doesn't do the place justice. I'm afraid we didn't either. If we had spent a week or
two wandering about we might have seen most of what there was to see and taken it in
but the few hours we spent there only served to let us know what we were missing.
began in what is their most modern building, mainly because we could eat there as
well. Before we ate we looked at a couple of things, the most spectacular was the
giant pendulum which is suspended from the top of the building and swings in it's
slow and steady arc down through the holes in several floors to the entrance where
it does its job of impressing the people entering very well. In a circle around it
are set up little sticks and as the earth slowly rotates the arc of the pendulum
stays in the same place but gives the impression that it is slowly moving. Every
so often it will knock down another stick, there were a few more knocked down when
we left than there were when we entered but we weren't in the right place at the
right time to see any of it happening.
                                 After our cheap and enjoyable lunch we set out
exploring the building properly. The various floors specialize in their exhibits,
down in the basement the most striking thing was the biggest steam locomotive I'd
ever seen and to get it there they had driven it in and then built the building
around it. To entertain the visitors they played tape recordings of what the
train had sounded like when it was still in operation and the noise it made was just
as big as it was physically. On another floor they had set up a media display with
many tv sets replaying video tapes of old news items of world shattering importance-
the one I remember most vividly was a news announcer reading the news that President
Kennedy had placed a blockade around Cuba. Of course I knew what happened next but
that did not remove the feeling of the early 1960's reality which came over me for
the time I looked at it. To go earlier back in time we spent a few minutes in a
small recreated cinema where we saw newsreels from the 30's. This was a little bit
before my time but nonetheless interesting.
                                     On yet another floor there were
recreations of early houses from various periods of American history. Most of them
were furnished to fit and we could peer through the windows or other openings that
would not have appeared in the original buildings at what was inside.
                                                           There were many
other things that we saw in even our short visit, a massive stamp collection, models
of ships and beast, musical instruments and goodness knows what else. We spent a
bit of time and money in the gift shop which had too many tempting things to offer
us and then Alexis escorted us over to one of the other buildings to see more. The
Smithsonian is well spread out in a few buildings so we enjoyed our walk from one
to the other along the tree lined streets.
                                    We only spent a few minutes at the next
building which was apparently a collection of natural history. We saw only two
exhibits but they were enough to keep us occupied. Suspended from the wall of a
very large room is a full scale model of a blue whale. It is incredible, that
nature can create such huge animals is beyond belief. We stood beneath the model
and looked at it from all angles but the sheer size of the monster was something that
defied the imagination. The tail alone would have weighed tons and the models of
other whales and large fish also displayed alongside the blue whale were dwarfed by
it. A gigantic sperm whale seemed to be a grey goldfish by comparison. Alexis led
us across the lobby into a room where they had recreated various sorts of dinosaurs.
  With nothing to compare it to the Brontosaurus would have seemed incredibly large
but with the vision of the blue whale still so vividly in our minds it didn't seem
very big and when we compared the bulk of the two animals the dinosaur was strictly
a midget.
        Having been boggled by the wonders of nature Alexis then took us to another
building where we were treated to the wonders of modern aerospace technology. As
we entered the first thing we saw was the gold foil on the Luna Lander and I think
that if there had been nothing else to see that would have been enough to keep us
occupied for a long time. But as well there were Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
capsules, the most interesting was the Gemini for while the Apollo was far more
complex and the Mercury far more interesting from an historical point of view the
idea of two men living for two weeks or more in the confined space of a Gemini is