Tuesday, February 08, 2011

March 2011 -- Gargoyle Walking Tour

The Gargoyle Who Ate DC walking tour to learn about the carvings on the National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral, DC
Sunday March 6, 2011 3:00-4:30pm
Cost: $13.50/person (half price through Goldstar)

Beautiful Gothic Cathedral. Sixth largest cathedral in the WORLD.
We knew it would be an interesting activity when we figured that no one else would be insane enough to show up for this outside tour in the worst downpour we have seen in ages. Yet, when we arrived, we found 20 other crazies who had showed up in monsoon weather and Dilettante Amanda recognized the tour leader as one of the crazies from her bus. (Actually...in Amanda's world...everyone is "crazy"...)

The tour guide mentioned that in the three years he had been leading this tour, this was by far the worst weather he had ever dealt with. Score! (Upside: With the rain splashing the bottom of our pant legs, we totally looked like we were sporting Hombre jeans. We are ridiculously cool.)

(Interestingly, one of the men in our group was wearing a baseball cap that had "National Pneumonia Day" embroidered across the front. We were not sure which side of the issue he was on - for or against - but it seemed like an awfully good day to contract it, if that's what he was going for.)

We had TWO guest dilettantes for this outing. Returning-Guest-Dilettante-all-the-way-from-Indonesia Tanti ("Dilettanti") and new-guest-Dilettante-all-the-way-from-my-Oakton-cul-de-sac Lisa.

Highlights of the tour:
  • Whenever the tour guide said, "buttress" or "gablet" (I have found another unacceptable word here)
  • Tanti falling asleep in the Bethlehem chapel and Dilettante Amy thinking that she was so moved that she was experiencing a moment of quiet reflection and possibly, conversion
  • Dilettante Kathleen then forgetting the word "narcoleptic" to describe Dilettanti and claiming that she was a "necrophiliac"
  • Learning that there were "gargoyles" and "grotesques" on the outside of the Cathedral and that the only difference was that gargoyles had a lead pipe in their mouths and functioned as down spouts (this is true)
  • Stone carvers and craftsmen who worked on the Cathedral have a great sense of humor
  • When the tour guide explained that decorative elements on the ceiling are called "boss stones" Dilettantes Amanda, Kathleen and guest Dilettante Lisa all asked simultaneously, "The mighty, mighty, boss stones?"
  • Finding out that Helen Keller's ashes are buried at the Cathedral. (When asked what her relationship was and why she was buried there, the tour guide said that he did not know and then a Dilettante-who-shall-remain-nameless mentioned that Helen mistakenly thought it was her family's crypt...)
  • Dilettante Amanda trying to get our attention to point out Woodrow Wilson's crypt that we were tiptoeing by while a service was in session and we were trying to be extra quiet and saying in a loud whisper, "Woody....Woody...WOODY!!!"
  • The fact that there is (no kidding) a Darth Vader carved into one of the pinnacles. They had a contest toward the end of construction where school kids got to submit ideas for design -- and Darth Vader was one of the winning entries.
We did get a ton of great information from our tour guide and learned stories behind all of the different sculptors and carvers involved in creating this gorgeous cathedral (with an intense, almost stalker-like focus on Constantine some-last-name-that-sounds-like-syphilis). Construction on the Cathedral was begun in 1907, had to stop three times (World Wars I and II; the Great Depression) and was finished in 1990. There are still some finishing touches being done (stained glass, mosaic work) and it is truly breathtaking. 

Dinner at Two Amys pizzeria followed. Of the five of us, only Lisa and I were drinking, as we were not part of Club PMT (pregnant, Muslim, in Training...)

While researching libations, Lisa and I found the wine descriptions amusing...one wine was described as "brawny and self-restrained." As it is tough to decide between that and the "jocular, approachable" varietal, she asked the waiter for a recommendation. He was slightly built and joked that he would go for the "brawny and self-restrained" wine as it was most like him. We laughed. We laughed again (through our tears) as we realized the "self-restrained" part was also not true. He had flatulence at least two times while visiting our table.

Fun and soggy night made all the more fun by our Guesties.

St. Peter? St. Paul? Someone...

Craftsmen with senses of humor. Igloos and husky dogs.


YinMetYang said...

Don't forget the smooth, round helmet of the Darth Vader gargoyle.

Brutalism said...

I completely forgot that part of the description. I see that you, however, did not...

Tanti said...

Good to be back with all the dilettantes doing this but yes, it was insane enough even for Indonesian who used to monsoon season...!
When we were trying to see all the carves and gargoyles up at the top of the cathedral, it is like facing up directly to the rain and hard to see them clearly.
Thank you all!

dilettante07 said...

Oh great--I'm going to get it from my bus friend now that you made fun of his lover, Constantine Syphilis. Thanks.

Brutalism said...

Tanti - Great to see you again. We (and by "we" I mean "Amanda") sure knows how to show you a good time, doesn't she?

Tante - You will have a new bestie on the bus. Lucky.

Sarah said...

Did you see the moon rock? I'm going next month mostly to see Darth and the moon rock.

Brutalism said...

Sarah - Did not see the moon rock. I will go again at some point when the weather is nicer because it was such an interesting tour. Enjoy it!

Stacey said...

Darth Vader in a church, that just screams class! Old Europe has nothing on us!!

Brutalism said...

Trucking Tumbleweed -- I know. Isn't that hilarious?

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