I have only a handful of clear memories of my eighth grade class trip that I can separate from my other visits, but one is being at the Capitol tour. I suspect, but I can't swear to it, that the Louvre-like underground visitor's center lobby under the plaza was constructed since then. I like it! As with the Louvre, it makes getting into and out of the complex more efficient than it could possibly otherwise be for the countless thousands who want to visit daily.
Rob arranged a couple of weeks in advance to get visitor's passes for Thursday morning for all of the family members who wanted to go, so we headed to Capitol Hill first thing in the morning and got in line. We went through a smooth and straightforward security screening process, and then a tour guide did a great job of leading us through much of the building. The interior of the Rotunda is impressively huge, and I really liked the Crypt, the level underneath the Rotunda with massive columns to support it.
The statuary memorializing important people in the nation's history is as inspiring as I expected, but I was also delighted with the National Statuary Hall in a beautiful room that was built for the House of Representatives and was once, improbably, used as a city farmer's market! Those statues are selected and provided by the states to memorialize people important to those states. Many are names I recognized and people I knew well, but lots more were unfamiliar, clearly people worth learning about.
Best of all, Rob heard the night before our tour from his Congresswoman's office that they'd arranged House Gallery passes for us! That meant we were able to enter the observer gallery above the House of Representatives chamber and sit for a while. Unfortunately, no electronics are allowed in -- no cameras, cell phones, or even car key remotes -- so no photos. Nevertheless, it was inspiring to be in this spot that's been so widely seen, and where so much of the nation's business is conducted.
( More photos on Flickr... )