It was WARM in DC on Saturday; 90 degrees but it felt like 98, so the shade was absolutely delightful! I enjoyed watching the people that passed - I did wonder how many were families taking in the nation's capital over Summer break and I hoped if they were doing just that, they realized how important so many of the things they were seeing are...even if the Capitol is covered in scaffolding and the National Mall is heaped with piles of dirt!

Modern art...the rotunda of the Natural History Museum & the Washington Monument...

The fountain as seen through the legs(???) of this piece of artwork...

The National Archives from my perch on the benches in the shade...

The spray of the fountain getting closer & closer together...

Until they meet in the middle! I love this fountain!

The Smithsonian Castle...& the picturesque piles of dirt on the Mall...ha-ha!
The weather in and around DC was supposed to be somewhat hit or miss on Saturday due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill (wasn't it called Bill...am I remembering that wrong?) moving through the area. The skies were getting a little iffy around 4 and so we decided we might be best served to head back to our cars in an effort to avoid the rain. We saw SO many people on the Metro headed to the Nationals game and there was a part of me that was tempted to suggest we hop on the green line and head over to the game - I'm sure we could have gotten some upper deck tickets for a good price - but a part of me was 100% fine to be headed home to relax. Scherzer did pitch a no-hitter and that would have been amazing, but I watched it from the comfort of my couch (with delightful air conditioning) and missed out on most of the rain and crazy weather that blew through the area later in the day!

It's so hard to see...but there was a rainbow in my rear-view mirror!
All in all - an awesome day spent in the District! I can't wait to do it again in July when we head to DC for a Nationals game! Unless I end up in DC again sooner than that....ha-ha!

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