Wordless Wednesday: Mount Vernon

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Hahnemann: Hero of Homeopathy


No way you know what this monument is unless you’re a pharmacist.

Wandering in Scott Circle where Massachusetts Ave. and 16th St. N.W. meet is one of the widest monuments away from the mall. Four bas relief panels each four feet tall by 10 feet wide. In the middle is a robed statue beneath a mosaic amid a granite background.

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann created the science of homeopathy as a German physician. This actually made Hahnemann quite unpopular among druggists, who forced him to flee to Paris in 1821, but inspired the American Institute of Homeopathy to erect the memorial in 1900. It was later refurbished in 2000.

The four panels depict Hahnemann’s life as a student, chemist, teacher and physician. The life-sized bronze statue between panels depicts Hahnemann pondering deep thoughts. It was sculpted by Charles Henry-Niehaus.

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Reagan welcomes you to National airport

I still think it should be called (George) Washington National Airport. Indeed, there’s a sign on the north side that still says so.

But lawmakers renamed it Reagan-Washington National Airport in 1998. That name lasted five minutes as many now call it Reagan Airport. Now there’s a statue of the 40th president at the entrance of the old A terminal.

The statue itself is a pretty nice piece. It was unveiled Nov. 1, 2011 on Reagan’s 100th birthday, The nine-foot president with a 38-foot stainless-steel wall behind him has a bald eagle etched next to his name. The $900,000 statue was privately funded as one of four of Reagan. Sculptor Chas Fagan also created Reagan statues at the U.S. Capitol, London’s Grosvenor Square and the Reagan Library.

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Mary Surratt signs from Lincoln assassination

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Eastern Market offers history and halibut

At Eastern Market, your job’s not your credit. You gotta pay cash for the produce.

Well, that’s funny if you’re a local because Eastern Motors  used to run a commercial nonstop. Otherwise, you’re thinking I’m nuts.

Anyway, Eastern Market opened in 1873 at 7th St. and North Carolina Ave. SE as a shopping district for Capitol Hill residents. It was designed by Adolf Cluss, whose red brick style included Cavalry Baptist among six churches.

A fire badly damaged South Hall on April 30, 2007. It re-opened June 26, 2009 complete with air conditioning.

The farmer’s market offers meats, fish, poultry and dairy products. On weekends there are arts and crafts vendors and then a nearby flea market that really brings in the crowds. It’s essentially a town hall for the many government employees who live near the U.S. Capitol.

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Whispering to Yoko Ono

I’m a sucker for outdoor sculptures. Indeed, I’d rather be outside than inside so Washington is a great town for tour guiding since most monuments, memorials and statues are outdoors. In another life, I’d like to be a U.S. Park ranger.

The Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden at Jefferson and Seventh St. SW is filled with great pieces like the Burghers of Calais showing town elders surrendering, ropes around their necks in expecting death.

Mostly, the garden is a green oasis and quiet area despite being smack dab in the middle of downtown. It’s a nice break from crowds or the grind of touring. That’s where I connected with Yoko Ono. If you’re at least 60 years old, you probably hate her as the reason for the Beatles breaking up.

Ono donated the Wish Tree in 1997 that is filled with slips of paper with wishes written on them. Uh, the sign says you’re supposed to whisper your wish, but for some reason people use slips of paper. A lot of them want world peace, but one person wished its animal wasn’t quarantined at the airport. Wish more of that story was written.

What did I wish for? If I tell you it won’t come true. Oh wait, maybe that’s birthday cake.

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Wordless Wednesday: Georgetown canal still dry

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Sometimes attractions are in the bank

You can’t miss the gigantic vault door in the lobby of the Courtyard Marriott Washington Convention Center on 9th and F Sts. N.W.

The one-time home of Riggs Bank was built in 1891. It was quite the place with vaulted ceilings and colorful murals of men holding bags of money. Twenty-three U.S. presidents and many foreign embassies put their money in Riggs. Even Confederate president Jefferson Davis and counterpart Abe Lincoln deposited money there. It later merged with PNC Bank in 2005.

When this bank was converted into a 188-room hotel, there was one problem – the vault. It’s massive and couldn’t be moved. No problem. The vault itself is still below. A pretty cool attraction in itself while the steel door remains, too.

