Friday, August 20, 2010

Days Three & Four

Wednesday was our down day. Though they were enjoying our nation's capital as much as the rest of us, the younger three were chafing to try out the two pools at our campground, Cherry Hill Park, in College Park, MD (which we wholeheartedly recommend; we've never encountered a more helpful staff.)

So the kids and I spent the morning at the pools, took showers, and prepared a late lunch, while Papa Rooster ran some errands, including taking the van in for an oil change and pulling advice.  (He was worried about getting back over those mountains!)

So what with one thing and another, we got off very late on our 1.5 hour drive to Gettysburg. We arrived after 4:00, too late to hire a guide to drive around with us, as I'd heard you could do quite affordably, so we bought the CD version of the tour in the gift store and set out.  It soon became apparent which family members were history buffs and which were not!

Bantam5 and Chicklet7 were thrilled just to get out and run around and climb on rocks, cannon and split rail fences.  Here's B5 atop Little Round Top, with his head tipped toward Devil's Den (click to enlarge).  Both were scenes of some of the fiercest fighting on Day Two of the battle.

Yup, some of us were really into it...and some of us weren't.  When twilight began to fall, we had to fold our maps, give up completing the grand tour and give in to the call of dinner, before the long drive back to our campsite.

Thursday morning looked grey and threatening, so we revised our plans to visit Mt. Vernon and looked at our indoor options.  Our first stop was at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see if they had any tickets left.  They did, but not till 5:30 p.m.  So we decided to leave the downtown area for the morning and end up back there in the afternoon.

Our next stop was at the National Cathedral, the sixth-largest cathedral in the world.  It was built in the traditional Gothic way, stone upon stone, with no steel girders or supports, and it took 100 years to build.

It's very beautiful, but spiritually, it didn't feel very alive.  Perhaps that's because people of all faiths, not just the Christian one, are welcome to worship here. And for me, a big reason was because everywhere you looked, you saw the names of men (and a few women).  There were plaques or inscriptions everywhere, "in memory of" or "in honor of" those who had given money for the building project. There was a statue of George Washington, and one of Lincoln.

B11 was born on Lincoln's birthday, so he was lovin' the photo ops!

There was also a Darth Vader gargoyle on the outside of the church (check it out here).  It just contributed to my feeling that as a church, you couldn't take this place seriously.

In sharp contrast was our next stop, at the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, or National Shrine for short.  It's the largest church building in North America and the 8th largest religious structure in the world, a Catholic church in a Neo-Byzantine style.

It really drew you up and out.

That's Christ the Judge, in the red robe at the front.

Our Catholic friend (and occasional commentor) Matt, who works nearby, gave us a tour.

And not a man's name carved anywhere in the  main sanctuary!  (Donors' names were inscribed on pillars in the basement--more appropriately, I thought.) Scripture verses captioned the mosaics instead, which were much more worshipful ("Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.") For a church dedicated to Mary--and there were many smaller chapels along the sides dedicated to various appearances and ethnic incarnations of Mary--I was surprised at how much the focus was on Christ, in the main sanctuary and its mosaics.

Here's a close-up of the Christ at the front of the church.

It's remarkable for His sternness.  But it's a beautiful and sobering reminder that He will one day judge us all.

There was another Revelation image that our kids especially loved:

It's the seven-headed dragon! The one who pursues the pregnant woman (on the right), and when she gives birth, he tries to devour her child.  But the baby is snatched up to heaven (by angels, directly above the dragon).

After a late lunch with Matt, we headed back downtown, planning to park and walk to the National Air & Space Museum.  But then the rain broke loose, pouring down and blowing sideways so that even under an umbrella, you'd get soaked.  There was no other museum that we could park near and still have time to walk to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing by 5:15, so we ended up just waiting in the van and going early for our tour time.

No pictures allowed, but it was a fun tour!  The guide explained the whole process--did you know our "paper" money is actually made of cloth, a linen-cotton blend?--and emphasized how the Bureau stays one step ahead of counterfeiters by changing designs and security features frequently.

Then we drove back out to the 'burbs meet up with Papa Rooster's aunt (in her 80's) and cousin, whom he had not seen since they were kids.  She took us out to dinner and then invited us back to her townhome.  It was fun to get to know them both.  And it was a nice ending to a couple of full days!


Anonymous said...

Great photos!

Anonymous said...

Great to see all the pictures and hear the commentary! Thanks! Love, Pianomum