#Our Nation’s Capitol

Man, did we have a good time! Partly because it’s D.C. and there’s so much to do, partly because of the wonderful company and partly because my nephew-in-law, Josh, scored us some special tours because he was in his last week as an intern in the Office of the First Lady helping with the Let’s Move campaign. (He’s kind of a big deal.) Here are the highlights including a few Instagram/Facebook posts during our trip with extra photos added in for this blog. (OK, so I just finished this blog and am now back up here with a warning that it got a little long. Keep in mind that we were there a long time and these travel blogs are mostly for me so I can have some sort of reference down the road when I need reminders of where I’ve been when and with whom. Onward.)

First, our rented apartment in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood just north of the city, conveniently located on Bus 42’s path. Never mind that on day 1 we were on the wrong side of the street waiting for Bus 42. Note to self: When your sister keeps saying “Why does it feel like we should be going the other direction to head downtown?”, you should listen. We’re not proud. We asked a local gal on her morning run which direction to the White House and then promptly crossed the street hysterically laughing. Our kids would have been mortified. Too bad they weren’t there since we would have relished that bit. Anyway, here’s the apartment. Oh yeah, third floor, no elevator.


A few familiar D.C. stops were sprinkled in throughout the week. The Library of Congress – no pics, but impressive and overwhelming. The Supreme Court building where we were able to sit in the justices’ chamber. Unfortunately they were on break so we couldn’t do any fan-girling over RBG, Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan. Also, capturing a point in history here…only eight chairs. (C’mon, Senators!!)

Sup Court chambers

Only eight chairs. #lookingforrbg #ournationscapitol

We ducked into the Senate Building as we wandered by and, even though they were on recess, we got a couple shots by two favs.

Senate building (1) Senate building (2)

The hundreds of thousands of tombstones in Arlington are sobering and heart wrenching and even those descriptors feel inadequate. We were visiting during the wake of the profane comments of our current Republican presidential nominee directed at Captain Khan’s parents and thus felt the need to honor him with some sacred appreciation. We weren’t the only ones.

Capt Kahn

We wandered away from the tour path at Arlington National Cemetery to pay our respects to Captain Khan. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who felt called to do so. #truesacrifice #honor #gratitude #sacredservice #bravemothers #bravefathers #ournationscapitol #lookingforpeace

Arlington (1) Arlington (2)

The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier provided some peace – the rhythm of the footsteps and the clicking of the heels, the order and structure, dedication and service, the silence of the large crowd witnessing. Breathe.


Then onward to the collection of Smithsonians. We wandered through the National Museum of American History (no pics because I’m lame) and took a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (no pics allowed for fear we’ll learn to print our own money??) The National Zoo was in our Mt. Pleasant backyard so we moseyed there to see the very lazy pandas (and then later that day chatted with a kid on the bus who told tales of the pandas galavanting all over as well as a tiger who killed and ate a squirrel right before their eyes.) We, however, saw this.


Mei Xiang, giant Mama panda at the #nationalzoo doing what all mamas do when they get a baby break. #giantpanda #lookingforyinandyang #ournationscapitol

A trip to the United States Botanical Garden was a must because the famous corpse flower was in bloom – its first ever since being planted six years ago. The whole ‘take time to smell the flowers’ thing is a bit confusing since this one is supposed to reek of decaying bodies. For some reason we were monumentally disappointed when we arrived and were told that while it was still in bloom, the smell is only brief and had dissipated the night before. Wtf? We want our money back! Still, fake photo opp ensued.

Botanical Garden (3)

Mother and son.

Botanical Garden (2)

Not a corpse flower, but doesn’t this unusual orchid look like a dancer?

Botanical Garden (1)

We briefly visited two small art galleries, also part of the Smithsonian clan. The Renwick Gallery where Sam and I laid on the floor to look up and see this.

Renwick Gallery (3)

Renwick Gallery (1)

Given my propensity for webs, I loved its description.

Renwick Gallery (2)

And we took a brief wander through the Hirshhorn Gallery where I was reminded that while I fully appreciate contemporary art, I sometimes don’t get it. BUT I did resonate with Barbara Kruger‘s powerful display of all-caps words plastered over walls, floor and ceiling on an entire level. In fact, I bought the t-shirt.


BELIEF + DOUBT = SANITY. Goes along with a quote I commandeered awhile ago from an anonymous brilliant mind, “Just because you believe it doesn’t make it true.” We all need to make a list of our strongest beliefs (particularly those we get all hot and bothered about when challenged), look up every counter argument and opposing belief from others, and reassess. Am I right?

Also in all caps…WE GOT TO MEET SARAH MCBRIDE!! If you haven’t seen Sarah trending on Twitter or Facebook, or you didn’t catch her speech at the Democratic National Convention, then click here, here or here to learn more about her heart and her mission of opening our hearts and minds and guiding legislation for LGBTQ equality.


The HRC headquarters. Excited to meet up with their National Press Secretary, Sarah McBride. She’s family after all…sort of by marriage and twice removed, but if she’ll have us, we’re claiming her! #humanrightscampaign #lookingforsarahmcbride #ournationscapitol


#foundsarahmcbride Lucky us. We got to talk politics over coffee with Sarah. So special for all of us! #humanrightscampaign #groupselfies

A couple more museums were on our agenda – The Holocaust Museum and the Newseum. Both uber powerful and worthy of repeat visits.


The Holocaust Museum – a sobering, painful, must-see. I’ve been here three times now. Still powerful. #holocaustmuseum #lookingforequality #ournationscapitol


“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has freedom.” #malcolmx #berlinwall #Newseum #ournationscapitol #lookingforwaltercronkite

You can’t go to D.C. without seeing the monuments. We chose to make the rounds at night via segway and by some miracle came out alive! Here we are in front of a section of FDR’s, and below that taking a break before going into Jefferson’s.

Segway monuments (2) Segway monuments (3)

My favorite quote in Thomas Jefferson’s Memorial. A little something to ponder perhaps related to the Second Amendment, yes?

Segway monuments (7)

Both the Washington Monument (looking from the WWII Monument) and the Korean War display were haunting at night.

Segway monuments (4) Segway monuments (5)

And one of those nights in there we went to the Kennedy Center and saw Phantom of the Opera!! A long-time bucket-list item for me. Fabulous!

Phantom (2)

Phantom (1)

Hey wait! What about those special tours courtesy of Josh? First we got to welcome the Prime Minister of Singapore to the White House with a ceremony on the South Lawn.


Hanging out on the White House south lawn waiting for our first family to welcome the first family of Singapore. You know, a typical Tuesday morning. #ournationscapitol #lookingforbarrackandmichelle @sbach10

Singapore welcoming (3)

Two Secret Service making sure we didn’t rush the podium.

Singapore welcoming (4)

The flag of Singapore was on display throughout the city.

Singapore welcoming (5) Singapore welcoming (1)

As if that wasn’t enough, we enjoyed a second visit to the house of the people when we were granted a tour of the White House Garden, also on the South Lawn.

garden selfie

Breathing in the White House garden and problem solving how to pick a few cherry tomatoes without being caught. No luck. #lookongforthewhitehousechef #Abundance #ournationscapitol

Garden (4) Garden (5)

The stacked bee hives provide 200 pounds of honey a year used for honey mead (President Obama’s fav) as well as ingredients for White House cuisine.

Garden (7)

I’m not going to lie. One of the best parts of this tour was having the Secret Service gentleman follow us around and be on the lookout while we wandered. When we asked him if he was watching us or the crowd of people across the street at a park, he said “Both.” This is when we officially scrapped our plan to pick cherry tomatoes.

Garden (1)

Josh had some top secret work to do while we were there. Seriously. He couldn’t tell us what he was measuring and why. Like I said in the beginning, he’s kind of a big deal.

Garden (2)

A view of the White House looking up from the garden across the South Lawn. Check out those perfect mow lines. Below the still photo is a panoramic video view. So fun to be standing there!


Here we are prior to the garden tour waiting in the East Room of the White House with our new Secret Service friend whom you can see reflected in the mirror behind Josh and Sam. Yes, I really was as nervous and alert as I look. This place is legit.

13939569_10154010628093547_6399488082319200228_n White House (13)

We then headed into the White House for the public tour, i.e. we joined the every day folk and wandered through the first and second floors. The third floor is the Obama’s private residence. A few pictures some of which are panoramic videos of rooms.

white house selfie

Press conference anyone? #lookingforpotus #ournationscapitol #whitehousetour

White House (3) White House (4) White House (10) White House (11) White House (12)

Back on the outside still flying high and already bummed that our White House adventures were over.

White House (8) White House (7)

Last but certainly not least, FOOD! Founding Farmers for breakfast the first morning before Josh headed off to work. I thought this bathroom door was an excellent solution.

Founders (2)

Founders (1)

A perfectly-cooked burger courtesy of Bobby.


@drewsky1995!!!!!!! #flayforall #ournationscapitol #lookingforbobbyflay

Traditional feijoada at The Grill from Impanema on opening night of the Rio Olympics.

Brazilian rest

Also D.C. standards of Old Ebbit’s Grill and The Hamilton and several Starbucks stops for mid-afternoon pick-me-ups.

Acchh! One more thing. I almost forgot, but don’t know how I could. We didn’t have time for the newest monument for Martin Luther King, Jr. the evening of our segway tour so went back the next day to take it in (thanks, Uber.) This photo doesn’t begin to do the whole installation justice. People milled about in near silence. It is a must witness.

MLK monument (4)

“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” #mlkmemorial #ournationscapitol #lookingfor justice #blacklivesmatter

MLK monument (1) MLK monument (3)

And really last but certainly not least, I’ll end with my very favorite quote, the first five words of which define the purpose of life for me. MAKE A CAREER OF HUMANITY…you simply can’t go wrong.



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Regina Leffers McCaleb, Ph.D.

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