Pictures on Flickr.
After the embassies came the National Cathedral. After a long uphill walk in the blazing sun and the realization that I had not had a meal in almost 24 hours, I hightailed it to the food section. Where long lines at every turn led me to promptly backtrack to the over-priced bratwurst stand, the same over-priced bratwurst stand I ate at last year, and probably for the same reason. But oh my was it good.
I then got my cash and debit card ready as I meandered through the stands. The main draw of the flower mart, of course, are the plants and flowers for sale. I browsed them but just ended up with some fake flowers and a pretty vase. The main draw for me was my favorite booth from last year, a lavender farm from Pennsylvania. I love lavender and they have it all: honey spreads, sachets, cat toys, and my favorite, tea! They were in the same spot as last year and I hit them first.
I then just wandered around, looking more than buying. Spent awhile in the book tent where I managed to not buy anything. Bought a wonderful strawberry and pineapple smoothie and continued browsing as the brain freeze sat in. Then I made my way to the main goal of the visit: the bell tower climb.
First and foremost, I am not good with heights. I've discovered over the years that I'm not so much afraid of them, it's more that my body and my head just can't handle them. I have vertigo and perception issues that make me light-headed and weak, which is pretty much the last thing you want as you ascend 300+ stairs in a centuries-old bell tower.
But the way I see it, I have been to the top of St. Paul's in London and St. Peter's in the Vatican, and I thought I owed it to my own country to go the top of one of its cathedrals. And so I did.
It got a bit scary at times. I had trouble breathing and I got really shaky, but I gripped the railings/walls and kept my eyes focused on the person in front of me, and made it to the top. And oh so very glad I did. From the views of Washington to the humongous bells to the bell ringers making their music, it was worth every rickety step. (I uploaded a video of the bells here. They aren't ringing the bells I walked by, but some different ones that we can't see.)
On the way down they led us through a Cathedral balcony. I went inside a few months ago for an orchestra concert, but this was different. With a stunning view of the soaring ceilings and stained glass, especially the rose window, I just couldn't have asked for more.