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Dog Tag Bakery – Georgetown’s finest

There’s no shortage of bakeries in Georgetown and no shortage of opinions on which is the best.

The long lines outside Georgetown Cupcakes following its TV show a few years ago leads to many tourists stopping by. Their cupcakes are good, especially the frosting.

But locals often told me Dog Tag Bakery was the best. Finally, I decided to stop by when I had some rare free time. It’s on Wisconsin Ave. below M St. NW and on the south side of the canal on Grace Street, which is across Grace Episcopal Church.

The cafe itself is more welcoming than others in town simply because there’s room for more than a few tables. A few students with laptops sat inside while groups of friends gathered at tables.

I bought three slices of pie for a family gathering. (Really, I didn’t eat them myself.) The most unusual was cranberry, which as expected was tart but interesting. My grandson loved the oreo pie. The gingerbread was fresh and tasty.

I won’t crown a bakery champion, but Dog Tag is definitely the most relaxed one to stop for a snack.

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Wordless Wednesday: Grace Episcopal Church

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Hidden photo spot in plain site – Lincoln Memorial

People ask all the time about hidden, off-the-beaten path photos. The funny part is there are so many along the National Mall. The best one is the back of the Lincoln Memorial.

The Lincoln Memorial is the most visited landmark in Washington. About seven million people annually climb those steps, sometimes 50,000 per day in the busy spring and summer months. If you only see one thing in Washington, it’s probably Lincoln. No. 2 is probably the White House.

People know the Lincoln Memorial, maybe because it’s on the $5 bill. He’s perhaps the greatest presidents ever versus George Washington. If not for Abe, we might be a handful of countries across the continent.

So take the normal photos in front and by the statue. And then let’s walk just a few feet and suddenly leave the crowd when going around the corners of the building at the top of the stairs.

It doesn’t matter which side you try, but I would say turn left exiting the statue chamber because it’s normal to turn right. We’re trying to ditch the crowd to get clean photos.

Once you turn the corner, look down the row of columns. It gives you a new perspective, an old world perspective of the monument. You can photograph those empty rows, but also have people stand behind the columns and stick only their heads out. It’s a funny photo.

Next, let’s go to the back side that faces the Potomac River and Virginia. On a winter’s day, look down the Memorial Bridge and you’ll see Robert E. Lee’s home on the hill and white grave stones of Arlington National Cemetery.

Focus on the water and be patient. Wait for a boat to come by for some perspective. On a spring morning, tree blossom turn the scene into some French impressionist painting, especially when raining.

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Best Hidden Gems

Everyone photographs the Lincoln Memorial, White House and U.S. Capitol. Now you’re ready to see some hidden gems around town. The good news is they’re all around us. But if we’re going to rank the best hidden photo gems, here are three favorites you can easily find.

Teddy Roosevelt Island

Teddy Roosevelt Island is a speck of land in the Potomac River that has been abandoned for decades. You have to walk across a wooden bridge from the Arlington side off the GW Parkway (spacious, free parking) to reach the District island where you’ll find this 17-foot statue by Paul Manship plus two fountains and four large stone monoliths.

The rest of the 88.5 acres is filled with different opportunities. You’ll see deer at some point and riverfront views of Washington plus a marsh. Weekends can be busy, but there are chances to feel alone in the middle of the region’s six million people.

Arlington National Cemetery

Four million people annually visit the military cemetery. And, you can almost see the triangular rut they walk to John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

But you’re so missing out if that’s all you see. The far southern sections are my favorite. The ones in the far back offer endless rows of white head stones (and a reprieve from the rolling countryside) while the western sections (to the right when entering) are like a cathedral of stones as you walk below the rolling hillside. It’s here that you can truly capture the magic of Arlington while seeing legends like Audie Murphy, Joe Louis and President William Howard Taft.

Senate Fountain

It reminds me of the opening scene of “Married with Children,” though those fountains are in Chicago. The Senate Fountain on the north side of the dome complex is gorgeous with the U.S. Capitol as the backdrop. We often include this spot in our walking photo tours.

The great part of Washington is one-fourth of the land is owned by the federal government with so many national parks. Indeed, Washington’s the greenest major U.S. city with trees comprising 20 percent of the canopy.

Find some places off of the beaten path. At least, they’ll feel like it. Or better yet, come with us on our walking tours.

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Wordless Wednesday: Words of wisdom

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Happy 2018

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Monumental Thoughts turns 7

Happy birthday to . . . us.

Seven years of roaming the streets as a licensed Washington tour guide, seven years of blogging about what I see and learn. When will it end? I have no idea. Probably at least a few more years.

It was another interesting year. Hopes that political talk after the 2016 presidential election would end surely didn’t. Wow, people can be angry. I managed to dance around most discussions.

The Museum of the Bible opened in November to good reviews. I started picking up tours of groups coming to see the museum and using a guide around town who can talk about religion and our founding fathers.

During the spring school tours, two things came to mind. One, the eighth graders weren’t born on 9/11. Kinda blows the mind it has been that long ago. Two, these kids see John F. Kennedy as just a name in a book when we visit the eternal flame.

Personally, I’ve now seen 43 states after visiting Oregon, Idaho and Montana during a western swing that included Yellowstone National Park. I heartily recommend it, but dress warm even in the summer. We were in a snow squall in late June and temps never reached the 60s in three days. I also returned to New York City and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

As for blog stats, things were down a little. I think it’s because I blocked Russia and China users who repeatedly tried to hack into my site. I closed my photo tours site because of the hacking and merged it here. I also added a 100 exhibits to see at the Smithsonians list to the blog.

In 2017, 14,832 visited Monumental Thoughts.The blog, which is called a Top 5 Read by the Huffington Post, has now drawn 145, 832 viewers. Well, 145,833 since you’re now reading this.

Google was my best friend, sending 7,783 visitors while 3,751 came direct. Twitter sent 934, Facebook 556, Bing 326, Yahoo 252 and Pinterest 47.

Readers came from 102 countries topped by the U.S., Canada, Russia, United Kingdom and Brazil respectively. Washington, D.C. was naturally the highest amount of readers followed by Maryland, Virginia, California, New York and Florida, but all 50 states were represented, including three folks from Alaska.

For the seventh straight year, rocks atop stones explaining why they’re atop Arlington National Cemetery graves was the most read story. The Watergate steps, Court of Neptune fountain, finding a name on the Vietnam Wall and how many are buried at Arlington were the most read stories afterwards. Translation: Nothing written last year made the top 10. Hmm.

Well, on to year eight, though the winter freeze has touring on hold for awhile. Time for some rest.

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Christmastime in Georgetown

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White House Christmas tree

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Christmas village at 8th and F Sts. NW

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Boy Scout Memorial combines past and present

The Boy Scout represents the aspirations of all past, present, and future Scouts throughout the world. He carries a staff that has been taken from the male figure’s branch of peace. The scout wears the traditional uniform of the group complete with kerchief around his neck.

The bronze monument with a granite base has three figures. They represent the boy scout in the middle with an adult male and female behind him.

The male figure is a classic ancient statue that’s nearly unclothed but through his strong figure represented physical fitness. In his right hand is also the branch of peace.

Continue reading

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Best Lincoln Memorial photo tips

The best times to photograph the Lincoln Memorial are at night and early morning. Otherwise, the overhead sun leaves it looking flat and the evening sun is behind the Lincoln to provide a dark photo.

Night photography can be easy, but a little tricky. National Park Service rules prohibit tripods that are often needed for time elapse photos. But, you can get away with it if farther out from the building in slower times of year. The Lincoln gets nearly seven million visitors annually so it can get really crowded in the spring especially and tripods are a hazard. A one-legged monopod is allowed, but you still have to hold it.

That said, most cameras, iPads and iPhones take a decent photo at night when the light leaks out of the Greek-inspired Parthenon building. I’m a big one on using the Rule of Thirds and standing to the right corner of the building to generate perspective.

The morning light reaches Lincoln with a golden glow. This burns out pretty quickly and while the morning overall isn’t bad, the best is the early rays.

Where should you stand? Depends on the pic you’re looking to get. You can get the sunrise over the Capitol dome at dawn from the top Lincoln steps. It’s a pretty cool photo.

Family photos should be on the steps down near street level. Have the photographer shooting up towards the family on the first rise.

What about the statue? Morning is definitely better with the sun behind you. On a rainy, foggy day, the inside area around the statue can get a really misty glow. It’s rare, but really cool on cool spring mornings.

So keep watching Mr. Lincoln. There are plenty of times and angles to capture.

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