PJ and I spent four days last week in Washington D.C. I was attending the conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council, and PJ was doing a little work at the Library of Congress.

D.C. is one of the first cities that PJ and I visited together in the 1990s. In retrospect, it’s a great “first city” to visit: if you stay downtown, the city is fairly easy to navigate by foot, car, and/or metro. And it’s difficult now to believe how accessible all of the government buildings were before 9/11. My first memory of being at the Capitol is that we practically just walked right in — we went through a metal detector, but that was about it. Today, everything’s much more secure.

We drove over, which took about 6 hours. The mountains of West Virginia and Maryland were gorgeous. The autumnal landscape was breath-taking with its combinations of reds, browns, yellows, greens, and oranges. Just outside of D.C. it started to drizzle a bit, but overall it was a fairly easy drive.

Because of the drizzle, I didn’t take any pictures the first evening we were there. The next morning, PJ and I walked over to the Capitol before parting ways: he walked on to the Library of Congress while I visited the National Art Gallery before heading back to our hotel to attend a conference session.

Here are some of the pictures I took during this walk:

I’ll blog about my visit to the National Art Gallery later. I also went to the National Portrait Gallery. But mostly I worked.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, I attended sessions of the NCHC Conference. The Wednesday session was called “Beginning in Honors” and offered an introduction to honors education administration. The session wasn’t quite what I expected, but I learned a few things that I think will be good to know.

My main gripe against the conference is that all of the sessions I would have liked to attend were scheduled at the same two times on Thursday morning. I wish these panels had been spread out a little more. I ended up attending sessions on Assessing Honors Programs and Fundraising for Honors Programs. Both were incredibly helpful. These two sessions alone were worth the registration price!

On Thursday, I also started visiting some of my college’s alumni who live in D.C. I had lunch that day with one of the first graduates from our program in the mid-1970s. A colleague from the University Development Office also came to these meetings with me, which was great. I’m not great at small talk and she is, so it was really helpful to have her there. On Friday, we had breakfast with a graduate from the late 1990s and then coffee with an alumna from the 1980s.

It was really great to have this time talking to alumni. It’s given me a lot to think about as we move forward in trying to publicize the college and do fund-raising.

Thursday afternoon is when PJ and I went to the Portrait Gallery. By then, however, he was starting to feel sick, so we didn’t end up doing much that evening — just dinner and then back to the hotel. By Friday morning he was definitely not feeling well, so we decided to check out early and leave D.C. a day early. Although this meant that I missed out on going to any more of the conference or seeing more of D.C. or hanging out with a friend who was there, it felt like the right thing to do. I’d rather he be home and in his own bed with Paisley and Marlowe there to help me take care of him than stick around in the hotel room for another day.

All in all, it was a very successful trip. I look forward to going to the conference next year in Kansas City. And I might be headed back to D.C. in February for another conference. I doubt that the city will be quite as beautiful then, however!