Washington, DC - Part 2

>> Wednesday, July 15, 2009

After relinquishing a certain House Representative's desk back, walking in the super-cool member's-only tunnel, visiting the Library of Congress and finally, ogling the Capital, we headed out to the Smithsonian museum of Natural History. (If you missed out on Part 1, click here)

The museum is free to the public since it is a National Park and upon entering, I wanted to run away screaming. This is what we saw:

Nope, the dinosaurs aren't the scary part in this photo. It's the people, the kids.....the strollers. It was nuts-to-butts packed in there and I had a hard time enjoying it. Did I mention that we decided to do DC on Monday, July 5th? Here's my photos from the dinosaurs, but they're not very good because I really wanted to exit out of there. I don't like being crowded and there were just too many people pushing, too many kids screaming and shoving and too many strollers blocking my way to really have a good time here.

Do you see what I mean about the crowds? It was tough to deal with. After checking out the dinosaurs and trying to regain my sanity, we realized we were a little hungry. We had dinner plans, so we wanted something fairly light. We headed toward the Smithsonian Cafe which was terribly crowded. The cafe was built as an afterthought so it's tiny. The tables seat 4 tops, with most seating 2. Somehow, 3 of us got to sit at a table while the other 2 stood up. Jason & I shared a wrap and a water which was pretty good and totaled about $12.

Next, we headed upstairs to get away from the people and briefly checked out some flying animal skeletons. But the real gem of the museum was just ahead. We walked into the next room and saw this beauty tacked up on the wall:

It's a huge piece of copper (probably 6 feet wide) that had been found between slate underground. I seriously wanted to take it and hang it on one of my walls at home. It was perfectly preserved and gorgeous. Now this is the stuff I came here to see! As I turn around, I notice another fairly large crowd hovering around a smallish display. I somehow finagle myself in between a few people to discover it's the Hope diamond. I actually had a "hands-free" shot until this camera happy person stuck their hand in as I pressed the take button. Damn them! The Hope diamond was neat but honestly wasn't all it's hyped up to be. What makes this diamond special is the story behind it. It's got quite a history of being cut and resold and stolen, etc. Can you believe the original diamond was actually 112 3/4 carats compared to it's measly current 42 carats? Ha ha.

Behind the diamond was another cool find:

It's quartz sand that was slowly deposited and eroded by water. How awesome is that? Check out these gorgeous hunks of topaz:

The gem section of the Smithsonian was as crowded as the dinosaurs. I think every female (and possibly a few males) got a major case of the "I wants" in this section. It became nearly impossible to photograph most of the pieces. Although the Hope diamond is cool because it's big and blue, these diamonds are a heck of a lot bigger.

On the left is the Oppenheimer diamond (uncut) and weighs in at an astounding 253.7 carats. The diamond on the right is the Portuguese diamond (cut) and is the largest cut diamond in the collection coming in at 127.01 carats. How's that for bling? Or would you prefer the Logan sapphire (only 423 carats!)?

After the gems, the museum opens up to a large section of natural minerals and gemstones. One of my favorite stones are geodes:

They look like normal rock until you cut them open and get a beautiful surprise. The one on the top is almost 3 feet long. They cut off a small piece on the top so that you could look down at all it's beauty.

There were so many different minerals to see, so I didn't take pictures of most of them. I would never be able to read the labels later. However, this specimen gets my vote for Most Useless But Still Cool Item:

Yeah, it's the alphabet. In diamonds. Why anyone would need this I don't know, but it's still pretty to look at. My last photo in the museum was of a giant piece of quartz. I'm talking huge. Must larger and taller than myself.

From here I walked into a cave-like place. It showed you how minerals were mined from caves. I didn't spend much time in here since we got to see the real thing in Colorado. We then moved on to the sediment rock and space rock. By then, we'd gotten a call from our companions (we had lost them a long time before) asking where we were. We met up downstairs in the sea life section (HOW did we miss a giant whale hanging from the ceiling?) and decided that we were all at information overload. By the way, the sea life part was neat, but compared to the Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, TX and the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, it was an easy pass. I think we might have seen half of the museum in almost 3 hours. That's about all any of us could take. If you are planning to visit them, just pick and choose what you want to see. You can't read or see it all. It's almost impossible!

We exited the museum and and got back in the heat and sun. We almost decided to turn back, but instead we pressed on to one more really cool thing. It was by far my favorite! Stay tuned!!


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