Washington, D.C. – See the major changes to the nation’s capital | TheUnion.com

Washington, D.C. – See the major changes to the nation’s capital

A travel article in The Union about Washington D.C. made my husband and I realize that we had not been there since 1967 and so much was new or changed. We decided to use frequent flyer miles and go.

Using hotel.com’s 800 number, we booked a reasonably priced motel just outside Washington D.C. in Cheverly, Md. The motel provides a shuttle to the METRO and a car wouldn’t be necessary, eliminating traffic and parking problems. The METRO went every place we needed, was efficient, convenient and seniors ride for half fare.

A few days before we left, Hurricane Isobel began moving toward Washington D.C., but we went and the first day weather was perfect. The next day Isobel moved closer to downtown Washington including the METRO – closed by noon – so we stayed at our motel. All aircraft was evacuated from the nearby airports. Convoys of electric and telephone repair crews arrived from the Midwest and South to standby until needed.

Hurricane Isobel hit during the night with the main force to the west. Our area had less than two inches of rain and winds barely 50 miles per hour, not as much as a good Nevada County winter storm. Hurricane forces along the coast of the Carolinas and inland Virginia were much more severe with great damage and flooding.

The biggest problem around Washington D.C. was trees down across electric and phone lines. Our motel did not have electricity, hot water or phone service for four days, but it was not as bad as it sounds, and we got along nicely. Some areas were without services for two weeks or more.

The day after the hurricane, downtown Washington D.C. and the METRO were closed due to electrical outages and we didn’t go anyplace. Fortunately, we had planned enough days for the trip and two days missed weren’t a problem. The following day museums and the METRO reopened on schedule with little noticeable damage and few tourists. We were able to get walk-up tickets for the Holocaust Museum and Washington Monument without any of the usual lines or long waits.

Washington D.C. usually brings to mind the Capitol, White House, Smithsonian Museums and monuments, but not often the National Cathedral. This beautiful church is the sixth largest cathedral in the world, has over 200 magnificent stained glass windows and compares favorably with those in Europe.

The 360 degree view from the top of the tower is almost as good as that from the Washington Monument. The Cathedral is an active Episcopal Church that serves the Washington D.C. area, but considers itself the nation’s church and we were pleased to attend their Sunday services.

Our congressman’s office prearranged tours for the Capitol, Supreme Court and Library of Congress as well as the Kennedy Center. The beautiful Library of Congress building has lovely marble floors, columns and staircases. Its highly decorated vaulted ceiling and exquisite mosaic murals make this a world-class building of which we can be proud.

When the Library was under construction, windows and doors were kept covered so Congress would not realize what was being done as the builder feared they might not totally approve. When it was finished under budget, as was the Supreme Court building later, Congress was satisfied.

Before air conditioning, windows in the Library of Congress were left open for ventilation and during World War II ceilings were lowered in the halls to install offices. Following the war the building received a much needed renovation and today is once again beautiful.

We didn’t see books as they are kept in closed stacks, but anyone can present a proper ID and request items from their huge collection. The Library of Congress also has many items other than books and more than 10,000 new items arrive daily, requiring additional storage in several warehouses outside the district.

There is so much to see in Washington D.C., most of it free, but time is needed. Several of the Smithsonian Museums and the Spy Museum require a full day to see adequately. We were fortunate that the National Archives had just opened the new rotunda displaying the originals of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.

We enjoyed the Postal Museum, Botanical Gardens, and Kennedy Center.

White House tours were not available at that time and flooding on the Potomac River kept us from a cruise to Mount Vernon, but we had been to both on a previous trip.

Travel books told us how expensive food would be but did not tell us about Union Station’s food court. This beautiful old train station was built in the early 1900s and is one of the few remaining. It was renovated in the 1980s back to its full glory and still handles a great amount of rail traffic.

The station has a METRO station, many shops, and wide concourses with marble floors and pillars. The lower-level food court offers a variety of foods at reasonable prices and each day we enjoyed something different.

The biggest change in Washington D.C. is protection from terrorism. Huge concrete planters are placed closely together along the sidewalk curbs in front of museums, government buildings, and the Mall. It took us a little while to realize these are not just attractive but important security barriers to block suspect vehicles.

Several streets near the Capitol were closed for installation of barriers with spikes that can be lowered after a vehicle has been properly cleared. Every government building and museum has X-ray screening machines like airports and uniformed guards or armed police are numerous. At least one police car is parked at major intersections. It is regretful that Washington D.C. has to become a fortified city.

Twelve days were not enough to see everything, but we left with a renewed pride in our capitol and country. Maybe we’ll return.

Dorothy Peavy and her husband travel frequently and belong to a local travel club.

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