Monday, November 10, 2008

To the Folger--Finally

When I travel, I tend to focus on what I wanted to do or see and missed instead of what I did and saw and enjoyed. For the record, after four trips to England, I still haven't seen Stonehenge--and I'm not happy about that.

Today though, on my last day in the city before we head back home, I finally got to mark one off my list. Of all the places I'd been, I have always wanted to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library here in Washington. I've attended sessions they've presented at conferences, I've used their online lesson plans, and I even prefer their paperback editions over any of the others, especially for students. As time was winding down on the trip, I realized that I was probably the only person who had any desire to make that stop. I would have to go on my own.

This morning, we met early and visited the Capitol. Les Simmons, our sociology teacher on the trip, had made arrangements through N.C. Representative Virginia Foxx's office for a tour of the building. Next, I went with Holly, another of my colleagues on the trip, to see the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. We stopped on the way to see the WWII Memorial, which was also new since my last visit. We had been warned that the FDR Memorial was a long walk, but it was just a nice walk with a great view (fall colors and a blue heron) along the water's edge.

The memorial itself was fascinating, focusing on everything--war, unemployment, polio. I can't wait to read up on the choices made for the memorial itself, particularly one very tactile section and a section with what looked like broken pieces of the wall with his "I hate war" quote in a pile.

On the trek back, we stopped in quickly at the Freer Gallery and saw some Whistler art and design. We ran through the lower level of the Air and Space Museum, looking for the temporary exhibits from the American History Museum, which is currently closed for remodeling. Then we grabbed lunch in the National Gallery, where I was able to visit some of my favorite artists--Mary Cassatt,Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, and such. They also had three Vermeers (or two sure things and a maybe). I've loved his works since reading The Girl in Hyacinth Blue and The Girl with the Pearl Earring. He does something with light that boggles my unartistic mind. (No, Thomas Kinkeade, the so-called "Painter of Light" doesn't quite do it.)

Finally I found directions and struck out on foot for the Folger. I was fortunate to arrive in time, I was told, for a tour. It so happened that the other three members of my tour lasted mere minutes; then I had the charming docent to myself. She had the perfect British accent for the job, but she was anything but the well-rehearsed parrot, telling me just what she'd memorized. Instead, she invited me to come back into the family's study for a comfy seat and a chat. She regaled me with delightful stories about the Folgers and how they came to build the place, and she gave me a hint of the scope of the collection. I bought the book in order to get my facts correct before I repeat them, but I couldn't believe how many more copies of the First Folio they have there. In all of Great Britain, there are only five.

You may want to check back for pictures and further details. I'll even tell you a good story or two I heard from a very reliable docent.

No comments: