Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Day two in Washington, D.C., was Mother's Day, and we decided to spend the morning in an unusual way--attending a service at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, more commonly known as the "National Cathedral." Since we had been running on empty on our first day, we decided to sleep in and catch the 11:15 service.

The National Cathedral isn't a non-denominational church as we had expected, but an Episcopalian Cathedral. It was granted a charter by Congress in 1891, was begun in 1907, and was completed in 1990. Congress has designated it as the "National House of Prayer." The funerals for Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and Ford were held at the National Cathedral, which is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States, topped only by the St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City.

It's difficult to capture the size of the building (the central tower is 301 feet tall) with just one photo, but maybe five will convey its enormity:

Every December I attend a Christmas program at the local university that is basically an Episcopalian service (minus the eucharist), so the service at the National Cathedral felt familiar--lots of pageantry and processionals, lots of anthem singing, some reading and response, lots of up and down, etc.

Thursday, June 8, 2017


Like many Americans, I am fascinated by Abraham Lincoln. Lanky, sometimes awkward, often unkempt, uneducated in the traditional sense, he appeals to the Everyman in all of us. I am drawn to artistic portrayals of him, books about him, museums featuring him, and places where he lived or visited.

Therefore, of course, I was excited to visit Ford's Theater, the place where Lincoln was assassinated and which I hadn't seen since I was a kid and could hardly remember. But first, we had to go to the Peterson House across the street from the theater, which is where Lincoln "breathed his last" (as one of the helpful signs inside told us).

I'm not sure how Lincoln would have felt about the kitschy shop next door. I think he would have been embarrassed by both the shop's contents and the the misuse of the apostrophe in "souvenir's":

I'm also not sure Lincoln would have approved of the spectacle that "The House Where Lincoln Died" has become:

The National Park Service has carefully recreated the way the rooms of what was a boarding house would have looked on the night Lincoln was brought here after having been shot at close range in the head while watching a play across the street.  Most of the original furnishings, including the bed where Lincoln lay, were purchased by a Chicago collector and are now on display in the Chicago History Museum. Still, they've tried to be attentive to detail, and I'm sure they've done a good job reproducing what was once here.

Sunday, June 4, 2017


It's incredible to me that Washington, D.C., can keep adding new museums. I would have thought that between the Smithsonian museums and the historical sites, the city would have hit saturation point years and years ago. However, recent additions to D.C.'s museum roster include the National Museum of the American Indian (2004), the Newseum (2008), and the newest Smithsonian, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016). All of them appear to be wildly successful. By the time we tried to get tickets for the African American Museum it was too late, so we opted to visit the Newseum, and it was such a great experience that I've vowed to return to D.C. for the other two new museums and to revisit some of the older ones I saw years ago on previous trips.

Nobody does museums like D.C.

Even the outside of the Newseum is fun. The current front pages of more than 80 newspapers, including a newspaper from each of the fifty states and from many international newspapers, are on display, and the papers are updated every day. No admission fee is required to see these--they are on the public sidewalk. If I worked in this neighborhood, I'd be late for work every morning:

At $24.95/ticket, it isn't cheap to go inside, but after we had experienced the Newseum, Bob and I both thought it was well worth the cost. The Newseum experience begins at the ticket counter in the atrium that houses a suspended news helicopter, a 90-foot-tall screen that shows international headlines, and a communications satellite:

Friday, June 2, 2017


Our son was graduating from Columbia University in May 2017, and we decided to expand our trip to his graduation in New York City to include Washington, D.C., which we had both visited (Bob in 1978 and I in 1973 and 1987), but never together. We figured a lot had probably changed since we were there last, and we knew that WE and what we liked to see had certainly changed.

We took a non-stop red-eye flight out of LAX that left at 10:30 PM and arrived at 6:30 AM, and in spite of our lack of sleep, we hit the ground running, which is our M.O. for travel. After picking up a rental car in a painfully slow process at Budget Car Rental (an hour to get a car with only two people in front of us in line), we were off to our first destination: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

One of the reasons we wanted to see this church is because we recently added "Basilicas" to our list of things to see.  Before I started blogging, we visited these basilicas, and probably quite a few more that I can't remember or identify:
     Notre Dame Cathedral/Basilica in Paris, France
     Cathedral/Basilica of Our Lady of Chartres in Chartres, France
     Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Montmarte in Paris, France
     Speyer Cathedral/Basilica in Speyer, Germany
     St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy
     Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy
     Florence Cathedral in Florence, Italy
     Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy
     St. Mark's Cathedral/Basilica in Venice, Italy
     Santa Croce in Florence, Italy
     Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Since I've started keeping a blog of our travels, we have been to these basilicas:
     Hagia Sophia Basilica in Istanbul, Turkey
     Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, Canada
     Basilica of St. James in Prague, Czech Republic 
     St. Stephen's Basilica, Budapest, Hungary
     St. Kastor Basilica in Koblenz, Germany
     Strasbourg Cathedral/Basilica in Strasbourg, France
     Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile, Alabama
     Memorial Church of Moses, Mount Nebo, Israel
     Church of All Nations/Basilica of the Agony in Jerusalem, Israel
     Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel
     Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis
     St. Josaphat's Basilica in Milkwaukee Wisconsin
     Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Castries, St. Lucia
     Cathedral/Basilica of St. John the Baptist in San Juan, Puerto Rico

There are 1,756 basilicas around the world, and I'm sure we won't make it to all of them, but there are only 83 basilicas in the United States, and on a recent trip to the East Coast we checked off four, bringing our US total to seven. We probably won't make it to all of the U.S. basilicas either, but I hope we'll knock off a good percentage of them, and meanwhile this list takes us to places we might not go otherwise.

The first basilica of our trip was this one in Washington, D.C.:

It looks dramatically different from different viewing angles. This is the front, and the main entries doors are those three brown ones in the center:

The tower, a gift from the Knights of Columbus, rises 329 feet and houses a 56-bell carillon:

Built between 1920 and 1959 and designated a basilica in 1990 by Pope John Paul II, this is the largest Catholic church in North America: