And Walk Some More in D.C.

11 May

I’m still a day behind in this, and I really don’t even know if anybody actually reads this, but, in case someone does read it, I post to share our trip experiences, and maybe help someone out with their own trip. Maybe it will inspire someone else to consider taking a trip like this. At the very least, it acts as a travel journal of sorts that I can look back on and say, “Oh, yeah, that’s when we did that,” or “I remember that!”

Day 10, Friday, May 10

Friday was a day we got up and out of the hotel room super early because I planned to attempt to get tickets for The Bureau of Engraving and Printing since I had failed to secure them ahead of time with my state representative, having submitted on the later side of things. We were out of the hotel room by 7:15am in hopes of getting to the place they hand out tickets by 8:00am (though some trip advisors said the line could start as early as 6:30!)

Unfortunately, we were only just getting off The Metro when we realized it was already 8:15am, but kept heading to our destination in hope of getting some tickets. We arrived in the front of the building just to find out we had to head towards the BACK of the building by passing through the alley past the people who were waiting to obtain tickets for the Holocaust Museum, which is right next door. I got to the booth and was trying to determine what was what when the robotic-sounding voice of the woman inside the booth (okay, SHE wasn’t a robot, but you know the types of booths – the person has to speak through some speaker thing because they’re behind some glass as if their life truly depends on it) stating, “Pick a time.” I then realized there were numerous times in Sharpie displayed on the booth window, and verified to see if I had heard her right. I had! We picked the earliest time possible (9:30am, and it was just, at-the-time, 8:30am) so we gladly accepted our tickets for our tour and cheered we were able to get them.

I then contemplated waiting in line for passes to the Holocaust Museum, but decided against it because, though my son knows a bit about The Holocaust, I had read online that the museum recommends the main exhibits for ages 11 and up. He is not yet 10. They do have a children’s exhibit of sorts, and that required no passes, so that seemed like the best way to do it. I decided to stick with my original plan and go in ticket-free for the children’s exhibit after our Bureau tour.

The tour was very interesting and my son really loved it (he loves money!) We entered the area early and spent time looking at all the things they had on display to read and learn about currency while we were waiting. Eventually our tour started. They have you watch a short video first, which was fairly enjoyable, and then you head off to watch people make money – literally!

Our tour guide was okay, though she basically sounded like she was reading from a book, probably the one she actually memorized her tour speech from, but she was very nice and helpful. We were the only two people asking questions it seemed, and I don’t know if that’s because other people felt they couldn’t, really didn’t care, or just because we were closest to her up near the front. At one point though we ended up about as far away from her as we could be and I saw my son somewhat push his way through the crowd to get back towards the tour guide. Not several minutes later someone asked a question and I was wondering if it had come from him, but had my doubts because of the nature of the question (What was the defect rate of money made?) but I asked him later and he was, indeed, the asker of the question. (The answer, by the way, is 5%.) I can’t remember the specific questions he asked, but I asked:

1) They mentioned a 2-year apprenticeship they had to learn the process for newcomers. I asked: What kind of background is necessary to obtain the apprenticeship to begin with?

The Answer: A strong art background is required. One needs it to be able to do the fine etchings and marks for the plates for the ink rollers.

2) Has anyone ever taken advantage of their job there?

The Answer: She had heard rumors of things happening previously, but with today’s technology it really hadn’t been a problem in recent years.

3) They explained how the final step was a scanning of the barcodes of the batch of bills before they could actually be considered currency. I asked if these were actually physically different from unscanned bills.

The Answer: No.

4) I then followed that question up with a question of if those bills could technically be used if taken before scanned.

The Answer: Yes, they could, and the discovery wouldn’t be made until after they made it back to a bank and their serial numbers were scanned.

Making money really looked like a fun and interesting job to have.

We then headed next door to the Holocaust Museum and saw the children’s exhibit. I thought it was well-done, but maybe a bit too basic for older children, and possibly could have had more to it, but I feel my son did get something out of it, so it fulfilled its purpose. At the gift shop I saw a book on the museum itself, so I went through it and found exhibits from the main exhibit area (the part we didn’t have passes to) that I felt were okay for my son to have a look at and showed him those. It saved time, allowed him to see some of that stuff, and we did it all without having to expose my son to all the gore and sadness associated with The Holocaust.

The rest of our morning and part of the early afternoon was spent walking. Lots. Since we hadn’t gotten to the Jefferson Memorial on Thursday, and our current location was probably as close as we would get to it again on our trip, we headed over there to see good old Tom. We then took it a step farther and went on to see the FDR Memorial. The walk back is what was painful. There were no restaurants nearby, nor Metro stations, so we ended up taking a very long route to L’Enfant Plaza to find a food court.

After resting our feet we finished off the day with a trip to the art museum and then the Botanic Gardens. For the gardens however, we didn’t actually get inside the conservatory because we got to explore the outside area but were walking inside just as they were closing and they basically kicked us out. I wanted to see the Bartholdi Fountain though (Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty as well) so we headed behind the Botanic Gardens to Bartholdi Park and enjoyed the wind blowing the spray of water our way and peacefully enjoyed the plants they had there. If we have time we might head back to go to inside the conservatory, but not sure how that will pan out at this point.

Overall, it was a good day, and I was amazed at what we managed to squeeze in. It’s a tiring but rewarding trip.

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