01 January 2008

A Little Culture

Most long haul crew layovers are filled with copious amounts of shopping, eating and drinking.Depending on the destination you might add sunbathing/swimming or even skiing but the first three ingredients are common to nearly all crews and destinations. In the spirit of fiscal responsibility I have decided to swap shopping for culture on at least half my layovers. (Baby steps, people)!Recently I journeyed to the national Cathedral in Washington D.C., spurning all the after Christmas sales.

Their website advertises several tours, varied from general to stained glass and gargoyle only. My timetable decided I was to take the general tour, with a 3 dollar suggested donation.
The cathedral smelled heavenly with the scent of Christmas trees and decorations mixed in with the waxy scent of church candles.(Is it the type of candle that gives off the distinctive smell or the amount of candles??) I was really happy to see the traditional type of votive candle there, I refuse to donate at churches where you put in a coin and a 'candle' lights up electrically for a few minutes!
The tour was actually quite amazing, over 2 hours in length,with the guide happy to answer any questions although he freely admitted he often made up answers!!
The cathedral is absolutely filled with amazing stained glass windows representing not only things biblical but also all things Americana. This window is probably the most well known of the secular windows, the window of science and technology. In it lies a rock from the moon donated by Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
There is a permanent exhibit set up to the founders and creators of the cathedral. It depicted the thousands of hours of work done in trades, like stone masonry, that are almost dying. People came out of retirement and trained others to style the gargoyles and statues found throughout the grounds. In the spirit of equality, women also donated thousands of hours needlepoint the creating the kneelers (kneepads?) for the seats in the smaller sections of the church. One area had kneelers devoted to Americans of note, including Willa Cather the author, Soujourner Truth, various presidents and 'celebrities ' of the past. While I do not imagine them designing a Lindsay Lohan kneeler, it would be interesting to see which current people of note would make the cut. Stephen King? Jimmy Carter? Oprah Winfrey?
If you are in the Georgetown area of Washington D.C., the cathedral is worth a peek. It is not near a metro stop but is easily accessible by bus. It is a bit south if tenley town and there are loads of great ethnic restaurants and shops to fortify you afterwards!!

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