After a little more than a month in California, we packed up our bags for the final time and started the trip to Poland. On the way, we stopped in Washington, DC, for a few days to visit Melinda’s good friend Lelia. From DC, we took a bus to NYC to visit old friends and enjoy the City we both loved and lived in for many years.
Like usual, while in DC, we spent a lot of time walking around and taking in the sights by foot. Here we are in front of the White House.
Lelia hosted us in her studio apartment. She worked for a Congressman and was able to take us on a VIP tour of the Capitol building, including the underground tunnels that connect the Congressional office buildings to the Capitol.
While on the tour, Lelia took us to the floor of the House of Representatives—which regular tours cannot access.
It was really incredible to be on the floor of the House, where so much of our nation’s legislation and debate happen—sorry, no cameras allowed! But here’s a picture of the Rotunda in the Capitol and its great iconic dome.
Here’s Sean using the hand-sanitizer dispenser at the Speaker of the House’s office. (No sign of John Boehner’s private tanning booth!)
We also spent much of our time in DC visiting the Smithsonian Museums.
Here’s some recent treasures: Dorothy’s ruby slippers and the original Muppets.
Our favorite was the National Air & Space Museum. The museum houses the Spirit of St. Louis, Apollo 11, and even the Wright Brothers’ plane. In the picture below, the Spirit of St. Louis is in the top right corner and the Apollo 11 capsule is at the bottom.
Here’s how big the capsule is, but the astronaut’s cockpit is quite small and cramped.
We also saw the first plane to ever fly, the Wright Brothers Flyer (circa 1903).
The exhibit was top-notch, with rich historical perspectives on flight, compelling explanations of the physics involved, and a family narrative on the surrounding walls.
The Wright Flyer turns out to be very hard to photograph, so here’s a diagram of it. (Photo from Aviation-Central.com.)
From DC, we hopped on a bus to NYC, where we stayed with Melinda’s friend Lauren on the Upper West Side. Here we are in front of the Flatiron Building.
While there, Melinda was able to take classes at her old home yoga studio and Sean was able to go to his home Aikido dojo—which happen to be within 1 block of each other!
We enjoyed visiting some of our favorite places in the City together, like Washington Square Park, Central Park, and Union Square. Here’s Betheseda Fountain in Central Park, one of our favorite classic NYC scenes.
Of course, we had to make the obligatory pit stop in Times Square, just to say we did.
We spent a lot of time with Sean’s cousin Allyson, who works at the United Nations.
Allyson was able to take us on a special tour of the UN buildings and tell us about her work with UNICEF. She took us to the main building that houses the UN General Assembly. Here’s views from the street and from inside, overlooking the East River.
We were actually allowed to go onto the floor of the General Assembly…
…and we even went so far as to sit at the desks of numerous countries!
Here’s Sean and Allyson at the Canada desk…
…and the two of us at the US desk. (You can see us hard at work here!)
The highlight was definitely when we got to stand at the General Assembly Podium!
Lastly, we had a big fun dinner with Paul and Vinaya, (Sean’s godparents), as well as Dace & Marcia and Natalie & Jason. We both enjoyed a classic Hoboken lunch with all of Melinda’s old co-workers at Frommer’s.
We were so thankful to see so many of our old NYC friends before leaving the country. From there, we were off to Poland!
Tremendous thanks to Lelia for hosting us in Washington, DC, and for showing us the Capitol. We had such a fantastic time with you and Angelo!
Special thanks to Lauren for your hospitality in NYC. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect close to our time in the US than with you, on the couch, watching movies, browsing the rare birds and fish shop, and endlessly coercing/hunting for bunny!
Wawel Castle was the seat of the Polish Royalty for five centuries. It encompasses the royal living quarters, courts, and the Wawel Cathedral, the center of the Archdiocese of Krakow. Polish Kings were crowned in the Cathedral, ruled from the Castle, and interred in sarcophagi in the Cathedral. Relics of Polish saints are also enshrined here. During WWII, the Castle served as the seat of the occupying Nazi government.
The Castle’s precious artwork collection includes more than 700 extremely rare tapestries from the 1500s depicting biblical and fantastical scenes. These massive tapestries take up entire walls inside the royal apartments and were intended not only to be beautiful objects but also to help keep the rooms warm in the winter.
Perhaps the most dramatic feature of the Castle is its massive Italian-style courtyard at the center of the royal living quarters.
Unfortunately, no photography is allowed in the Cathedral or Wawel’s museums. The photos here offer views of the castle from above, in one of the defensive towers.
The photos in the Dragon’s Den are taken in a cave below Wawel. The Castle has its own classic dragon story from the 13th century. A terrifying dragon lived in this cave and exacted payment from the local peasants. In order to prevent the dragon from turning his rage on them, the peasants gave the dragon cattle to eat. The peasants devised a deceitful plan to kill the beast: They stuffed cattle skins with sulphur and when the dragon ate them he burst into flames.
Here’s a clip from a concert we went to at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Kazimierz, the old Jewish neighborhood of Krakow. This band is the Klezzmates and they blend traditional Klezmer music with jazz. They are performing in front of photos of the ruins of Jewish temples and synagogues in Krakow throughout Polish Galicia, the original name for this region in southern Poland.