The weather gradually improved all day and turned out quite balmy by afternoon. It was another big walking day which covered 10 km in total taking us to three more major attractions, the first of which was one I had been looking forward to for a very long time.
1. The National Cathedral: Officially called the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul but known commonly as the National Cathedral, this Episcopalian church is the second largest in North America and the sixth largest in the world. There are 215 stained glass windows in this Cathedral!!! , so you can imagine my excitement as we entered. There was a service in session so we killed a half hour by taking the elevator to the 7th floor observatory for sweeping views of Washington and then down into the crypts to get lost in the labyrinth of chapels. Down there, we found the tomb of Helen Keller.
This cathedral is absolutely spectacular in every way but the windows are truly out of this world. Most are of a more modern design style compared to European cathedrals we have seen but the colors are probably more spectacular. Each window presents a different major color theme and there are two levels of windows with the upper ones being the largest. This gives the entire building a spectral intensity. It just blew me away! One window in particular, “The Space Window”, is the world’s most expensive stained glass window because it contains an actual piece of moon rock donated by the three astronauts of Apollo 11; Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins. I also really loved the three huge rose windows in the north, south and west transepts and I bought a small souvenir sun catcher of one of them. Monica and Ryan waited patiently for me as I made two passes around the interior. See Gallery/World Windows for all the photos.
2. The Smithsonian Zoo: A free admission park, very well done as far as the animal enclosures go, but I found it quite smelly (ammonia). I’m not a big fan of zoos as I feel the animals must get bored and therefore unhappy. However, they do have their place and help to preserve endangered species. This zoo actually has pandas (two adults and a baby). This was the first time I’ve seen real panda… cool! There were lots of children in the park and the guides were helpful and patient with them.
3. The Ford’s Theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. It is still a working theater today but between shows is a museum for the public. It is very well done. At the end of the tour, the audience is seated in the theater and given the history lesson by a National Park Ranger (this being a national historic site). She wove an intriguing tale taking us through the events leading up to that night on April 14th when John Wilkes Booth crept into the theater, entered the president’s theater box and shot him in the back of the head. Lincoln actually lived for 9 hours and died next morning in a hotel across the street (you can tour that as well but the line up was too long for us).
For dinner, we strolled into Chinatown, through the Friendship Arch and found a great low key restaurant (Joy Luck) and had really good, nothing weird, and very inexpensive Chinese food. Then home to relax. It was another great day.
Here are the photo highlights for day 12 – The National Cathedral, Zoo and Ford’s Theater.