It was so hot yesterday Suzanne Marshall's hands swelled up and she couldn't get her wedding ring off.

Fortunately, she's happily married.

"My hands are starting to blotch," said her husband, Stephen, who couldn't get his gold band off either.

The London couple, touring the United States for three weeks, got a lesson in the physiology of summer yesterday as the mercury climbed into the 90s and a clammy languor--part heat, part holiday--settled over Washington.

While thousands abandoned the city in the traditional Independence Day weekend exodus, many stuck to local haunts. Among the rewards for anyone willing to tiptoe through the heat were the sights of a summer Saturday in an international capital.

For instance: two intellectuals gesticulating with Popsicles; the colonnaded bulk of the Old Executive Office Building trimmed with giant flags; a man inadvertently folding a willow branch into his mouth with some sliced cheese; and a thirsty progressive in Lafayette Park, shooing pigeons and wiping the guano off a fountain in preparation for a long, quenching drink.

Apart from hot-weather vignettes, stay-at-homes could take much pleasure in not participating in the five-mile traffic jams that piled up all day behind the toll plaza on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and the equally horrific tie-ups that plagued drivers heading north through the Baltimore tunnel.

Still, Washington in July makes tourists appreciate their homes, even if they hail from Los Angeles. Stopping by Washington after he got cut from the National Lightweight Rowing tryouts in Princeton where he finished 24th, Russ Schatz was eager to wind up his sightseeing and head home to L.A., thanks to a sweaty dose of federal weather.

"I'll take the smog, I'll take the earthquakes, and everything else over this," he said, squinting up at the gold angel that painfully reflected the sun atop the marble column commemorating the First Infantry of the U.S. Army.

Generally, it was an afternoon of indolence unless you were a bus driver, an ice cream vendor, a father pushing an overweight baby in a stroller, or a speaker protesting U.S. intervention in Central America.

Today and tomorrow promise to be much the same, according to forecasters of the National Weather Service. They are calling for hot muggy air from the Gulf of Mexico to keep the temperatures in the mid-90s and the humidity uncomfortably high.