national treasures and more johannes
This past weekend involved a weekend getaway. Oh how I always wanted to be one of those people that went away on the weekends… and now I am (or I was and will be again). Mike and I decided to take a trip to Washington DC. First because I have never been there. Please don’t start… yes, we did take family vacations, all the time and they were awesome but they never involved historical pilgrimages or any places with giant mice. Moving on before the ridicule begins…. The second reason for a journey to the nation’s capital is because there are 4 more Vermeer paintings at the National Gallery of Art. And that Johannes Vermeer, he has a hold on me.
The Monuments are amazing, really. It’s incredible that dozens of cinematic viewings and photographic images still couldn’t prepare me for standing inside the Lincoln Memorial.
I was also excited to pay my respects at the Vietnam Memorial (my Dad was over there for a bit) and the WWII Memorial (my maternal grandfather flew P47s and even wrote a book about it). It was a strange contrast to visit these two sites. The Vietnam Memorial is much more abrasive, just the sheer volume of names and the deep, sober sense of presentation. The conflict and outrage surrounding that war still echoes.
Then the WWII Memorial is all fountains and a big band, a beautiful celebration of hope and perseverance. Now granted that was a complete simplification, as is most talk of war.
It’s just that we were struck by the noticeable contrast. And hauntingly reminded that the current war is seemingly far from over.
The Washington Monument was pretty cool but slightly undercut by a preacher of some sorts doing a live performance with a choir on a small stage nearby. I swear he was a real life version of Eddie Murphy’s preacher character in Coming to America. I kid you not. He was singing about a story where his car was shot at but not one bullet (no, not one bullet) hit him. It was something else.
Finally the first grand sweep was wrapped up at the White House. I had been remembering movie scenes that took place all around the other sites (Mike said he was going to run through the reflecting pool yelling “Jenny” but it was really dirty and the ducks seemed territorial) but this one… well I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a backdrop or a studio lot. I said to Mike that someday I wanted to be invited to the White House, I hope it’s a cool President that I like because I’m not sure I could turn down an invite and I am horrible faker.
Day Two was all about the Vermeers. Now I know that there were going to be a ton of landmarks and other things that we just didn’t have time to see and I promise to go back, but we had a mission. The first thing that happened once we reached the main floor and guided ourselves to the correct room was that the gallery containing the Vermeers was closed off with a temporary wall. Our hearts sank, not again! But as luck would have it, our haste and excitement had us reading the map in reverse. But we were ready to go raise a big old fit and get in that room, believe me. Set on the right path we made our way to the small room that contained all 4 Vermeer paintings. We inappropriately commented on how they were well secluded so a heist would be tough (good thing no one heard us or I am sure we would have been escorted out, guards are very touchy about those comments).
First, there’s Girl with a Flute that is attributed to Vermeer but they seem to be a bit conflicted as to whether or not he painted it (or all of it, as one of his children might have completed it after his death).
Then there’s A Lady Writing which is thought to be an image based on his wife Catharina Bolnes.
Then my initial favorite (maybe on of my top favorites) Woman Holding a Balance. There is something so lovely about this painting, the way the light touches the balance or the strings of pearls on the desk. Breathtaking.
I wasn’t quite prepared for Girl with a Red Hat. It has this haunting direct gaze, drawing you in and engaging with you.
All and all it was a great trip, filled with large and small scale wonders (as well as the best gluten free pizza I’ve ever had and a beautiful hotel room). I felt really lucky to be able to get away, to fill two days with such amazing events. And while I am happy to be home for a stretch after a few trips in a row, my travel bag can be packed in ten minutes so let me know if you are up for an adventure.
Take care of yourself,