And click above for a brief video on the "frozen lake" at the National Mall Once we got to the Lincoln Monument, it was closed for actual viewing so people were gathering at the foot of the immense building that houses the Lincoln Statue taking photos. All of a sudden, I noticed that there were throngs of people lining up and I suggested to David that we join in. Boy, are we glad we did. They actually opened it up for just one hour and we happened to be part of the lucky group who was allowed to go up.Nick and Lincoln: Nick Verreos stands in front of the Lincoln Monument I felt almost solemn looking up at the immense statue of Lincoln, it was as if I was staring at the great Sphinx in Egypt! David and I posed for photos and as soon as we did that, scores of security began directing us to come back down and that the "tour" was over...I just felt that luck was on our side on this prodigious beginning to our "Sightseeing Day".After walking down from the Lincoln Memorial, we passed hundreds of Port-a-Potties (officials say that there were 7,000 of them in preparations for Inaugural Tuesday) and walked beside the frozen lake (yep, it was that cold) and ended up at the opposite end, at the foot of the Washington Monument. Afterward, we decided that there was only one place left in our "Sightseeing Day": The White House. On the way there , we passed by my father's old "stomping grounds", the State Department (my father was a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department) so I had to take a photo in front of one of the buildings' entrances--hopefully he's smiling right now as he sees his son in that crazy winter "get-up"!We approached the White House area and once again, there were tons of people gathered in front of the gates that overlook it. Finally, we made it to the prime "photo" area, and got our White House Photo (see above). Interesting fact: The photo you see is of the back of The White House, not the front. Not many people realize this. Tuesday January 20th, Obama Inaugural Day 2009-------- Bundled Up: Nick Verreos and David Paul, on Inauguration Day, in the National Mall, alongside 2 million other people The day of the Inaugural came and both David and I decided the night before that we would go to the famous National Mall and partake in history. After all, we were in Washington DC and this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Believe me, we had our concerns, mainly the weather (sub-freezing). In case you are wondering, I had no "VIP" tickets, since I was not part of Beyonce or P Diddy's "posse". Even though my former Project Runway mentor, Tim Gunn-- a native of DC--recommended to "Stay Home!" in a recent PBS interview when speaking about being at the Inaugural Swear-In, David and I still did it! Was it freezing? Yep. Where there a lot of people? Yep, 2 million estimated. The minute we got outside, there were many people making the same "pilgrimage" so we followed them. Camouflaged military were stationed on every DC corner, along with Military Hummer Trucks. Once we arrived, there were even "Obama Greeters"; volunteers in red "Obama caps" who welcomed us with a warm smile, saying "Welcome to the Inaugural..Have a Fabulous Day!". I kid you not. Two Million Strong: The Crowd exiting the National Mall We walked and walked. The farthest we could go--until it was just impossible to get through the crowd--was right next to the Washington Monument, very far away from the actual Capitol Building, but we did not care. Stationed near one of the many "Jumbo-trons", we watched the Swearing In Ceremony for the next two hours, alongside all the other million+ crowd. I cannot state this enough: It was an UNBELIEVABLE MOMENT. After newly-sworn in President Obama finished his speech, we all began making our way out, away from the Mall. But here's the problem: There were over a million people trying to do the same! I couldn't believe what was happening before my eyes: The most orderly exit of a million people I could ever have imagined. No fights, no pushing, nothing. Later I heard that there was not even ONE ARREST. It was like people exiting the Superbowl--but without the alcohol, Thank God! I love Tim Gunn, but I am glad I did not listen to his advice to stay home. Inaugural Tuesday 2009 was an unforgettable moment. Click Below for a video I took once we got to our "Viewing Area" of the Swearing-In:
Nick and Stephen: Nick Verreos poses with the newly-displayed portrait of TV personality Stephen Colbert--on the way to the bathroom
After walking out of these two last exhibits, I saw something that made me do a double-take: A painting of TV "Conservative" host and commentator/pundit, comedian Stephen Colbert. The portrait-- actually three portraits in one-- depicts a debonair Colbert standing at a fireplace in front of a similar portrait of himself posing in front of the same mantel with a third picture of himself. It hangs now at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery in Washington for a six-week showing in what the museum considers an "appropriate place" --right between the bathroom near the "America's Presidents" exhibit. I must say, there were more people taking photos by this painting than at any other painting!
President Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat and Suit
The First Fashionista: Mary Todd Lincoln's purple-colored velvet gown
One of the other standouts at this museum was visiting the just-debuted "Abraham Lincoln: An Extraordinary Life" Exhibit. It was a very somber yet impressive exhibit, displaying everything-and-anything Abraham Lincoln, from his famous top hat and suit to his wife's purple-colored velvet gown (made by her freed-slave dressmaker) to manuscripts he kept, a mask/cast made of his worn face and strong hands, plus even a piece of fence rail, said to have been split by Lincoln.Jeweled Diva: The Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian After spending hours at the National Museum of American History, we decided to brave the cold, walk outside and go to the nearby National Museum of Natural History. My first stop was to see the unbelievable Hope Diamond. The supposedly cursed Hope Diamond is one of the largest--and most perfect-- diamonds on the world, at 45.52 carats! According to history, this blue-violet colored diamond, originated from India, and was passed on to various European rulers, including King Louis XIV. Click HERE for more of its history. We spent a long time in this exhibit, which besides the Hope Diamond, also featured some of the rarest and most expensively gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, crowns and earrings from all over the world. In fact there were a pair of diamond earrings that were previously owned by Marie Antoinette! Besides stunning diamonds, there were also sapphires, ruby's, emeralds; you name the it, it was there. From Cartier to Harry Winston. Finally, we slowly made it to the main halls of this Natural History Museum and I began feeling like Ben Stiller in the film Night At The Museum. Right in front of me was the immense Mammal Exhibit, with animals from all over the world, from all geographical areas, as well as the exhibit featuring animals from the Sea, starring the largest Blue Whale suspended from the ceiling above us...Finally, I couldn't leave without saying "hello" to all those Dinosaurs. While I loved looking at all those priceless jewels, my nephew and niece would have really enjoyed the Dinosaur section of this museum. And with seeing the life-size skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, I had to bid "adieu" to my "Day At the Museum".... Click Below for a short video of me at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History: